Style Icons: When Women Wear the Trousers

These days, the choice to wear trousers is just that—a choice. But it wasn’t long ago that trousers were a statement. When Marlene Dietrich stepped out on the red carpet in 1932 wearing ‘scandalous’ tuxedo trousers, she made a statement about femininity. When women entered the WWII workforce in dungarees, they made a statement about resilience.

Decade after decade, pair after pair, women proved they could do more than just wear the trousers—they could wear them in style. From capris to wide-legs, from the Hollywood Hills to the streets of Paris, these icons showed us the way to pant perfection.

Bianca JaggerBianca Jagger

Trouser suits are notoriously tough to pull off. But the white trouser suit? Nearly impossible—unless, of course, you’re Bianca Jagger. The actress and human rights advocate made the tricky ensemble her signature ‘70s look, parading across the Studio 54 dancefloor in perfectly tailored suiting. Although she wore a skirt to her 1971 wedding to Mick Jagger, she topped it off with a plunging white YSL Le Smoking jacket, cementing her place in the bridal hall-of-fame.

Katharine HepburnKatharine Hepburn

“If you obey the rules, you miss all the fun,” said the late, great Katharine Hepburn. Suffice it to say, the screen legend didn’t miss out. During a time when actresses were expected to report to set with perfectly straight stocking seams, Hepburn sashayed around Old Hollywood in menswear-inspired blazers, penny loafers, and her style signature: roomy, beautifully tailored wide-leg trousers. Legend has it that studio executives once stole Hepburn’s trousers from her dressing room, hoping to coax the star into a more ladylike dress. Their efforts were in vain—Hepburn walked around in her underwear until her trousers were returned.

Grace Kelly In Cannes 1955Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly wasn’t simply glamorous—in the 1950s, she was glamour. With a closet full of twinsets and circle skirts, the Academy Award-winning actress charmed her way into the hearts of audiences around the world. But the Philadelphia-born beauty wasn’t afraid to hang up her pearls and take fashion risks. She wore these chic high-waist capris to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival where, incidentally, she first met Prince Rainier. The two married shortly thereafter, and Kelly would go on to prove, time and time again, that trousers were fit for a princess.

Audrey HepburnAudrey Hepburn

The second Hepburn to grace our list—we’ve long considered beatnik beauty Audrey to be one of our greatest style icons. Her Funny Face ensemble—black roll-neck, black shoes and black capri pants—is one of her most iconic looks, and 60 years later, it still holds up. A masterclass in the cigarette trouser—and little black dresses, and hats, and cute scarves—the perfectly cropped, tailored capri pants complemented Audrey’s elfin beauty, whether in black, gingham or a fun summer print.

Sarah BernhardtSarah Bernhardt

When you’re an iconic—and unruly—Parisian actress, style and scandal comes naturally. Sarah Bernhardt shocked and titillated the world in the 19th century when she blazed a trail around Paris in a flamboyant, custom-made white trouser suit by Worth—paired with a supremely chic white silk blouse and court heels. Bernhardt took men’s roles in some of her plays and had numerous love affairs—often with women. The Parisian pioneer was eventually painted in her ensemble, and rakishly referred to it as her ‘boy’s clothes’.

Feeling inspired? Walk on over to our Trousers selection to find your perfect pair.