bell-bottom clues

April 1, 2015 in the 101 by stacey


How to wear flared jeans the right way.

After nearly a decade of skinny jeans ruling the school, wide-legged styles are finally back in rotation. It took some time to get the collective conscious to let go of the skinnies, but thanks to fashion’s current love affair with all things 1970s, the flare is everywhere.

Unfortunately, a lot of women think flares, bells, and wide-legs won’t work for them. Nonsense! The style is not without its pitfalls — usually due to bad tailoring — but flares have potential to be much more flattering than a skinny. You just need to know the basics rules of fit and choosing the proportion that suits your body.

rule # 1: No matter what shoe you wear, the pant legs must skim the floor. Like, almost dragging. Too-short flared hems are never flattering and will visually shorten your figure. Wide hems that nearly touch the floor elongate and slim the body. I personally love it when the bells are so wide that you cannot see the shoes at all (like in this photo from the Seafarer, right). Worn this way and you look like you’re floating across the room!

For narrower styles, your toes should just peek out ever so slightly. And like men’s suit pants, there should be a slight break in the hem. What was fashionable in the 70s was to angle the hem so it was shorter in the front and longer in the back (mullet hem for pants?). This way, you’ve got the length but don’t risk stepping on the front as you walk.


rule # 2: Hem the pants according to the shoes you plan to wear them with most. Yes, this is a commitment when you want to wear them with chunky 4″ platforms and your favorite flat sandals. But having the proper leg length is so important if you want to look good in your flares. There is one caveat to this rule if you know how to sew — temporary shortening. To do this, hem the pants to work with your tallest shoes, but put sew in some little snaps on the inside of the legs which you can utilize to shorten them for sandals and sneakers. Just turn under the hems and snap into place and then unsnap for your wedges.

rule # 3: The shorter the lady, the narrower the flare. And I say this as a shortie (5′ tall). I’ve been told I’m too short to wear bell-bottoms at all (by someone who wasn’t exactly a fashion star himself, ahem) but that’s just lame. Proportion is key here, so big huge elephant bells will be too overwhelming on someone of a petite stature. Leave those styles to those lucky runway models.


rule # 4: As mentioned above, flares can really elongate your body, so further push their magical lengthening powers by wearing them with high-heeled shoes. I prefer a chunky heeled wedge or platform rather than a slimmer Kardashian-style stiletto, which screams mid-00s club girl. Heavier soled styles recall 70s fashion and are a more solid anchor for such a voluminous silhouette.

You can add even more body length by wearing jeans with a higher rise. You don’t need to go all Dazed and Confused hanger-in-the-zipper high-waist (which doesn’t flatter most of us and are uncomfortable anyway), but even just a few inches above the hips will give the illusion of longer legs. The high waist combined with the floor-skimming hems will make you look like a regulation Rockette, kicks not required.

top images: Mih, the Seafarer, Claudie Pierlot

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