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What are Flare Pants?

By Del Sandeen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Flare pants are any pants that flare out below the knee. They are also known as bell bottom pants or wide-leg pants. There's no one standard flare; some slacks feature a subtle flare, while others have a very wide flare. Different types of flare pants work for various body shapes.

Flare pants are available in a range of materials, including polyester, wool, cotton, and denim for flare jeans. These pants were extremely popular during the 1960s and 1970s, when they were commonly referred to as bell bottoms. During this time, men and women wore them; women usually paired them with platform sandals and men wore platform shoes. They come in and out of fashion, but many women enjoy the fit and style of flared pants. While the patchwork design of 1960s bell bottoms hasn't regained the soaring popularity it enjoyed during that era, there are still various styles of wide-leg pants to suit a range of fashion personalities.

When choosing any type of pants, it's important to keep the body shape in mind for the most flattering fit and style. Petite women will get swallowed up in flare pants that are too wide; ladies who stand 5 feet 4 inches (1.64 m) and under should choose smaller flares for the best look. Tall women can get away with more dramatic flares. Women who are plus size should wear flare pants that fit closely through the upper leg and have a slight flare. Flare leg pants that are too wide can emphasize heavier hips.

Flare pants are wide, so wearers should balance the look with a closer-fitting top. In most cases, tunics should be avoided, unless they're body-skimming. In addition, avoid any shirts with dolman, or bat wing, sleeves. With a slim top, the entire ensemble enjoys better balance.

Flare pants work for casual, professional or dressy settings, depending on the choice of material. For the most elongating, slenderizing effect, someone might want to wear a close-fitting top in a dark color paired with a dark pair of flared slacks and pointed-toe shoes in a matching color.

Women will also find these style pants in exercise apparel, as they make suitable yoga pants. The materials used for active wear include stretchy, breathable fabrics. The slight flare found in yoga pants allows for full and comfortable body movement.

The best shoes to wear with flare pants include anything with heels, such as pumps; high-heeled boots; espadrille sandals; and wedge sandals. The heel helps to balance the width of the flare, but flats can work. Ballet flats or pointed-toe flats are suitable, but petite women may want to stick with heels.

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Discussion Comments
By DentalFloss — On Dec 09, 2010

Flare leg pants are not exactly the same as bell bottoms. The original bell bottoms, which were usually also hip huggers, flared out starting right at the thigh all the way down; modern flare leg pants often are fitted at the thigh, flaring out from the knee. In fact, the pants most often referred to now as wide leg are a much better representation of the bell bottom style than flares, which had a huge popularity in the 1990s as the new kind of hip hugger. Flares do not have to be hip hugger waists, though, and different waistlines can make flares a nice shape for women of all shapes and sizes.

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