How to style denim, plus the best jeans to buy
If you had to choose one phrase to describe the denim trends of the season, it would be: Everywhere! With so many cuts and rises, shapes and washes, what’s a jeans lover to do? Follow your heart and our guide to make them work for you.
They may be reminiscent of Woodstock, but today’s flare pants have a high waist and a clean, modern silhouette that elongates the legs. Pair them with a cropped sweater or blazer for everyday style, or lean into their rock and roll vibe with a denim-on-denim-on-denim combo. Either way, keep the accessories simple and let your jeans do the talking.
To buy: Tamara Dark Distressed True Blue Shirt, $118; mavi.com. Rachel Flare Ultra High Rise Instasculpt Jeans, $199; dl1961.com. Loran Deep Hemp Jacket, $128; mavi.com. Infinity necklace, $195; maisonmiru.com. Chuck Taylor All Star Classic Sneakers, $65; converse.com. Rings, own models.
The beauty of jeans that “come this far” is that they’re essentially two pairs in one. Go casual with a tucked-in sweater and ballet flats, or add a nice pair of heels and a button up for what is essentially the season’s informal look. (Red lipstick optional, but very strongly encouraged.)
To buy: Mainstay Cotton Catalina Pop Over, $115; buckmason.com. Sheri slim jeans, $119; nydj.com. New Puff Earrings, $118; jenny-bird.com. Vintage Christian Dior silk scarf, unique to the stylist. Emaline Heeled Sandals, $140; vionicshoes.com.
Why choose one wash when you can have three? The paneling and patchwork transform basic jeans into “wow” moments, meaning you can throw on the same jacket and t-shirt you always wear and look like a whole new you.
To buy: J.Crew vintage leather motorcycle jacket, owned by the designer. Fine Line jeans, $59; reversedenim.com. Arlo ring, $80; jenny-bird.com. Kam Leather Sneakers, $99; kennethcole.com.
Cropped, straight jeans are favorites of Hollywood designers because they go with just about anything. Try an on-trend heel or slip them into tall boots (a stylish look that will keep you warm and dry in inclement weather). Get a pair with a little stretch, and they’ll be your go-to bottoms for early mornings, late nights, and everything in between.
To buy: Soft Focus Ruched Turtleneck, $50; onestopplus.com. Vintage high-rise skinny jeans with Washwell, $70; gap.com. Vintage 1980s acid wash Havoc fringe jacket, designer owned. Analeah crocodile-embossed leather boots, $238; schutz-shoes.com
OK, listen to us. If you have a short torso, a lower waist is your secret BFF — and yes, you can rock it without looking like Britney in the 90s (or now). Choose a wide leg for balance and pair the jeans with a piece of polished knit that skims the waist so only a hint of skin is visible. Prefer to be more modest? Add a blazer and reach for items on a shelf without your midsection showing.
To buy: Shaker Boxy Sequin Vest, $176; autumncashmere.com for similar. In Awe Stonewash Frayed Jeans, $89; mistressrocks.com. Levi’s SecondHand Ex-Boyfriend Trucker Jacket, $59; secondhand.levi.com. French twist ring, $78; katespade.com. Arlo ring, $80; jenny-bird.com. Women’s Classic XXI Suede Sneakers, $70; us.puma.com.
Surprise! The baggy jeans you wore during your TLC listening days are back, and this time you don’t have to steal them from your big brother. Grab a pair cut for your body (we like the ones from Abercrombie & Fitch here), or try your local vintage store. Add a fitted t-shirt or tank for an adult (but, you know, cool adult) upgrade.
To buy: Excess ribbed tank top, $40; buckmason.com. Tamara Tannin Denim Shirt, $118; mavi.com. ’90s Curve Love Relaxed High-Waisted Jeans, $89; abercrombie.com. U-Link earrings, $98; jenny-bird.com. Marge loafers, $149; kennethcole.com.
Can I save a torn pair?
You spend a lot of money on your jeans and a good part of your life in them. When they tear each other apart, it can feel like losing an old friend. But there are plenty of ways to fix them, and most take less than 15 minutes (or a $20 trip to the tailor).
If you have a confident whipstitch or 10 minutes to watch a YouTube tutorial, you can tuck the bottom up a few millimeters and just change your pants. Not practical with a needle? A tailor can trim jeans for a neat finish, and if they’re a little shorter, well, cropping is all the rage right now!
A loose or broken belt buckle is a quick fix. Pin it back in place first with a safety pin, then find a strong polyester thread in the same shade as the denim. Do a simple cross stitch until it feels secure again and double your yarn inside the jeans. You’ll feel like you could play in a reboot of Little House on the Prairie.
If you want a shredded knee to look as close to new as possible, you’ll probably need a professional. But if you’re cool with a slightly more bohemian look, consider taking a few squares of your favorite fabric and patching the jeans together with a needle and thread. The result doesn’t have to be perfect, just personal. And chances are you’ll love them even more when you’re done.
Can I still wear my skinnies?
You may have heard of the skinny jeans debate that raged online last year. Middle-aged women (read: sophomores) took to TikTok to swear the style was “dead” (meaning something only their mothers would wear). The national media pored over the intergenerational controversy, as they tend to do. Gen Z has finally declared victory, as they tend to do.
So where are we? Always standing tall, defiantly, in our skinnies, which are groomed, slimming and comfortable. “Why would you stop wearing something you love? says designer Stacey Bendet, founder of clothing company Alice + Olivia. “Jeans are a sophisticated staple, and if the slim fit suits you, keep it that way.”
Samantha Sutton, fashion editor at InStyle, says her skinnies have become “more of a dressy bottom than something super casual”, ideal with a beautifully fitted jacket and a fabulous pair of shoes, or with an oversized oxford for a fresh and preppy riff. “Also, as a little person, I use them to create an unbroken line that elongates my legs.” Even Snapchat’s global head of fashion and beauty, street style savant Rajni Jacques, isn’t apologizing for her skinnies. “I like to wear them with a big sweatshirt to compensate for the tightness,” she explains.
Other ways to make them feel current? A trench coat and wellies with high-waisted skinny jeans are your chic, put-together armor on rainy days. (Imagine dragging a wet, wide-legged hemline down the street while you run errands. Pass it by.) Or you can DIY a distressed crop: Measure one to three inches from the hemline and cut the jeans with your sharpest pair of scissors. Fray the bottoms with your fingers or a piece of sandpaper. The result is a rock and roll look that goes well with black pumps and a polished blouse, a moto jacket or even a band t-shirt from your Lilith Fair era. Because it’s now cool to have had a Lilith Fair era! Take that, sophomores.
How often should I wash my favorite jeans?
When it comes to washing your jeans, maybe you don’t? Many fashion designers and fabric experts recommend that you only wash your denim once every 10 wears, because each time you do this the fibers stretch a little more, loosen up and lose a bit of color. . If you care about hygiene, science says you don’t have to. When a University of Alberta student wore jeans for 15 months without washing them and then tested his pants, the bacteria count was surprisingly low. (Just as we were surprised that a college student hadn’t visited the laundromat in over a year.) Keeping your favorite flares out of the wash also has an environmental benefit: in addition to using less water, you help prevent microplastics found in certain materials from leaking into tanks. You save your pants, your money, your water and your wildlife!
What’s the best way to store jeans?
Bend? Hang? Roll? Crumpling on the floor outside your Zoom frame? Here’s the good news: it doesn’t really matter. Unlike chunky crochet knits (which can get long and stretchy when hanging) or silk and satin tops (which wrinkle the second you put them in a drawer), denim is one of the toughest fabrics on the planet, and you can store where best suits your storage space. Easy!