If you read a lot of fashion blogs, you may have noticed that denim doesn’t really get its due. A lot of bloggers brag about how long it’s been since they wore a pair of jeans, as though there’s something inherently more stylish about YET ANOTHER flippy miniskirt worn with six-inch heels (and I can say this because I live in flippy miniskirts). Not only do I think this attitude is wrong, I dare say it’s downright unpatriotic! Blue jeans are THE MOST iconic garment America has ever produced. They’ve served many generations of our working men and women, and our cause-lacking rebels quite well, thank you very much! Grizzled 1850s prospectors didn’t pan for gold in their denim so that we could choose frills and frippery over the simple cotton weave! The young Marlon Brando didn’t work to look so unbelievably freaking hot in dem jeans so we could say we’d rather wear a dress! Thelma and Louise didn’t drive off a cliff in their high-waisted mom jeans so we could reject their denim-clad vision of sisterhood! So come on, let’s give the great all-American garment its due.
As with all fashion, the fit, wash, and attitude of your jeans are everything. Denim can be as versatile as you make it. Here are some of my favorite styles for summer, and how to wear ’em like the GREAT PATRIOT you are (also, I’m just gonna leave those Dean and Brando photos here because LORD HAVE MERCY).
Now first I wanna talk OVERALLS. I had this serious problem for a long time where when I thought of overalls, I immediately thought of BLOSSOM. I don’t even know if Blossom wore overalls on the show, but you know the kind of overalls I mean: the floppy, androgynous ones favored by people of all ages in the ’90s, and still favored by toddlers worldwide. And as much as I like the floppy ’90s overall look (Angela Chase did it particularly well), make no mistake: overalls can also be SEXY. Find some that are slightly fitted for a cute tomboyish look, or go for a halter-style jumpsuit that shows off your shoulders for the full-on ’70s denim goddess vibe. My current over-idol is the amazing Vogue editor Simone Tetteh, pictured above rocking a denim one-piece that should banish OshKosh B’gosh from your head forever. Simone’s jumpsuit by Anthropologie was so popular that it briefly sold out, but it has now been restocked, so go get it before it disappears again!
Vintage is another good option. My friend Judy has the ability to find THE MOST AMAZING overalls and to somehow make them look unbelievably sexy, and frankly, I’m a little bitter about the whole thing. Go for dark-wash denim for a late-’60s/early-’70s look like the lady below, or turn baggy overalls into cut-offs like this chic fashion show attendee and to avoid the overgrown preschooler look (sorry, anonymous ’90s model!).
Speaking of cut-offs, ARE YOU SICK OF CUT-OFFS YET? Nope? Me neither! They’re a summer classic for a reason: they look good on literally everybody, and they can be pretty damn sexy, too. Françoise Hardy and Chloe Sevigny, above, model the classic Levi’s cut-offs that have been gracing summer butts since time immemorial. But these days I’m into taking jorts (sorry, no more fashion portmanteaus, I promise) in a more ’70s direction. If you’re making your own, start with a pair of vintage flares—they’ll have the higher waist and slim cut in the thigh that you want for this look. Cut them off so there’s about a two-inch inseam, and don’t be afraid to leave some threads hanging loose. As the skater babe below demonstrates, cut-offs look especially great in light-colored denim. Or, if you don’t want to make your own, keep your eyes peeled for my favorite kind of pants, HOT PANTS:
I regret to tell you that the ones above are all vintage, but as with all things old and hard to find, Etsy is your friend (that’s where I scored the star jorts I’m wearing above for $20!). If you don’t have the gift of thrift, don’t worry: designers are finally getting hip to our high-waisted short-short desires. Forever 21’s are adorably polka-dotted, American Apparel’s have a cute preppy cuff and go up to size XL, and Urban Outfitters’ come in a million colors:
And because it’s summer and you’re wilting like a boutonniere at midnight, keep the styling dead-simple: throw any of these jean shorts on with a loose braid and a striped tee.
Now I want to say a few last words about a controversial style: MOM JEANS. Sure, this much-maligned cut, characterized by light wash, high waist, and tapered leg, can go REALLY WRONG. But as the ladies above show, it can also go REALLY RIGHT. The key is keeping the jeans close-fitting and free of any horrific ’90s details such as front pleats and elastic waists. Accessories make a huge difference here too. Now is not the time to bust out your favorite hilarious Christmas sweater or tapestry vest (next month on Rookie: how to rock Xmas sweaters with tapestry vests). These jeans looks best with a super simple bodysuit or a scoop-neck tee, like this one from American Apparel.
Or wear ’em with suspenders and a men’s henley if you’re as cool as Cher (well, no one is as cool as Cher, but you know what I mean). I’m super into this ’70s-style baseball henley by Brixton—but any shirt you can steal from an unsuspecting male in your life works too. You’ll be the coolest denim-clad babe on the block AND you’ll be doing your part to keep an American icon alive. That’s more than enough multi-tasking for summer vacation, don’tcha think? ♦