As the name suggests, bell-bottoms are a form of pants that are fit from the thighs and widen from the knee downwards to many different widths; the flare gives them a bell shape. In the history of fashion, the cut has seen a variety of styles over hundreds of years and more recently in the late 60’s in denim.
Stretch denim jeans have ruled over the fashion timeline for quite some time now, the cropped pants, the straight trousers, the capris, the bell-bottom, and more have all had their share of fame.
Although no account exists of who invented bell-bottom pants, the first recorded account of widespread use was by sailors in the 1800s.The flared cut served as a functional garment rather than a fashion statement because the wide legs made it easy for sailors to roll up their pants in the presence of high water.
Additionally, according to an article in the archives of the U.S. Navy Department library, "a water-soaked sailor who happened to find himself no longer aboard could easily remove the 20 to 30 pounds of saturated wool without removing his now-standard shoes, which he would desperately need to protect his feet if he avoided becoming shark bait and made landfall." Bell-bottoms were part of the U.S.
Navy uniform until 1998.
From the Navy to French Women's Fashions
Bell-bottoms entered the fashion world in the 1920s through the artful eye of designer Coco Chanel. Chanel revolutionized the fashion industry of that era by taking women out of constricting corsets and dresses and putting them in pants which at the time were reserved exclusively for men. Chanel was drawn to the loose fit of sailor pants which at the time would have been a local influence from the French Naval Port of Brittany. They later served as inspiration for her wide-legged trousers, known as "yachting pants" and "beach pajamas" -- precursors for the modern day bell-bottoms.
By the late '70s, the cut was reimagined by the Flower Power Hippie movement and bell-bottoms suddenly became the norm, so much so that it was even immortalized in song (See Derek and The Dominoes for the title of this piece). Available in almost any fabric one could imagine — denim, bright cotton, corduroy and satin polyester— no bell-bottom look was complete without a pair of groovy platform shoes.
While the fashion wheel spins from modern to vintage, classic to retro and back again, one thing that has never gone out of style is comfort. At The Perfect Jean we have worked tirelessly to not only create what we feel is the perfect, most comfortable cut but also maintain that the average joe should still have a few dollars in his pocket after finding them.