The Ultimate Jeans Guide: Denim’s Greatest Hits

by shop girl

Some things are universally popular because they’re luxurious (four-star restaurants, the Four Seasons Hotel, Aston-Martins), and some things are universally popular because they’re useful (cell phones, dishwashers, electricity). Some universally popular things are used to make an impression on others and exhibit the owner’s personality (dogs, tattoos, aforementioned cell phones). And occasionally, there are things that do all of these in one nice, neat, portable package (denim). What else is accessible the world over (admittedly in varying degrees of availability and style), appropriate for nearly every occasion (okay, not dinner with the Queen), worn by everyone from royalty to deep-shaft miners, and styled for different sized humans from the tiniest babe to the largest man (I swear, today
at the Levi’s store there were two mannequins inside one enormous pair of dungarees)? Denim, the great equalizer. But selecting the right pair is a decision fraught with nuance. Which cut do you want? What color? Should it be dungaree-dark or sandblasted light? And how much of your wardrobe budget do you want to sacrifice to this one (okay, seven pairs, but still) item? How do you choose? I’ll help, but pay attention: you’ll probably spend more time in denim than in any other clothing item. I’ll even help you figure out what goes with it (and, really, what doesn’t go with it?). Listen up!

Hot Trends

This season is less about shape and more about hue. There are still lots of skinnies, but they have ceded ground to the decidedly more forgiving straight-leg. The rigid dark-blue cool has relaxed to include fades and shades I thought would never come back: rich red, green, gorgeously neutral grey, faded black, and even sunshine yellow. Plain-old standard indigo denim has such a range, from beachy blasted to whiskered old-school, that it’s hard to be wrong. (Unless, of course, you are stuck in your old high school time warp::shudder::). But beware: the wilder the color on the bottom, the more spot-on your accompaniments must be. Try one of the season’s great chunky sweaters in grey or camel with wild green or red denims; for yellow, I recommend solids or graphic prints with at least some black and white (don’t want to look like a clown!). Try a university-style cardigan sweater for a casual silhouette. Keep footwear basic in silhouette: flats, boots or sneakers in a solid, dark color to ground your frivolous threads.

Texture is another way to show your personality. Velvets and corduroys are a great way to take jeans into the fall, and can even boost the dressiness level to cocktail party proportions, if the accents are right. Add a satin tuxedo jacket to velvet cigarette jeans and a sparkly sandal, and tuck your jeweled clutch under your arm as you chat at the next chic soiree.

Shapes that Fit

Before you decide on a trend that you like, make sure it’s one that’s the
right cut for your…um, assets. There is absolutely no point in latching onto the
skinny trend if you’re bootylicious, or adopting the wide-leg silhouette if you’re five-foot-three. Remember, it’s not chic if it looks horrible on you.

  • Petites: select a slim, pencil, cigarette, or cropped jean with a shorter inseam to make your legs look long. A wideleg jean will make you look as if you borrowed your mommy’s clothes for dress-up. Straight trouser jeans are a great way to put together a more sophisticated look, especially with tailored toppers like a chic jacket or a cardigan with a belt (but please keep the hemline hip-height or shorter so you don’t look like you’re standing in a bucket!)
  • Curvy: Your goal is to emphasize your curves without knocking people over. There are many cuts designed to hug your hips without gapping at the waist; look for a contoured waistband that rises a little higher in the back to avoid the dreaded whale-tail when you bend over! Shy away from cuts that flare too wildly at the hem; you want to add length to your legs, and that is best done with a slight boot-cut that doesn’t cling too tightly to your thighs. Some stretch will caress your curves; too much will make you look like ten pounds of sausage in a five-pound bag. Some distressing can contour your thighs, but not too much! When pairing tops with your jeans, make sure to accentuate your waist with a nipped jacket, empire top, or wide belt. Do NOT wear high boots with anything but cigarette or stovepipe jeans tucked in.
  • Tall: Lucky ducks. With legs that go on for miles, your sole focus is on finding hemlines long enough to accommodate your heels, too. Old Navy and the Gap have jeans in longer lengths, as do many of the designer brands. You can even your proportions with tunic tops or long, belted cardigans; feel free to stuff stovepipes into a pair of high boots. But tight, tapered jeans will make you look too stork-ish; choose a palazzo or slight boot-cut to balance the length of your stems.
  • Booty-free: Pockets. Focus on the rear pockets. Flaps are your best friends, and the higher the pockets are situated on your bum, the more they will lift it. Trouser jeans may not be your best choice, unless they are equipped with buttoned flaps; wear a top with a cinched waist and some fullness below to add volume to a flat tush.


Day Casual: Grab a longer tee and layer up! Add a varsity sweater, a button-front shirt, and classic sneaks to a slim faded pair for Saturday with your funky tote and your errand list. Sunday you can wear colored straight-legs with flats and a turtleneck to brunch; grab a chain-link bracelet and a bright clutch and you’re off.

Friday: Jeans can go to work if they’re a sophisticated trouser cut and you pair them with a silky blouse and a great jacket. Wedge heels add respectability with enough comfort that you can still log the six miles you trudge around the office every day.

Night Out: Grab those long, dark straight-legs or black skinnies and add a lustrous silk top and a pair of killer platforms, some dynamite earrings and a sparkly clutch. Or add texture with a chunky bolero and bright cami and height from right-now booties.

Night In: Cocktail parties demand girlyness; those colored jeans are right on with black peep-toes and the perfect velvet blazer, a crisp white tuxedo blouse and a few glamorous long chains.

Remember, when there are no limits, it can be even harder to get a look just right than when you’re confronted with rigid boundaries to stick to. Keep your eyes open around you and see what others are doing, but make sure that you’re choosing the look that is all yours. It’s not chic if it’s not you, and you make your best impression when you’re comfortable in your own skin.


P.S. If you want more information go to the She She Me homepage for more fashion details.

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