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On Jeans . . .

Having prided myself on my ability to put a client in the most flattering and stylish jeans, this season is presenting me with something of a nightmare because designers of jeans (like a lot of fashion designers and retailers at the moment) have decided to bypass what is banality of the merely ‘flattering’ and enter the realms of  the extreme, the androgynous and the downright ugly. For example the ‘Boyfriend’: baggy of crotch bum and thigh, high of waist and narrow of ankle (intended to be worn above the ankle and rolled up) or on the other the entirely overt ‘Jegging’ which is basically a denim legging by a trendy name and is in effect to say so tight that every bulge nook and cranny is on display think Olivia Newton John at the end of Grease and you’ll be getting there. I have even seen jeans in the form of Hareem pants. This is all very different from the engineered Levi’s of the 90’s (don’t chuck them they will be collectable) which look rather tame by comparison.

 Lets face it if you are around 40 or older (no matter how fantastic your figure) and don’t want to look like a batty old hooker or a terrible saddo who never left the eighties behind I would tend to avert your eyes from the jeans section at TopShop and Selfridges unless you can be sure to get someone trust worthy to help you. Because the 80’s are definitely back and booming along with black 501’s, acid wash, dip dye and tie dye, distressed ‘Bros’ rips etc. If you are 40 plus that means you may well have done all or some of this the first time round.  No wonder business is booming for Boden amongst the 35-50 age bracket there are few sane and sexy alternatives on the high street. Now I am not saying that older girls can’t look cool in what’s supposed to be ‘cool’ if it fits with their unique and unwavering sense of their own style. But let’s face it if you are 24 and skinny you can look sexy in virtually anything and if you are older you just don’t are on very precarious fashion ground if you don’t get it right!

 So here is essential jeans know how for the sane and sexy woman over 35:

 Leg Shape:

  • If you have a boyish body shape immaterial of your height you have the ideal shape for jeans that are straight leg or skinny.
  • If you boyish but have a flat bum choose pocket detail with curved or angled stitch detail. If you have a protruding bum choose straight line stitch detail or minimal pocket detail (so your jeans don’t scream ‘ here is my bum, please look at it’).
  • As a note Jeans with no pocket detail at the back are hideous on everyone! Patch pockets on hips make you look broader on the hip than the hidden frogmouth pockets on most jeans.
  • Slim jeans look best with heals ballet pumps or converse type trainers avoid chunky shoes or trainers (unless you are a trendy under the age of 25)
  • Petite women with shorter legs should always press their jeans along the front seem it lengthens the leg visually and makes you look taller and more leggy.
  • More pear shaped ladies should wear bootleg shaped jeans fitted on the hip and thigh and flaring from the knee.
  • Ladies who also have heavier legs, most of whom in my experience tend to find jeans problematic, need to go for a fuller flare cut like a 70’s style trouser (also always pressed along the front seem Gloria Vanderbilt style).
  • Flaring jeans look best with platforms and wedges and this helps to lift the trend factor as well as the bum cheeks

  Waistband Height: A below the waist jean (rather than a hipster down on the hip bone) is preferable for ‘pears’ because the line cuts the bum in half at the back. But beware the lower the waist the more builders cleavage will exit the jeans when you bend or sit and the more potential there is for muffin top at the front. Additionally the craze for very low waisted jeans is over and if you want to look modern then the waistband needs to go up a bit especially on fitted jeans (many will find this a relief).

 However you can use hipster/highwaisters strategically i.e. If you are long in the body compared to your leg length keep the waist high and conversely if you are long of leg and short of body definitely wear hipsters or you will look like Simon Cowl with your jeans starting under your arm pits.

 The boyish utility style has to look deliberate and when done well and styled appropriately can be worn by all shapes and sizes of women.

  • A bootleg classic jean that is supposed to but doesn’t really fit on the bum won’t do the same job at all.
  • Fuller slouchier jeans (work wear style) with a straight baggy boyish shape (‘Boy Cut’), jeans with an oxford bag type leg in softer denim sometimes stone washed are the best jeans to wear with chunkier flat shoes brogues (v trendy) trainers, Berkenstocks, Crocks etc
  • UGGS and cowboy boots, look terrible with wide baggy trousers and need to be worn over slimmer styles. If you wear the former with bags you look like a Yettee and if you wear the latter you look like a line-dancer (in fact it is difficult to avoid looking like a line dancer in cowboy boots and jeans so unless you feel confident with the on-trend-cowboy-look I would tend to play it safe and steer clear altogether).
  • Do also make sure that utility styles are not too hectic i.e. with masses of pockets and straps on the thighs and calves.
  • Combat and cargo styles are OK on boyish shapes if the designs are not too hectic.

 Fabric: Stretch denim is good because it holds you in. But if the denim is too thin and soft it will cling and pucker on your thighs and crotch which is incredibly ugly and tarty. I tend to think that denim, unless the shape is very slouchy, should be quite substantial.


  • Black and grey denim fades badly (unless you are constantly redying them) and make you look like a punk or a goth with the slightly grubby connotation that carries with it. 
  • White denim made a big come back this summer. All the basic rules apply here but if you are over a size 14 keep them soft and in the leg.
  • Coloured and printed denim is difficult to get right with an overall look (blue goes with everything). Tread carefully you can look completely ridiculous unless you have a stylist on call every morning.
  • Very Pale denim very trendy last summer ( keep it for the summer) is nice on fair women. I prefer a 70’s bleached look for older clients that 80’s versions.

 Dark uniform colour denim is the smartest and potentially the most flattering. It is also best and easyest for ‘dressing up’.

 Denim with an aged wash and lived in feel is the most informal and practical and suits everyone, but avoid harsh and artificial looking ‘whiskers’ (i.e. faded stripe marks) around your crotch area!! And similarly avoid artificial fade effects on the front of thighs and the worst of the worst on the buttocks! SOOOOOOOO Bad!

 Decoration: A sophisticated and stylish woman over the age of 40 should also avoid rhinestones studs and appliqué, unnecessary quirky stitch details crazy pocket design’s etc. That means most (but not all) of the Rock and Republic range and (sorry) V. Beckham jeans as well as half of what is available at River Island and miss Selfridge.

 Label Snobbery:

  • Fit and quality of cloth is not necessarily indicated by the price of your jeans so don’t necessarily assume your designer denim will automatically be better fitting or longer lasting.
  • Do buy jeans from Next or M and S or Boden if the style and fit works for you and your body but remove all labelling inside and out and don’t tell!
  • Never buy jeans that scream ‘I paid £200 for these’ (and I was obviously conned).
  • Do buy good quality ethically produced clothing wherever possible.
  • Never buy jeans from Primark.


References (4)

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    Dressme.biz, personal image and wardrobe consultancy, fashion advice - Blog - On Jeans . . .
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Reader Comments (2)

Jeans have always been considered to be the most rugged and at the same time, most comfortable, of all kinds of workwear. We all know that the wearer of a pair of jeans gets an undeniable macho look, and that makes them look stronger and more capable of accomplishing the work at hand.


December 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternafisa

Hi Anne, Your comment about Primark jeans intrigues me. Any reasons why they aren't recommended? Thanks!

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSamia

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