Good The Phenomenon Of The Bell Bottom Pants Research Paper Example
They were pants that flare out from the knee with curved hems creating a circle from 18 to 26 inches around. While these pants were usually denim, they were seen in all colors and fabrics on both men and women. Sonny and Cher wore them; Lenny Kracitz and Elvis Presley did, too. They were bell bottoms.
Fashion changes as culture changes and when a culture is static, the styles of the young tend to imitate the clothing of the previous generation. But when social structure is in upheaval, fashion reflects the attitude of drifting from the excepted norm in the culture. This is the reason bell bottoms came to represent the tumultuous period of the hippie, the anti-war protestor, and the disco craze in the 1960s and 1970s.
History of the Bell Bottom Pant
The style of the bell bottom pant originated with sailors in 1813 when there was no standard navy uniform (Mitchell). The size of the pant legs made them easy to pull on over boots, roll up during wet work on the deck of the ship, and could be more easily shed should the sailor fall overboard (dressthatman.net). They could even be inflated with air and used as a life preserver (Photo 1). Bell bottoms were a part of the U.S. Navy’s uniform until 1998 (Raji), when
Photo 1. Sailors in bell bottom pants (Mitchell)
they changed to a more modified flared style.
It may have been that navy surplus stores were the first source of bell bottoms for the hippies in the counterculture of that time as they dressed them with patches and other designs. Young people were in the midst of rebelling against a number of traditional norms, including fashion. Soon, bell bottoms were seen on thousands of people in the country with colorful panels sewn into the bottoms of more traditional jeans to enhance the flare. Frequently worn with high clogs or boots, the style of the bellbottom worked well for most body types because it drew the eye away from a less-than-slender waist toward the feet. The garment industry noted the trend and the bell bottom entered mass production in many fabrics, but primarily in denim. The cut of many of the jeans were “hip huggers” riding low on the hips, although waist bands could be at the waist or even higher.
Indicative of a Culture
Bell bottoms for high fashion first appeared in the 1920s when Coco Chanel called them “beach pajamas” (Garcia). They rebelled against the restriction forbidding women to wear pants and graced the pages of fashion magazines for decades. Loose and made of soft material, they flowed around the legs of the women as they paraded along boardwalks and through summer parties. Unfortunately, men did not indulge in the coolness and comfort of the first bell bottom, remaining tied to straight-legged slacks. The beach pajama/bell bottom pant remained a part of women’s casual apparel for almost 40 years until musicians like Jimmy Hendrix and David Bowie took up the radical style and the media spread the word on bell bottoms. Television shows such as “The Brady Bunch” and “Charlie’s Angels” cemented the fashion as acceptable for the younger generation. However, middle-agers and children took to wearing them, also, based on the comfort and trend of the style.
The fashion of the 1960s was different from that of any preceding decade and it represented the fast-paced, revolutionary era as much as the changes in culture, politics, and society. The attitude of the times was that the future could be changed for the better, and fashion was included. People acted in outrageous ways to make an impression on what they perceived as needs for change and the flamboyant appearance of bell bottoms labeled the wearers as part of The Movement.
The flare in bell bottoms started in a fairly subtle way initially, almost like the boot cut pant today. By 1967, bell bottoms had moved out of high fashion and into the realm of the hippies. Paired with granny glasses, long hair, fringed vests, tie-dyed t-shirts, and love beads, they exemplified the trademark of a generation flaunting their individuality. Hippies perceived the bell-shaped bottoms as a radical alternative to the straight-legged pants and straight-laced attitudes of their parents. By the mid 1970s, the size of bottom of bell bottoms had reached their maximum proportions. The media was quick to focus on the fashion as it capitalized on photos of lounging young people wearing the style in parks, on streets, and at events.
Anti-war protesters used the navy bell bottom pants to reject the involvement of the United States in Vietnam. Peace signs painted or embroidered on them displayed the sentiment of the wearer. They were often paired with camouflage army jackets with symbols against foreign conflict. Newspapers and television screens were filled with the images of throngs of people carrying signs, shouting slogans, and wearing bell bottoms. The style of bell bottom pants was a symbol of the generation.
The style came back for the 1990s with “elephant leg” pants with exaggerated widths. The only difference appeared to be that the length of the pant covered the shoe to the ground, causing the resemblance to an elephant’s leg (Photo 2). Various versions were on runways for Dolce & Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, and Claude Montana; Donna Karan followed suite and added huge floppy hats (Hagwood). After a relatively short time, the fad faded away again.
Photo 2. Women in bell bottom pants (Mitchell)
The Comeback of the Bell Bottom
The flare is not as wide, and the bell bottom is now called a “boot cut”. The width of the bottom is wider for women than men, but the attraction remains the same – to draw the eye downward and balance a larger upper body. The boot cut pant has dominated the fashion industry for the last ten years and shows no sign of departing (Tell). In 2012, Cosmopolitan magazine printed an article on how to wear a more modern version of the bell bottom without losing the width at the base (Cardellino). Designers Habitual Harrison, 7 For All Mankind and J. Brand have added the retro look to their current lines, and Lady Gaga sports at least one pair.
Today, bell bottom pants can be found in vintage stores or costume shops. There are websites and YouTube videos with instructions on converting regular jeans into bell bottoms using the technique of inverting a panel into the opened pant seam below the knee; brightly colored cotton fabric makes the clothing alterations particularly attractive for children. However, the style is considered “retro” and no longer mainstream fashion. The bell bottom pant does not appear to be on the horizon for double-buttoned, vested suits in a corporate boardroom. They may be seen on the beach or at pool parties due to comfort and the lack of need for pressing.
The saying in the fashion industry is that styles repeat themselves every decade or so. The skinny jean has come onto the scene, but only very thin people can wear them. Skinny jeans can never hope to endure the test of time or represent an entire era of culture like the bell bottom pants. If the saying is true, the bell bottom will return.
Works Cited –
Cardellino, Carly. “Bell Bottoms Are Back”. Cosmopolitan 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
Dressthatman.net. “Pimp Ya Hide, Man!: The History Of Bell Bottom Pants”. N.p., 2006. Web.
10 Apr. 2015.
Garcia, Yvonne. “In What Year Were Bell Bottom Pants Popular? | Ehow”. eHow. N.p., 2015.
Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
Hagwood, Rod Stafford. “Http://Articles.Sun-Sentinel.Com/Keyword/Bell-Bottoms”. Sun
Sentinel 1993. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
Mitchell, Kat. “History Of Bell Bottoms”. JADATO. N.p., 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Raji, Lilian. “The History Of Bell-Bottoms ”. eHow. N.p., 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
Tell, Caroline. “Skinny Jean”. Time 2006. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.