It's all in the jeans
The 7 denim rules you need to know now
While jean shopping might not exactly be the using-a-coat-hanger-to-zip-them-up endurance test romcoms would have you believe, it’s not a joy either. Mostly that’s because sizes differ hugely from brand to brand, meaning you can never quite predict if you’ll be slipping into something perfect and flattering or oddly out of proportion. Which is why most of us, once we’ve found a pair that fit well and look fine, even great (ie no camel toe or flat bottoms), stick with them for years.
But being a creature of habit isn’t always a good thing. Wear something enough, and you stop really seeing it – this can apply to Trump-esque bronzer just as easily as to jeans – until you’re confronted with a particularly unflattering photograph or catch an unexpected glimpse of yourself reflected in a shop window.
If you’re in need of a denim intervention, follow this seven-step program.
1. Don’t fall into a ‘cut’ rut
“Jeans can be very ageing,” says personal shopper and stylist Annabel Hodin. “I don’t wear the cut I wore in my 20s. Then I could do the latest looks – now I analyse them and choose how to be up to date but not silly.” Skinny jeans are still the most looked for style worldwide according to global fashion search platform Lyst, which fields 23,000 searches for jeans a day, but since February, high-waisted mom jeans have overtaken skinnies in London and New York.Skinny is still the bestselling option, but straight legs are on the rise, according to mega London store Selfridges’s Denim Buyer Poppy Lomax. That’s not to say you should chuck your skinnies if they suit you (and you should definitely keep some to tuck into knee high boots or wellies, as nothing else will work). But it’s worth trying a few of the newer silhouettes, especially if you haven’t experimented with jeans in donkeys’ years’. Cropped kick flares are very popular as they’ve got the bum-balancing properties of flares without the commitment.2. Master the muffin
Very low-rise jeans have a tendency to create a tummy when there isn’t one (or emphasise it when there is). High-rise gives the spanx-like feeling of being held in, but can turn a bit nappy-like as the denim gives; try mid-rise instead. “I love a straight leg that’s not too low or too high on the waist,” says Kat Farmer, author of Does My Bum Look 40?; “I call them the Goldilocks of jeans.“Nothing that looks like I’ve been vacuum-packed in – three kids and a stomach like a bouncy castle means that anything super spray on is an absolute no-no.”
3. Avoid saggy bottomsThe denim equivalent of that greatest of baking sins. Heavier weight selvedge denims and slightly looser styles negate the problem, but if you prefer tight-fit jeans, a bit of stretch-tech could provide the solution. Lots of jeans have the stretch fibres running horizontally around the legs – so when the jeans stretch, they stretch outwards, leading to baggy bits. “Straight stretch” runs vertically through the denim instead. You’ll find it at work in Mih’s Cult jeans, and LA brand Grlfrnd; it has the same effect as taking a bath in your jeans to shrink them to fit, but much less .
4. Reassess your size
A badly fitting pair of jeans can have the same effect as a badly fitting bra, and make everything you layer on top look the wrong size, too. “Jeans open up with wear, so often I tell women to go down a size,” says Erin Fridja, founder of a denim boutique. To avoid bagging bottoms and knees, “the fit should be firm in the fitting room”. But don’t panic if you need to go up a size instead. “There can be vast size variation between brands,” says Fridja. Ignore the label – and the niggling voice reminding you of the size you wore five years ago – and try to shop by feel. “Look at the fly stitching – if the line is straight and there is no gaping at the zip then they aren’t too tight.”
5. Take a 360 approach
High-waisted jeans can look great from the front, cinching in at the waist, but generally make your bottom look a foot long - starting at your waist and ending at your legs – especially if you’ve tucked in a shirt (try them under a tailored jacket instead). There are a few rules of thumb here: bigger pockets will shrink your bottom, and smaller pockets will magnify it. The position of the pockets on the back can make your bum look perkier and rounder (look for pockets slightly lower and out to the side) or vice versa.Make the most of all those mirrors in changing rooms and tuck your top in to check. Some brands use all these optical illusions to your advantage, from the perkifying double back pocket effect on to the slimming side-stripe.
6. Keep it classic
There’s a reason why Levi’s 501 jeans were named Time magazine’s fashion item of the 20th century: they’re classics, and have been for 145 years. Will that fringed-hem pair age as well? In short, no. Same to embroidery, embellishment, distressed rips and fading. I’m not saying avoid altogether, just approach with caution. I have an aversion to coloured denim too, with the exception of white, which can look brilliant providing it’s not too tight or transparent. Today’s hot trend could be tomorrow’s stonewashing – and on that note, avoid stonewashing, with no exceptions.7. Get shortyThis tip has nothing to do with the mob, and everything to do with your friendly local tailor. “Don’t fall at the final hurdle and neglect to have your jeans taken up,” says Fridja. Just as tailored trousers are rarely the right length off the peg, “jeans will look off until you get the length right, and it all clicks into place”. A slight crop is fashionable at the moment, and showing a bit of ankle - a slim part on most of us – is a flattering update.
It also opens up the shoe options, and works just as well over ankle boots as trainers or pumps. If you’re taking them up at home, pin them up to different lengths in the mirror until you find the most flattering. Raw-edged denim can be shortened with a pair of scissors, but cut off length in increments rather than in one chop, lest you end up with pedal pushers – sadly, I’m speaking from experience here.
– © The Daily Telegraph