women’s definitive denim guide

is there anything more essential to the modern wardrobe but more difficult to buy than denim? from fit & feel to wash & cut, there are so many options, making it difficult to navigate the blue jean sea. but i’m here to help—at least in part. today, i’ve put together for you what i’m calling the women’s definitive denim guide

this fall, i’ve showcased a variety of different cuts of jeans, paired with a variety of different tops, shoes, and bags.  i’ve gone through the past few months of posts, pulled out the ones involving denim, and compiled them into a master list broken down (effectively) by cut as a point of reference. 

for each cut, i’ve pulled together a list of three jeans of that cut at various price points: low, medium, and high. i’ve also put together a collection of tips and tricks for purchasing denim and maintaining it once you’ve integrated a particular piece into your wardrobe. 

fit & feel.

nothing is more important than the fit and feel of a pair of jeans.  and you’re never going to know how something fits or feels without a) trying it on; and b) having several points of reference.  i can’t recommend enough carving out an afternoon, physically going to a store like The Gap or Nordstrom and working with one of their stylists to try on a full range of jeans.  they’re there to help!  they’ll walk you through the full spectrum of what’s available to give you that reference point. when you’re trying on jeans, focus on how they fit on your waist.  always ask yourself the question, “does the jean sit on the waist where it’s supposed to sit?”  also, focus on the length of the jeans.  ask yourself the question, “are these jeans going to drag given the shoes you currently have in your closet?”  and remember this one crucial fact worth pointing out again, and again:  just because you’re a size 6 in brand X does not mean you’re a size 6 in brand Y.  try before you buy.

wash. 

roughly speaking, the “wash” of a jean refers to the extent to which a pair of denim has undergone a washing and treatment process prior to sale.  again, roughly speaking, that washing and treatment process affects the color and softness of a pair of denim.  below, i’ve put together a scale of various washes beginning with “raw denim” and ending with “bleach wash”.  raw denim is very stiff, dark and has not been washed to soften and remove dye, whereas bleach washed denim is very soft and light, as most of the dye has been stripped away.  most of us are probably going to stick in the rinse-to-light wash region of the below scale, but some of us may deviate to either end of the spectrum.    

raw denim < rinse wash < mid wash < light wash < bleach wash

know your wardrobe.  

jeans don’t exist in isolation.  you’re going to pair them with what you currently have in your wardrobe.  it’s pointless to buy a pair of jeans that don’t work with a single top or single pair of shoes you currently own.  always have a game plan.  when you are looking to buy a pair of denim, a good rule of thumb is this:  have at least two tops and two pairs of shoes that the jeans you’re eyeing actually go with.  that will give you the flexibility and versatility to successfully integrate a new pair of denim into your closet.   

proportionality based on use. 

if you have 10 pairs of jeans, it usually doesn’t make sense for 8 of them to be white if you only wear white jeans 1 month out of the year.  are your go to jeans boot cut, but of your 5 pairs of jeans only 1 of them is actually boot cut?  seems obvious, but it’s worth pointing out:  a) know what denim you love, b) know what denim you actually wear in practice, and c) base the proportionality of your denim on (a) and (b). a + b = c.        

brand loyalty? 

brand loyalty is great.  but not with denim, at least not in the following sense:  you may love Talbots or Ann Taylor for everything but their jeans.  that doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to buy their jeans.  it may turn out that The Gap’s or Levi’s or Madwell’s jeans fit best for you.  and once you’ve found that perfect pair of jeans, don’t be afraid to buy 2 or 3 of the same wash and cut.  jeans don’t last forever, no matter how well you maintain them.  redundancy is good in any classic wardrobe.  

skinny jeans

skinny jeans are here to stay. outside of bootcut, they’re probably one of the more versatile cuts of denim out there.  they go with virtually any top or shoe you have in your closet.  and trust me, no matter what your body type is, if you find the right fit, you’ll be surprised that you too can pull off a pair of skinny jeans.     

low | medium | high

fall fashion with Walmart

fall fashion with Walmart

low | medium | high

see the original post here.

fall fashion with Walmart

wide leg

wide leg jeans are trendy this year, no doubt.  you may or may not like trends.  and you may or may not like wide leg jeans.  but one of the themes of my blog is open-mindedness, particularly when it comes to fashion. 

my oldest son worked at The Gap in Chicago during his undergraduate years.  and one of the things he always tells me—to this day—is how many women he encountered that made a decision—usually in their late 30s—to commit to a single cut and wash of denim.

there’s nothing wrong with favorites.  absolutely nothing wrong with go-tos.  but there’s also nothing wrong with breaking out of your fashion shell and trying something new.      

low | medium | high

wide leg jeans, gray turtleneck, red handbag

wide leg jeans, gray turtleneck, red handbag

low | medium | high

see the original post here

wide leg jeans, gray turtleneck, red handbag

boyfriend/girlfriend jeans

boyfriend/girlfriend jeans have made a real surge in popularity over the past 4-5 years.  that’s because they’re just so darn comfortable and versatile.  wear them when you’re lounging around at home over a lazy weekend.  or roll them up and pair them with heels as i’ve done here.  no matter how you wear them, you won’t regret adding a pair or two to your closet.  

low | medium | high

low | medium | high

see the original post here.

bootcut/flared

low | medium | high

much like skinny jeans, there are very few harder working pieces of denim than a good pair of bootcut jeans.  they go with just about anything and everything. but it’s worth pointing out that not all bootcut jeans are cut the same.  flares very dramatically in opening width.  some are extremely traditional and conservative, and some not.    

low | medium | high

see the original post here.   

colored denim

low | medium | high

there are as many different types of colored denim as there are colors in the rainbow.  but your closet should include at least a pair of black and white jeans.  they’re neutrals and serve as a great baseline for a myriad of possibilities.   outside of that, the sky is the limit.  do you love red, yellow, or green?  are you as into animal print as i am?  colored denim provides an easy way to spice up your wardrobe.  but remember to be sensible:  no piece of colored denim is going to get the use that a classic pair of blue jeans will.  make sure that when you splurge on a pair of red jeans, you actually have a plan in regard to what to pair them with.  

low | medium | high

see the original post here

tips for maintenance  

denim is not an investment piece like bags or coats are.  they wear down.  they go out of style.  but you can make them last.  remember always to 

  1. wash inside out in cold water;
  2. hang to dry; and only 
  3. wash every few wears (up to 10)

that’s a wrap, gang!  hopefully you find this guide useful.  and it’s my intention to update this on a seasonal basis.  but i can’t do it without your help.  in the comment section below, let me know anything i missed or something you’d like to see in the future.  

#2 Casablanca (1942)

there’s not much to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said.  it appears on almost if not every top movie list.  Casablanca holds my #2 spot.  stay tuned for my #1. 

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8 Comments

  1. Susan wrote:

    Excellent review as I find jeans the most challenging thing to buy. I now dry clean jeans seems crazy but the average price point is so high I don’t want to risk washing. Thanks for this it was so helpful.

    Posted 10.24.19
  2. Suzanne M Smith wrote:

    Good overview of denim styles. And Casablanca–but of course. So many movies to love.

    Posted 10.24.19
  3. Lisa Lee wrote:

    I love your blog. So much great information. I am petite. I know you are not, but can you address more about petite styles. Thanks.

    Posted 10.24.19
  4. Jeanne wrote:

    Like your low, medium and high price points. I love a deal, and know how much retail is priced up. I’ve even bought a few of your suggested items, ie., crossbody bag from Walmart and moto jacket from JCPenneys. Love both!

    Posted 10.24.19
  5. RuthNNn Yeaton wrote:

    This is a great post; I live in jeans, jackets, blazers, hoodies, sweaters, boots, tennies…you name it, I love my jeans. Beth, your post about wide leg jeans got me to thinking–why not, I can pull them off. Buying them was another issue; I am not fond of going into a store and trying them on, usually finding them on line, then altering the legs if need be. During a thrift shop wander, I found a pair, my size, a good brand, the right length–and it was one of those sales that popped them into my closet. They are wonderful. So now I feel confident enough in the look to take a chance with an on-line purchase from a vendor who carries my size. Your encouragement to try the style was right on tack! I love the look and how much fun it will be to rock it with a boxy short sweater or something equally fun.

    Posted 10.24.19
  6. patricia dias wrote:

    Hello there! I´m from Brazil and discoreved you by reading a post from a brazilian digital influencer. I love your tips and looks, and try to reproduce them here, despite the very different climate in my town. Hope you can read and answer ths brief note. Regards!

    Posted 10.25.19
  7. Diana Owen wrote:

    I would add khaki denim to the list along with white and black denim. I prefer straight leg/ankle length jeans but took a chance on a wide leg from QVC. (Really good price.) Lots of fun to experiment with a trendy style without breaking the bank. LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!

    Posted 10.26.19
  8. JohnnaB wrote:

    Loving all the great changes in the blog. Fantastic job!

    Posted 10.26.19

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