A JEAN JOURNEY
As I scroll through social media and flick through my favourite fashion magazines (I do love magazines and I still regularly buy them each month), I am beginning to think fashion can be a fickle thing! Who agrees? Depending on where you look for inspiration, fashion moves fast, especially in regards to one's loyalties or affections. With constant access to new influences, trends, information and ideas, our attention span is getting shorter, and we’re flitting from one style to the next faster than ever before.
As much as I love it, and do enjoy adding new trends here and there to update my core wardrobe, but on the odd occasion, fashion trends can confuse the hell out of me. Sometimes it’s good to reflect on some of our favourite fads and learn from their mistakes. I never did understand 'daisy dukes' shorts or 'hot pants'. Do you remember those shorts from the early 90's that were the size of underpants? Yet because they were made from canvas or denim, they were acceptably worn in public? Another highlight for me was the extreme shoulder pads in the 80's that made women look like a Gridiron player in taffeta. I still remember my mum embracing this trend - big hair and big shoulders, very fabulous, but so, so wrong. And more recently I am seeing ‘skin’ as a trend as there seems to be more nudity on show as clothes become sheerer, underwear becomes apparel and pants become optional…we are yet to deem this a fad…as yet.
Working with my clients, something I have noticed is on occasion these bad trends stick around in their wardrobes as a reminder to their former self...the 'good old days'. Sometimes, these memorable moments are good to hold on to, like a photograph can take you back to fond and fun moments in your life. I personally have kept a pair of low crutch, boot leg suit pants from my early 20's (Cameron Diaz wore them frequently with a crop top) I use to wear to dance parties, that I hope to somehow fit into again one day...knowing full well I never will!
So why do fashion trends change so often? Some might think the only reason is so fashion brands can continue to convince us to 'keep shopping', but really it's because fashion icons and the stars of popular culture influence us. They don't remain stars by doing the same thing over and over again. Instead, they're always searching for a new angle to maintain their popularity. Often these new angles come in the form of new clothes or hairstyles. But there is one trend that throughout time, anywhere on the planet, whoever the “IT” people of the moment are - they all embrace this trend. DENIM JEANS...and although denim details, washes and fits come and go, and then come back again, to the core it never has been an offensive trend...like the shoulder pads!
It began as a durable working uniform for miners and progressed over the years to become one of the most popular casual wear garb in modern society. What makes jeans so appealing is that they make no distinction between class, sex and age. They are a staple no matter your style, size or personality and can be worn in any climate - and everyone has a favourite pair and I bet they’re from a favourite memory or age in your life!
I have a love affair with denim and own over 40 pairs of jeans - all very important for all different reasons. Since my teenage years watching Beverly Hills 90210 and wanting to look like Kelly and Brenda in their Levis 501's high rise mums jeans, to wearing boyfriend jeans with super white Reebok sneakers with white socks to mimic Sarah Jessica Parker or Winona Ryder. The acid washed and super ripped grunge androgynous phase I went thru, when I was embracing the 'anti-fashion' movement to contrast from the flashy excessiveness of the 1980s (possibly my most memorable time). Then came my obsession with super clean and dark 'stretch' jeans because of Kate Moss in Calvin Klein looked so hot! And a low point, the super low, low Brittney jeans which I didn't really have the body for (think this is where the term "muffin top" came from). But when high end designers like Gucci and Versace created denim jean collections that cost the same price as my first car, this seemed to ramp up the denim jean movement to an all time high. Having worked for a huge denim retailer for most of my career and more recently working with the worlds most famous denim brands, you can take it from me, denim is a huge part of my fashion family. Denim is part of my DNA.
Finding a perfect pair of jeans can be tough, and you will have more fails than wins. But once it happens, it’s pretty magical. Somehow your butt looks much hotter and you find ways not to wash them in case they change ever so slightly. I do recall not washing a pair of vintage Levis for about a year because I didn’t want them to fade. TIP - you can put them in the freezer and it stops them smelling! Although pretty gross, it does work.
To find that perfect jean you have to 'embrace the process'. Comfortable yet stylish, denim that stretches just the right amount, but not too much etc etc. And you may need more than one pair depending on what the purpose or end use of your jean is. Are you up for the challenge?
Firstly, work out what you want your jeans to be.
- The cool girl jean. My ultimate and favourite jean I own is probably the cheapest in my collection, but was the hardest pair to find. The vintage Levis 501. And they have to be vintage as for some reason they don’t make them the same way anymore. I am not going to lie - you have to search through extremely dingy vintage stores, crowded markets and numerous charity stores to locate the one that is right for you. You will need to try on possibly over 100 pairs before you find the perfect fit. You will want to cry, but when the holy grail of vintage jeans is sent your way, it will change your life. You will feel two sizes smaller, you will look younger and they will make your life happier. You may laugh, but if I could only live with three things in my wardrobe, one of them would be these jeans (the other two would be my Chanel classic jumbo and a white tee). Be careful when finding your size as vintage jeans stretch a lot. When you try them on, they have to be unbearably tight. If you can just do up the top button, then they are the right fit. They normally stretch a full size or sometimes a little more. Also, if they are 'nearly' perfect, you can get them altered to make them 100% perfect. Lots of brands also offer services to re-work your vintage jeans or use second hand Levis jeans to make new jeans. But although these come with a high price tag, you can try them on at your local department store and thus shorten your ordeal.
- Your 'best friend' jeans that you can wear on all occasions. You need a jean that will make you feel good on your "I feel fat" days or normal days (we all have these days!). For me, these jeans are a little more relaxed and not super tight. I love a boyfriend jean as they are comfortable and make you look cool without trying. But you need to find a pair that is flattering. Most brands now offer a good fitting 'girl-fit boyfriend jean', that sits well on your waist and fits around your bottom. But I actually love stealing my husband’s jeans and wearing them, as men tend to wear out their jeans to that perfect "washed out" look. I also wore these type of jeans throughout my two pregnancies and felt so much better about myself as I was technically wearing normal jeans. They work with heels, sneakers or sandals, with a blazer or a white shirt. You can also buy with or without holes as both versions are cool.
- The date jean / I look hot today jean. The pair you need to wear that makes you feel hot and can hide some of your flaws. When you need something to wear for that "ohh this old thing" moment, but really it took you three hours to work out. I find the super skinny mid or high-rise jean is that jean. It can be in a light blue wash, or a mid to dark blue, or black wash. They suck you in, while smoothing you out. These jeans need to be tight and will possibly be very uncomfortable when you first wear them, but when you look at yourself in the mirror you will say, “wow”. When I style clients from a size 6 to 16, these skinny jeans make everyone look skinnier. And by adding a heel, you can really make yourself look long and lean. But when you buy these jeans because they have a significant stretch content in the fabric the ‘fitting’ process is different to non stretch jeans. They won’t stretch out after wearing as the fabric holds it’s shape, so although they need to be tight allow yourself to be able to breath.
- Fashion addict jean. As jeans have become so huge, brands are now 'blinging' up styles. Making the denim jean into quiet a statement. You can get studded jeans, jeans with pearls on them, embroidered or patchwork jeans etc etc. I actually like having fun with denim and I’m not afraid of jeans like this. Most designers start the movement, but then high street stores like Zara catch on pretty quick. So you can have some fun with this type of jean without a huge investment. Also if you are like me and wear denim regularly, sometimes these trends take away the guilt of wearing denim so often.
- The wear to the office jean. As work wear and offices have relaxed over the years, sometimes it's acceptable to wear denim to work. But I still think there is an appropriate jean for work versus the jean you wear out with your friends. I really love the look of clean crisp blue jeans in a straight leg or wider leg. They almost look like a trouser or pant, but are in denim. No distressing or holes, they sit higher on the waist and have limited or no sandblasting (this is the effect on jeans that make them look lived in). Wear these jeans with a flat or heel and they can be really sophisticated.
When shopping for jeans, maybe go to a department store or multi branded denim store. You need to be able to try on all different brands and styles before you decide. Once you find a brand and fit you love, it will then make the process later on less stressful. Usually, everyone has a brand that's for them, so most styles in this brand will work for you down the track.
But don't forget…
- You need to invest and spend some money to find the right jean. There is a reason that many denim branded jeans are expensive. There is a real knack to making a jean perfect and brands have specialists spending months perfecting the pattern and washing of their denim. I have worked with many brands over the years and witnessed this first hand – and their effort does pay off. There is a science behind it, so rather than balking at the price tag, you may need to accept it.
- They need to be tight as denim stretches. My rule is, when buying new jeans, if you can barely do the top button up, then they fit. If they fit you comfortably, then they are too big.
- Make sure you look in the mirror - front and from behind to check that they work from all angles. Also, check again in the mirrors in your home as you need to seen them in a non-change room environment.
- Don't buy jeans because of the brand, buy them because of the fit.
- What style works on others may not work on you. So don't be guided by what everyone else is wearing. You can get the same look in a different style that fits and suits you.
- When you buy a new pair of jeans, wear them around the house for a few hours to break them in.
- Try not to wash your jeans as they loose their personality. If you must wash them, turn them inside out to prevent fading. And keep them inside out when drying them too.
- Don't put your jeans in a dryer - hanging them out to air dry is generally best. It preserves the rigidity of your denim and the fit.
What to avoid…
- Super low waisted jeans as bending over can be an issue.
- Drop crutch jeans I used to love, but now in hindsight, I think they are odd and not flattering.
- Jeans with too many holes and rips as they look a little hectic and try hard.
So that’s it. Shopping for denim can be really be exhausting and rather depressing. But please stick with the process! Once you find the right jean, regardless of what's going on with fashion trends and fads, they will be the one consistent thing you will be wearing over an over again.
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