We have a confession to make: We love bell bottoms (and no, "bootcut" doesn't count). We're talking about jeans fitted through the hips and thighs that start to gain volume at mid-calf until each of your pant legs come to about 10 inches in diameter. We're talking about the style of denim that Farrah Fawcett is rocking in this picture, taken in the '70s.
This trend started in the late 1960s and gained momentum throughout the early 1970s, initially being thought of as clothing for "hippies" but eventually becoming mainstream by the mid-'70s. As Farrah is so clearly demonstrating, bell bottoms (or flares) were typically worn with sneakers or flats and paired with everything from sweaters to layered blazers and vests to buttoned blouses.
The bell bottom trend was ultimately phased out and replaced with the bootcut style, which had a similar shape but a much less dramatic flare. As all collegiettes know, both of these styles were more or less obliterated with the rise of the skinny jean and most girls (including ourselves) never looked back. Here at HC we're on a mission, however, to bring back bell bottoms in all their glory. While the thought of donning a pair of jeans that doesn't hug our curves down to our ankles can be daunting, we're confident that any collegiette can rock this style, with the help of a few tips from yours truly. If you love this throwback trend as much as we do, scroll down to find out how to style bell bottoms for everyday, for the office and for a music festival!
Pairing bell bottoms or flare jeans, like this pair of Paige Denim Fiona Flare Jeans ($199 at Lyst), with heels will elongate your legs and make you appear taller while the lighter and slightly faded wash of the jeans and these neutral G by GUESS Hiskey Wedge Sandals ($39.94 at DSW) will keep it casual. Contrary to popular belief, you can get away with wearing a looser top as long as it's not too flowy and the cut is proportionate to your body. Opt for a racerback style, like this Mlle Mademoiselle Zaria Racer Back Tank ($75 at Mlle Mademoiselle), to show off your décolletage and shoulders and keep the look from getting frumpy. Once you've got the basics down, add bohemian-chic accessories like this Monkeybrother Women's Ridge Wide Straw Hat ($8.99 at Amazon) and a delicate gold necklace, like this adorable Hamsa Coin Necklace (similar necklace, $34 at Etsy) to add a touch of glamour to an effortless look.
PSA: flared jeans or bell bottoms can actually be professional! To keep the look clean and classic, opt for black or super dark wash jeans with no distressing or fading and a mid to high rise waist, like these Level 99 Dahlia Flare Jeans ($130 at Level 99), so you have the option of tucking in blouses. For a polished office look that still has personality, try a structured blazer in a fun color, like this Wallis US Coral Ponte Jacket (similar blazer, $19.49 at Charlotte Russe), layered over a neutral camisole to keep it professional (you can tuck it into jeans or leave it flowy, either way works!). We love this Topshop Petite Strappy V Neck Cami ($36 at Topshop) because it's super flattering and can instantly take you from the office to drinks with friends. If you work at a more conservative office, top this look off with your standard neutral pumps or flats, but if you have a little more room to express yourself, we love these Boutique 9 Migs Pumps ($82.99 at Overstock): the color is so much fun and complements the coral in the blazer without clashing. To tie the whole look together, a neutral tote, like this Accessorize Anita Quilted Mini Dome Bag ($54 at Accessorize), is both professional and timeless.
At a Music Festival
What better place than a music festival to revive one of the biggest trends of the '70s? We're completely obsessed with these Raga Print-Mix Bell Flare Pants ($68 at Swell) because they're incredibly comfy and have that amazing ultra-flared hem but they're fitted up top so they don't look frumpy or shapeless. With so much volume on the bottom, the logical step would be to pair these pants with a fitted top, but since the pants fit more like leggings or yoga pants around the thighs and hips, feel free to opt for a more flowy or loose-fitting top. Since festivals can get hot, we chose this adorable Cami Top ($21 at American Apparel) because it ties into the pants without adding another pattern to an already print-heavy outfit. While we wanted the top to be neutral, we didn't want it to be boring so we searched around for a statement piece and fell in love with this Topshop Leaf and Red Thread Collar ($40 at Topshop). We've been pointing out that bell bottoms are most flattering when worn with heels, but that's just not practical for a festival (you'll probably take your shoes off anyway!), so we chose these Gold Bling T-Strap Sandals (similar pair, $74 at 6pm.com), which are comfy but still super cute.
See, not so bad! Once you understand the basics of balancing proportions with wider-legged jeans, rocking the flared style is actually a piece of cake, and you'll definitely be the trendsetter of your friend group. Would you ever consider bringing bell bottoms back, collegiettes? Let us know in the comments!