Today Lisa of Privilege and une femme d’un certain âge are collaborating, each writing a post about the love we share for denim. We thought it might be fun to approach from the perspective of two Californians, one north, one south. Denim is our state’s unofficial uniform, after all.
There are few other clothing items that lend themselves so completely to individual expression, yet retain a distinctive identity. And no other clothing item is quite so emblematic of California’s laid back image as a pair of jeans. Levi Strauss and The Gap were both birthed in San Francisco, and Los Angeles now has quite a vigorous denim industry. NYDJ, AG, Frame Denim, Citizens of Humanity, Mother, J Brand, Paige, Joe’s Jeans (just to drop a few celebrity names) are all LA-based and do much of their manufacturing here.
There are few places in Southern California that you will not see some form of denim being worn. I won’t say it’s de rigueur (heck, nothing is de rigueur in LA) but it’s hard to go wrong with the right pair of jeans. There’s an unwritten rule to California style: one should never look as if one is trying too hard. I couldn’t help but absorb this attitude during a lifetime living here (both North, South and in-between), and suppose that’s why what has come to be regarded as “Parisian style” appeals to me. Jeans are one form of style shorthand to convey that same insouciance.
What works for me has shifted over time, and probably will continue to evolve. One thing has remained constant: I’m no denim purist. While some prefer raw and selvage denim, almost all of my favorites have a little bit of stretch to the fabric. Let’s look at a few styles, in ascending order of my preference.
Conventional wisdom has it that bootcuts are the most universally flattering jean style, and they can be. But I also find this style can be harder to wear in that the hem has to be just the right length, so different heel heights require different hems, which means the jeans must be specific to the shoes. And for someone short like me, the flare is another volume point that I have to balance with the rest of the outfit. Still, sometimes these are Just Right.
Most of the time, I find I love white jeans in concept more than execution. But they have a place in a Southern California wardrobe, and sometimes nothing else will do.
I was very much a latecomer this trend (now that we’re 10+ years in, can we really call it a “trend?”) It helped to find styles that were a little less extreme than the painted-on, calf-strangling versions that had led the charge. Once my eye adjusted to them, for a year or so they were all I wanted to wear. This style works well within my preferred long-over-lean silhouette and both pairs shown here are quite comfortable, thanks to a good bit of stretch. I’ve found that adding some visual volume to the lower leg either by cuffing or tucking into boots can help to balance the look.
Once again, it was only after some “mellowing” of this trend from the first vanguard baggier, wider-leg versions that I was able to incorporate boyfriend jeans into my repertoire. The softer, narrower cuts like the Eileen Fishers above are versatile, easy to style and can be flattering.
(Sensing a pattern here: I’m unlikely to be the first one out of the gate with any new trend. Diana Vreeland’s eye may have had to travel; mine has to adjust.)
This feels like a “best of all worlds” option. Middle ground, maybe, between skinny and slim boyfriend, this cut offers a lot of styling flexibility, and works with flats, heels and ankle boots. I see “skinny” and “slim leg” being used interchangeably at times, but to me there is a subtle difference. Skinny jeans are fitted all the way down to the ankle. A cigarette or slim leg is fitted through hips and thighs, and then narrow and straight from the knee down. I find this to be a leg-lengthening cut, and very comfortable if the fabric has some stretch.
The Bridge Not Yet Crossed…
Once again, the eye adjusts. My initial reaction to distressed denim was, “ugh, no way, so contrived.” Now, I find myself fascinated by the pairing of gently distressed boyfriend jeans with pumps and other polished pieces. Never say never. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but am thinking about it, again, avoiding extremes.
A note about rises: while brands like NYDJ have always offered a higher rise, expect to see a lot more mid- to high-rise options among all brands, as this seems to be how the fashion pendulum is currently swinging. I hear champagne corks popping across the land.
To wash or not to wash? I say wash, but only every few wearings or if soiled. Turn inside out, cold water, low heat dryer.
Don’t forget to go check out Lisa’s Northern California perspective.
What’s your favorite denim style and wash?
Linked with: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style
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