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All-American Jeans

2012 November 7
by Jill

Jeans–they are the classic all-American garment. Like apple pie and baseball, jeans have come to define American culture. They are worn by celebrities, fashion designers, teenagers, punk rockers, preps, and doctors. They create a kind of level playing field in the world of style. And today of all days it seems appropriate to write about America and level playing fields.

When I was in grad school, I had to write a piece of “service journalism” for a class on magazine writing. This entailed writing a sort of “how-to” piece or guide, intended to help readers in some way. You see these all the time in women’s and men’s magazines–“DIY Thanksgiving Table Settings,” “Five Healthy Lunches,” “Eight Moves to Flatter Abs”…and on and on. Faced with this assignment, I decided to make it useful not only for potential readers, but for myself as well–I set out to buy a new pair of jeans.

As most women of the world know, shopping for jeans is often an exercise in masochism rather than fun. We shimmy and wiggle to pull them on, then anxiously inspect our legs and butt from every angle in the mirror. We try them with shoes and without–struggle with whether they can be worn with both flats and heels. There’s always some kind of problem with the fit: too short, too long, tight in the thighs and loose in the waist, too low-rise, too high-rise, too skinny, too wide–it’s enough to make you want to give up on jeans forever.

And yet. Once you find the perfect pair, it’s love. You never want to take them off. All the hard work you put in to find them was worth it in the end, after all. You wear them with t-shirts and sneakers, sparkly tank tops and heels, scarves and boots. They’re the workhorse of your wardrobe, often going weeks without a proper wash (which is how they’re supposed to be worn, so stop judging).

So. Back to my grad school assignment. I decided to embark on a personal quest to find the best pair of affordable (under $200) designer jeans and document that search, with reviews and info on where to find each brand I tried. It was fun, informative, and I did buy my first (and only) pair of “designer” jeans at the end of the experiment.

That was nearly six years ago, though, and my jeans collection is looking pretty sad. Most of the pairs I have are at least three years old, faded and shrunken from too many careless washes. They’re too short, too tight, too ratty-looking. I don’t wear jeans as often as most people–I tend to gravitate toward dresses and skirts, garments that are a little more forgiving to my shape than pants are–but I would certainly wear them more often if I had more decent pairs.

On my wishlist are:

  • Colored skinny jeans (preferably a cobalt blue, though oxblood would be nice as well)
  • Wide-leg jeans
  • Boyfriend jeans
  • Everyday dark-wash jeans, slightly flared
Here are some of my favorite denim-inspired looks:
I want to be her! 
District of Chic
The Sartorialist
The Other Emily
Love at First Shop
Kendi Everyday
My Edit
See Jane. 
How often do you wear jeans? What’s your favorite way to wear them?
2 Responses Post a comment
  1. Raquel permalink
    November 7, 2012

    Jeans! I love ’em. I wear them pretty much every single day.

    I like bootcut jeans with a bit of stretch in them. Just discovered the stretch thing a year or two ago and it is a miracle. The stretch is forgiving, comfortable, and eliminates the dreaded waistband-gapping that seems to happen every time an hourglassy gal finds something that fits everywhere else. It also tends to make your ass look fantastic. Who doesn’t love a fantastic ass, even just the illusion of one. I tend to like very dark jeans, although I would love to find one or two in a fab color. Maybe a beautiful dark purple or dark green. Or oxblood. What a great idea–I’m stealing that from you. I love jeans because I can wear them to slob around the house or I can dress them up (esp the darker ones) with a nice top, nice shoes, and gems. Yay, versatility!

    Good luck on your jeans-acquisition expeditions! I am looking forward to seeing what you come back with and I hope you find everything on your list and more. I love that District of Chic look you shared BTW–how fabulous is she!

  2. November 9, 2012

    I tend to live in jeans (I’m using college as my excuse 😛 ). I do enjoy wearing dresses and skirts, but jeans are my go-to. I like having a couple of lighter-wash pairs for every day and a darker pair for when I want to dress up, but I only have the darker color right now. Flared/boot cut is my favorite, but I’ve recently discovered that skinny jeans look really cute with flowy shirts and ballet flats or boots. What I always have trouble with in terms of my jeans is that they’re always either too long or too short. Most of my jeans end up the back hem all frayed because I’m always stepping on them.

    Good luck on your jeans search!

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