Guide to Styling Denim
There’s no piece of clothing quite as timeless and all-occasion as a good old-fashioned pair of jeans. They can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion, and they’re supremely comfortable. On top of this, they’re highly versatile and are available in an enormous range of styles, colors, lengths and textures so that there’s something for everyone out there. Perhaps best of all, they’re universally wearable by anyone regardless of age, gender or sense of style, and can be paired with a variety of tops or shoes to transform them for the appropriate occasion.
But perhaps you’ve never put too much thought into styling your denim. Maybe you, like most of us, tend to get stuck in a rut with your style. It could be that you wear the same type of top and shoes with your jeans every day and you’re looking to branch out, or it could be that you’re taking a walk on the wild side and you just bought a new style of jeans — only now you aren’t sure how to style them.
Whatever the reason you’re looking for some styling tips for your denim collection, we’re here to help. We’ll talk about different types of denim and how you can dress this essential clothing staple up or down no matter where you're headed.
Navigating the World of Denim
These days, denim comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you were to walk into a department store and ask for a pair of jeans, you’d likely need to answer a dozen different questions as the salesperson tries to direct you through the maze of denim options to find what you’re looking for. You won’t just buy “jeans.” Instead, you might purchase acid-wash boyfriend jeans, crop skinny blue jeans or even maroon ripped jeans.
So what are the different factors that go into creating a specific pair of jeans? Let’s take a look.
Denim comes in a variety of different lengths, and what you’ll find available in stores is mostly dependent on the time of year it is. Shorts, for instance, are usually seen during spring and summer months, while full-length pants will be available all year round. The various lengths you’ll find available include:
- Full-length: These are what we think of as a traditional blue jean, going to the tops of your shoes.
- Crops or capris: These are three-quarter lengths jeans, typically reaching down to the mid-calf.
- Bermudas: These are long shorts and are designed to hit just above the knee.
- Midis: Midis are true shorts and will typically reach mid-thigh.
- Shorts: Women’s shorts may vary slightly in length, but will usually reach the upper thigh.
- Overalls: Overalls can come with either shorts or pants, but are distinguished by the bib and straps worn over the torso.
Jeans come in a variety of cuts, and while these tend to rise and fall in terms of popularity every few years, you can usually find all of these cuts at different stores and retailers. Experiment with different cuts and styles and discover what you feel most comfortable in and what you enjoy wearing most. Some of the more common styles you’ll see include:
- Jeggings: Think of these as your typical pair of leggings, but made out of denim material. Like leggings, they hug your body, stretch for maximum comfort and use an elastic waistband instead of a standard button-and-zipper closure.
- Skinny jeans: These jeans hug your leg tightly from the hips down to the ankles. There is hardly any loose fabric with these jeans, and the snug fit creates a form-fitted silhouette.
- Straight-leg jeans: Straight-leg jeans are a step away from skinny jeans, with just a tad more room in the legs. They are form-fitted through the hips and thighs but tend to get a bit looser at the lower legs and ankles as the pant leg is straight from the knees to the hem instead of tapered, as it would be in skinny jeans.
- Boot-cut jeans: Modern bootcut jeans are fitted through the hips and thighs before subtly opening up into a wider leg at the mid-calf point. The flare here is very minimal, and might almost be mistaken for a straight-leg in some pairs.
- Flare jeans: Think of these as boot-cut jeans, but dialed up a notch or two. They also feature a fitted shape around the hips and thighs before opening up at the knee into a wide flare that reaches to the ground.
- Boyfriend jeans: These jeans get their name because they almost look like they could be borrowed from your boyfriend. They’re more relaxed from the hips through the leg opening and often feature a distressed look.
A jean’s rise refers to how high or low the waistband sits on your waist. A low-rise pair of jeans might rest sit at your hip bones, while high-rise jeans might be up at your natural waist and a mid-rise waistband will be somewhere in between.
Traditionally, denim comes in blue. We can refer to the exact shade of blue by talking about a jean’s wash. Dark-wash jeans, for example, can be a deep navy, almost black. Light wash, on the other hand, might look almost white.
While denim is traditionally produced in different shades of blue, it can also come in every color of the rainbow. Today, you can buy jeans in any color you can imagine, such as maroon, army-green, mustard-yellow and bright red, in addition to neutrals like black, gray and white.
If we say that a pair of jeans is distressed, it means that they have been designed to look worn-in. They may be frayed around the edges, torn or faded. Extremely distressed jeans will have large, stylized rips down the front.
Tips for Styling Jeans
Here are some of our best tips on what to wear with jeans and for how you can make your denim work for you:
1. Don’t Double up on Denim
We all love denim, but there is such a thing as too much of it. If you’re wearing denim pants, steer clear of that denim button-up or jean jacket and go for something that contrasts instead of matches. And if you're confident you want to try wearing denim on denim, be sure to pair totally different shades — such as a blue denim shirt with white denim pants.
2. Accessorize to Dress It Up
If you’re looking to take your jeans to work or a party, it’s easy to dress up denim just by adding a few simple accessories. Add a blazer over your blouse, choose a statement necklace or go for some bold shoes. All of these will help elevate the outfit and make your jeans seem dressier than they are.
3. Keep It Simple to Go Casual
If you’re just headed out for coffee or to the park, don’t be afraid to keep it simple. A quality t-shirt and jacket are all it takes to keep your jeans looking stylish and feeling comfy.
4. Think About Colors
The best thing about blue denim is that it acts like a neutral, coordinating with anything from bright colors or soft pastels to other neutrals like black, white or navy. Black, white and gray jeans also pair well with colors or other neutrals. When it comes to wearing colored jeans, however, it’s often best to wear these with neutrally-colored tops. For instance, try olive-green pants with a white t-shirt, or plum-colored pants with a black button-down.
5. Find the Right Shoes
Certain shoes may go well with one style of denim while clashing with a different style. A perfect example of this is the way a pair of delicate ballet flats look perfect with skinny jeans but may look strange with a pair of long flare jeans. Always try to match your style of jeans with the right shoe, and your outfit will easily get off on the right foot.
6. Know Which Jeans Are the Dressiest
Our ideas of what jeans are dressy and which are casual is something that changes with the times. Right now, however, take note that a pair of skinny jeans or even straight-leg jeans will be more professional than flare jeans. Similarly, dark-wash denim is typically dressier than light wash, and colored jeans can look dressier still when paired with the correct top. Always consider the style of jean when trying to make an outfit dressier or more casual.
Styling Your Jeans by the Event
The best thing about jeans is that they can adapt to suit almost any occasion. Here’s our best advice for taking your jeans with you no matter where you’re headed.
1. At Work
When you’re headed to work, it might be best to stay away from any of the highly-distressed looks, as these are better for casual settings. Try a pair of high-rise skinny jeans in a nice dark wash. Match these with a pair of pumps, flats or ankle boots, and they’ll instantly look both classic and professional. For the top, go for a nice blouse or button-down in a style you love, and throw on a blazer overtop if you feel the look needs a little Something Else.
2. To a Party
For almost any social gathering from baby showers and birthdays to bachelorette parties and brunches, you can always rock your jeans. For occasions like these, try dressing up a bit with a striking pair of black or white jeans paired with your favorite pair of sandals or pumps. On top, why not grab your favorite fluttery blouse? Together, a dressed-up blouse and a sleek pair of colored jeans will make you look just as dressy as if you’d come in a cocktail dress.
3. Visiting the Park
Headed out for a casual day of walking the dog or taking the kids to the park? Maybe looking to catch a baseball game? Jeans are absolutely the order of the day. Grab your favorite pair of boyfriend jeans or jeggings and a pair of sneakers, throw on your favorite t-shirt and jacket and you’re good to go with a look that feels effortlessly casual and oh-so-comfortable.
4. On a Date
Dates are a great time to let your personal style show. You might opt for a pair of distressed jeans, a graphic t-shirt and combat boots. On the other hand, you also might choose a pair of colored skinny jeans, strappy sandals and a delicate blouse paired with some elegant jewelry. Remember that the key here is to be comfortable and let your unique style shine.
5. When Traveling
When you’re traveling, the most important thing is to be comfortable. You’ll likely be doing lots of walking, as well as lots of sitting on your plane or train, and there’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable in your clothes while you’re doing it. We recommend your favorite pair of jeggings, paired with boots that you feel comfortable walking in. Layering is also a great idea, to help you adjust to the different temperatures you’ll encounter. Go for a t-shirt or tank top with a cardigan layered over the top, and you’ll be ready for anything on your travels.
6. On a Night Out
Hitting the town with some friends? Head to a bar in skinny jeans, your favorite glamorous top and some eye-catching pumps. If you’re headed to a concert or festival, try grabbing boyfriend or flare jeans, a graphic tee and some boots or chunky heels. On nights out, remember that you’ll be dancing, laughing and having fun, so you’ll want to be comfortable. Avoid anything that prevents you from moving around and enjoying yourself to the fullest.
7. For a Coffee Date
After work, or on your lunch break, you might head to a coffee shop to meet friends. In situations like this, you’ll likely still be in your work clothes. To make your work outfit seem less business-like and more casual, just take off the blazer. You’ll instantly blend in with the more laid-back atmosphere of the coffee shop while still looking polished and put-together.
8. Running Errands
As with many of the occasions we’ve mentioned, the goal here is comfort and ease of movement. As you run from the grocery store to the car wash and the daycare to the dry cleaners, stay light, breezy and comfortable in a pair of straight-leg jeans, your favorite tunic top, and a pair of flats or boots, depending on the season.
Shop Our Denim Selection at My Sister’s Closet
Ready to rock your denim? Feeling full of ideas for how you can style your jeans for any occasion? Then get started by shopping our full catalog of denim at My Sister’s Closet, where you can find something for every destination. Here at My Sister’s Closet, we know that you want all the latest styles, and we know that you’d rather not break the bank to get them. That’s why we make it our business to stock our online boutique with the best in clothing that’s stylish and comfortable while also staying within your price range.
If you’d like to get in touch with us about who we are and how we can better help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know.