Retro delights: Flares

Flares have been in fashion for nearly 40 years. Susannah Frankel explains their consistent appeal

Fashion is so steeped in nostalgia that it's not unreasonable to presume that any garment a designer doesn't choose to recycle must simply have been a bad idea in the first place. Consider, for example, the Donna Karan body with its evil press studs just where a girl would never in her right mind want them. These may have been a byword for style in the 1980s when everyone who was anyone wore them, but they caused something of a rift even between generally like-minded souls. Were you the type who fastidiously undid them of a trip to the ladies before struggling ad infinitum to do them up again, or did you simply pull them to one side? Yuk. Whatever, they have rarely had a look-in since, and suffice to say that few tears have been shed over the matter.

The same cannot be said of the continual reinvention of flares, which are about to impact again – and in a big way – at a high street store near you. My mother would order me shrink-to-fit Levi's with an uncompromisingly straight leg when I longed – in much the same way as a young girl with a black school uniform might pine after pink – to own a pair of flares. As a compromise, one Christmas I was given a pair of grey knitted Biba trousers with a kick at the ankle. These were definitely more of a boot cut than the full, bell-bottomed monty but I was in fashion nirvana nonetheless, suddenly leggy and glamorous, whereas up until that time I'd just looked like, well, like a boy.

For those out there who have found the dominance of pencil-thin jeans over the past two years something of a challenge, news that trousers boot- cut, flared and even rivalling a pair of Oxford bags in volume are back may provide solace. Such reasons may be partially pragmatic – flares are easier on shorter and less-than-perfect legs.

Bringing flower power, Woodstock and, before that, the loungewear-clad likes of Jean Harlow to mind, flares speak of insouciance, sophistication and just the right amount of decadence – if nothing else, it takes more fabric to craft a pair of wide-legged trousers. And there's nothing as uptight as an unwisely placed popper in sight.

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