How To Ditch Your Skinny Jeans For Good: A Primer On Flares

With looser pants and '70s fashion back in style, we've been searching our souls and asking ourselves: Are skinny jeans over?  From wide-legged trousers to big-time bell-bottoms, billowing silhouettes are really having a moment. And, the biggest comeback of 'em all has to be the flared jean. Sorry skinnies, but you'll have to sit tight at home. 

We also know there are skeptics out there — and, we understand the hesitation. Flares can be an overwhelming silhouette for many. Some may fear their legs will drown in excess fabric. Others can never find long enough inseams. Still more can't figure out the right proportion of flare opening for their body shape. We're here to say, don't fear the flares: We have the answers to all your wide-legged woes.

Read on for everything you need to know about the fanned-out cut. We've got expert advice from Chloe Lonsdale, founder and chief creative officer of MiH Jeans, Paige Adams-Geller, co-founder and creative director at Paige, and Mary Bruno, head of design at J Brand to give you the low down on these retro throwbacks. Prepare to upgrade to some extra leg room.
Baggy flares. They happen. But, there are styles out there that won't swallow your legs. First, ditch the vintage stuff, as they aren't designed for the modern-day body. "Vintage flares tend to have non-stretch, and that presents problems because they don't accommodate different body types," J Brand's Mary Bruno says of baggy-fit flares from decades past. "The reinvention of flares now is really about the strength of the fabrics."

Next, consider the elasticity of the denim blend. "If your jeans are losing their shape quickly, they might have too much stretch," says Chloe Lonsdale of MiH Jeans. "Look for jeans with 2% elastane with a narrower hem opening, as this won’t overwhelm smaller frames — it is the perfect amount for a comfort fit without the denim sagging." Petite girls, take note.

Finally, look for a fit that is leaner in the body. "When we design flares, we take that same top of the denim block as our skinnies, so they fit the same way in the butt area through the thighs. The only thing that would change would be where the flare would start from the knee and get more relaxed," says Paige Adams-Geller of her line Paige. If you have a hard time giving up skinnies, opt for a slight flare not too far behind the boot-cut. It's all about taking those baby steps.

Our Picks:
MiH Skinny Marrakesh Jean for the tight fit through the mid-calf.
Hudson Taylor Superior Slim Flare-Leg Jeans for that lean leg and larger flare.
Paige Lou Lou Petite for ladies who are 5'4" and under.
American Eagle Hi-Rise Artist Flare Jean for that magical 2% elastane blend.

If flares are always too long on you, we'll go ahead and assume you're more on the petite side — just a wild guess. Luckily for the 5'4"-and-under set, there are a few ways to find the perfect fit, but it will take a few try-ons. First, scope out cropped flares, since those already have shorter inseams. But, be sure to keep in mind one major detail: The knee should be up a little bit higher for a petite girl.

If cropped styles aren't speaking to you, be prepared give the longer flare a big ol' chop. "This is going to sound a little funny, but go for a style that is exaggerated in the width, because once you hem it to your preferred length, that leg opening will be proportionate to your height," Adams-Geller says. "Don’t do this with a skinnier flare, or else you'll lose that shape, and it’ll end up looking like a boot-cut! And, ask whoever is hemming to reattach the original hem to give it that authentic look at the bottom." 

All three experts adamantly agree: Hem your flares in conjunction with shoes you plan on wearing with them. Yes, that means you'll have to haul your footwear to the tailor. "I have several pairs of flares hemmed at different lengths, so I can wear them with specific shoes: sneakers or a platform or heels," Bruno says. "You absolutely have to get flares hemmed. Tailor them like you would any nice piece of clothing."

Our Picks:
Current/Elliott
Cropped Straight Skinny Jean for the slight flare above the ankle.
Zara Short Flared Jeans for an ankle-grazer with an even wider flare.
Paige High Rise Bell Canyon Frenchie for that slim-through-the-calf fit and intense flare to hem.
rag & bone Beckett Bell Rivington for the big flare at the knee for hemming to perfection.

Then, there are those of you who have the opposite problem from petites — hello, tall girls! The most obvious solve is to find a long inseam, but there are also a number of styling solutions. First, try wearing a flat shoe. "The hem of your flares should just touch the floor, because you don’t want them to drag," Lonsdale says. If the flare is still looking too short, seek out the extra-long styles — there are even inseam options of up to 40 inches available (from brands like Frame Denim) that are designed specifically for never-ending legs.

Next, determine the rise of the flare to create the illusion of the longer leg. "If you ask yourself How can I make my legs look as long as possible, check out the super-high rises," says Adams-Geller. "They literally elongate your legs like no tomorrow!"

And, finally, if you're a tall girl who is going for that intentionally cropped look, be mindful of where the hem hits your leg: You don't want it to look like you're just wearing a too-short flare. "It’s got to show a good amount of your ankle, about 3 to 4 inches above your ankle bone. It has to look very obviously cropped. Wear it with a more feminine heel," Bruno advises. Adams-Geller agrees: "The cropped flares that hit right above the ankle look best with flats or cool boots underneath. But, cropped flares that hit mid-calf and have that lampshade shape look rad with platforms or wedges, for that '70s, boho vibe."

Our Picks:
Express
Mid Rise Bell Flare Jean for the raw hems and tear details.
Stella McCartney The Longer 70 Flare Jeans for that vintage-inspired shape.
Derek Lam White Denim Flared Trousers for the crisp, wide-leg silhouette.
Frame Denim Le Forever Karlie Flare for that incredible 40-inch inseam.

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If flares look like they're too tight in all the wrong places, the culprit is probably an awkward proportion. "What would look great on someone who is curvier is going for a wider leg opening to balance out the proportion of the hips," Adams-Gellar says. Here's a simple crash course on how to nail that balance between hips and flare, based on a quick scan of your body shape: "The fuller your hips are, the higher the knee break should be, and the narrower your hips, the lower the knee break," Bruno explains. 

Once you've got the proportion down, find flares that will fit around your hips comfortably. Basically, you want to find ones with enough elastane. "Try a jean that uses stretch recovery technology," says Lonsdale. "They are very flattering! They shape, sculpt, and streamline the silhouette."

Finally, if you're a girl who just prefers to wear flares a bit baggy and loose, look for a very relaxed shape. "There are trouser flares that are loose starting from the thigh like a pair of slacks, and then start to flare out from the knee, so it’s not hugging your body all the way down," says Adams-Gellar. "These pants are a beautiful and sleek look if you wanna dress up in an elegant way."

Our Picks:
Seafarer Penelope Flared-Leg Stretch Jeans for that super-stretch fabric.
J Brand Maria Flare for the relaxed fit and worn-in details.
Free People Pull On Kick Flare for the jegging-like fit.
MiH Bodycon Marrakesh for the recovery denim and sweetly braided waist.
There's a particular satisfaction to scoring the raddest pair of pants and being able to wear them literally everywhere, including the office. Denim flares can definitely be one of them, as long as they don't actually look like jeans. So, forget light washes and opt for the darker, saturated stuff. "A pair of clean, inky-blue flares are a cool alternative to the black trouser for the office," Lonsdale says. Additionally, look for jeans that have a higher rise, a smooth finish, and don't have any contrast top-stitching (so, none of that golden yellow thread on blue denim business).

"The diameter of the leg opening can also really affect the look," Bruno says. "For me, it’s all about the knee break: The lower the knee break, the more casual it looks. The higher the knee break, about 2 inches above the knee, tends to look more dressy. You could easily wear flares in a board meeting with a blazer and blouse and look completely elegant." 

Our Picks:
7 For All Mankind 
Giambattista Valli High-Rise Flared Jeans for the glam fit and chic crease.
J Brand
Tailored High-Rise Flare for the gorgeous, deep indigo with no contrast stitching.
Derek Lam Compact-Knit Flare Trousers for the high waist and tailored leg.
Victoria Beckham Denim
Flared Jeans for the sleek, super-black wash.
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