Back To Basics: Go-Anywhere Jeans

Styling a pair of straight leg jeans for Spring with a striped jacket, red mules, and Staud Moreau bucket bag. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

It’s my birthday today (62!!) so I’m indulging in one of my favorite style topics…DENIM!! 😍

When it comes to wardrobe basics, there’s no item of clothing I feel more “at home” in than a favorite pair of jeans. They’re both modern and classic, and cool without trying too hard. Perhaps it’s because I live in Southern California (a denim epicenter), but I think with the right pair of jeans, you can go just about anywhere. I like to throw on a light jacket to finish the look.

Above: Earrings | Top | Jacket | Bracelet | Jeans | Bag | Shoes

Denim Trends

That isn’t to say that finding the right pair is always easy. Trends come and go, and not every trend works for every body or taste. Rises, washes, lengths, levels of distressing…it can get overwhelming.

And about those trends…judging from what I’ve been seeing online and on the racks, it looks as though both distressing and very cropped lengths have released their choke-hold on the denim-verse. I’m seeing more styles without extreme distressing, though lighter and worn/faded washes and “raw” hems are still popular. And while skinnies are still ubiquitous, I’m seeing more full-length (below the ankle), straight leg styles, yay!

The Case For Straight-Leg Jeans

Dressing up a pair of jeans with a tweed jacket, slingback pumps, pearl jewelry and Chanel camellia scarf. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Earrings | Top | Jacket | Scarf | Jeans | Bracelet | Bag | Shoes

The reason for the “yay:” I find straight leg cuts to be the most versatile and easiest jeans to style. They can work with just about any footwear and don’t have to be hemmed to accommodate a specific heel height. (Which makes them my preferred style for travel.) They can be worn cuffed or un-cuffed. And they’re often more comfortable than leg-hugging styles. My most often-worn jeans tend to be slim straight leg styles in dark- to medium-blue washes.

Back To Basics: The V-Neck Top

As with most denim terminology, “straight leg” can mean a lot of different things, from a cigarette leg, to a wide-all-over silhouette. Some “slim boyfriend” style jeans could also be described as “straight leg” if they don’t taper toward the ankle. It’s really a matter of finding out which brands and cuts work best for you.

Here are a few options, in a range of washes.

If you prefer a nice dark wash, and substantial denim with just a little stretch, these “slim boyfriend” jeans might be your cup of French roast (they run large; you may want to go down one size). Great quality at a price well below premium denim. Offered in multiple inseam lengths too!

AG Harper slim straight-leg jeans. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

For those on the taller side, this dark-wash, mid-rise style has a 33″ inseam.

AG Jeans Mari high rise slim straight leg jeans. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

This higher-rise option in a lighter wash is made from Japanese denim, with just a bit of stretch.

Talbot's straight leg jeans in Plus size. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Though I haven’t tried them in some years, I’ve heard good things about Talbot’s jeans. This full-length style in a broken-in-but-not-distressed wash, is offered in Misses/Petites and Plus/Plus Petites size ranges.

J.Crew Point Sur high-rise slim straight jeans. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I haven’t tried this particular style, but have been impressed with some of J.Crew’s denim offerings. This style is offered up to size 32, and in Petite and Tall lengths.

NYDJ Marilyn straight leg jeans Batik blue. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

This style has been around a long time for a reason: great classic fit. Also offered in Plus. Lots more washes HERE.

Chico's girlfriend straight leg jeans faded wash. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If you don’t mind a little fading, here’s a full-length style offered in Regular, Petite and Tall lengths and up to size 20.

No roundup of straight leg jeans would be complete without a mention of Levis: these are the classic straight fit style.

Mott & Bow slim boyfriend Ridge wash (medium blue). Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Finally, here’s another “slim boyfriend” style (offered in 28, 30, and 32 inch inseams) that looks to be that perfect shade of medium blue. I have this one on order, will report back!

Edited to add: not everyone is a fan of the higher rises (I am short-waisted, so I get it!); slim boyfriend styles can be a good choice if you prefer a mid-rise jean to a higher rise. They are usually designed to sit below the navel.

Style Your Denim For Spring

What jeans style do you wear most often?

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  1. Jeans are just the thing for so many occasions, and nothing beats them for travel–they don’t show dirt, they don’t wrinkle…
    I have a hard time finding the right cut. Most of the time the waist is way too big and yet the hips are still tight. I appreciate Loft’s option of two cuts: Julie is curvy and Marisa is straight. I have yet to find other jeans that fit as well as Loft Julies.
    On some that I got when I couldn’t get to Loft, I made a small cut on either side of the inside of the waistband and threaded in elastic. Then, using thread that matched the jeans, I used my sewing machine to stitch down the elastic. It’s just enough to keep the waistband from gapping when sitting down, but not so much that it looks like I have elastic-waist jeans. You can find plenty of tutorials for this on YouTube.

  2. Happy Birthday Susan. Hope you have a wonderful day, I didn’t realize are birthdays were so close. My birthday is tomorrow,

    1. Happy Birthday! Thanks for your posts that I can always count on to be there early every morning! Have a wonderful day!

  3. Happy Birthday! Bonne fête! I hope it is very enjoyable:) Thank you for this post and the selection of offerings out there. I noticed you diplomatically avoided that current denim hot button…the rise issue!!
    Oh my the comments on a blog I read were 10-2 against the high rise ‘Mom’ Jean that one sees everywhere and is, very unflattering unless one has the hips of a slim teenage boy and no tummy. The few ( but vocal) on the yay side claimed they did not tuck tops in to these jeans and liked the way they ‘held in’ the belly and backside. I’ll leave that to my Spanx! For the short/short waisted, carrying some extra in the belly or caboose the high rise is very uncomfortable. I hate my waistband under my neck!!
    Medium rise is my go too. Flattering, less material in strategic areas and gives me a longer looking torso.

  4. Happy Birthday Susan! I hope you have a wonderful and fun filled day! i’m not far behind you and will be 62 in May!

  5. Hope you have a fun filled day Susan. Don’t forget white denim. Often my spring and summer Florida “go to” Happy Birthday!

  6. Happy birthday susan – enjoy your special day!

    What is good for daily wear in Los Angeles when it rains and is 69 ish degrees? Do you ever shop at J Jill?

  7. Happy Birthday!
    My favorite jeans are high rise pull ons. Less bulk at the tummy.
    I am on the tall side, so low rise styles were impossible.
    Thank you for your blog.

  8. Happy Birthday! I hope you have a marvelous day. I love your capsule wardrobes. I am going to Italy
    for ten days a month from today and they have been very helpful . I am having the hardest time finding boots and shoes that are comfortable for the miles I’m am sure I will be walking.

  9. Happy birthday . I will be 72 tomorrow. Jeans are also my go to! I enjoy your posts! Have a fabulous birthday!

  10. Happy birthday! I like denim, but as a pear shape, the fit is difficult. All the extra fabric around the hips created by the pockets and zipper aren’t as smooth as a simple pant style. I love your travel advice, I am on the hunt for washable clothes, for a three month stay in Italy in a apartment. The washing machines are iffy, and they often line dry, which can take awhile. Any advice would be great!

  11. Happy Birthday, Susan!
    Thank you for hilighting denim today! Wish there was a denim database where one could answer 20 questions about preference and receive results for best options based on the input! I am petite w/athletic build which makes it difficult to find good denim selection!

    1. There used to be a site called True Jeans that did exactly that, but I am not sure they are still around. I am petite with athletic legs. I wear jeans almost every day. My favorite jeans are Paige, AG, Pilcro and the letterpress and Levi’s 711.

  12. I was wondering what you think of denim jackets? How old is too old to wear them? What is better, dark or light? Thanks in advance! Oh and Joyeux Anniversaire!!

    1. Thanks, Louise! I don’t think it has anything to do with age, but rather with your personality and style preferences. If you love them, go for it.

  13. Happy Birthday Susan ! Wishing you a wonderful day and a year filled with good health and much happiness. I’m a March birthday too, the 19th for me and I’m turning 60!!!! Thank u for all of your guidance over the years ! I love your style, it suits me too. I also enjoy your photos from your trips to France. Ive only been there once but want to go back to explore all over. I hope u have a fun day, Carol M

  14. Happy Birthday Susan – hope its a lovely day. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog since I discovered it on Pinterest 2 years ago. Great tips for traveling light and fashionable without trying to look like our daughters! I have mixed feelings about the high rise – it reminds me of those awful khaki pleated pants we wore to work for casual Friday’s!

  15. Happy Birthday Susan! Love your blog and today’s post was very timely for me! Getting some new jeans is on my to-do list for today!

  16. Happy birthday!

    As a long-waisted person, I must say that high-rise pants fit me like mid-rise pants probably fit you. The so-called mid-rise on me is more like the dreaded low-rise. It does no one any favor to show derriere cleavage. Here’s to high-rise pants for taller, long-waisted and triangle shape figures. Fashion democracy means choices for women of all shapes and sizes. Ain’t it great?

  17. Happy Birthday! I’m always on the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans. Currently my favorite jeans are cabi’s Spring 19 true boyfriend jean. They are a little wider in the leg which fits my curvy/plus size body. I also love their high straight jean from the fall 18 collection. I do like Kut from the Kloth jeans as well.

  18. Happy birthday Sue! May you enjoy every single minute!

    I love these outfit collages, so springy and so fun. BTW for “high street” denim my favorite is Madewell. I’ll click through and see if you’ve mentioned them.

  19. Happy birthday! Yay for birthdays and denim! I have worn Levis all my life. I love their washes and am a big fan of a medium wash although a dark wash does look dressier. I am always on the lookout for other brands. It seems many women have complaints about the fit in the waist. Either too loose or too snug. I have a rectangular or boy shape. Meaning no matter how thin I am I do not have a pronounced waistline. So if jeans fit in the thighs and hips they are often snug in the waist. The older I get the more I seek comfort. But I still want to look stylish. Does anyone have suggestions about brands that tend to have fuller waistlines without being too big everywhere else?

    1. Rondi, that is precisely why Levi’s DON’T fit me. It is fortunate now that there are different cuts for different body types. Looking at Talbots, they seem to have cuts for the curvy or more straight up-and-down (at any size or weight). You might be able to wear men’s jeans too.

  20. Happy Birthday! Mine is March 6, and I will be turning 52. Thanks for your thoughtful blog posts reminding me that I don’t need to give up style as I age.
    Regarding straight leg denim, I always find shoes tricky with that leg: Too wide for ballet flat, too narrow to go over a heeled boot. I have a pair of JBrand that are very flattering but I am always stumped in selecting the right footwear with them. Is it still a rule that max a 1/4” of the bottom of the heel should show past the pant hem? What about the break? I would love to see a blog dedicated to the correct length for each type of shoe.

    1. Hi Kristen, I don’t believe there is a single “correct” length for each type of shoe, and have tended to throw out rulebooks in general. I think it really depends on your proportions and preferences. I’ll usually cuff my jeans if they are fighting with the tops of ankle boots. I tend to like a shoe with some visual volume to balance out my broad shoulders, regardless of the style of jeans.

  21. First of all, Happy Birthday! 62 looks great on you! Love these styles you’re posting. I like a “straight” leg jean, too. I also like a darker wash because I think it’s easy to dress up or down. Thanks for your pics and ideas. I’m leaving for a 2 week trip to AZ tomorrow and your tips have been so helpful for packing. Have a great birthday!

  22. Happy Birthday!!! Thank you for so many interesting and useful posts. I love your blog.

    I have to put in a plug for Lands’ End mid rise straight jeans. After trying what feels like dozens of pairs, I finally found the perfect fit. They’re not expensive and are often on sale.

    I agree with you and others that the straight leg is the way to go. They are so much more comfortable than the true skinny, especially in the summer, yet they still make the wearer look slim.

  23. Happy Birthday, Susan! And thanks for the great post.

    I agree with what you wrote up-thread about denim jackets. They are one of my go-to items, and I’ll buy the same jacket in several colors if it fits me well. I also love denim vests to break up an outfit and give my waist some definition. Plus … POCKETS! 🙂

  24. Bon anniversaire; j’espère que votre jardin fleurit maintenant!

    I still like tapered (“skinny”) jeans, but don’t buy them to be tight. And love jeans jackets, but not in the same colour – especially not in blue denim – if I’m wearing blue jeans. Those Talbots look like a great fit for curvy figures as the waist-hip ratio is right. Sometimes they have beautiful coloured jeans jackets. The jeans you show from them also come in a very attractive green.

  25. What a great selection. At first I thought the Harper was my perfect one but scrolling down I found the last one Mott and Bow. Perfect and I cannot find them here in The Netherlands. . So sad.

  26. My favorite denim right now is Levi’s (!!!) “classic mid rise skinny” in Glowing Out wash. They’re called skinny but fit like a slim leg (and I’m not so slim myself). Perfect for my version of everyday smart casual. I dont know why I even tried them on but I’m glad I did!

    After years of skepticism, I’ve just begun to understand the value of skinnies in my wardrobe – I hope they don’t disappear yet!

    Happy birthday, Susan!

  27. Happy Birthday and thanks for all the ideas and advice over the years!

    My fave denim these days is Paige. I love the High Rise Straight Leg Hoxton. Pricey, but really comfortable for those who need some give at the waist!

  28. Happy Birthday! I liked age 62 because that’s the year I retired! Denim has come a long way since my “dungarees” of childhood. To think my mother used to fret that they looked “faded.”

  29. A very happy birthday to you; I hope your day is filled with much fun and laughter! Your blog is my favorite, thank you so much for all the work you put in to it!

  30. Love the newer Talbots high rise jeans and jeggings. I had not shopped at Talbots in a long time but went in and tried these on and found they are perfect. They are not mom jeans of old, I have since ordered another couple pairs in different washes.

  31. Hi Susan, and happy birthday! I am a fairly new follower of your blog, and I would have guessed you were in your 50’s. I think the Brahmin handbag is cute. Do you think the shape of the bag is easy to handle as a cross body, that doesn’t lie flat? I do not own a Brahmin bag. I hope you are having a great day, and thanks.

  32. Happy birthday! I’m in my early 50s and have felt “too old” for blue jeans for a few years now, but I love your styles, so I’m thinking about putting together that outfit with the red stripe top and red mules. Thanks for the inspiration!

  33. Happy Birthday – wishing you the very best for the year and hoping that it brings lots of fun and adventure. Thank you as well for all the work you put into this blog – the best!

  34. Happy Birthday! Again, thank you for your work, I am always helped alot by you!!
    I really honed in on this post, as I LIVE in jeans, everyday, market, concerts, funerals (yes my fancy black ones) and even a wedding!!! Guess it helps we are in the horse business But….. my biggest problem I am hoping yall can help me with is: I HATE stretch fabric!!! It is not a good look for me. All my bulges show, and I have even had some so stretchy (Kut from the Kloth brand) that you dont even have to unzip to take off!! Yuck. I guess the old stiff fabric sort of held juggly parts together!! What brands/where can I look for regular not stretchy denim? Yikes! I feel like a slim cut stretch jeans feels like pantyhose!

  35. (Belated) Happy Birthday wishes with an extra hug for your spirited writing, and many more… both blog posts and birthdays! Jeans are my ‘uniform’ now that I don’t have to dress for the workplace. (A big plus: NO drycleaning!) Most of mine are Talbot’s straight leg jeans; they fit me well and I have little energy for hopping on one leg trying on other brands.

    After a fling with high-rise, I find a ‘highish’ rise but not fully up to the waist is most comfortable when I sit.