California jeaning: south

Eileen Fisher cardigan, French Kande necklaces, boyfriend jeans, Paul Green ankle boots

Boyfriend jeans. I was a late adopter, but made up for lost time.

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.

inside my AG Stilt jeans

inside my AG jeans

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.

Bootcut/Flare

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.

Bootcut options
Gap | NYDJ (Plus) | 7 For All Mankind | NYDJ

White Denim

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.

White Denim Options
NYDJ | Eileen Fisher (Plus) | AG

Skinnies

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.

Skinny Jean Options
Eileen Fisher | NYDJ (Plus) | Rag & Bone | NYDJ

Boyfriend

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.)

Boyfriend Jean Options
Madewell | Gap | Seven7 (Plus) | Frame Denim | KUT From The Kloth

Cigarette/Slim Leg

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.

Slim Leg Options
Jag Jeans | Gap | NYDJ | Lucky Brand (Plus) | Eileen Fisher | NYDJ | DL1961 | AG “Prima” | J.Crew

The Bridge Not Yet Crossed…

distressed denim

Damsels in Distressed

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.

Gently Distressed
Gap | Current/Elliott | Frame Denim | City Chic (Plus) | Kiind Of

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

JEAN-IUS

STYLE IT

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Affiliate links in posts may generate commissions for unefemme.net. See my complete disclosure policy here.

71 Comments

  1. plutrell
    January 22, 2015 / 4:50 am

    Enjoyed seeing all the different brands on you…I am in the need for a new pair after losing some weight and so far haven’t found the one I want to marry. We had a great discussion yesterday about distressed denim on my site…some really, really hate it at our age and some think it is so much fun. I also am loving the white denim right now…it seems to work anytime of year.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:03 am

      Pam, thanks! It’s so important to find a brand that is cut to suit your body. What I’ve found is that once I find a brand/style that works, the cut often stays consistent. Congratulations on the weight loss too!

  2. fiona
    January 22, 2015 / 4:59 am

    I’m loving the wedges you are wearing with the Eileen Fisher jeans – can you tell me the brand? thanks!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 22, 2015 / 5:36 am

      Hi fiona, thanks! these are Belle by Sigerson Morrison from few seasons ago. Here’s a similar pair: http://bit.ly/1y2kLsc

      • fiona
        January 22, 2015 / 10:15 am

        thanks!

  3. Marguerite
    January 22, 2015 / 5:27 am

    Spot on, dear Femme, as usual. I, however, am about 99% certain the distressed Jean will not be in my wardrobe. White jeans are becoming a real favorite, tho.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:05 am

      Marguerite, thank you. White jeans really are versatile, and no longer a summer-only choice.

  4. January 22, 2015 / 6:14 am

    Wonderful collection, Susan! I am loving my white jeans this winter too, so versatile. xo

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:05 am

      Hi Patti, thanks!

  5. susan
    January 22, 2015 / 6:21 am

    loved this great post! my favorite type is the “slim leg” kind of jeans. at 65 i feel i am too old for true skinny jeans but i don’t like lots of volume. love boyfriend style also. you didn’t mention black jeans, which i also wear often. wearing white jeans year round took me a while to accept but now i like that look very much.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:06 am

      Hi Susan, I love my black jeans too, in fact am wearing a pair today. I’ll do a post soon including some black denim.

  6. January 22, 2015 / 6:25 am

    Could you clarify “what has come to be regarded as ‘Parisian style'”? Does that mean jeans with an otherwise dressed-up outfit? Thanks!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 22, 2015 / 6:43 am

      Crestwood, to me Parisian style means simple, un-fussy, not overdone.

  7. January 22, 2015 / 6:33 am

    OK! I’m up! I love your thoughts here – and your outfits as always. You’ll see, I’ve walked all the way out onto the boyfriend, distressed and selvedged plank!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:07 am

      Lisa, and you look so cool in all of them, but especially love that last pair!!

  8. January 22, 2015 / 6:47 am

    Jeans are my wardrobe staple too and I love seeing all these great options!
    Now I am off to read what Lisa has to say…
    Just want to say too…I have been wearing jeans since I was about 12 years old and I will be 60 in March and plan to be wearing them as long as I live!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:08 am

      Hostess, thanks and me too (wearing them as long as I live).

  9. joni@artfulcloset
    January 22, 2015 / 7:03 am

    I love all Kut pants from jeans to cords. I’ve tried to find tastefully destroyed denims for a couple of years but have not had any luck. I sure love the black duster length cardigan you’re wearing in the top photo. Who makes that??

    • une femme
      Author
      January 22, 2015 / 7:07 am

      Joni, thanks! It’s from Eileen Fisher, available here: http://bit.ly/1JlVWhj

  10. January 22, 2015 / 7:28 am

    Love this, I think that LA style and Left Bank style are really one and the same with different accents.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:09 am

      Badinage, thanks! I’ve thought that for quite some time as well.

  11. January 22, 2015 / 8:33 am

    I love jeans and wear them all the time. I have a very casual lifestyle. I was very slow to move to a skinny jean but once I found a comfortable fit, became a fan. I will always prefer flared jeans, I just feel good in them but I wear boot cut and straight leg jeans too. I think slightly distressed it a fun casual look that anyone can wear if they feel confident about it. I believe what looks good on a person is how confident they feel wearing it. I don’t think my age has anything to do with my style but my confidence and ability to wear trends is key to how it looks on me. Love your post and looks! Peace! Cheryl

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:10 am

      Cheryl, you make an excellent point about feeling confident and looking good.

  12. January 22, 2015 / 8:44 am

    I wear jeans almost every day at home. I have a few that are so soft and comfortable they are better than any sweats.

    I do find that I prefer slim leg or skinnies in a dark wash. I think they are the most versatile.

    bisous
    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:10 am

      suzanne, I agree about the comfort!

  13. pink azalea
    January 22, 2015 / 9:59 am

    I love all of your looks. Unfussy and just right on you. My favorite jeans are a pair of Joe’s jean in a boot cut, dark wash, that are more flattering to me than any other pair I own. I also have two pairs of white skinny/straight jeans that I like a lot.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:12 am

      pink azalea, thanks so much! I think it’s so worth it to find the pairs that make you feel great.

  14. January 22, 2015 / 10:17 am

    I simply cannot get to love (or even like) boyfriend jeans on me. I’ve tried many pairs in stores and I just cannot keep them up. They slide right over my hips and feel too short and, and etc etc. But slim, skinny, bootcut (spot on about the length issue!), and white jeans I do love. Summer just isn’t summer to me without a great pair of white jeans. And I’m one of the ones popping the champagne cork over high rise!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:13 am

      susan, some boyfriends to that on me too, and I am not slim of hip! 😉

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:14 am

      That’s Not My Age, do you see a lot of it being worn in London?

  15. January 22, 2015 / 11:49 am

    So consistent, in every iteration of denim — I really love this post for how it demonstrates that you have really found your Style. (I’m not budging on the distressed denim, myself . . . 😉

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:15 am

      Frances, thanks! You were one of the people that inspired me to keep trying the boyfriend jeans. I love how yours look on you.

  16. January 22, 2015 / 11:50 am

    This Boyfriend Jeans outfit is one of my favourite looks on you. To me you look trendy/slouchy/artist but have the together look that comes with your fantastic accessorizing and of course the attitude, like you’re an arty woman on a mission. The long cardi is perfect.
    I love the ripped/distressed jeans trend if the ripping and distressing come from me personally and not factory workers. LOL. And while I dislike high, strappy feminine shoes with them, I love how we are free to wear whatever we like. You show some great variations on jeans here.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:16 am

      Thanks so much Melanie! I love all of the very personal touches you add to your clothes; some are truly masterpieces.

  17. January 22, 2015 / 12:06 pm

    As much as I love the right jeans on other women, they just don’t work for me. As a petite plus, with most of my weight in the “pear” configuration, jeans just don’t emphasize the right parts! Actually I’ve pretty much given up on any type of fly-front pants; I find that a side-zip gives me a sleeker look, and I just feel more confident in them. I haven’t given up on wearing jeans again someday, but my body would have to have a major overhaul for that to happen 🙂 !

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:27 am

      Vivian, glad you’ve found a pants style that works and boosts your confidence. Feeling good in what we wear is so important.

  18. January 22, 2015 / 1:25 pm

    Great post! You and I share so many of the same passions. I could wear jeans everyday with no problem. You look great in all of yours.
    Thanks for being fabulous! I always look forward to your posts.

    Susan

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:28 am

      Susan, thanks so much! Yes we do share many of the same inspirations don’t we? I do hope we can meet in person someday, suspect we’d get along like gangbusters. 🙂

  19. KPL
    January 22, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    I love you in all the jeans and you’re not at all lazy (like me) about styling them. I love distressed jeans,and think you’d rock them! I’ll wear jeans forever.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:30 am

      KPL, thank you! I can’t imagine a day I won’t want to wear jeans.

  20. January 22, 2015 / 1:47 pm

    I agree. You can wear white year round in Southern Cal or Florida. Not so much on the East Coast. Somehow, the light (or lack of it) just makes them look out of place. This is the time of year I’m missing Southern California sunshine…or any consistent sunshine!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:34 am

      California Girl, interesting observation about the light and wearing light colors. No, I can’t complain about our winter weather, especially not today.

  21. GingerR
    January 22, 2015 / 4:38 pm

    It’s hard to decide if your north/south styles reflect the community or your lifestyles more. I think your stylings are probably more work appropriate.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:35 am

      GingerR, work does factor into what I wear and how I style my jeans for sure. I think there’s a certain creativity/edginess to San Francisco that Lisa has really tapped into.

  22. Tiffany
    January 22, 2015 / 4:40 pm

    I’ll do everything except distressed denim … And I’m not popping champagne for higher rises – as someone with a straight up and down shape and high hip bones, a mid-to-low rise is MUCH more comfortable and flattering.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:37 am

      Tiffany, I am seeing lots of mid-rises, so you should still have some good choices. I like think the monolithic styles and offerings are a thing of the past, and that we’ll all have more choices.

  23. January 22, 2015 / 5:03 pm

    It took me quite a while to take to jeans, other than those for gardening or house painting! I’m still not a huge fan and don’t feel quite “dressed” in them. But I do know that my very favorite are from The Loft.Daughter introduced me to them. A little stretch, slim cut, perfect length (I’m 5’4″) and make me look great. Still…… I prefer leggings or anything cropped.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:37 am

      Libby, thanks for the tip. I’ll be sure to check those out.

  24. January 22, 2015 / 6:40 pm

    I love all your denim looks here. I remember growing up, I hated jeans because they always felt so stiff and jeans have come a long way and now I can’t get enough of them. Lately, I have been wearing my distressed boyfriend jeans every weekend, they are just so comfortable.

    Alice
    http://www.happinessatmidlife.com

    Hope to see you for TBT Fashion link up.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:38 am

      Alice, thanks! Yes, I remember those stiff old Levi’s that had to be broken in. Glad we have more comfortable options now!

  25. Elle
    January 22, 2015 / 7:49 pm

    Thanks for a very interesting post. I’m one of those popping the champagne over higher rises. YAY!

    But, I’m an east coaster in a very conservative job, so I wear (blue) jeans only on weekends. And even then, I hardly ever wear them out on a weekend evening. They read just a bit too casual for me. And, I’ve never felt able to pull off the white jeans look. I just don’t feel comfortable in them. To me, they are the opposite of “Parisian style” – I feel like I look like I am trying too hard. On the other hand, I do love (lurve!) black jeans. I have so many pairs – bootcut, slim, skinny, etc. They dress up so easily, but also work just like (blue) jeans when I want them to.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:40 am

      Elle, it sounds as if you’ve found your denim groove. 🙂 I agree about how versatile and easy black denim is.

  26. Dianne
    January 23, 2015 / 7:47 am

    Great post! I tend toward classic style so like the slim/straight leg look best, and still prefer a slight break where the ankle meets the foot. Despite my average-sized middle-aged body, I have skinny ankles and a size 9 shoe, so much as I like ankle-length skinny and boyfriend jeans on others, on me they just look like like ‘high-waters’ and magnify the size of my feet.
    As I am beyond the age (and figure) of tucking tops in, I was thrilled to discover recently a high quality stretch belt with a metal clasp that is terrific for making the waist of most jeans feel right and smoothing that protruding bump where the fly buttons. It’s made in Canada and the brand name is “Truth” (!). I ordered through Amazon and it’s worth the $30 price.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:42 am

      Dianne, thanks for the tip on the belt. Sounds like you’ve narrowed down what works best for you too.

  27. karen
    January 23, 2015 / 7:53 am

    Love your denim collection. You can never have too much here in SoCal. I think you should avert your eyes to the Rip. I tried a pair and they just made me feel too try hard. So they languish in the closet now, passed over for more “whole” pants. Rips and holes are going to be one of those things where you look back and think, “what was I thinking!!” You can find other ways to get that “novelty” feeling in your jeans if that is what’s behind the itch for the rip. No smiley patches though…

    • Elle
      January 23, 2015 / 8:48 am

      Karen, I so completely agree with your comment on the “Rip”. Even my teenage daughter often says the same thing – she doesn’t want to look back on what she was wearing and say, “What was I thinking?” I think the Rip is silly for younger people and just – NO – for us.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:43 am

      karen, thanks and that’s a good point about looking back.

  28. CC
    January 23, 2015 / 8:39 am

    Great post! Thank you.
    I highly recommend EXPRESS, “Mia”. This Jean is a mid-rise, various washes and colors, extremely flattering and most comfortable jean I have encountered in many moons! One also has the choice in length of “short”, which is a huge bonus for some of us 😉
    Do yourself a favor and check out these jeans. They will not disappoint 🙂

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:44 am

      CC, thanks for the tip!

  29. Debby
    January 23, 2015 / 8:46 am

    Thanks for this post. So many great combos. I enjoy your blog!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 23, 2015 / 11:44 am

      Thanks, Debby!

  30. Rita
    January 24, 2015 / 5:59 am

    You are SO right about bootcut jeans needing to be exactly the right length! My observation of people wearing them is at least 80% are either too long or too short. And, I don’t know why anyone thinks that flares are flattering. For most, they’re not.

    • une femme
      Author
      January 24, 2015 / 5:56 pm

      Rita, I think the reason that bootcuts/flares are thought to be flattering is that the width of the lower leg balances out the hips. It can be a tricky balance to get right, though.

  31. January 24, 2015 / 12:37 pm

    Well I see you are the blogger who snapped up the name I wanted! So I went with My Fashionable and Fabulous life after 60!

    • une femme
      Author
      January 24, 2015 / 5:42 pm

      Hi Barbara, yes when I started the blog in 2007, I was fortunate that the name had not yet been used. The name you’ve chosen is a good one too.

  32. January 26, 2015 / 1:58 am

    This post is right up my alley, big time! I LOVE denim. I live in them and have many, in many style and wash. They range from $50 all the way to a few hundreds but I am willing to spend $$$ on them as I know I will surely use them to the max! I have tried some of these jeans brand you featured. I am looking forward to get another pair of jeans soon by Current Elliot called The Flipflop. I cannot wait! I too need a bit of stretch in the fabric, without is a NO for me.. blessed with ehem, thunder thigh does not agree with jeans actually. Great post!

  33. Jess
    January 26, 2015 / 8:07 am

    Wow, hard for me to pick which look I like the best. I think you look great in the flares, love the white denim with the sunny scenery, and the pumpkin colored cardigan looks wonderful on you, Love the leopard heels and their versatility. I used to belong to a designer denim group and was all about wearing it, until the sensitivity in my legs with my illness caused me problems. So, now, I am venturing out wearig the BF jeans and I admit I do like the distressed look. You look so chic!
    from the link up,
    please stop by, jess xx
    http://www.elegantlydressedandstylish.com/

  34. January 26, 2015 / 12:49 pm

    Yes, we native Californians love our denim. I love your first look. Very cowgirl goes to the rock concert 😉

  35. Michelle
    January 27, 2015 / 7:59 am

    Nice outfit and jean recommendations — you have such great style. I love the shoes you’re wearing with the white jeans (photo #4) — the black wedge with ankle strap. I looked for the brand but didn’t see it — do you recall who they’re by? Many thanks for the recommendations.

  36. January 28, 2015 / 9:16 am

    Well, what can I say. You look fab in them all. You know your look and body and you work it1 Truly you always stand out in what ever you wear. Haven’t seen you in a dud yet. Nice to know you do so much online shopping. I couddn’t figure out how you could work in shopping in your busy schedule. So instead of obseesing on Pinterest you are shopping at Nordstroms?

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