27 In Getting Dressed/ Series/ Shopping Tips

Jean Guide for Modern Women: Dressed up jean outfits

Fancy coats look great with jeans on BrendaKinsel.com

Dress up a jean with a fancy coat


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.

Jeans: a big subject!

Jeans: a big subject!

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.

Dressed up flared jean outfit

Dressing up flared jeans

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.

Velvet and leather jackets with jeans on BrendaKinsel.comOur Instagram friends showing us how to wear pretty jackets with jeans are left to right, @stylingfabulous and @chic_in_chanel 


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.

Fancy shoes with casual jeans on BrendaKinsel.com

Our Instagram models for wearing pretty shoes with jeans are from left to right, @manrepeller and @chic_in_chanel


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!


White Delphine blouse Lafayette

White Delphine blouse by Lafayette 148

White matte silk Evie blouse

Matte silk Evie blouse by Lafayette 148

white charmeuse caprice blouse

Charmeuse caprice blouse by Lafayette 148

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!)

Jeans on Brenda


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!)

Accessorizing casual jeans on BrendaKinsel.com

Adding pretty shoes and a beautiful bag to casual jeans

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.

jeans and a pretty coat


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.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    March 20, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Love your post and your pretty jacket is sooooo pretty! You’ve inspired me! I’ll have to post my pretty jacket and jeans this week! Thank you! I love following you!

    • Reply
      March 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

      Absolutely, Cindy! Gotta see the coat!! Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2017 at 4:44 am

    That is a terrific coat and the boots are really special too! I find jeans are easier to dress up if they aren’t blue, like a black or grey jean with a sequinned top and shiny brogues (that’s about as dressed up as I can bear). Looking forward to the next spoke!

    • Reply
      March 21, 2017 at 11:54 am

      I love that: “That’s about as dressed up as I can bare.” Well, I totally love your points. And yes, I always tell my clients that too–that the darkest jeans are best for when you’re dressing up. Thanks for that tip!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2017 at 5:53 am

    Lovely spring ensemble! Dressing blue jeans up is not my thing but it’s fun seeing what you accomplished..really loving this series, can’t wait..
    faithful fan,

    • Reply
      March 21, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Hello Pat!
      Well, you spur me on to get working on the third spoke!!
      Your faithful pal,

  • Reply
    Cindy La Ferle
    March 21, 2017 at 6:30 am

    I love the metallic boots you’re wearing as well as the lovely jacket. And thanks for wearing those metallic boots, because you inspired me to go for a pair I’ve been “debating” for a couple of weeks. (I have to get over the “I am too old for this?” syndrome!)

    Secondly, I also love the bootcut jeans, or flares, as you call them. Thanks for reminding me of them. I have a few pairs of bootcut/flares from NYDJ in my closet, and they fit beautifully. I even had them hemmed by a tailor a couple of years ago …. but I have neglected them in favor of the straight-leg jeans and skinnies that everyone’s been wearing constantly. Those flares are actually more flattering on me, in my view, as they elongate the leg and skim over the hips in the right places. I’m going to dig them out now !

    • Reply
      March 21, 2017 at 11:57 am

      That’s what I love–jumping in and grabbing those flares. I too just love them. They make me feel so tall. And I’m glad you’ll stop debating about the metallics. I just find that a metallic boot or shoe goes with anything. So very useful. I’ve had “aging” issues on my mind and been talking to people about them. I will add the “am I too old for this” to my list of issues women have. Thanks, Cindy!

      • Reply
        Cindy La Ferle
        March 22, 2017 at 6:53 am

        Thanks for your reply, Brenda. I wrote a newspaper column 2 yrs ago about mature women and fashion angst. The big worry — “Am I too old to wear this?” — was always on the minds of the women I interviewed — and I doubt that it’s an issue limited to Detroit-area readers. Several told me this angst grew from reading all those “DO and DON’T” fashion articles in magazines. Anyhoo, I struggle with it myself, but thanks to wonderful fashion bloggers and experts like you, I am learning how to ENJOY my clothing without fear of looking wrong. Thank you, thank you.

        • Reply
          March 24, 2017 at 7:03 pm

          I love your question so much. Still thinking about that. I’m glad you wrote about this subject. So many women are wanting guidance. Keep up enjoying your clothing, my friend!

  • Reply
    elena daciuk
    March 21, 2017 at 10:18 am

    imagine my surprise when i saw myself sitting on a perch…and on YOUR blog! thank you brenda…and as far as planning that girl’s nite out? i’m in! i’m swooning over the pink shoes…can’t wait to start wearing mine this spring…great ideas on jeans…i agree…adding a fun jacket (for me, usually vintage) or a fabulous pair of shoes…and you are pretty much done…

    • Reply
      March 21, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Caught you by surprise?! You are always on my radar! I love your outfits. You create a perfect formula. And yes, a girl’s night out…my we’d have fun!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    March 21, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Who doesn’t love jeans especially now that they have spandex in them??!! But I always worry about looking too casual. It’s something in my genes (ha ha–pun intended) that wants to feel more dressed up and sophisticated! And I think you’ve nailed it—the shoes & everything else can make us look fabulous, Brenda!
    ps..one of my goals is to die in my heels! Not that I don’t love my flats too….but I don’t want to give up my sexy heels!

    • Reply
      March 21, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      You’re adorable! I can see the write up in the newspaper: She died with hot pink heels on her feet and bracelets on her wrists and had a pretty vintage bag on her shoulder. But seriously now, I feel the same way you do. I can’t get too casual or I really don’t feel like myself. Wear those heels! I wish I could. I’ll live vicariously through you!

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    March 21, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    I’m loving this jeans series. Spoke 1 was a big help, and I’m still experimenting with rolling a new pair of jeans I thought was too long. So glad I read your post before making a trip to the tailor. One thing I’ve just noticed here on the streets of Manhattan is lots of women of all ages wearing rolled, straight-legged jeans with lace-up ankle boots, the kind with thick soles and (sometimes) buckles. I noticed this look for the first time last week, and now I’m seeing it everywhere. Even though I don’t consider myself a trendy person, I have a pair of those boots. Tomorrow I’m going to wear them with my rolled jeans. I’m also going to try dressing up my jeans. Unfortunately foot problems keep me wearing basically flat shoes with lots of support (that’s why I have the boots), so the dress-up effort may not work. But we’ll see. This is the first time in a while I’ve had so much fun with fashion, and it’s thanks to you.

    • Reply
      March 24, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      Having fun with fashion–well, that’s just fantastic. People watching is a great way to get new ideas. I too need to wear flat shoes or my Lucky Brand booties. I can’t do much of a heel at all. But we’ll make the best of it, won’t we?

  • Reply
    Susan B.
    March 21, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Fabulous tips, Brenda! Those shoes with the velvet bows are so awesome!!!

    • Reply
      March 24, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      And so were YOURS!!! Loved them!

    • Reply
      Gail Tompkins
      May 21, 2019 at 11:44 am

      It’s so nice to see a blog for women over 60 – I am almost 71. I don’t enjoy seeing stick thin models in clothes that you would only wear on the runway. The outfits you show are practical for all of us, and you have given me many good ideas for me to wear to work
      Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Being built low to the ground (short) makes Jean/pant purchases challenging. Learning the art of rolling your jeans take time and practice! I appreciate the how to tips on the first series. Thanks for all the wonderful tips on how to wear an item that I think all of us lived in since high school look up to date and chic! I always look at my outfit and wonder if I look like I may be trying too hard to look young. I don’t want to give up my jeans but it’s funny how a familiar piece of clothing can challenge you as you age! Thanks for the wonderful suggestions! Off to buy metallic boots (who would have thought?)!

    • Reply
      March 24, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      I do think we have to keep updating our style eyes and seeing new ways to wear the classics — like jeans. I’ve been reflecting on it a lot lately. And also getting questions about this. I think we can always find a modern way to wear a look we’ve lived through before. Thanks, Kathy!

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin
    March 27, 2017 at 9:14 am

    New here. Love those crazy jeans. What brand are they? Where can I find them. Love Susan;s quote of yours or was it just you. Always wear something close to your body if you’re wearing flowing tops. I’ve got a new problem. I fell and re-broke my wrist and sprined my ankle. I now have to wear New Balance 990 running, laced up shoes all the time. How in the world do I style these uglies? Wear a sign that says the doctor made me do it?

    • Reply
      March 27, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Were the crazy jeans the ones I was wearing? They are the Anthropologie brand. Oh dear, I think the sign would be the best route. Or maybe you wear your flares a lot these days. Just bring plenty of attention to the top half of your body. That’s my camouflage idea for you. And yes, I’ve been a big proponent of being sure you’re showing at least 50% of your shape. I’ll be thinking of you, Sandra! You and the 990s. A sprain will heal, maybe faster than the wrist. Best healing wishes to you! Your fashion is calling!

  • Reply
    Emma Jhonson
    June 30, 2017 at 3:01 am

    the coat to a jean outfit is looking so pretty. i love this kind of combination. looking same for my mother. thanks for posting.

    • Reply
      July 3, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      You’re so welcome!!

  • Reply
    Denise Lampron
    July 27, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Splendid article, Brenda. Mother was from Kentucky, so wearing jeans growing up was NOT an option — they looked too much like a field hand, rather a sophisticated lady. I have one pair of jeans and think of them only as Saturday errands or possibly a movie. Mind shift and course correction at hand after reading your article. The good news — I’m a collector of colorful and unique jackets. I’ll pair with my knock out vintage wedges in silk ivory (think Tziporah
    Salamon ). Feels like I’m headed in the right direction. Sorry, Mom! Thank you, Brenda for the inspiration.

    • Reply
      July 28, 2017 at 10:37 am

      I was talking to Dad on the phone yesterday. He’s 91. We were talking about how things have changed. Maybe even your mom could see the value of wearing jeans the way you’re wearing them now with your fab jackets and wedges! She had a good point then, but boy have things changed!

    Leave a Reply