By Andrea Pflaumer | Illustrations by Sue Tait Porcaro
On just about every Instagram account of young celebrities, and bloggers you’ll find them wearing jeans: super skinnies, boot-cuts, flares (a new take on our beloved bottoms) boyfriends, etc. You might get the impression that jeans were the exclusive domain of the young. But since we’re smashing old ideas and thinking patterns, we can put that one to rest: everyone can wear jeans.
Jeans have humble roots but have withstood the test of time. They are the fashion element that unites people of all ages, all cultures, and all economic backgrounds. In many ways they are the uniform of the world’s population. And, they make us feel young because we first wore them when we were young.
How to Shop for Jeans
You always have to ask yourself: where are you going to wear them and what will you wear with them. The first part is important because some jeans now are considered acceptable for “casual dressy” occasions and events. Jeans with darker rinse always look dressier. They serve like a more casual version of your basic black pants. Add a cashmere sweater, or for women, a silk, linen or cotton blouse, throw on a blazer and you’ve got a go-to outfit for many occasions. With a more artsy or casual top layer, lighter rinses or brighter colors are fun. White jeans are always popular in the summer months, especially in resort areas.
Secondly, fit is important in all garments but in jeans it is absolutely crucial. High-waisted jeans are back, and in fact are very popular right now. There are two styles that work on just about everyone: straight leg and boot-cut. True skinnies and wide leg flares – and boyfriend jeans – take a little more finesse to avoid looking as if you’re trying too hard or just being lazy.
What to Look For
The size and placement of pockets can make or break the deal. Side seam pockets flare out as you move and sit making wide hips look even wider. Horizontal tab front pockets are more flattering if you’re carrying a little more weight through your hip area. Back pockets that are very low placed will drag your bottom down visually. Very widely spaced pockets will make it look very wide. The size of the pockets should be reasonable: too big and your behind shouts: “hey, look at my big bum!” Small pockets on a larger derriere can do the same.
And then there is the all-important waistband. Women who have anything that resembles an hourglass or pear-shaped body MUST have a contour waistband or they will find themselves exposing their behind every time they bend over. Look to see how well the waist stays close to your own waist as you move, sit, bend over, and crouch down. Always check yourself in a mirror. (And that goes for you guys too. No woman wants to see your plumber’s crack.)
A few well-chosen accessories can elevate your entire jeans outfit. For you guys, although the jeans are fundamentally casual, a great statement watch will instantly give you some street cred. It’s called mixing “high and low” –something casual and less expensive with something more elegant. And then add a very well-maintained pair of deck shoes, slip ons, or sneakers. If you really want to be ultra-cool you can go sockless. Otherwise, match the sock to your jeans or your shoes.
For women, if you are wearing ankle length or longer jeans, you can wear almost any kind of shoes. Adorned flats, comfortable heels, booties, espadrilles, or chunky sandals will match the casual look of jeans. If you are wearing shorter versions, like a capri or cropped length, avoid wearing heels. Shorter hem lengths say “casual” and heels say, “dressy.” They will also throw off your proportions. For evening occasions you can just add a sparkly bag or clutch, but for most daytime events keep it tasteful or playful: slouchy leather or straw bags and totes. Simple jewelry, a great statement necklace, or an arm full of bangles and voila! You can be the star of your own Instagram feed.
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of She’s Got Good Jeans, a primer on how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget. She is also the author of Shopping for the Real You based on the Personal Style Counselors (PSC) system of color and style analysis that has provided guidance to more than 24,000 men and women worldwide.
Andrea writes about fashion and culture and is the author of the free Highbrow course, The Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe. She produces and hosts the online video series Vital, Vivacious and Visible after 50. You can follow her regular updates and blog posts about how fashion trends relate to the real you at shoppingfortherealyou.com.