Friday, November 7, 2014

Skinny Jeans

Let's face it, skinny jeans are not flattering.  Well, perhaps if your legs are the exact same width all the way down, and you are slightly bow-legged, and you have a tendency to stand with your feet about a foot apart.  But otherwise...

But they are the style.  So, what is a gal to do?

First, let me say that I think we can still get away with flared/big-bootcut jeans with sneakers on occasion, like going to the park or zoo with the kids.  If your pants are very fitted through the top of the calf (which was not true of most boot-cut/flare jeans of a decade ago), and then flare out, they can still look current.  The top part has to be tight enough (requiring a stretchy denim), and the flare at the bottom has to be big enough, that you are virtually shouting "this is a style decision people, I'm not just wearing my old boot cut jeans from 10 years ago."

But, in most other circumstances, skinny jeans are the way to go.  So, how to make them as flattering as possible?  Here are my tips.  I don't always follow them, but I try to:

1. Make the bottom as not skinny as possible.  There are a few ways to do this.  Having skinny jeans that gather at the bottom, like my new Frame Forever Karlie jeans, does this.  Cropped skinny jeans work for this too, and crops that are rolled up slightly really work well for this since the cuff usually adds some bulk/width.  Some skinny jeans will be sort-of wide compared to the leg on that last 2 inches - that works too.  With all of these, we avoid having the jeans visually create a V shape that narrows to like 6 inches.  We create a V that narrows to 8 instead.  It may not sound like much, but it helps. And if you're really not sure about skinny jeans and that V shape, try straight-leg.  They are very similar, but taper a bit less over the bottom 10" or so.  Just make sure that they are at least a little stretchy and very fitted through the hip, thigh, knee, and upper calf.  Otherwise you'll look like you're wearing Mommy jeans (I know, I bought a pair that ended up looking like Mommy jeans myself). 

2. Wear the right shoes.  Obviously heels help to elongate the leg and make us look slimmer.  But who's going to wear heels with jeans on a regular basis?  Basically just celebrities and OC housewives as far as I can tell.  For the rest of us: Boots worn over the jeans, in a similar color/darkness, help to create a longer line and help to disguise the unflatteringly-skinny bottoms of skinny jeans.  In a dissimilar color (dark boots with light jeans or light boots with dark jeans) they are still cute, and I've done that, but it's not as flattering.  In the summer, when it's too hot for boots, ballet flats are best.  Again, it's about elongating (and not making your feet look super long and skinny).

3.  Make sure your top is not tight.  One of my friends somehow managed to look good wearing a tight-fitted striped top tucked into a pair of high-waisted skinny jeans when I saw her a few months ago (you know who you are).  I don't know how she did it, but I honestly won't recommend it.  I know I wouldn't look right wearing that.  Even the skinniest women tend to wear flowy or boxy tops with their skinny jeans, either tucked or untucked.  If it's winter and you're going to have lots of layers, you can wear slightly more tailored/fitted items, because the extra layers and things like scarves add the "not tight" look that we want.  The key is that skinny jeans are almost painted on.  If we wear a painted on top, it can look cheap.  And it can very easily start to highlight rolls and lumps and such.  (Again, I have broken this rule, because I just love some of my more fitted old tops, but I know that it looks a bit more dated and a bit less stylish when I do it.)

4. Take advantage of strategic fading, or go dark. A lot of high-end jeans, and some lower-end jeans that were smart enough to copy it, have stretegic fading that is very subtle, but that makes it look like your thighs are a bit slimmer than they really are.  That upper inside part of the jeans is super dark, making the big parts of our thighs visually disappear.  Whiskering can also be flattering - it is on me, but maybe not on most?  I don't really have hips, so I don't know how it looks on people that have hips.  If you don't want a pair with fading, then darker pairs are more flattering.  Even if you're going for colored jeans, you can take advantage of this by going for a color like burgundy, dark purple, or cobalt.  Something like yellow, pink, etc., will show all the lumps and make the legs look bigger.  Finally, coatings (coated denim has been big for a couple years and is continuing to be big) can also help.  When I wanted grey jeans, I found that most were unflattering.  But then I found a pair of grey/silver jeans where the coating was essentially painted on in slimming vertical strokes.  They were perfect.  A lot of the current coatings are more even, but they are subtle, dark, and just add a little shimmer.  My guess is that they will be pretty flattering.

And here are some pics of celebrities and bloggers following all 4 rules:

Now, suggestions rather than rules:
  • Solid or simple patterned tops tend to look best.   
  • Choose the rise that works for you.  If you have a short torso like me and will be tucking *at all*, get low rise.  If you have a longer torso, or are not planning to tuck, a higher rise can be more flattering - it definitely works better to smooth/avoid lumps and muffin top.  
  • Consider the "half tuck" that my friend Cathy raves about.  I'm not a fan for myself, but I can see how it works on others.
  • Make sure that your tops hit at a point that is flattering on you.  I've found for myself that my tops either have to show a few inches of zipper or they have to be full out tunics covering a few inches of upper thigh.  In between (e.g., crotch level) looks awful on me.  But you can see that it looks perfect on Kim Kardashian above.  So find the lengths that work on you.  Wear your jeans and go shopping and try on a bunch of tops of varying lengths to figure this out.  You can do this at Target before picking up the kids' mac'n'cheese, so you really can squeeze it in.  Making it to a store can be hard for me, but Target always works.

Finally, specific brands that I like for myself right now:
  • Frame: the current big new designer brand.  It is soft and stretchy, so it is comfortable.  But it's not *too* stretchy, so it still shapes the legs a bit (very soft stretchy ones won't provide shaping).  These designer jeans can be expensive, but most high-end stores will have 25% off sales online, so you can watch for those to save a little.
  • Old Navy's "The Rockstar" jeans.  They're a bit more papery than the high-end brands, but they still have that right amount of stretch that makes them comfy and provides the great fit while still providing a little shaping.  And they usually (but not always) have that ever-so-slightly-less-skinny last 2 inches which is very flattering.  They also come in different rises and different lengths (petite, short, regular, long, and tall!).
  • New York and Company (!).  I was surprised, but I found a couple pairs there that had fabric that felt a lot like the higher-end jeans.  Again, a bit more papery, but super flattering. This store is a bit more hit or miss though, so I recommend trying on, possibly even trying on a few high-end pairs to see what you like and then going to NYandCo and trying on some there to see what comes closest.

Please share your skinny jeans rules and tips, brands you like, etc.!


  1. This is good information!

    I have a couple questions. First, what do you think about mid-rise boots with skinny jeans? I'm definitely prone to look like an inverted V because I have substantial hips but regular boots with jeans often feel a little bulky to me. I have a friend who wears these and I think she pulls them off well: I'm not into the cowboy look, but there are lots of other boots in that height.

    When you refer to strategic shading, do you mean sanding the thighs and rear end? A lot of skinny jeans I've looked at have pretty obvious sanding and the edges don't blend in to the fabric color - there is just a line with one color on one side and another color on the other side. It looks kind of strange to me. If you look at the rear picture of these Rockstar jeans, for example, there is an obvious horizontal line right below the rear where it changes from light to dark color:
    Are you talking about something this obvious, or something more subtle?


  2. I think short- and mid-rise boots with skinny jeans are really great! I think that's actually more on-trend right now too, rather than knee-high boots (although knee-high boots are warmer).

    For the strategic fading: Good Question!!! I do mean sanding the thighs. But not the back end. The back fading on that pair is so little extreme, and I don't think back fading makes any sense at all. I think that back fading would just make butts look bigger and more saggy... Doesn't make sense to me.

    On a good pair, the faded/sanded part will be about the same width for the whole thigh, and the dark part will be wider higher on the pants. That is what creates the illusion. On the old navy ones, the sanded part seems to get a lot wider higher up on the pants, which will actually *emphasize* the upper thighs.
    Here's a better example:

    And a pair with good strategic fading (but the wrong shoes) on me:
    (It's a little hard to tell because of the light from the window)
    This is a better picture of those, but on a model:,default,pd.html?gclid=CIKCzMyJgsICFU1gfgodHB0Aqw

    Of the less pricy jeans...
    NYandCo seems to have some good ones right now (they do have sanding on the back too, but not as extreme as those old navy ones): (I think, but a little harder to tell since they don't have a straight-from-front pic. The front seam would also be slimming - vertical lines help. I'm tempted to order this pair for myself... :) )

    Old navy's rockstar fabric is usually good, but I guess right now they don't have the right fading... too bad. I did a quick search, and none of theirs seemed as good as the NYandCo ones based on the pics. These are not bad, but are actually boot-cut and not skinny!

    1. "so extreme", not "so little extreme"

  3. I think I need to break out a notebook and take notes. I will be back.

  4. Such a great and helpful post..Thank you I have bookmarked it for when I decide to make pants from scratch. Your look great and that gives me the courage to try :)
    Grey Busted Knee Stretch Skinny Jeans.