Bell Bottoms Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Once there was a little girl who lived next to me
And she loved a sailor boy, he was only three
Now he's on a battleship in his sailor suit
Just a great big sailor but she thinks he's very cute
(With his bell bottom trousers, coat of navy blue
She loves her sailor and he loves her too)"
~ Bell Bottom Trousers, 1945, reworked clean version of sea chanty "Rosemary Lane"
In the early 19th century, when a standardized uniform did not yet exist in the U.S. Navy, some sailors adopted a style of wide trousers ending in bell-shaped cuffs, a style later adopted by the British Royal Navy in the middle part of the century. If you're young enough to remember, in the 1960s, bell-bottoms became fashionable for both men and women in Europe and North America. Often made of denim, they flared out from the bottom of the calf, and had slightly curved hems and a circumference of 18 inches (46 cm) at the bottom of each leg opening, and were usually worn with Cuban-heeled shoes, clogs, or Chelsea boots. By the 1970s they were mainstream fashion. Guess what ... they're coming back! Everything old is new again!
As history records, wearing wide-legged trousers made it easier for the sailors to roll the pants up in case of high waters. This also prevented their clothes from soiling while working in muddy waters. They were continuously used as part of the US Navy uniform until in 1977, they were replaced by a more conventional flare of the approved navy uniform. Ironically, by the 1970s, bell bottoms had gone mainstream.
Beginning in the 1960s, as the American youth became more involved in radical political and artistic movements, a rejection of mainstream fashion and lifestyle by ‘Bohemians’ and ‘Hippies’ resulted in clothes shopping from the cheap Army Surplus stores, one of the first places to obtain the Navy’s denim bell-bottoms.
Made over with embroidery and patches, these designs became the trendy and people turned their own straight pants into bell-bottoms by inserting a triangle of fabric into the side seam of the pants. Later, fashion designers picked up on bell-bottoms and began marketing leading to the iconic jeans branding of the 1970s.
This era also saw a variant of the bell-bottoms, the Loon pants (short for Balloon Pants), but with a larger flare. Another variant of the bell-bottoms was the Elephant bells with a huge flare. They had a distinct flare right below the knee and often covered the wearers shoes which were typically platform shoes with heels at least 4 to 5 inches to keep the pants’ hems off the ground!
What's in your closet? Are you ready for the revival? Check out the various decades of denim (including bell bottoms) by clicking on the original style icons, those fashionable 19th century sailors!