Category Archives: Jeans

How to shop for jeans

What is a skinny jean, anyway?

Ah, the skinny jean. Love it or hate it, it’s pretty much here to stay. In the past few seasons, so many different types have been cropping up,  making it crazy confusing to decipher what’s what. Now instead of just plain old skinny jeans, we have ultra skinny, super skinny, jegging, slim straight, super slim straight, cigarette, ultra super skinny cropped cigarette denim legging, and the list goes on. So what the heck is the difference among them all, and how do you know what’s right for you?

The main thing to remember is that the names mostly have to do with fabric type and leg opening. Also keep in mind that there is no industry regulation here, so some companies just do what they think sounds good to their customer base. Much like a Theory 8 is not the same as a Gap 8, you’ll find one brand’s skinny jean is not the same as another’s. But below are general guidelines that can help you better navigate this scary skinny world and find what feels best for you.

citizens of humanity avedon jeans

Jeggings (sometimes referred to as denim leggings)

Jeggings will typically have the most stretch and the thinnest fabric feel. They are supposed to mimic the shape and fit of leggings but in a woven fabric. Sometimes you’ll see 5-pocket knit leggings labeled as jeggings, which is fine too I guess. I consider them to still be plain-old leggings, but it’s not uncommon to call them otherwise. Both Citizens of Humanity’s Avedon and Paige’s Verdugo styles represent a true jegging style.

Average leg opening: 10 to 11″

Best for: Women who love a super-snug fit and second-skin feel from waist to ankle. These also tend to be pretty comfortable since the fabric is stretchy and moves well with the body. Not good for ladies who needs some air circulating around their lower limbs.

JCrew toothpick jeans

Skinny (sometimes preceded by ‘ultra’ or ‘super’)

With a true skinny jean, the leg opening will be fitted around the ankle like in a jegging, but now you’re moving into a more substantial denim fabric. It can still have stretch, but not usually as much. J.Crew’s Toothpick jean is a good example of a classic skinny, although they choose to call it something else. See how confusing this can get?

Average leg opening: 12″

Best for: Women who want a super slim fit to the ankle, but need the feel of a proper jean.

jcrew matchstick jeans

Cigarette or Slim Straight

This may be the most annoying label. A slim straight jean is sometimes called a cigarette. What it’s supposed to mean is a slim leg that does not taper in and hug the ankle. Instead, there’s a slightly wider leg opening that falls straight from the knee. A cigarette jean is often cropped at the ankle, but it doesn’t have to be by definition. AG makes a good cigarette style, as does J.Crew with their Matchstick pair.

Average leg opening: 12.5″ to 13″

Best for: Women who don’t want to feel too constricted in jeans but still want the illusion of a skinny. I recommend this style to clients who are kind of over the whole tight skinny jeans thing but who still want to look current. It offers a more breathable solution from the knees down.

NYDJ straight leg jeans

Straight Leg

Lastly, a straight cut has a leg and calf opening that’s slim, but not fitted at all.  It’s the widest of the bunch. The leg will literally fall straight from the knee down, and the thigh cut tends to be a bit looser as well. NYDJ makes a true blue straight-leg jean. Narrow but not tight.

Average leg opening: 14″

Best for: Those deathly afraid of the skinny but who still want a slimmer leg. If you’re in bootcut recovery, this is a good first step.

Hard to keep straight, right? The good news is you don’t always have to. Each of these will achieve the same visual effect of slimming and streamlining your bottom half. So just choose which is most comfortable. That’s always what matters most anyway. Good luck!

For summer (and fall and winter), green is the new jean

I get asked a lot about some alternatives to wearing blue jeans as part of daytime or evening casual outfits. If you’re not really a skirt or dress kind of gal, finding some variety in this arena can be challenging.

And while there’s definitely no lack of colored denim out there, you can’t wear just anything on top. And a lot of those colors are not for the faint of heart. White jeans can be a fresh departure from basic blue, but this too can become routine after a while.

So, here’s a fantastic alternative: olive green. It’s kind of  the best neutral ever. Softer, muted greens go with almost anything–black, white, bold colors, and even patterns. I highly suggest picking up a pair to get you out of the dark denim rut. A sage will also work (which is a lighter green), but because it’s lighter on bottom, it won’t be universally as flattering. The primary style in this color around town is a skinny jean, but you can also try an ankle trouser or even relaxed chino for summer. Or shorts if you’re cool with that.

Huge bonus: this color will transition sans effort into fall. So you won’t be shelling out money for a one-season wonder. Nice, right?

A few of my favorites: Vince, AG, and J. Crew!

The denim tuxedo

I’d like to take a moment to discuss the denim tuxedo. Once upon a time, this was a crazy bad decision. Nothing good came out of the choice to pair denim with denim. However, times are a-changin! I recently came across some darling takes on denim on denim.

Photo by Easy Fashion Farid

This is something I put on Pinterest a few days ago (follow me!). This girl looks adorable. The different tones and fabric weights make the denim combo acceptable. Plus, she breaks it up with some smart accessorizing.

I was behind this girl while exiting a plane. The pic is not the best, but she was rocking some rich blue jeans, a black tank, long drapey cardigan, and a cropped light wash denim jacket on top. The different lengths of tops doesn’t work for everybody, but this woman could pull it off because of her height. And also because I think she was a model. And generally cool-looking.

Untitled #3

So if you’re brave enough to go denim on denim, make sure to choose two different tones, and preferably two different weights. Often, the more contrast the better. I love a lightweight denim or chambray button-down paired with darker wash jeans. And punched up with a little color here and there. If you want to dress it up a bit, grab a white blazer to throw on over the whole thing.

Question: What’s an alternative to skinny jeans?

Here’s a totally awesome inquiry from a reader. Honestly, I love this question.

Say I want to break out of the mom jeans. What’s the alternative to skinny jeans for us athletic women with thighs and calves that prove it?

A lot of fun tops benefit from a skinny-leg silhouette, especially tunic styles or those that are more voluminous. (Remember that rule: volume in one place, and slimmer in the other). That said, it can be tricky to achieve the skinny style if you’re not a skinny jeans kind of gal. And not everybody is. Speaking from a style perspective, skinny jeans can be really versatile. However, they just don’t look good on everybody. Plain and simple.

But you can achieve the slim look without having to go skinny.  It’s all in the style of jean you pick. First, let’s examine the DON’T.

You need to avoid this:

See how the style is so skinny that it hugs the leg all the way down from the thigh to the ankle? It’s not a flattering look. Also, the bunching at the ankles looks messy. The key is to find a style that has a narrow leg, but doesn’t taper or become too suction-ey at the calf and ankle. By having room at the ankle, this balances out athletic thighs, as it creates the illusion of an evenly slim leg, as opposed to one that goes in a V shape from the thigh down. Make sense?

The good slim shape has many names in the stores: straight leg, slim leg, cigarette, matchstick, stilt. They all basically mean the same thing. Narrow but not skinny or tight. And avoid that bunching at the ankle, as that will also disturb the even, narrow line.

For spring and summer, a cropped or ankle cut can also be flattering, as long as they aren’t tight around the ankles.

When searching, always look at the ankle of the jean to see if it goes in too much. You want a narrow, straight line from the top to the bottom. You don’t want it to taper in (that’s too jegging-like) or out (too bootcut or flared).

Some good brands to try:  AGJ.CrewCalvin Klein, and Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.

Have a burning style question?  Like TRS on Facebook and post it there!

Yep, you can wear white

Here comes the obligatory can you wear white after Labor Day post. The answer is a resounding yes!

White adds a brilliant pop to almost all of the autumnal hues. White jeans or trousers are a safe place to start if you’re still feeling uncomfortable about breaking the rules. In order to keep them looking season-appropriate, make sure the fabric isn’t too light. Denim is always appropriate, but you can also do a dressier white trouser, as long as it has some weight to it. Pass on the linen or flimsy cotton.

Some of my favorite fall colors to pair with white are: rich browns, warm caramels, deep blues, and almost any grey. Plus, all of those work well with each other, so feel free to mix and match.

Go ahead, keep the white on all year long. It’s worth the risk.

And check out other ways to rock white jeans for any occasion.

Your next skinny jeans, and where to find them

It’s no secret that I love my skinny jeans. I wear them pretty much everywhere. Of course, wide-legs, flares, and even certain bootcuts can be just as amazing, but there’s something about skinny jeans that I find supremely versatile. I can wear with flats or heels without worrying about the length. And, since I generally buy my tops five sizes too big (for dramatic effect), the slim fit offers that much-needed balance. It’s true that skinny jeans don’t work on all body types, but there are few garments that do. It all depends on your preference… and how you’re wearing them.

For those of you who also swear by skinnies, here are some nice options for updating this fall essential.

Higher end: J Brand and Acne

J Brand consistently churns out flattering, trend-right styles that offer generous stretch. Another notable brand  is Acne. Yep, the name is bizarre, but this Swedish label makes fantastic jeans. I bought a charcoal grey pair at Loehmann’s that I have worn to near death.

More wallet-friendly: Gap, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, DKNY

Gap’s Always Skinny label and Urban Outfitters’ BDG brand both offer classic skinny styles at friendlier prices. If you’re looking for some variety, Uniqlo has a big selection of both skinny jeans and jeggings in fun colors, although you can’t buy online. If you’re not a fan of the low rise waistband, try out the medium rise jean from DKNY. It offers a hint of helpful stretch and won’t sit obnoxiously low on your hips.

How to wear it: white jeans

I will be re-posting from TRS’s archives throughout the week. This post first appeared in May 2011.

I’m just going to say it. White jeans are in and you should learn how to wear them. Yes, we hear over and over that white is more likely to get dirty, and that lighter colors make a body look bigger, blah, blah, blah.

Well, this is not necessarily true–the latter anyway. White can prove incredibly slimming when the fit is right. As for getting them dirty, all I can say is… be extra cautious around dirt? We are grown-ups after all. Or you can always buy two and switch them out when one’s in the wash. Believe me, you will get the mileage to justify the purchase.

Here’s how to flaunt white jeans for every occasion.


YES! You can wear white jeans to the office. Absolutely, positively. Look to a slim-cut pair that falls at or below the ankle. The key is to appear polished, so keep things classic–and classy–with a simple blue button-down, black blazer, and neutral kitten heels.


Sequins are always a fun choice for a night on the town. And white ankle-length jeans provide the perfect crisp complement. They lighten the whole look while keeping everything fresh and season-appropriate. And a slight cropped length will show off your fancy nighttime shoes.


Try a more relaxed cut jean for the weekend–either a bootcut or wide-leg. This is the perfect time to bust out bolder colors, as white will really make them pop. Have fun and experiment with color mixing too. A shoe doesn’t always have to be neutral or black when wearing colors on top. Go a little crazy and opt for a lively green sandal when wearing pink stripes.

How to take your jeans to work

Today, ran a post on wearing your jeans to work. This is a wonderful and very relevant topic, as jeans are no longer considered merely casual wear. Here are some general pointers (both theirs and mine):

1. The darker the wash, the fancier the jean.

LOOK FOR: a deep indigo or solid black with no intentional holes or distressing. And remember to wash them first before wearing, or the dye can come off on your hands.

2. Cut matters.

LOOK FOR: a wide-leg trouser jean, ankle skinny, or subtle bootcut. Bottom line: make sure it fits without being too big or too tight.

3. What you pair them with matters even more!

A work jean is only as professional as what it’s worn with. So dress it up with what you may normally think of as office attire.

LOOK FOR: a tailored blazer, button-down, or cardigan. And try to always finish off with some sort of heel.. even if it’s a tiny kitten heel. Height always provides a more polished appearance.

How to shop for: jeans

Let’s talk about jeans…because they can be scary, no matter your age or waist size.

Jeans are a tough. There are thousands of styles out there, and thousands of stores that carry them, but more often than not, you carry a dozen pairs into the dressing room and return the same dozen to the salesperson — going home with nothing but a grimace. Most clients I work with don’t necessarily care about the style – if they find a pair that fits and makes them look good, they’ll take it.

2 keys to finding  jeans that fit:

1. LYCRA IN THE BLEND — very very very important in order for the fit to be flattering and comfortable.

2. Knowing what brand to seek out. Certain brands only cater to the young, rich, and emaciated. Only seek out the brands that offer a true variety of sizes, so you don’t get anxiety over not fitting into a size 8. Oh the horror of being larger than an 8.

Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. Don’t be deterred by the matronly stigma attached to this brand. Yeah, they’re made for ‘women of a certain age’, but these designers actually know what they’re talking about. So suck it up and listen to them. At least try on a pair before you judge.

Calvin Klein. Mr. Klein provides a signature line up to size 12, and then a plus size line up to size 24. The styles are refreshingly current — boyfriend, skinny, flair, straight — and there are lots of washes to choose from — white, black, faded, dark, etc.

Jag Jeans. These are a Karen favorite (my very chic mom). She’s put a lot of hard labor into finding jeans she likes, and so far, Jag is in the lead. The brand comes in long, regular, and petite, and is made of a true cotton and spandex blend to give you some stretch.

All of these jeans are available in most department stores-  namely Nordstrom, which has its own huge denim shop online.