Can you believe it’s September? As much as I love summer, I am ready for the change to-fall and warm clothes. Denim is always uppermost in my mind when I think of my fall wardrobe. Here in California it’s our uniform so much of the time, so I was excited that Cindy and Sarah wanted to do denim for our Signature Style series this month. I do get a lot of inquiries throughout the year from readers who want flattering jean recommendations. Hopefully this post will help and I’ll share my personal favorite brand and a few new discoveries for Fall 2021.
This year it looks like the straight leg is gaining more traction, and as women embrace more comfortable clothes after a year plus at home the momentum for them is just getting stronger. The challenge is finding the right pair that suits your body type. I prefer the straight legs that are cropped and have a more slim cut as a petite person. The ankle flair is also a strong second to the straight leg and that jean shows off your sneakers and booties. Wide legs and mom jeans are also trending, but you have to find what feels good and flatters you. I think we can all agree the skinny is slowly going out.
Before buying any jeans, I urge you to look at what you already own. It takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow the cotton to produce just one pair of denim jeans. The manufacturing processes also use toxic dyes. Many companies, especially those who manufacturers premium denim in the U.S., are using uprecycled cottons and less toxic chemicals and less water in manufacturing. Buy mindfully and consider denim from places like Crossroads Trading and other consignment stores that have great denim collections. Upcycling is what all the young people are doing, and we need to get onboard. I have found one of my coolest pairs of jeans that way.
Take some time and bring all your jeans out, try them on by a full length mirror and see what you still love. Keep only what feels and looks good. You can also have some altered to be ankle length or ankle flair, which is great with booties. If you’re brave, take a pair of sharp scissors and cut them to be ankle grazing if you want a change.
Assesing my jeans I have 12 pairs, including an almost 17 years old pair from Gap. I don’t know how it kept making the cut, but it’s a straight leg, mid-rise and no stretch classic pair. I would say most of my jeans last me at least 5-6 years and are a mix of Frame, Paige, Anthropologie, and a few other premium brands, and some found at consignment.
Right now the pair I love best is from Frame and I have had at them 6 years, and they still sell the style, Le Garcon . They feel great on and don’t have too much stretch, are slim at the lower leg, but not tight at the waist and hips.. That’s a great cut that is slimming, but doesn’t feel like a skinny jean. About a year or ago, I realized they would look more updated with the hem cut and a bit shorter so I carefully cut them.
Here I am wearing them back in 2016 on a trip to SFMoma..
Frame is considered premium denim, is made in California with higher standards and sustainable practices and materials. They have a section of extra sustainable styles- like the straight leg here (below left)and I especially love this slouch pair, (center), and this gorgeous pair made in Italy , (right.)
I also did a trip last weekend to Anthropologie to see what they have as I have bought a few of their house brand denim, Pilcro and like them. I tried three pairs and the Slim Boyfriend Jeans below, were my favorite. I bought these in regular, but they have petite, tall and plus sizes in these.
I appreciate that they are 32% recycled cotton which is good for the earth. If you’re on the short side like me, or are short-waisted, consider petite as the rise is 2.5 inches shorter, so they won’t feel like the waist is too high. The regular size has 9.5 inch rise, which wasn’t extreme. The gauze blouse is new from Cloth & Stone, one of the best brands. I loved this color for fall!
Another way to style these same jeans is with the cuffs pulled up instead of rolled. I especially like this look with boots. Try it if your jeans are usually rolled for a more structured look.
This rose cashmere sweater was another item I fell in love with at Anthro. I’m a sucker for florals.
Also by Pilcro, Anthro’s in house denim brand, is The Wanderer Jean, which I would call a painter’s pant back in the day, and are deemed ‘relaxed’ fit, but they also say ultra high rise. Those two don’t go together in my mind. Still, they are cute and new and will give a updated look to the wardrobe for sure. I’m still thinking about them.
This jean comes 3 different washes, and petite and plus sizes, and the cotton is from a special mill in Turkey that is dedicated to environmental practices. Many of the Anthro jeans are coming from places like this. Look at the details in the description before you buy!
I also tried the Selvedge Borrowed Boyfriend Jean by Pilcro and it’s made at a mill in Milan, which is called ‘the greenest mill in the blue world’ and does not use any toxins at all in their process, which can pollute waterways. I love that so much. It comes in tall, petite and plus and is what I would call an old school jean, not much stretch, but won’t sag on you and I think will soften up over time. It’s a classic straight leg and because of this special mill and cotton, this jean is a bit more expensive.
Speaking of cost for denim, an Instagram friend read I had my old Gap jeans and she remarked she still had her Guess jeans! Do you remember those? They were quite pricey back in the 80’s, like near $100. I remember saving for them. That was nearly 40 years ago. You know what’s remarkable about that? Costs of denim haven’t gone up much in 40 years. You can still walk into Gap and buy jeans for $50 or less. Is that a good thing? Not necessarily. Beware of cheap denim, the labor may be child labor or people working in horrible conditions for low wages and it may be made with polluting chemicals.
Since I called out Gap here, out of fairness I checked out the denim they did have that was made with their new Washwell program which saves millions of liters of water. No initiatives yet for the chemicals or information on factories and labor practices, but it’s something. The Mid-Rise Girlfriend was a decent jean with almost no stretch, but a classic look and unfitted leg. I think these had a lot of extra fabric in the hip area, so you can size down, but actually felt okay on and comes in petite and tall and run $48 (online), or $69 regular price in store.
I liked the wash and with their classic Gap Organic Button-up shirt button down you could do worse. The Deconstructed Mid-Rise Girlfriend (center), is also cute and I like the raw hem. High Rise Vintage Slim Jean (right), which wasn’t at my local Gap, but looks like a chic simple cut too.. All below are using the Washwell technology.
Gap has a lot to choose from, but still had a ton of ‘jeggings’ at my local store. I’m not sure why you would buy those, but they have truck loads. They could also give the store a good vacuum and clean the fitting room mirrors, but I digress..I was kind of saddened the brand is not being cared for like it once was.
In other news, Vogue just has an article that Old Navy will be the first retailer to integrate plus sizes into the regular women’s up to size 30. Old Navy already has done this and so you can shop for the denim in all sizes which will be helpful and more equitable as half of women in America are considered plus and now their sizes will be with all the others, not off in a corner.
J. Crew is also expanding their denim and has up to size 23- 37 in jeans. These Vintage Slim Jeans seen like a perfect straight leg look… I’ve been wearing their white jeans all summer and plan to continue.
Please share your musings on denim in the comments. Do you like the new straight legs or are you still a skinny jean person? What brands are your favorites and have you shopped thrift or vintage for upcycled styles? I’d love to hear.
Please visit Cindy Hattersley and Sarah London with their own takes on Signature Style for denim on their blogs today!
For more inspiration and more ideas for to style denim, you can follow my Pinterest Board, Jean Love.
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Julie Topkis says
Kim: did you buy your regular size in the Pilcro The Slim Boyfriend Jeans? Some reviews said tight? I’m usually 27-28 so not sure what to order. So cute. Thanks.
Hi Julie, I did get the size 27 and I can sometimes go up to 28, but these felt like they may stretch a small bit. I could even get into the 26, which I shared on Instagram, but the belly and hip area looked too tight. For reference I am 5’4 and 135. I hope it helps! xo
Francesca B. says
Great post thank you Kim. Great news about Old Navy too for offering more sizes for all women.
I like Levi Wedge jeans at Nordstrom and Anthropology Pilcro. Love those new fall clothes l will have to go !!Kim this font is very difficult to read the writing is very faint so l hope this makes sense !! Happy day 🙂
Fun! I just used an online resale site a few weeks ago to update my jean selection. This usually works out fine if I stick to brands, styles and sizes I know, sometimes supports folks using it as a source of income (depending on site) and is more eco-friendly. I think reusing or buying secondhand is chic. I too have straight leg jeans tucked away from years prior and do love them, but in recent years was most likely to be seen wearing raw hem skinnies. I think my style is transitional right now, so they gave me sense of trendiness, but I usually teamed them with more sensible and classic items. I still like skinnies of all types, but I am pear shaped so I like the skim of a straight leg or wide leg or balance of a flare. The “newer” jean trend I have coming my way is a couple pairs of kick flares! We’ll see how they do! I also now gravitate towards very high waists to tuck in my mom tum! That sweater is adorable and I really love a square neck- so I of course think that top is cute too!
Hi Nicole! You sound like you know your stuff. I love that you update your jeans on a resale site. That is so smart and can be easy if you know the brand you like and sizing. Great tip. I love the raw edges hem jeans too. Kick flares are so great for booties and sneakers and especially if someone is on the shorter side. I think the high waist can be good for keeping the tummy in. I know I have a couple of pairs that look great, but then some have added bulk there. I think the key is the jean material needs to be thinner on the high waisted denim. I do love the square neck top so much! More of them are showing up this fall. Thanks so much for your tips here! I so appreciate you taking the time. xo
LA CONTESSA says
I GUESS I HAVE BEEN IN A CAVE FOR YEARS AS THE ONLY BRAND I RECOGNIZED THAT YOU MENTIONED WAS GUESS!THAT IS WHEN I STOPPED WEARING JEANS AS THEY WERE EXPENSIVE AND DIDNOT FIT ME!I NEVER LOOKED BACK………….NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT BUYING THEM AGAIN AND TOO WE MOVED TO ITALY IN THE EARLY 1990’S AND I COULD NOT WEAR JEANS TO THE GROCERY STORE!YES, YOU HEARD ME RIGHT!I HAD TO WEAR SLACKS AND A SILK TOP!THE ITALIANS STILL DRESSED IN THAT DECADE AND I WOULD HAVE DISGRACED THE FAMILY IF CAUGHT OUTSIDE THE CASA IN JEANS!OF COURSE THEY BECAME THE RAGE OVER THERE TOO BUT A BIT LATER……….A GAP SWEATSHIRT WAS THE DESIRED GIFT FOR AN ITALIAN AT THAT TIME!HAD TO SAY GAP.
AS FOR THOSE PAINTERS PANTS……….I VOTE NO!TOO MUCH GOING ON THERE FOR YOUR PETITE FRAME IN MY OPINION!PLEASE ASK THE SON IN UTAH IF HE AGREES WITH ME!!!
I HAD NO IDEA THEY USED SO MUCH WATER AND TOXIC DYES……………….AGAIN WHERE HAVE I BEEN?I WAS THRIFTING AND DOING THE CONSIGNMENT SHOPS LONG BEFORE IT WAS FASHIONABLE!I EVEN WORKED IN AN CONSIGNMENT SHOP FOR AWHILE!I LOVED IT AS WE GOT FIRST PICK!
I LOVE HOW YOU RESEARCH EVERYTHING!!
Elizabeth, I love that the Italians did not wear jeans to the store when you first went there. I so believe it. They are the chicest people in the world and I am always blown away by the fit of everyone’s clothes. You look fantastic in what you wear, so why change it? Not everyone is a jean person- and yes it takes time and dedication to find the right fit when you’re tall. I feel like so many pairs are made for the same body types! It was eye opening reading more about the polluting aspect of denim and made me really want to find better made pairs or thrift! Why not have something unique? Thanks for the note-from a non-jean girl. Love you.
Mary Ellen Krull says
Kim, you certainly did your research on jeans!
I will come back to this post when we go into the fall season. Here in coastal NC that won’t be until October.
I usually do a try on then, and evaluate what I have and what I need.
I doubt I will buy much this year because my closet is full and my social calendar is empty but it is nice to keep up with the trends in case I get the urge to freshen up.
Hi Mary Ellen! I hear you about needing jeans now. I just bought mine, but I may pass out if I wear them right now. We are still sweltering. I hope this was helpful. You’re so right that many of us have closets of clothes waiting to get worn. Here’s to cool temps soon. xo
Sarah London says
What a great post Kim! Well done. Love the ethical and sustainable aspect. I wish more companies were transparent. Even the large ones who mass produce are trying, but I believe most of it to be green washed. Taking the time to find the right Jean is paramount. That way, we will wear it and keep it for a very long time.
Sarah, I suspect you’re right about the large companies and green washing. That is why I was a little skeptical about Gap. I’m wondering how much the Washwell program helps. I so agree that you should take your time and find the perfect pair so they can stay with you a long while! Loved your post too. Always great styling tips! xo
Yes, I thrift…find many expensive brands, Ralph Lauren, etc. in my size 8. I abhor trying to squeeze into a size 6 as some of my friends do. I Used to wear the Levis 501 jeans, all the rage when I was a teenager, but don’t think I have a pair any longer…Short waisted, no butt, and am now 5’2″ barefoot, and weigh
125 lbs. Thanks for the info, but I will stick with my dark, straight legged jeans, and so glad I can recycle to help the planet and my pocketbook (does anyone use that expression anymore?). Loved your Bora Bora vacation pix.
HI Joan, You sound like you know your body and what looks great on you. I love that you find expensive brands at thrift! it’s so smart and so many are hardly worn. It’s the best idea. You can’t go wrong with dark, straight legs that flatter everyone. So funny about 501’s – I wore them too and my dad still does and read this post and said what about men? Do I go with straight legs now? He’s 82.
Oh and I love the helping the pocketbook and the planet! xo
No jeans, I refuse to look like everybody,
Okay then! 🙂
Dawn Lucy Ross says
You know I’ll always be a forever in blue jeans girl! Great post, Hon!
Thank you Dawn…California girls, you know it’s in our blood! xo
Kim, I really enjoyed this post. Jeans are a favorite topic and have been for nearly 50 years when I finally talked my mom into letting me wear them. Sadly, I’ve been ignorant related to denim wash practices and sustainability. I’ll certainly be more conscientious going forward. You’ve inspired me to get into my closet and try on all my jeans. I think my remaining skinnies will go. They’ve never been my favorites, even before I gained the pandemic-10 they felt constricting and uncomfortable for all day everyday wear. I prefer a straight leg for everyday and I’ll try the single, longer cuff rather than the roll for a more sophisticated look. The Wanderer (painters pant 😉 jean is fun … I’ve never tried Anthro jeans but you’ve got me curious. I do love a boot cut for more ‘dressy’ (can we consider jeans dressy) occasions. And, we’re coming up on boot season. Ok, off I go to my closet to assess what I have before venturing out to try on and perhaps purchase a new, more au courant pair. I’ll be reading labels and brand information more carefully. Love all the tops and sweaters you’ve shown here, especially the Anthro cardie. xo
Hi Juliet! I know jeans have always been a California thing I think right? My friend and I were talking about Guess today and if you’re my age, Dittos! What I wouldn’t do for the perfect pair back then..Do you remember some girls having Chemin de Fer jeans? Those had those buttons and were sailor style.. My mom didn’t like them! Some had zippers all the way around.. Anyway, let me know how your jean purge goes! I agree a bootcut or ‘dressy’ jean is still nice for dressier tops. The sustainable brands are worth the money in my opinion have the best fabrics and fit. xo
Hi Kim, I’ve always put trying on jeans in the same category as trying on swim suits…..a miserable experience! Recently when I was in Santa Ynez at a tiny boutique, I found a pair of Mother jeans. I took what I thought would be my size into the fitting room and voilá! They fit and are a new looser leg. I was so happy to have that easy experience! Along with getting a new sweater, it probably took 15 minutes (not that I usually try to rush shopping).
Hi Wren! I know jeans are a lot of work to try on and find. I’m so glad you finally had a good experience with them. I have heard great things about Mother jeans too. They are also made in California too I believe. I have to try a pair next time I am out! xo
Thanks for this article and all the research. I love jeans as long as they have some stretch to them and are mid-rise. I haven’t jumped on the high-waist bandwagon as I prefer to feel a bit less tight around that area 🙂 I keep all my jeans if they still fir because the styles always come back. I generally buy mine whenever i am in the US because there are so many styles and sizes (and lengths) to choose from. Here we’re a bit limited.
I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures too. It’s been cooled this weekend but will warm up again by Wednesday. Also hope we’ll get more rain soon as we’ve only had one major downpour since September started and that was the first rainfall we have since April.
Annie Diamond says
Kim! I adore your relaxed, yet sophisticated California style! Every look is gorgeous!
I just noticed that my comment didn’t post! If it did and I am not seeing it let me know! I love every single one of thse looks. I especially love that muted floral sweater look. I wish I could wear something like that. You have such a way styling anything especially jeans. It helps that you look like a teenager and are drop-dead gorgeous! I feel so fortunate that you youngsters allow me to collaborate with you. You guys are the best!!