Mention flared denim and you will immediately get two distinct reactions. The first is “Sorry, not into that hippie look” and the second reaction is a look of love. I am in the latter camp and here’s why I want you to be too.
First, let’s clear up a misconceptions. Flared jeans are not the same as Bell Bottom jeans.
Flared jeans have what I like to call the “Eiffel tower or A frame effect” Stand sideways (instead of straight on) and look into the mirror. You should see a triangular shape that starts out small at the knee and gradually fans out to the top of your foot and behind your heel.
all pics sourced from Pinterest
Bell bottoms are flared jeans, but in an extremely exaggerated way. The flare is much more extreme and often resembles a bell, (hence the name), when viewed from the front.
So flare jeans have more drama going on from front to back, whereas bell bottoms have more drama happening from side to side.
Flare from the front versus Bell Bottoms from the front…
The bell bottom is fun, but much more limited in how and when it can be worn. But the flare? It’s friggin fabulous and here’s why.
Whether you wear a size 2 or a 22 the most flattering silhouette is hourglass, regardless of which fruit or vegetable you think your body type may or may not resemble. What is it about the hourglass that is so flattering? The answer goes back to caveman days. Simply put men like curves. Curves represent boobs and butts which represent fertility, and we all know that cavemen just want to spread their seeds, so to speak. Thankfully we have come further than the caveman days but both females and males prefer a sense of visual symmetry. And the hourglass has the perfect, gentle curve of symmetry.
Of course not many of us are born perfectly symmetrical. But that is where our clothes become a magic. We can use hemlines to create the illusion of whatever shape we want. I know plenty of women who are curvy and wish they were long and lean look. I also know many women who are long and lean and are dying to create some curves. Trust me when I tell you that I have worked with enough women to know that no matter how perfect someone else may think they look, everyone has their own personal list of things they would like to look different. No worries – the tricks of the trade are all about highlighting your best parts and downplaying your least favorites, and I’m here to help!
Help! I feel like a 12 year old boy!
Take a look at how the flare can create an hourglass on a straight body type…
In all of the pics above the women have a typical “ruler” straight up and down shape. But when they wear a shirt with some kind of sleeve it creates a visual straight line across the top of their shoulders. When this shoulder line is balanced out by the bottom line of the flare, the waist automatically looks smaller, especially when you emphasize the waist with a shirt that is tucked in or goes straight across. So the girl who feels she has a “boy” shape suddenly looks an feels very womanly.
Help! I already have too many curves!
And what about women that already feel they are carved out of curves? Let’s take Sofia Vergara. Even though she seems to be born symmetrically perfect, this body type can still benefit from the fabulous flare. The key in keeping the curves in control is all about the cut of the shirt. Compare her looks in a top that is cut completely straight across her waistline, versus when she goes for a little bit of drape, either by leaving the top untucked or by doing a little half tuck.
Tops cut straight across and hitting at her hip don’t do her figure justice, just look at the difference a shirt with a curved “U” shape hem makes versus a top cut straight across.
And watch what happens when she pairs her flares back to tops with a “U” shaped neckline versus a high crewneck…such a better balance.
Help! My hips hate me!
So what if your body isn’t straight or symmetrically curvy, but somewhere in between? Do you feel like you would like to shave down the side of your hips just a bit? I know I do. Every piece of chocolate I eat plants itself firmly on the side of my thighs. Thank goodness the flare adds some forgiveness. In this you want to break up the hip and thighs. Notice the difference on Katie Holmes. She doesn’t have large hips but they appear out of proportion when they are highlighted with this type of lighter wash and a light shirt tucked in. In the other pic, her jacket does the trick to perfectly highlight her waist while the top underneath has a u shaped hem to break up her hip and thigh.
Help! I feel like a kangaroo!
Then there are my peeps who have effortlessly skinny legs but aren’t comfortable with their belly region. Have no fear, the flare will serve you well too. The key is in putting the hemline of your top at the perfect place on your legs. If your waist is not normally your smallest part of your body, then you need to “draw the line” to bring attention to the part that is. Let’s look at Jessica Simpson and the tale of the unfortunate mom jean incident. The major problem here was in the high waist. Look what happens when she drops the hemline. Tops with something going on, such as pattern or color-block or even a necklace, work to camouflage any muffin areas you are not mc’lovin.
A Straight body needs: shirt with sleeves + straight waistline + flare jeans +belt
A Hourglass body needs: shirt with curve (neck or hem) + flare jeans
To Hide the Hips: 2 pieces on top (1 to break up the hip and 1 to highlight the waist) + flare jeans+ belt (optional)
To Tame the Tummy: Longer length top (with pattern and interest) + flare jeans
What if you think you are too short for flares?
It can still work for you, just keep your heels high and pieces tailored. Hayden Panettiere is about 5 feet tall and she completely nails this look with tailored basics. She keeps the flares on the smaller side and focuses attention to her waist with the help of the white contrasting tank. Ditto for the 5’1″ Nicole Richie.
And what about shoes?
This look requires a heel, as those flares should almost brush the ground in order to get the longest and leanest look. In general you want to avoid anything with too much of rounded toe or platform (too much of a 70’s feel) or a shoe that lets the jeans puddle and drag on the ground. The goal is either to see a pointed toe peeking out or to not really be able to see your shoe at all.
And my favorite flare for casual wear? (yes, I wanted that to rhyme)
This Seven for All Mankind A Pocket Flare – available at ( where else??) Chantilly Blue in Kennett Square
So are you tired of me talking about flares yet?! I really do love them and I think they add an instant lift to any wardrobe. I also think they are the perfect item to wear in the Spring and Summer, when I’m not ready for shorts and dresses but I am sick of being stuck in skinnies. Please know that the suggestions above are just suggestions and NOT rules. We don’t have to always dress for our exact body type. One of my favorite outfits is an oversize peasant style top, flare jeans and cowboy boots. It doesn’t do anything to give me any kind of hourglass shape but it does everything to make me feel happy and comfy, and at the end of the day, THAT is the most important thing about what we wear!
My wearing my favorite combo – pink+sequins+flares at last years Main Line Fashion Week
*Insider Tip – Take your flares to work
Does your company or office have a casual Friday? Instead of going with the trouser style jean why not up your style by pairing a blouse and jacket back to your flared denim. Instant chic!
Thanks for reading!