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My Personal Guide To Denim| Sarah Ann Noel

posted on: September 9, 2015


I suppose you could call jeans “basics.” I mean, most people do. But if you want to talk about complicated elements of my wardrobe, denim is about as multifaceted and difficult as it gets. In a perfect world, I might offer myself up to you as a “jeans and t-shirt” sort of girl. It’s my philosophy anyway, a mental state, if you will—the casual girl who’s up for anything, dressed for whatever, and not concerned enough to take herself too terribly seriously. By way of execution, however, to dress myself in the morning takes a little more planning than picking up yesterday’s jeans off the floor and foregoing the underwire bra for a lace bralette and cutoff tank.

Oh, dear. Even this essay is already complicated.

Let me talk about myself in some generalizations here: I’m short. I’m curvy, but mostly just in the womanly places (aka, I’ve got a big old butt and thighs like whoa). I’ve had two kids. And though style is on my mind, I can’t run the risk of being uncomfortable all day.

In a word, I want dressing myself to be easy. To the average American, that usually mean jeans and something else. There have been times when I’ve excused myself from the norm and greedily adopted such trends as the harem pant or silk joggers. Still, I can’t seem to wholly exist in a world without denim. Therefore, I’ve had to stop trying to change the pants and instead adjust my process.


First! The objects of consideration when trying on a pair of jeans.

THIGHS. This is the first basic question because if the jeans don’t fit the thighs, well, I can’t get them on.
BUTT. It doesn’t matter if I can get the jeans on (and bonus points if they’re snapped closed); if they’re pulling too tight across that booty, then my backside will look like two pancakes side-by-side.
WAIST. There was a time when I had measurements like a rap song, and so as long as the jeans fit my hips, they fit my waist. That day has gone, and I’ve mourned its passing. It’s time to rejoice anytime a button can fit appropriately through the button hole without spilling my proof of motherhood over the top of my pants. (Yes, it’s called a muffin-top, and with a description so accurate, there’s just nothing that can be done about it at this point.)
BOOTS. For all my kindred short girls out there, you’ve got to think beyond the pants and consider the outfit as a whole. I have to ask myself, “Can I wear these jeans with boots?” and then I have to specify, “Can I wear these jeans with ankle boots and still look like I have leg to speak of?” Such is life.

Once I’ve mustered my way through the essential considerations, I’ve also got to make note of the bonus factors.

STRETCH. I’m not trying to buy jeggings or anything, but to fit the above listed bodily factors, the denim almost definitely has to have a little give.
COLOR. Acid wash was cool in the 80s and it’s on its way back out for the second time. At this rate, it’ll probably be on-trend again by the time I’m 50, and I’ll need to remember that, if I couldn’t wear it in my 20s, I probably shouldn’t wear it then. Darker colors are more flattering and versatile.
CUT. We never give too much thought to our ankles, but oh, what they can do to help or harm a look. With the appropriate shoe choices, I’ve discovered I can style boot cut, skinny ankle, and wide leg jeans in a number of flattering ways. But flares? Flares will almost always make me look like a bad cartoon from the 1960s.
THINGS I WANT TO DO. Since jeans are meant to be functional, I have to remind myself in the fitting room that I will need to be able to do stuff besides pose in front of a poorly lit mirror. I envision myself in said pants, playing on the floor with my kids; eating Thanksgiving dinner without having to unbutton them; trying to defend my friend’s honor and high-kick a bad guy in the face. Basic life scenarios.

You must bear in mind, this process is still in development. Thirty-plus years have not perfected the system. It is not foolproof. I thought I’d fallen in love with my black Madewell high-waisted skinnies. I was pretty sure they gave me the legs of a supermodel. Then lo and behold, I split the crotch of three separate pairs. Thankfully, even if only to preserve my self-esteem, the Madewell employees assured me that the fabric had been treated in such a way that the integrity of it was compromised and promised that even the skinny-thighed girls had returned damaged pairs. I’m tucking that away, deep in my heart.

Jokes aside, this is a beautiful thing that I’ve learned about wearing denim. Jeans will always be around. They’ve become a wardrobe staple, they’re a cultural phenomenon, and they are ever-evolving. It can be frustrating to shop for jeans with all that considered—wanting to plunge into such a way of life while keeping up with the trends thrust at us on the regular. But this means denim can also be an incredibly individualistic thing. Your jeans can be your statement. Your fit can be your calling card. What you choose is a demonstration of what you value and what you hold fast to, regardless of what changes around you.

I’ll never be built like the ASOS model wearing the stiff, stonewashed, totally destroyed boyfriend denim. I could let that bother me. I could let it define me as less than. Or, I could forge my own paths through the denim culture and say, “This is what works for me. This is my contribution. This is how I participate while still staying true to myself.” Like there are so many cuts, colors, fits, and brands of denim, so are there infinite ways of making a pair of jeans a part of our own unique style. It’s like the purest definition of personal style, finding out exactly what works for us and why and then wearing it with boldness and a confidence that comes from knowing who we are.



Note:A few of my favorite denim right now.
1. I have many pairs of these, and they are like magic. I am a fan of this style as well.
2. You guys often ask about my high-waisted skinny pair. I'm no longer wear them that oftenbut they're from here. I'm obsessed with this dark denim pair right now.
3. High waisted wide legged are super trendy right now, I am a huge fan, and I've always rocked them, these are on current rotation.
4. Are you into distressed denim? These are cute.
-LaTonya

Image via Jean Stories| Written by Sarah Ann Noel, is a talented writer, mother, and a great friend.

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