The Perfect Jeans Wardrobe

Good jeans are a staple of every wardrobe, but putting together a collection of essential styles can be tricky. Nearly 60 percent of American women say finding the perfect pair of jeans is “very difficult,” and even more (63 percent) say it’s tougher than finding a flattering swimsuit, according to a survey by global marketing firm Synovate. But before you get the blues, here’s “jean-ious” advice from Dallas stylist Bridget Boggess, founder of Dress Marie fashion consulting, on building your best denim wardrobe.

Perfect Jeans Fit

Whether you’re shopping in a store or in your own closet, think about fit first. Boggess’ rule of thumb: Anything that’s too big can be tailored, but anything too tight is a no-go. Jeans can be too tight even without cutting off circulation; take note if you see pulling anywhere or wrinkling at the crotch. “Just make sure your jeans aren’t working too hard, even if they have stretch,” says Boggess. It shouldn’t look like you’re wearing spandex workout pants.

The 5 Jeans You Must Own

Straight-leg jeans. Once you find a great fit, buy two pairs. “Have one tailored to wear with flats and one to wear with heels,” says Boggess. In terms of color, a dark wash is most flattering because it creates a long, lean line.

Brands to try: Levi’s, Paige Premium Denim, Joe’s Jeans

2.  Skinny jeans. One of the most versatile styles, skinny jeans can be worn three ways. “Try them with high heels for the long-legged look, rolled up and cuffed with flats, and tucked into boots for fall,” says Boggess. Even if you don’t feel you have the legs for skinny jeans, think of the pants as a wardrobe tool you can use for layering, much like a legging.

Brand to try: J Brand

3.  Trouser jeans. These look like dress pants that just happen to be made of denim instead of something more formal like linen or wool. Save trouser jeans for date night or casual Friday -- not hanging around the house -- and keep them pressed.

Brands to try: Express and J.Crew

4. “Trendy” jeans. Think high-waisted, distressed, ripped, patched and boyfriend styles. “Bring it in for a season, just to update your wardrobe and mix in with your classics,” says Boggess. But don’t spend a lot of money on disposable fashion you’re only going to wear for a single season -- and don’t just wear something because it’s trendy. “If it expresses you, go for it,” says Boggess. “If not, skip the trend.”

Brands to try: Mossimo and Lee

5. Seasonal jeans. Break away from blue with white, black or even go-with-everything gray. “Try white jeans for summer and black for fall,” Boggess says.
Brands to try: Lucky and Paper Denim & Cloth

Toss Your Jeans That Are …

1.    Too tight. If you have to lie down to zip your jeans, they’re too tight.

2.    Pleated. Pleats add bulk to an area -- your hips -- where you don’t want it.

3.    Capris. This length cuts your legs off and makes them look shorter. If anything, go for ankle length.

4.    Too low. Super-low-rise cuts will make you look shorter and can also cause belly bulge, love handles and back fat! When in doubt, sit down, and if you see so-called butt cleavage, then it’s too low.

Photo: Corbis Images

Jeans Alert: Wide-legged Denim Is in

When the skinny jeans craze hit a few years ago, denim buffs everywhere sighed in despair. After all, for those with anything other than the waifish figure of Kate Moss or the perfect curves of Gisele Bundchen, those drainpipe-slender pants were a big no-no.

Thankfully, designers are now offering up a more forgiving style: a wide-legged jean that sits higher on the waist and is cut to one circumference all the way down. This is different from the bootleg, which is fitted to the knee and then gently flares out. It’s also an alternative to the bell-bottom, which hugs the thighs and is uniformly wide from the knee down.

With wide-legged jeans, the circumference of the leg opening can be up to 23 inches compared to the 15 or so inches seen on cigarette jeans. The front rise is at least an inch or so higher than in low-waist jeans and even higher in the back. “Wide legs have a longer rise because the silhouette needs a bit more height to flatter the body,” says Chachi Prasad, founder of the fashion line Bishop of Seventh, whose jeans have been worn by Carrie Underwood and Rumer Willis.

The look is also markedly different from the more casual boyfriend jean, which often features distressed, fraying and upturned hems. Sleek and chic, the wide- leg jean can be worn to work or for an evening out. And it’s not only versatile but affordable too, as premium brands and lower-priced lines offer the silhouette.

Still, this is not a jean that can be thrown on with any old T-shirt or bought by just eyeballing the size. It takes a bit of polish and planning to pull off the look. Here are tips from style experts:

The right pair The wide-legged silhouette looks best on women at least 5 feet 4 inches tall and on the slender side, says Lisa Rudes Sandel, founder and creative director of the denim line Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. “With any trouser, the wider it is, the bigger you look,” she explains. Broader women can still embrace a wider leg with a boyfriend cut in a sleek dark finish, such as those offered by DKNY. For petite women, cuts like the Provocateur by Joe’s Jeans straddle the line between skinny and wide, lengthening the leg with a higher knee break and then flaring to an 18-inch leg opening. 

Ladylike tops Skip anything oversized or billowy and opt instead for something fitted on top, such as a trim tee and a cropped jacket. Or, suggests Sarah Bergman, manager of Los Angeles-based vintage store The Way We Wore, consider a feminine Victorian-style white shirt with a band collar and a bib front or ruffle.

High shoes and minimal accessories To balance the look, try a heel or wedge of at least 3 inches. For a handbag, carry a vintage or modern clutch or a small beaded bag. Finishing touches: a skinny belt and a delicate necklace peeking through an open-necked shirt.

Hair height Those killer heels will get the proportions right below the waist; for flattering proportions above the waist, go for tall hair. Suki Duggan, owner of New York City’s Donsuki Townhouse Salon, suggests a classic ponytail with an added “hump” for height. (It can be achieved by sectioning off the front part of the hair, spritzing it with hair spray and folding it back into the ponytail.) Another option: a half updo. “When in doubt, go for volume,” said Duggan. “Draw the attention upward.”


Jewelry Trend: Big Statement on a Small Budget

Jewelry and chocolate have a lot in common this season: You can’t stop with just one piece.

Stacks of bangles adorn wrists; layers of chains circle necks; and pendants, pins and earrings are built with unusual materials piled one atop the other. Worn in multiples and combined in eccentric, slightly kooky combinations, today’s jewelry makes its statement with size, color and audacity -- not price.

With many accessory collections featuring a strong vintage feel, now is the time to reassess that pile of forgotten chains, bangles or rhinestones cluttering your jewelry box. Don’t go on a treasure hunt for the perfect piece: how you style and combine pieces is more important than any single item.

Big trends seen everywhere include cascades of pearls mixed with matte metal chains; rhinestones partnered with ribbon; and rosettes that anchor asymmetrical assemblages of beads, chains, leather and fabric. Metals don’t aspire to impersonate the precious; they’re content to look like they belong in a hardware store.

A recession-inspired return to less-precious materials, coupled with a new consciousness about sustainability, has helped inspire a creative renaissance in fashion jewelry. Free to experiment with less costly materials, designers are crafting wood, glass, rubber, leather, lace, Lucite and grosgrain ribbon into jewelry that only looks expensive. Silver -- sterling or not -- is back at center stage too. Los Angeles jewelry designer Jeffrey Levin, whose designs have graced the covers of Elle, InStyle and Vogue, is even creating a new collection of what he calls “wristwear” made from recycled rubber.

The trend is good news for all of us who have despaired that our jewelry is a hodgepodge of different styles, materials and decades. Matching is out, mixing is in. Now is the time to flaunt your personal style, says Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus. “You can combine bracelets and bangles that feel as if they have been collected not only from various places on a journey, but also from various times,” says Downing.

A frail seed-bead bracelet can slip beneath a chunky wooden or silk cord cuff. That intricate necklace of mirrors, medallions and bells you bought in India (or the neighborhood thrift shop) is now the height of fashion, particularly if it’s part of a heavily embellished look. Forget restraint: Big necklaces can complement earrings the size of a corsage. Or copy the baroque approach of designer John Galliano of Christian Dior and pile a bib necklace of gold medallions across a brocade tunic, fling a rhinestone-studded cord around your neck and still feel free to tack on tasseled earrings.  

Colleen Sherin, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, advocates mixing layers of chains and not worrying about everything coordinating perfectly. “An off-kilter, eclectic look is really on trend,” she said. “You can mix your pearls with chains, organic beads or stones.”

Finding the right balance of glitz is important so that you don’t look like Mr. T. “If you are going to layer your necklaces, make sure what you’re wearing is a bit simpler,” says Sherin. “Make a statement either with your clothing or your jewelry.”

Here are some do-it-yourself tips on giving your pile of jewelry an up-to-the-minute look:

  • Layer two or more chains, bead strands or pendants.
  • Take the pendants from several necklaces and string onto a single chain or ribbon.
  • Using a crochet hook, weave ribbon through a segment of wide, chunky chain and tie the loose ends in a bow behind your neck.
  • Replace the chain in a pendant necklace with a complementary color of sheer organza ribbon. For variation, string the ribbon with a few crystal beads set far apart.
  • Resurrect your big crystal cocktail rings and anything acrylic or clear plastic.

What to Pack for Your Summer Getaway

Are you breaking out in a sweat thinking about what to pack for your summer vacation? There’s no need to fret. Summer clothes are so lightweight and versatile, you won’t even need to check a bag, whether you’re spending a weekend at the beach or a week in Paris.

Think Ahead
For the weeklong trip, consider your daily activities. Are you going to be traipsing through ruins, dining at four-star restaurants, or visiting churches where bare shoulders aren’t permitted? “I start packing three to four days before my trip, so I have enough time to make sure I’m taking what I need and taking out things that aren’t necessary,” says Nada Vergili, owner and tour operator of Nada’s Italy Tours, who frequently travels overseas from her home in Charlotte, N.C.

Pick wrinkle-free fabrics that pack and launder easily, like cotton jersey. If you don’t already carry an on-the-go stain remover in your purse, slip one in.

Pack for Utility
What I call “fashionable utility pieces” are a must. They’ll freshen up looks you’ll be repeating and also serve the practical purpose of keeping you warm on a chilly night. Two of my favorites are an open-knit sweater with the perfect amount of see-through for easy layering; and a large, colorful scarf that’s convertible as a shawl, a cleverly tied halter or a head wrap. A boyfriend blazer is another must; it puts a smart spin on a casual tee and will also look chic worn over a sleeveless summer dress.

City Vacation

  • Four to six tops Include a couple of casual shirts or tees, one tank top and one sequin or beaded top for dress-up nights. That’s a minimum! Since tees and halters barely take up more room than a pair of undies, you can easily toss in a few more.
  • Two pairs of pants Trend alert! Think pastel ankle jeans in mint green or buttercup yellow. Add a second pair of pants that can be worn with your fancy top.
  • One pair of shorts Opt for a crisp, classic, flat-front version that can be dressed up or down.
  • One skirt Accordion pleats are very now; wear with a simple tee for an effortless, flirty look.
  • One little summery dress Go for all white, a light print or -- my pick this year -- a candy-colored solid.
  • One swimsuit Choose a suit that’s reversible for a two-in-one option.
  • Three pair of shoes Flats for walking, dressy heels, and flip-flops.
  • Accessories One belt; one cross-body bag; one clutch or small purse; one simple pendant necklace; one statement necklace. “The statement necklace dresses up basic outfits for evening,” says Lisa Colaw, owner of Elan Style, a popular Scottsdale, Ariz., boutique. “Pick a piece that has both silver and gold, and it will go with just about everything.”

Beach Getaway

Pare down the city packing list for a weekend at the shore. Omit the pants, skirt and two of the tops. Opt for flowing fabrics and lightweight cotton blends.

  • One dress Choose either white or floral.
  • One tee Opt for paper-thin cotton.
  • One tube or tank top Look for a playful, bright hue.
  • One pair of denim shorts
  • One open-knit sweater
  • One large scarf
  • Three pairs of shoes
  • Two swimsuits Select swimsuits that have mix-and-match tops and bottoms.
  • One high-low skirt Short in the front and longer in the back, these skirts serve triple duty as a dress and a beach cover-up with the simple addition of a belt. Find them at Forever 21 (for less than $20), Urban Outfitters, Madewell or your favorite department store.
  • One flouncy romper or a strapless maxi dress Both are easy to toss over your bathing suit for a poolside lunch or sunset cocktails, and they’re equally great as standalone pieces. You can browse dozens of styles at the fashion search engine
  • Accessories Substitute a linen tote for the cross-body bag; it’s versatile for the beach or marketplace shopping. Keep accessories playful. Turquoise is brilliant against golden skin, and dangly earrings are perfect for bare shoulders. For a relaxed vibe, slip on beaded leather wrist wraps.

The Best Jeans for Your Body

Trying to find the best jeans to fit your body type used to mean an exasperating tour of dressing rooms at the shopping mall. Thankfully, denim manufacturers are finally getting hip to our hips … and other body parts. Today, they’re designing jeans to flatter curvy figures, long torsos, petite proportions and everything in between. Major fashion brands such as Gap, Banana Republic and Victoria’s Secret offer petite and tall sizes. Online fit guides, such as Levi’s Curve ID, direct shoppers to the cuts most suited to distinct shapes.

The new attention to fit means that shoppers can select jeans not only by style, but also by inseam, rise and leg opening. There’s a lot to know, so here’s a handy guide to finding the right jeans for your figure.

If You’re Apple-shaped
You have a larger waist and upper body with slimmer hips and thighs.

  • Choose midrise jeans, ideally with 1-2 percent spandex to avoid muffin top and spillover.
  • Avoid pleats and gathers; a flat front minimizes the waist.
  • Select boot-cut or flared jeans to balance a heavier upper body, says Jill Roberts, owner of three eponymous boutiques in Southern California.
  • Don’t despair: Upcoming fall styles feature wider flare-leg jeans that are better proportioned for the apple shape, says Hollywood stylist Tod Hallman.

If You’re Pear-shaped
You have curvy hips, bottom and thighs; a defined waist; and proportionately narrower shoulders and bust.

  • Chose moderately low-rise jeans, preferably with a boot cut or slight flares to balance proportions, says Roberts. She suggests Rag & Bone’s fit for customers with the pear’s typically shorter torso.
  • Look for new stretch blends (Lucky Brand has a 4 percent spandex blend) and shape-enhancing engineered fits -- such as those from Not Your Daughter’s Jeans or Yummie Denim by Heather Thomson -- to help visually contour the hips and thighs and prevent gaps in the waistband.
  • Opt for dark washes; they’re more slimming than light hues.
  • Choose patch back pockets with simpler stitching designs.

If You’re Rectangular
You have a flatter rear, an undefined waist, and shoulders and hips that are in equal proportion to your bottom half.

  • Select a higher rise (10-12 inches) that sits at or above the waist and balances a long torso.
  • Try the skinny and pencil jeans from J Brand, which tend to fit the typically longer rise of the rectangular figure, says Hallman.
  • Trouser-style jeans that are fuller through the thighs and sit higher on the hips can add elegant shape to a rectangular figure.
  • To add a curvaceous boost to thin legs, look for washes that are lighter in the seat and along the front of the thighs.

If You’re Petite
You’re less than 5 feet 4 inches with a small overall frame.

  • Investigate brands that cut small sizes, such as 7 For All Mankind’s size 23 waist, and CURRENT/ELLIOT’s size 22 waist. True Religion, Gap, Levi’s and Not Your Daughter’s Jeans offer petite sizes that are specifically proportioned for shorter women.
  • Beware of back pockets with elaborate embroidery or flaps that can overwhelm petite figures.
  • Find a good tailor who can hem jeans that would otherwise drag or crumple on top of your foot, says Hallman.
  • Flaunt it! This spring’s colorful skinny jeans look great on petite physiques.
  • A final note of advice from Hallman: “No body type looks great in all jeans. When you find a brand that works for you, stick with it!”