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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bell-bottoms, 1960's & 1970's


Bell-bottoms were first worn by sailors in the 1800’s, possibly even in the late 1700's, when they began to wear wide legged trousers with bell cuffs.  The first written descriptions of bell-bottoms can be found in an 1813 writing by Commodore Stephen Decatur.  He noted that men working on ships were wearing “ trousers with bell bottoms.”  The bells at the leg of the pants allowed the sailors to roll them high for messy clean up jobs on the deck of the ships.  Also, if a sailor fell into the water, the bell-bottoms could easily be pulled off over boots and the wide legs could be inflated for the use of life preservers.

It was in the 1960’s that bell-bottom trousers began to be worn in high fashion for both women and men. 

Twiggy, 1966
mid - 1960's

At that time, young people found inexpensive bell-bottoms at military surplus and secondhand stores.  Wearing this style of trouser was popular as an antiwar statement, especially when embellished with embroidered flowers and peace symbols.

bell-bottoms belonging to Janis Joplin


At first clothing manufacturers didn’t sell bell-bottoms since they were looked at as the clothing of radicals.  People who couldn’t find them secondhand or at military stores began making their own and adjusting the outside leg of regular trousers by sewing in fabric to make the leg wider.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that bell-bottoms moved to being a mainstream fashion garment.
By that time designers began to produce bell-bottoms in many fabrics and prints as a trendy item.

Wrangler ad designed by Peter Max, for bell-bottom jeans  

1970's Hasbro ad, even dolls wore bell-bottoms

“Elephant bells” became fashionable starting in the mid 1970’s;  these were bell-bottoms that were flared under the knee and that covered the shoes.  People wore platform shoes with elephant bells in order to keep the hems from touching the ground.

Elephant Bells, 1970's


1970's disco bell-bottoms


my mom wearing bell-bottoms in the 70's

References:  1. Wikipedia  2."Bell-Bottoms." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. 2004. (May 13, 2015).