Carola Long: 'Traveller trousers are on trend but in a more sophisticated guise. Call it gap-year luxe'

With the first fresh whiff of spring something disturbing happens to my taste. One minute my wardrobe is more or less planned around clean basics with a dash of utility: pale denim, a blush-pink silk dress, heeled canvas or tan suede boots. A few blue skies later, however, and disturbing boho urges start appearing. Suddenly – whether through curiosity, desire or nostalgia I'm not sure – I'm being drawn to "traveller trousers", those patterned harem-ish pants that are popping up everywhere.

Perhaps it's because I've been there before. Aged 15 in the mid-Nineties, one of my prized possessions was a pair of purple, woven Guatemalan-style tapered trousers that I tucked into DM boots. I thought they were cool at the time, but photographic evidence suggests that they made me look like a wandering magic-mushroom seller who got dressed while high on her own supply. Although I never got to wear them anywhere more exotic than the beach in Devon, they tapped into the classic gap-year look of ethnic trousers or frayed-bottomed jeans, toe rings, tie-dyed or ribbed vest tops and fringed scarf from the local market (or Accessorize at the airport).

This season, traveller trousers are on trend, but in a more sophisticated guise. Call it gap-year luxe. They appeared on the catwalk, in flowered versions from DKNY, tribal-patterned at Dries Van Noten (below), and stripy at the current queen of haute boho, Isabel Marant, who teamed them with fringed boots and silk tops. Find them on the high street in splotchy printed silk at Whistles and sketchy prints at River Island. Tie-dyed pieces from Acne, khaki utility coats, faded denim and across-the-body bags all tap into the year-off vibe, but the easiest and most stylish way to wear traveller trousers is with a plain T-shirt and a softly tailored jacket such as Whistles' silk bat-wing version. This look is strictly for the free-spirited, however. Me, I've decided that second time around, and with a lifestyle that involves taking a packed Tube to an office every day, the gap-year look is as challenging as a night in a particularly grim youth hostel.

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