Today une femme d’un certain âge and Lisa of Privilege are collaborating, each writing a post about the love we share for denim. We thought it might be fun to approach from the perspective of two Californians, one north, one south. Denim is our state’s unofficial uniform, after all.
In the past, it’s been said that women over 50 shouldn’t wear jeans. To which I reply, “Ha!”
Perhaps there is an age at which one puts denim aside, but it’s not 58. In the Northern Californian climate, denim is always comfortable and versatile. We alternate between classic and hipster, the SF Old World tradition coexisting with our counter-culture – which has become a tradition in its own right.
However, denim, more than most items of clothing, requires that you find the right fit. Physical and emotional. Style is 30% color and pattern, 30% geometry, 30% emotion. Since denim removes most of the variance in color and pattern, geometry and emotion play an even bigger role.
There are now so many brands, and so many versions of jeans in style, you can’t just say, “I’ll have the bootlegs please.” Here’s what to consider.
Physical Fit, Or, Geometry And Your Silhouette
- Rise (high waist, mid-waist, low-waist)
- Shape (skinny, bootleg, flared, wide leg)
- Ankle show (a lot? a little? none?)
- Fabric content (how much stretch?)
- Wash and distressing (Light blue, dark blue, really dark blue. Little “whiskers,” big creases, little rips, big rips, none of the above.)
- Details (seams, pockets)
Consider the components of fit in the social context. Your location, life circumstances, age and orientation.
- How fancy are you? (Are you a formal person? Do you like to sparkle? Or do you prefer to hang out, under the radar? AKA Grande Dame or Sturdy Gal?)
- How conventional? (How do you feel about protocol? About inhabiting the strata of society? AKA Artsy or Grande Dame?)
It is entirely possible to find good jeans for <$50. They’ll evince less “fashion”, but you can compensate with the rest of your outfit.
The Styling That Follows, Proportion And Balance
You could just pop on a t-shirt, of course. License to chill. But if you want more, here’s the rest of what it takes to make jeans an outfit.
- Jackets (shape – boxy, fitted, or flowing – and length, cropped, hip, or longer)
- Shoes (toe shape – pointy, almond, or round – heft, and heel height)
Principles in Action
Here are some examples of how geometry, emotion, and styling play together, using afew new outfit posts, and a few from the archives.
In 2011, the first outfit I ever showed on the internet. What’s the emotional style? Conventional, as was appropriate in the days when I was still anxious about how I appeared here. Formal, for Northern California daytime.
I balanced broad shoulders with 7FAM bootlegs, added a long lacy layer under the short and boxy Chanel jacket, finished with pointy-toe flats to keep the line elegant. A reasonable strategy for the long of waist.
In 2012 I wore bootlegs in a different guise, the High WASP in her grandmother’s Harris Tweed. Informal, but perhaps not quite myself.
These almond-toed pumps with boot details balanced the bulk of the turtleneck and the texture of the jacket.
And the same silhouette, evolved for work at a job where the only (unspoken) dress code was, as I have said, “You probably shouldn’t wear tattoos all over your face.”
Relying again on the proportions of a long jacket and boot-like shoes.
Shop For Bootlegs And Their Friends
Everyone has some kind of denim that they can’t abide, for one reason or another. While it’s true that skinnies have crossed all emotional boundaries, functional all the way from formal and conventional, to informal and alternative, they just don’t work for me. I’m going to call this look Conventional Informal.
And I’m also going to call it, “No thanks.” I like the rest of my body so why emphasize my upper thighs? And it’s not just a body image thing, it’s sense of self. I like the swagger of a baggy jean. No skinnies for me, but you go right ahead.
Shop For Skinnies And Pointy-Toe Flats
My style has continued to evolve towards the unconventional. Why I felt ready to bust out the inner biker here we’ll never know. With pearl studs.
But the look worked well, with a longish t-shirt layer, straight legs and some fairly hefty almost-pointy brogues.
Then I retired. Refused to wear tight pants ever again. Here’s how I wear my denim these days, dressing “up” for a family dinner in Berkeley.
These are “fancy” boyfriend jeans, in that someone else faded them, and the silhouette narrows at the ankle. The shoes are what really give me any right to call this dressing up, my current favorites, Valentino “Tangos.” There’s an ankle strap, hiding.
Here’s how I wander the streets of San Francisco on a weekend morning.
Faded-of-its-own-accord wash boyfriend jeans, flat and amazingly comfortable cool shoes. This is how I get to dress like Grechen, by wearing Vince “Preston” slip-on sneakers. I nod to formality with old gold hoops, and a Bottega Veneta hobo.
Finally, and most recently, out for cocktails and dinner with a ridiculously creative young friend. As hipster as a middle-aged High WASP can go. Selvedge jeans from San Francisco’s Mission District. Big ol’ cuffs.
As for shoes, if I dressed this way all the time, I’d buy some cage booties. I suppose I mean, “Cage booties, baby!” But for the occasional outing, that wide black strap on the ancient Paul Green pumps will suffice.
As does the industrial hardware on an equivalently ancient Marc Jacobs bag.
Shop For Boyfriends, From Tomboy To Fancy Badass
When evolving style boundaries, as in any growth process, experimentation is your friend. Denim is flexible enough to function as what we might fancifully call a set of beakers in the lab of style. Over the past 30 years I’ve iterated myself into a comfortable habitation of my home town.
As has une femme, in Los Angeles.