Elephant Leg Pants

AKA: Elephant Bells

How to say it: like the animal

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • tight through the hips
  • flared from the thighs through to the cuff so they were quite wide at the bottom (some styles started to flare from the knee)
  • can be low-slung or sit on the natural waist
  • long enough to fully cover platform shoes


…of the style: The Elephant Leg pant was introduced in the late 1960s and saw the height of its popularity in the early 1970s.

The Elephant Leg is a form of Bell-Bottom pant – a style of pant that flares towards the bottom and is said to have US Naval origins from as early as 1813. Bell-bottoms are most well know for being  connected with the Hippie look of the late 60’s, when they were often made from denim or bright coloured fabric and had cuff circumferences of at least 20″. The Elephant Leg is an extreme extension of this style, although the ultra wide leg didn’t come into play until the ‘Hippie’ look had gone mainstream in the early 70s.

The Elephant Leg pant starts to flare from the thigh and continues all the way down the leg to create a very wide cuff – apparently up to 36″ in circumference, that fully covered the platform shoes that were often worn with the style.

The Elephant Bell is slightly different (although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably) in that the pant fits tightly through the leg and the flare begins from the knee. While the flare on the Elephant Bell is quite extreme, the cuff circumference on this style would have been less than that of the full Elephant Leg.

After the 1970s the extra wide leg of the Elephant pant pretty much disappeared (although the Bell-Bottom style lived on in guise of ‘Boot Cut” pants), but had a resurgence in the mid 1990s with the Phat Pant – a super wide legged pant popular with Ravers.

…of the name: I couldn’t find a documented reason for the name, but I assume it comes from the fact that the leg shape of the pant is so wide and resembles the size of an actual elephant leg.

For more info on Elephant Leg pants and Bell-Bottoms try Inthe70s.com, Wikipedia, eHow or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

Random Facts

  • the preferred hight of heel to wear with Elephant Leg Pants was 5.1″ – all of which would be covered by the pants anyway.

21st Century Elephant Pants

Given fashions recent obsession with skinny pants, the Elephant Leg, as it was, doesn’t really exist in the fashion marketplace at the moment. There are, however, wide leg trousers that bare a toned-down resemblance to the shape of the original pant – these were the best I could find.

alice and oliva free people

Alice + Olivia, Free People

donna karan asos

Donna Karan, ASOS


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