Back by popular demand is another blog post about jeans. This is the second spoke in our Jean Guide for Modern Woman series. When I started this series (here’s part one of the Jean Guide) I mentioned how it’s such a big subject, that with “jean” in the center of a wheel we’d have to take it one spoke at a time before we fully understand all the ins and outs of wearing jeans.
This week we’re talking about spoke number two: how to create dressed up looks with jeans.
Where will you wear these kind of outfits? You can wear them on a day when you feel special — like a day when you wake up in the morning and you’re still breathing. That’s pretty special. Other activities could be a girl’s night out, birthday celebrations, meeting friends for cocktails, going to a party that the hostess has requested guests wear creative casual attire. What I love about a dressed up jean outfit is that it can fit in when you’re unsure about what others will be wearing. It’s always better to be more dressed up than looking too casual, so really, where couldn’t you wear a dressy jean outfit?
A common mistake about working with jeans
I was shopping this weekend at a boutique. The salesperson read the fact that I was shopping for jeans as a signal that I wanted some new casual outfits. She started pulling casual tops from the shelves and I started to break out in a rash. I had to ask her to stop. For most of my lifestyle activities, I want to be looking casual fancy. It’s also where my personal style is happiest. I live in a town that is a tourist destination. People who come here are nearly always wearing dressed up casual looks which is candy to my eyeballs.
When I wear jean outfits to work, I’m always making them look fancy. I don’t want to be mistaken for someone running errands on Saturday afternoon. I want to look sharp and professional. Being in the fashion business, I can look dressier than most and it’s no big deal.
What makes a dressy jean outfit dressy?
What are the elements that make up a dressy jean outfit? You wouldn’t be using a blazer or a suit jacket unless it was a tuxedo jacket. Look for jackets in silk, satin, velvet, brocade or other blended fabrics with great texture or detail; shoes in similar fabrics; fancier jewelry; interesting wraps or coats. It’s like you could go to your closet and pull out fancy things and just start building an outfit. Let me give you examples.
In this outfit above I dressed up my flared jeans with a fancy double layer ivory knit top (fancy in that it has a top layer of sheer netting with very pretty ruching on one side in the shape of a flower) and my butter yellow shimmery non-traditional jacket by Lilith. I kept going with the shimmer theme by adding a bundle of pearls at my neck. I added leopard print kitten heels with bows to my feet.
I love looking at this picture (and wearing the outfit, of course!) and seeing the femininity and polish. I feel pretty in this combination and elegant in a not so obvious way. Golly, I’m loving it so much right now that I think I’ll wear it to dinner this week when we’re getting together with friends we haven’t seen in a long while. We’ll be sitting down in the restaurant and what our friends will see of me will be from the waist up. I always think it’s important to be attractive from the waist up. I like giving people something nice to look at and this combo makes that easy to do!
Velvet or leather is a great jacket choice
I’d love to plan a girl’s night out with Elena (in burgundy velvet) and Robyn (in cloud-white leather). Velvet is so yummy and leather in light colors like this one climbs the dressy ladder much faster then the traditional black.
Go for pretty shoes
Another instant way to say, “I’m not being casual right now, I’m looking fancy because I can and I want to,” is to put some fancy in your shoes. These examples come from Instagram. If you can wear heels (a new 67-year-old client of mine wears them so well and I’m jealous!) then wow, the dressy jean look is easy to achieve. I love this hot pink sparkly bowed shoe (which doesn’t look like a high heel). Talk about fancy! And who knows? This could be part of an everyday outfit and the wearer just felt like adding those neon pink shoes to walk to the office.
We’re not seeing the way these jeans with the pretty shoes are dressed up top. This could be really easy: Think how pretty they’d be with one of the fancy blouses that are in stores right now. I could see an ivory standalone silk blouse with those fancy shoes. What I mean by a standalone blouse is that it’s so lovely or interesting on its own that it doesn’t need a jacket to finish it. Add jewelry and a handbag and you’d be set!
The beauty of a white/cream/cloud blouse in a luscious silk fabric that drapes well is all you need to add to jeans to get that dressed up look. These examples below are all from Lafayette 148. My client bought the middle one and it’s just gorgeous on her. All of these tops are loose and not clingy. They won’t grab on to any rolls. Rolls? What rolls? Please pass the rolls!
Mixing dressy ladylike elements with a playful jean style
In this outfit below I wanted to really play the opposite game. The jeans are very playful, almost comical. So I went all out to make the rest of the outfit look the opposite. I made sure all the other pieces of this outfit were undeniably pretty and refined. My jacket is pretty classic with great texture. It’s practically vintage. I created a dramatic neckline by combining a couple of necklaces. I wanted the necklaces to look grand, almost regal; nothing wimpy or just okay.
I dressed up my feet with nude textured knee highs and my AGL pointy toed patent flats with velvet bows. To stay with my fancy irreverent theme, I chose my tiniest handbag. I amused myself all day with this exaggeration of scale: wide pants and teeny tiny purse.
I also added a bow pin to the cuff on my jacket. I loved echoing the bows on my shoes; it was unexpected to show up on my cuff. I bought this pin in London and sent it to my mom. Now I have it back again and wearing it makes me smile and think of her. (Hi Mom in Heaven!)
Wearing a dressy jean outfit to affairs that used to call for dress-up clothes
I have clients who lament the fact that they go to the opera, symphony, ballet, or theater and see people in jeans and sneakers. I always tell them to forget what other people are wearing and wear that they feel good in and if that’s dressy clothes, that’s dressy clothes.
How about this? I could imagine this outfit below going to the Berkeley Repertory Theater or the Curran Theater in San Francisco. You’ll be more dressy than most and less dressy than some (okay, a few). I covet the ankle wrap shoes and leopard bag belonging to @susan_unefemme. Her oversized pearls on her watch are classic but so modern. (I’m swooning, Susan!)
Add a pretty coat to a jean outfit
Recently I was meeting a friend for lunch on the weekend. It was chilly but we have a ritual of sitting outside and the cold wasn’t going to stop us. I looked in my coat closet and spotted my taupe Badgley Mischka lace and leather trimmed coat. I took two seconds to make the decision to wear my pretty coat with my jeans and metallic Lucky Brand booties. I love this coat so much and have gotten more wear out of it this year than any other. Why? Because I stopped treating it like it was precious. I used to only wear it with dresses for fancy affairs or funerals. I decided I could wear it every day to honor the joy of life. It’s working.
The jean guide has spoken! Well, the second spoke has spoken. I hope this has given you some ideas for dressing up your jeans. Where will you start? What items can you pull from your closet already that will help you make a dressy jean outfit? Please share! We’d love to see how you do it.