A lot of fashion words are being eaten these days, and some of the tastiest are "I wouldn't be caught dead in bell-bottoms." Arguably the most visible bell-bottom wearer of the '60s was Cher, who eventually swore off them. Today she's a vision of nostalgia in a black leather pair that complement her straight-again hair. "It took a while to actually feel comfortable, but now that I'm doing it, it feels like it was silly to be out of them," she says. "They are very sharp. It's a great, fun look."
That opinion is shared by a younger generation of fashion plates who have made bell-bottoms "the biggest retail checkout item since the recession struck," according to designer Betsey Johnson. "We re all saved by the bell." Johnson, 50, first designed them in 1965 and into the early '70s. "At that time bells were the pant shape—period, she says. "They went out of style after Watergate. Now, with the hippie thing back in such a heavy-duty way, they were the natural thing to do again."
This time around, Tatum O'Neal has been spotted in grunge-inspired bells by designer Marc Jacobs. Naomi Campbell has hit the runway in bells by Anna Sui and Versace. But it's not a designer-only phenomenon. "I usually get mine at the thrift store," says Drew Barrymore. "I like the hip-hugger bell-bottoms."
Of course bells aren't ringing for everyone. "It'd be pretty hard for a mayor to wear 'em," says Cher's ex Sonny Bono, former chief executive of Palm Springs, Calif. "I certainly thought they were the greatest thing since penicillin when I wore 'em, but then I look back and think, 'I didn't—did I really?' I think they're really corny now."
Model of the moment Kristen McMenamy has already moved on to other apparel. "About three years ago I started wearing bell-bottoms, and I thought they were in then," she says. "So now they are out for me."