By JASMINE CUNNINGHAM.
ONE may be forgiven for adopting an "I hate buying denim" attitude. I hear it all the time. The sheer volume of product and denim terminology around these days is enough to leave even the most fashion savvy consumers feeling quite perplexed.
Denim has been around for over 150 years when in 1873 Mr Levi Strauss introduced the world to the blue jean - a twilled cotton fabric which replaced a heavier canvas version worn by prospectors on the Californian goldfields.
And boy, have we come a long way! Today you almost need a mini denim dictionary to get your head around what’s available.
So where do we start?
I love a straight leg jean. Straight leg jeans can be worn by anyone. They are not classed as a skinny jean and in the darker washes look terrific on plus sizes. The beauty of wearing a straight leg jean is that you can wear them for evening or during the day. Straight leg jeans can be worn with flat shoes or with heels. If you are over a size 16 do not discount a straight leg jean. Although most of the well known stylists opt for a boot-cut, they do have to be worn with a heel if you want to elongate your leg. The shows we see on television are lovely and all but unless you’re prepared to walk around in your new boot-cut jeans and heels all day every day, I would be exploring other options. A great straight leg jean looks terrific backed with longer trapeze shapes, empire line tops and lightweight jackets.
Straight leg jeans come in a multitude of washes and rise measurements. The rise measurement is the passage of fabric from the crotch to the waistband. The front and back rise measurements sometimes differ to allow us to cover up our behinds- as more fabric is needed in the back.
A low rise straight leg jean should be strictly left to the thinner among us as low rise ‘anything’ has become the culprit of one of fashions biggest crimes….. ‘the muffin top’. In order to disguise this - let’s face it we all have it - go for a mid or high rise jean. A high rise jean does not mean a high waisted jean. And it is one of the most comfortable cuts on the market.
A darker wash will always look more flattering, particularly a saturated black or black/blue wash. A comfortable straight leg jean should have a fabric mix of 98% cotton with a 2% elastine. This allows for movement and stretch without losing too much shape. Please remember when trying on your denim to make sure they feel tight. Even if it means that you have to wrestle with the jean to get them on properly. Any denim will stretch and it is super important to remember this as it only takes ½ hour before your jeans make you look like you’ve lost 5 kg. Sorry to disappoint- denim stretches a lot and we don’t like to see anyone hitching their pants up all day!
A high rise jean whether straight, skinny or relaxed can flatten out the stomach. Yes you heard right! No diets, no pills! Just obey this one simple rule and you too could look kilos lighter. Sound good? Well, high rise jeans have a knack for smoothing out the hip line and stomach.
For the more petite figures- high rise and high waisted jeans can be worn with cropped tees and tucked in tops which look great and fit in with the more fashion-forward trends. For those who dare not venture into the world of cropped tops, luckily for you the over-sized shirts, long tees and blazers are not going anywhere.
We cannot discount the appeal of the relaxed fit and wide leg jean. Oh so comfy, but can be the least figure flattering of all the cuts. The wide leg jean should be kept purely for daywear and worn with a more fitted top half.
Many new design collections have in fact displayed a lot of wide leg shapes coming through for the approaching seasons, however these are made up of a variety of different fabrications and have a slightly dressier look than their denim friend.
I do fit a lot of women into wider leg and relaxed fit jeans, more recently known as the trouser jean, as it is slightly more tailored than a basic pair of relaxed fit denim. Darker washes can dress up a relaxed style and if you want to flatter your figure stick to the darker washes.
The length of your jean has a lot to do with how your legs will look. Do not be scared if the denim you try on is falling a few inches behind you on the floor. Alterations have come a long way and the possibilities of putting original hem lines back on the bottom of your jeans ensure no one will ever know they have been taken up. On the flipside do not get jeans that are too short, particularly if they have an elastine compound as you may find the length will come up even further with the first wash.
And we cannot leave out the popular skinny jean. Skinny jeans can look terrific on all body shapes, depending on how the entire ensemble is pieced together.
Skinny jeans come in a variety of washes, destructions and fabric mixes. The good old 2% elastine combination has been a winner in the past but is more recently being rivaled by its 4% cousin. A denim with a 4% elastine in the mix makes for one of the most comfortable jeans around at present. A 4% stretch almost gives the jean a legging type feel whilst still remaining a denim. They are not to be confused with the "jegging" as a good 4% combination will still have the heaviness and look of a denim jean.
The 4% elastine denim can be worn slim with oversized tops, mini dress shapes and tailored jackets - even for the larger sizes.
Some important DON’TS when on the lookout for great jeans are:
- Never get a jean too low for your figure. No matter what you wear on top it is very hard to disguise ‘the muffin’.
- Don’t wear heels with a boot-cut or relaxed jean if the leg of your jean does not come to at least 1cm off the floor. If they are too short they look ridiculous and your leg can look shorter.
- Don’t team a flat shoe with a boot-cut jean. Boot-cut jeans are usually a figure fixer for larger sizes as it balances shape but a flat shoe worn with them can be a disaster.
- Don’t shop online for the perfect pair of denim. Denim has to be tried on even if you are familiar with the brand. The treatment process can make a big difference in the size you end up with.
- Please throw away your 1980’s mum jeans. You know - the ones that have the double pleat at the front and taper in at the ankle.
- Don’t wear a distressed denim jean with more distressing on the top….way too much.
- Don’t wear a light or white jean with a white top, white jeans can look terrific but with darker tops and tailored jackets only.
- Don’t wear a jean with no back pockets and a shorter top. They do your rear view absolutely no justice.
- Don’t let anyone see your underwear poking out from the top of your jeans- it is not cute!
When buying jeans for GUYS a few style directions and tips include:
- Stay away from low rise jeans if you currently sport the good old ‘beer belly’. Again, like your female counterparts, too much belly overhang is not flattering.
- A men’s boot-cut jean can look terrific on larger builds as it too balances out the leg. Don’t fear the boot-cut for men is not as severe as a women’s boot-cut - it just gives the leg a wider opening and allows the jean to fit over the shoe.
- Skinny fit jeans are best left to the more slender body shapes. Even though they have made a substantial name for themselves in men’s denim collections, they are not for everyone.
- Mix up your denim washes. Lighter, distressed denim with a crisp shirt can be pulled off for an evening look just as well as a lovely dark wash.
- Make sure your jeans are not too long. Communicate with the person assisting you - we don’t want to see the hem turn to dust because it’s taken a beating on the footpath.
- A straight leg jean looks great on most body shapes and heights. On a shorter frame, a straight leg can elongate the leg a little without having the bulk of a relaxed fit jean.
- A relaxed fit jean certainly looks great particularly when distressed or faded out a little. Some more fashion-forward styles of late have included extra stitching detail and paneling. Just be careful your relaxed fit actually fits the waist – the pants on the ground look is offensive and should not have been brought to Australia!
Well hopefully I have helped some of you gauge a more sizeable understanding of denim terminology, dos and don’ts.
Part II - which is coming soon - includes lots of images of some great denim do's and don't's and should not be missed.
Now, go and try on those denim jeans that your wardrobe has been screaming out for and remember - it all comes down to having a little dress sense.
Jasmine Cunningham is the manager/buyer for Mix It Up and Mixture Boutique in Warrnambool.