Sustainable Flared Denim: The Ultimate Leg-Lengthening Style

Today we are talking denim — particularly those of the vintage-inspired and ridiculously flattering variety. Now, I love my skinny jeans; they are the style I reach for on a daily basis. But, when I am looking to up the glamour-factor and put together an outfit with an entirely different feel, flared denim is my go-to choice. Before you roll your eyes and proclaim that “flares are only for John Travolta or die-hard hippies,” consider the fact that these are one of the most flattering styles of denim for all women. The lovely flare adds a graceful and curved silhouette that only accentuates your feminine figure, plus it adds length to your legs because it doesn’t cut off your natural lines by stopping at the ankles (à la skinny jeans). Read on to learn about the “flare spectrum,” how to find the best pair for your body shape, and some of my favorite flared denim styling tips. *Note: To go with my efforts to create a fully sustainable wardrobe, I have attempted to link only sustainably and ethically-made items.*

The Flare Spectrum

KICK-FLARE. At one end of the flare spectrum, we have kick-flares, the perfect style if you are looking to ease into the wide-leg life. The M.i.h Marrakesh Jeans are the original style from the 70s and come in five different colors — you can even have them customized with your initials! Swoon. Or, the Everlane Kick Crop Jeans feature a subtle kick-flare at the ankle, basically begging you to show-off your favorite vintage shoes.

BOOT-CUT. The next level is the boot-cut, traditionally defined as a jean that tapers at the knee and then loosens at the ankle so that your (you guessed it) boots can be worn underneath the jean. A significant fashion staple of the 90s, these are slimmer than their cousin — the flare — and can be found in a range of styles from cropped iterations to full-length cuts. Style them with a pair of boots to give the nod to their namesake, or throw on some classic heels for a more polished approach. Reformation’s Candice High Bootcut Jeans are a classic and guaranteed to pair well with basically everything in your wardrobe. These AG Jeans “The Angel” in Indigo Spring are timeless and (probably) universally flattering.

FLARE. Now we get to the meatier ones — the FLARES! I have written more below about how to style them, so let’s get into some of my favorites that sustainable brands have on the market. Sezane’s 1973-The Flare has that very distinct Parisian sexiness that too often seems unattainable, so they are my dream. I also love these white flares from AG Jeans and these cropped ones from Re/Done that would pair very nicely with a striped turtleneck.

BELL-BOTTOMS. Last but not least, the most dramatic of all the styles, the bell-bottom. I couldn’t find too many pairs of sustainable options, so your best bet is to scour your local thrift/vintage stores. Although, these Warp + Weft ones are very chic and at an accessible price point. In case you were wondering, the brand also has a ridiculously good wide-leg denim jumpsuit.

How to Find The Best Flared Jeans for Your Body Shape

I am not really one for fashion “rules,” always preferring to wear what I like — but there is something to be said for knowing what works most favorably for your shape. I am not the tallest person in the world (5’3 on a good day), yet I like to rock wide flares whenever possible. To get away with it, I tend to pair them with extreme platforms so as not to overwhelm my smaller frame. When it comes to the power of flared denim, it is all about finding a flare that creates harmony with your natural proportions. As with anything, sizes and shapes vary from brand to brand, style to style, woman to woman, so I suggest you do a little trial and error with whatever piques your fancy and then work from there. However, I wanted to include a wee lil style guide with the standard shapes and fit tidbits to give you a headstart when looking for your next pair of flared denim jeans.

CURVY/PEAR SHAPED. For the pear-shaped ladies, wider flares or bell-bottoms are the perfect shape to make your hips, thighs, and bootay look amazing. Look for fits that are form-fitting in the butt, legs and all the way down to the middle of your knees and don’t be scared of a full flare. In fact, the bigger the bell that flares out, the more luscious your hourglass shape will look, and your legs will seemingly go on for miles.

NARROW HIPS/APPLE SHAPED. Generally, women who have a more apple-shaped figure should look to style their narrower hips with a bootcut fit because the smaller flare will complement rather than overwhelm. This smaller bell-bottom shape slightly fans out over boots or shoes and can be found in a looser fit (for a more relaxed feel) or a tighter fit (for a more streamlined look).

TALL/COLUMN SHAPED. This type of frame looks fantastic in wide-legged pants or exaggerated bell-bottoms because your naturally long legs can handle the volume. If you are column-shaped but a little shorter, opt for a pair with a flare that starts at mid-knee.

PETITE. Similar to apple-shaped women, if you are on the petite side, you can’t go wrong with a pair of bootcuts that work to elongate your legs. Pair them with a heeled boot, platform, or wedge to sneak in a few more inches of height.

How to Style Flared Denim

Like pretty much all denim, the styling options for flared jeans are far-reaching. You can venture as far into the 1970s territory as you want, or update the style for a classic and polished ensemble. Generally, when wearing my flared denim, I like to keep my top-half structured with a tight-fitting knit, a lace bodysuit, or a simple T-shirt and a cropped blazer or leather jacket. Just to put it out there, this new Everlane Chore Jacket would be soooooooo good. These proportions tend to work well for my body shape because they keep the focus on the über-flares and make me look so much taller than I actually am. Score! Another way to style them (and give a nod to the years gone by) is with a printed blouse and platforms — a combo that I may just have to whip out tonight to go to a concert. Come spring, I am looking to pair lighter-colored flared denim with a simple white tee and a basket bag to steal borrow one of Jane Birkin’s go-to looks. As well as a lightweight pastel sweater styled with high-rise white cropped-leg flares. Doesn’t that sound so lovely and fresh?!

Footwear is very important when it comes to flared jeans (okay shoes are always important who am I kidding), and you can’t go wrong by pairing a classic mule with this style. To elevate the look while keeping it contemporary, a pair of pointed-toe heels will do just that all while lengthening your legs. Alternatively, if you are starting on the smaller end of the flare spectrum, pair your kick-flare pants with a pair of strappy sandals (weather permitting), a pair of sneakers, or Tevas for the ultimate off-duty look.

Outfit Details

Vintage Pendleton blazer, sunglasses, earrings / Moelleux top / Free People jeans /

Marc Jacobs platforms / Tommy Hilfiger bag

Photos by Mel Costanzo

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