“Today’s designers and today’s trends are built off inspiration from all the eras before now,” Ward says. Denim retailers and manufacturers have also learned not to dictate to customers that there is one right way to be wearing their jeans, she adds. “Today’s shoppers aren’t tied to an era. They are most interested in looking good.”
Trial and error is really the best way to find flattering jeans, say the experts, but there are some style assumptions:
• High-rise, extreme flares are a perfect complement to a long, lean shape, says Ward, while curvier shapes bring a femininity to skinny jeans, especially with either a long, loose top, or fitted tank and open cardigan.
• Wide legs look best with a shorter top — not one that shows your belly — but one that hits at the top of the jeans, Ward suggests.
• Gap’s Giuliani likes to see denim trousers with a blazer and heel, although she’s personally wearing a lot of a “slouchy skinny” shape — a version of the skinny jean with a more relaxed cut but still a tight leg opening.
• Elliot says she’s often asked, “How long will skinny jeans live?” and “How long will the boyfriend last?”
“My answer: ‘They’re here as long as they serve a purpose, probably forever.’”
• Don’t limit yourself to pants, adds Current. A denim skirt or even a shirt or jacket can give off the same hip vibe that jeans have.”
“It’s been interesting to watch denim move away into a whole category of casual fabrication,” Current says.
The appeal of jeans is largely built on the durability of denim, but technology has allowed for manufacturers to make the fabric softer, more supple and stretchier, while maintaining its strength, Giuliani adds. It’s also allowed for lighter weights of denim, making jeans truly a year-round look, she says.
Unfortunately, strong, 12-month sales of denim doesn’t necessarily benefit any other category of women’s apparel, observes NPD’s Cohen.
Because jeans can be worn with pretty much anything — T-shirts, sport shirts, dress shirts, etc., — they don’t fuel sales of another must-have item. “Denim is universal in that it doesn’t create a chain reaction to dovetail from its success,” he says.