Why I'm thrilled bell-­bottoms are making a come­back

Shaira Mohan
Shaira MohanApr 29, 2016 | 15:14

Why I'm thrilled bell-­bottoms are making a come­back

I just turned 30 a week ago. Which means I was yet to enter my teens when the flared pants or "bootcut" as they are also called became a sensation in the 1990s and the trouser of choice in every household the world over.

Nonetheless, the memory of the day I wore my first pair is as fresh as if it were yesterday. My maasi (mother's sister) brought me a beautiful denim pair from America with colorful floral embroidery adorning the fabric in patches.


It was nothing like the things I had ever owned and I couldn't get enough of wearing them. That marked the beginning of more such bell-bottom purchases in different colors and fabrics.

It was the late 1990s - a time when Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell were the supermodels ruling the runways, Kurt Cobain had spearheaded the grunge look of mismatched, oversized outfits and Rachel from FRIENDS had the iconic layered haircut that every girl in that generation wanted. And, of course, the flashy British divas - the Spice girls.

'70s Boho-bottoms are making a comeback.

The origin of this style, interestingly, dates back to the early 1900s when  sailors in the American navy decided to adopt the wide legged bell-shaped cuffs at the end of their pants. Standardised uniforms did not exist as yet. As with many other fashion statements that seemed to have sprouted from the British and American Navy, these flared pants too became quite the rage and spread like wildfire among the mainstream public by the mid-1960s.

Accentuating the figure by being snug at the hips and thighs and dramatically flared from the knee down, these pants began to be paired with high heels, flat shoes, crop tops, off-shoulder or even oversized ensembles and every kind of "hippie" to sophisticated style.

Hema Malini dons the bell-bottoms.

My favourite was always the off-shoulder look with the denim bell-bottoms. The denim jeans, the unstoppable and unrivalled rage across the globe witnesses constantly evolving fashion trends from the bell-bottoms to the lesser flared cuts, the skinny jeans, the ripped boyfriend jeans and today we are coming full circle with vintage coming back in vogue and the bell-bottoms all set for a full comeback.

Fashion houses and retail stores have already started to stock up on this legendary trend in all kinds of bright colours, hues and variants of denims - giving a modern twist to the conventional boot cut styles. Another style in the stores today that has me lusting after them is the ripped flares - eclectically torn at the knees in the signature "ripped" jeans fashion and then flared in the bell shape from the knee down.

The emergence of the skinny or fitted jeans that saw the end of the flared bell-bottoms around 2005-2006 was no less of a rage and had us refurbishing our wardrobes with all signs of the flared cuts forgotten at the back of our closets. But, it was the comfortable, snug yet stylishly roomy flared styles that many of us vouch for even today - the perfect mix of quirk and bohemia with comfort and a pinch of that old-school nostalgia from our days with Betty and Veronica's fashion styles from the '70s. And the men were not to be left out either! Though they went with more of a subtle flare as compared to our edgy and bold bell-bottoms.


The bell-bottom fashion also ignited profusely in our own backyard. Bollywood saw the bouffants and bell-bottom trend long before we did with the legendary divas of the big screen - Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi, Hema Malini and Neetu Singh sporting them in movies like Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Trishul, Yaadon ki Baarat and many others that had all young girls in India emulating these leading ladies of cinema. Inspired by the retro styles of the 60s and 70s many recent films like Action Replay, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai and the like had our present day leading actresses sporting the bouffant and bell-bottom trends from the yesteryears.

And now they are back with a bang and the excitement for the bell-bottoms that even featured a mention in the lyrics of the musical sensation "Low" by Flo Rida and T-Pain is palpable. In the age of Snapchat, WhatsApp and social media, the sharing of visual content is, quite literally, at the tip of our fingers. My sister, a Snapchat loyalist, sent me excited pictures of the kinds of flared pants she had seen online recently and wants to purchase as soon as she can get her hands on the right size.

A university friend (incidentally, in who's room back in our hostel accommodation in Nottingham we used to gather and have a typically girly session, serenading ourselves with the lyrics of "Low" blasting through her IPod), recently had a long chat with me about a new pair of bell-bottoms she has just purchased in London that had me green with envy. Rugged-looking, stone-washed grey with the ripped knees. My dream pair! Then there's my sister-in-law who lives down the road from us in Abu Dhabi who I have multiple WhatsApp chats with about which store to hit first to invest in a cool new pair.

She has beaten me to it, while I am still mulling over the variety.

Everything vintage and old school is making a comeback today and I, for one, am thrilled. Florals, crop tops, sunglasses, to even hem lines - its an exciting time for the fashion world and we are hooked. Today fashion is no longer imprisoned in a box of convention and rules - a fusion of styles, eras and modernity is being experimented with and a blend of many decades of fashion is coming together to define fashion today.

The bell-bottoms were frontrunners as game changers between decades and their return is the best news I have heard since the "top knot" hair style inspired by Audrey Hepburn's iconic character in Breakfast at Tiffanys.

News of the come back first began to make the rounds from the American and European fashion circles and runways but here in Abu Dhabi too I am now seeing the tides turning and adopting this exciting new (and yet old) trend again. Sadly, I no longer have my old floral pair that I miss dearly but it went on to find a new owner many moons ago.

But this only means I am ready to get started on some vintage retail therapy. I hope the bell-bottoms are here to stay!

Last updated: April 29, 2016 | 15:24
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