How-To Tuesday: Your Guide to Wearing (and Actually Pulling Off) Bellbottom Jeans

A real-girl's guide to wearing this 70s staple without looking like it's Halloween.


The *illusion* of legs for days. | Lauren McGrath.

It’s no secret that I have an unwavering affinity for flared jeans. Even when they were out of style, I wore them — and I’ll still wear them when they go back out of style, which will surely be soon, as denim companies will need to switch up the silhouette to get people to keep buying The Latest And Greatest.

My first flare love was a pair of Seven dark-wash bells. I can’t find the exact pair, but these are a terrific option that may or may not be in my shopping cart at this very moment. I wore them until the crotch wore out. (Literally: I patched them twice and finally realized it was a losing battle; the thigh rub was too strong, and the denim fibers had long lost their will to live.) My new go-to flares are really more like bell-bottoms. They are J Brand from Denim Habit, with a widely fluted side panel in a slightly darker wash. 

My go-to pairing: a long tunic that hits just above the knees; I’m wearing a dress by Philly-based NINObrand. It’s my favorite silhouette — long, slinky and voluminous at the top, then pinched in at the knee, and then flaring out again to graze the ground. The jeans would be great on their own, worn as normal people would with a waist-skimming shirt or a button-down with a three-quarter tuck. But for me, the dress-over-jeans pairing will always reign supreme. (And, wouldn’t you know, this recently experienced a resurgence, too!)


It’s all about how you accessorize. | Lauren McGrath.

The main element of this, really, is the shoe. I chose this chunky, clompy clog from Michael Kors’s resort 2015 collection; it’s quite possibly the loudest shoe imaginable. A chunky heel works best to a) balance out all that volume you’ve got going on down there by the ankle and b) add height and make your legs look miles long. Look! See how supermodel-long my legs look? It’s an illusion! In real-life, they are more like five inches from hip to ankle.

So, a brief rundown of how to wear bellbottoms:

  1. Invest in very high, chunky heels, preferably clogs.
  2. Wear a tunic on top, one that hits just above the knees.
  3. Layer a vest (mine is 3.1 Phillip Lim, from Knit Wit) and a big necklace. And, okay, maybe a few bracelets. And a ring or two.
  4. If you really want to go all-out, add a hat. Joan Shepp is showing ridiculously chunky beanie hats by Ivan Grundahl that would be downright divine with this look. Dear husband: Please buy me one.
  5. Own it.

*A few notes/shout-outs about this post: This is my first ‘street-style’ post, and it was extremely awkward, as I am a writer and not a model. (I know, look at those poses. Shocker.) Lifestyle assistant extraordinaire Lauren McGrath was excellent in helping me stand upright as I cringed so hard my organs almost turned to dust.

**That leather hat just happened to be sitting out there on Sansom Street. If it belongs to you, well, it’s still there!