Because You Can

Blue jean baby.

Image via Oth Avenue

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).

James Dean via Superette; Marlon Brando via Everybody Wears Jeans

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!

Image via Born in Flames

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!).

Images (L-R) via Born in Flames and Cuillere a Absinthe

Images (L-R) via Peggy Moffitt and Born in Flames

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:

High-rise polka dot denim shorts, $15, Forever 21; stretch denim high-waist cuff short, $46, American Apparel; BDG high-rise cheeky short, $54, Urban Outfitters.

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.

Images (L-R) via The SF Style and Edith's Head.

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.

Images (L-R) via Silk & Rayon and Old Time Friend

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? ♦


  • rosiesayrelax July 17th, 2012 3:06 PM

    james dean and denim are the best things in the world.

    Rosie Say Relax

    • kathniss September 2nd, 2012 3:19 PM

      I love jeans shorts! for me it is a way of expressing his style, his universe!

  • ToriLynne July 17th, 2012 3:08 PM

    I could not agree with you more. I just thrifted an overall dress last month and wear it everywhere. Plus JEAN JACKETS are the best of all time ever. I heart denim!
    xo, Tori

  • Susann July 17th, 2012 3:12 PM

    I’m one of those fashion bloggers who don’t wear denim. But there’s a simple reason for it: I feel so uncomfortable wearing jeans!
    And I must say, I sort of envy those girls that can easily wear denim and look fabulous!

    Fashion in Pepperland

    • julalondon July 18th, 2012 2:09 PM

      Me too! I always think i look boring in jeans and wear my skirts, dresses and tights… Plus, leggins are soooo much more comfortable though…

  • anindieeducation July 17th, 2012 3:38 PM

    Denim is all about clever styling. My normal jeans are harder to work but heels or pretty shirts or cool tees work well. Mom jeans look good with (if you’re from UK-the topshop longsleeved beatles top) cropped long sleeve tees and basics like you said. My ultimate favourite has to be the pocket peepers though. Mine purchased at Urban Outfitters back at Christmas sufficed for the whole spring term when paired with sweaters. EVEN BRITS CAN WEAR SHORTS. In fact, more people in my town appear to wear shorts than jeans-even in winter…is it the same in the USA??

  • Emmy July 17th, 2012 3:53 PM

    YESSS! Finally some love for denim… A month or two ago on Tumblr someone accused me of being a jean shorts only blog but that was just part of my obsession with cutoffs. I’d wear them in the winter except for the whole below freezing outside thing. That being said, I kinda hate jean jackets because the sleeves are always really wide on me. Any recommendations?

    • Tyknos93 July 17th, 2012 4:59 PM

      All my jean jackets’ sleeves were too tight so I hacked them of and sewed little patches onto them or died/bleached parts of them. It’s really great for spring and summer and it looks a bit grungy on its own. Depending on what you pair it with it can be really cute!

      Here’s some cool ideas:
      replace the sleeves



      Stud it

      In short just get CREATIVE :)

    • mmorsmordree July 17th, 2012 5:21 PM

      I had that same problem with my jean jacket. If you’re good at sewing with a machine or by hand you could always bring the seam in more at the arm. You can cut off the sleeves and make it into a vest and wear a hoodie underneath. These are some of the things I did. I ended up buying a fitted jean jacket from forever 21.

    • mulberry July 17th, 2012 9:34 PM

      If you’re thrifting, I recommend at least taking a peek in the kids’ section. At least at my local Value Village, the range of sizes they end up putting in there is pretty decent (what they label kids’ L & XL seems to translate to anywhere from a women’s XS-L…it’s nuts). Plus, the sleeves usually end up being shorter & more fitter, which I think looks cute & intentional : -)
      Good luck!

      • Leeann July 20th, 2012 11:13 AM

        Seconding that — all my fave denim jackets are from the little boy’s section of thrift stores! If there are no good finds there, F21 always has a ton of cute fitted styles.

  • katrinaexplainsitall July 17th, 2012 4:00 PM

    ah, the part about denim cutoffs. Tobias Funke would be proud :’)

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 11:11 AM

      Ah jeanshorts, without them we’d all be Evernude!

  • tankgrrrl July 17th, 2012 4:15 PM

    I feel like I’m the only fashion blogger around who isn’t super-into the whole high-waisted trend. I like my jeans flared, stretchy, and low-rise, which is getting increasingly hard to find, or so it seems. Anyone have recommendations?

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 10:36 AM

      I love low-rise flares too!! I thrifted a really awesome pair by Uniqlo a few months back that are SOOO perfect: the denim’s nice and weighty, and the flares are very subtle and wearable (don’t get me wrong, I love a big bell, but I like that this pair doesn’t scream “Retro”). I’m not sure how old these are, but Uniqlo tends to bring out a similar style every Fall-Winter. Best of all, they’re probably gonna be less than 40 bucks!

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 10:43 AM

      Also, the Uniqlo pair has a nice, not-too-much amount of stretch.

      For lots of stretch, try to find Cheap Monday flares! I tried on some great pairs at Urban Outfitters with a nice big bell that were marked wayyy down to 10 dollars. Still regretting that I didn’t buy em!

      Madewell’s Flea Market Flares are incredible too! They have more of a mid-rise, but about 3% stretch and the fit is just SO FLATTERING. I like ‘em worn a little tighter than the model in this pic:

      I couldn’t justify $125 jeans, but it sort of broke my heart to leave them at the store, cuz THEY WERE PERFECT. They’re marked down to $89 now, so maybe worth the splurge! GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR QUEST, MY SISTER IN FLARES.

      • tankgrrrl July 21st, 2012 2:18 PM

        Oh man, thank you! I’ll keep those in mind- as a broke college student, I can rarely afford clothes over $40, but my birthday is coming up… :) Right now I’m working on making a pair, it seems like I can never quite find exactly what I’m looking for so I decided to do it myself.

  • Mags July 17th, 2012 4:15 PM

    I used to be a jean junkie. Lately I’ve given them a break, but jean jackets are still an all-time fave. I’ll probably never get tired of them.

  • Gulddina July 17th, 2012 4:20 PM

    All though there is something inherently patriotic and american about jeans, they were actually designed by Levi Strauss. A german dude who came here during the gold rush, but ended up striking a completely different kind of gold (jeans aka the best thing ever)!!

  • mohgan July 17th, 2012 4:48 PM

    I’m a lover of denim anything myself, it’s like 95% of my wardrobe.

  • breakfastpixie July 17th, 2012 4:50 PM

    What a funny coincidence, I’ve just posted pictures of an outfit with blue jeans on my blog. :)
    Love denim!


  • Maddy July 17th, 2012 4:53 PM

    Nice, especially about overalls. I had/have a pair that I got when I was younger and wore up until recently (ack too small now). Buuut the parts about close-fitting jeans and short high-waisted “jorts” doesn’t seem like it works unless you’re slim.

  • SiLK July 17th, 2012 5:17 PM

    I may not own tonnes of denim, or be American for that matter, BUT DENIM IS BRILLIANT! Especially worn-in denim, the tragic bit for me is when those jeans you really liked no longer fit, are so torn the are disintegrating and cannot be DIY-ed any further… I get too attached to clothing.

  • a-anti-anticapitalista July 17th, 2012 6:17 PM

    That’s funny, whenever I wear my only jean possession (a pair of shortalls) people make socialist jokes -which is the opposite of commenting on how patriotic my outfit looks. I was going to wear them to a May1st rally once but then I decided I was going to look like I was dressed up for the occasion.

  • aliciaspira July 17th, 2012 6:23 PM

    I feel like I’ve been trying on shorts since early spring, and haven’t found any high waisted denim that fits! I’m actually pretty small, but my waist…My hip measurements are pretty close to my waist measurements, so if I want a high waisted pant to fit I have to size up 2-3 sizes, AND THEN the whole thing just looks baggy. For that reason, I’m really into the high-waist bodycon type skirts, which are way more comfy. Any body else have similar thoughts/found any brands that work for non-small-waists??

    • lylsoy July 17th, 2012 8:58 PM

      Have a look in a second-hand shop and take a lot of time, try on as many pairs as possible! If you find a pair that almost fits, have a look if there is some extra fabric inside. You might be able to open the sides and make it wider or smaller- like it fits you.

  • Moxx July 17th, 2012 6:23 PM

    LORD HAVE MERCY is so correct :’)

  • tallulahpond July 17th, 2012 6:34 PM

    Great article, as usual!
    I’m shamelessly publicizing here but I hope my fellow rookies won’t mind it-
    Several other young writers and myself who met on twitter have made a blog called the Twitettes.

    However, we desperately need some people to come and look at our stuff! We are writing a group story over the next few months and it’d be so lovely if you Rookies could take a look and give us a few pointers. if you’d like to visit it.

    Thank you for reading and please recommend us to friends if you can! xx

  • Harley July 17th, 2012 7:15 PM

    I wear denim nearly every day and I think it’s so comfortable. So many girls avoid jeans because they aren’t cozy and I just look at them like “Are you crazy? That’s why I wear them so much!”

  • oharnoldlayne July 17th, 2012 7:23 PM

    I actually like overgrown preschooler overalls, and sometimes I feel like the only one… Look how good Buffy and Willow look in them!

  • meels July 17th, 2012 10:19 PM

    this article makes me want to go out and find the right pair of jeans for me now. i’ve been trying to find the right style and gave up but now i have faith =)

  • Adrienne July 18th, 2012 12:51 AM

    AHHHH I LIVE IN JEANS. Leeann I love your articles so much!!! They seriously inspire me and my style. :) And oh hot damn Marlon Brando was perfection.

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 11:06 AM

      Aw, thanks so much ya sweetie! xoxo

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 11:07 AM

      p.s., your illustration of the red spider you smushed at your blog has me DYING ova here!!

  • FlaG July 18th, 2012 12:51 AM

    I feel a little skeevy doing this, but I bought an excellent pair of vintage high waisted GAP jean shorts that turned out to be way too small for me, so I’m selling them on my Etsy page. If anyone is interested, follow the link:

    Thanks :)

  • jenjencm July 18th, 2012 1:47 AM

    Hey here’s an idea for those of you who want to freshen up an old pair of denim jeans, transform them into cute diy dip dyed cut off shorts. If you go to youtube you can type in “diy tie dye shorts” and there’ll be tons of tutorials showing you how. I transformed a pair that look like the ones in this vid

    If this link doesn’t work type this in at youtube, SIY Tie Dye Shorts (color blocking trend)

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 11:01 AM

      Such a great tutorial, thanks for the link!!

  • mayaautumn July 18th, 2012 2:19 AM

    i agree very much so indeed…denim shorts, well denim things in general actually, are amazing. so why does everyone think it’s against the blogger law to wear them? well, this article has explained everything to me and… oh gawd, thankyou so much for writing this! it has made my day/week that now, probably a lot of people will be more influenced to wear denim! YAYYYYYY…GO DENIM;D

  • swoon July 18th, 2012 3:05 AM

    I’m a little disappointed in the supplied examples; I don’t own jeans, and I’ve been researching them to find some denim (besides low-rise drainpipes, because they actually look good on NO ONE) and its so hard to find sexy denim for curvy girls, or even pictures of curvy girls rocking denim. I feel like a lot of these styles would look frumpy on anyone over a size 3. Idk.

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 11:05 AM

      I totally think girls over Size 3 could wear these styles! I just provided another commenter with the same link, but here’s a great example of a curvy girl rocking skinny jeans with amazing confidence:

      I’ll make sure to have more bod diversity in future posts to prove that all sizes can wear this stuff :)

  • unicornconnect July 18th, 2012 3:53 AM

    Overalls are the bomb!!!!!!!

    I have wicked yellow ones that I got for my birthday after I saw them in a second hand store. Seriously I would save them in a fire, right after brother and family photos.


  • Daltrey July 18th, 2012 3:59 AM

    JORTS AND OVERALLS! Two things I have been wanting for ages! People look at me weird when I say I want denim overalls. I don’t get it, they’re like the best thing ever!
    Also, lord indeed have mercy!

  • Selle July 18th, 2012 6:35 AM

    I don’t get why Mom jeans have such a bad rep, I think they look amazing. Again,like stated above, cut and fit are crucial, but when just right they are amazingly flattering. I love them because they add just the right definition to my sorta straight-up-down torso (thick waist and small hips); I actually look like I have a bum! :D Okay maybe this isn’t what everyone wants but for anyone looking to amp their curves, these are for you :)

  • whoopingcrane July 18th, 2012 9:42 AM

    oh man i do love this post.
    however a little more body diversity would be much appreciated! as a chubby/curvy girl i’ve always been extremely afraid of showing my thighs and would love some evidence as far as how “[cutoffs] look good on literally everybody, and they can be pretty damn sexy, too”!
    but regardless, awesome post! *~*~*denim 4evr*~*~*

  • Libby July 18th, 2012 11:32 AM

    We’ve got our last week of school right now (I live in England) and almost all the girls, including me, are wearing jean shorts and black opaque tights. I am sick of it now–my mind is oversaturated and there is so much Hollister and the faux vintage cultural appropriation shit makes me vomit. But as an overall style thing, I really like it! It just gets ‘too much’ when it’s all anyone wears, and when they team it with ‘Navajo prints’. Which I think is why fashion bloggers are so proud to not wear jeans. Because EVERYONE wears them, often in a dull way, which correlates to an idea of jeans being dull? And thus, if you don’t wear jeans you suddenly become more interesting.
    ~*~fashion philosophy hour~*~

  • keisya July 18th, 2012 12:08 PM

    i have a big thighs and short legs, so i didn’t really confident if i wear a jeans. but when my friends are simple with their jeans, its just me the one who wear something with skirt. and i don’t want it. do you have any idea what jeans type/style with jeans should i wear? :) xx

    • momonwi July 19th, 2012 12:49 AM

      Fellow big-thighed, short-legged lady here; I wear jeans all the time.

      I’m gonna tell you to do what everybody says not to do: WEAR ‘SKINNY’ JEANS! Personally, I prefer to give off the impression that my legs are longer/thinner, so if you’re going for that look, I think that skinny jeans are where it’s at. Make sure they’re fitted enough to hug your legs, but not so fitted that they bunch up in the crotch/thigh area. Pay attention to the inseam measurements since you’re short. You’ll likely want to get the shortest inseam available (of course making sure that the pants are long enough for you) to avoid the denim bunching up at your ankle. I currently like PacSun’s (I know, I know) selection of ‘extreme skinny/skinniest’ jeans from the Bullhead brand.

      Hope that helps.

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 10:56 AM

      I think you can wear whatever jeans you like! No-one ever really feels like they have the “perfect body”, so the best thing you can do is find the colors and shapes that please you, and wear them — I promise that will give you SO much more confidence than trying to dress in a way that hides certain aspects of your body! :)

      Do you have a Forever 21 near you? They have EVERY style of jean, in so many fun bright colors, and mostly for around 10 dollars — they’re my go-to place when I want to try a new style without risking much money. A longer flare worn with a wedge can give you the illusion of a little extra height, and their neon skinny jeans are JUST SO AWESOME.

      (And yes, I definitely think that all body types can wear skinny jeans! Check out one of my favorite bloggers Nadia Aboulhosn wearing her skinnies and looking amazing and confident:

      Good luck!

      • keisya July 20th, 2012 9:51 PM

        Thank you Leeann and Momonwi for your advice :D

    • Jenn July 23rd, 2012 12:40 AM

      Hi! I’m also a fellow big thighed short legged elf, and I happen to be a devotee to the Pac Sun skinnies, but more recently invested in a couple pairs of Lucky Brand jeans because chub rub tends to defeat my precious Bullhead skinny jeans after some time. The cuts I loved were the Lola Skinny (especially the stretchy version), the Charlie Baby Boot, and the Lola Boot. I didn’t end up trying on any of the straight cut or flare cut jeans (it was too hot in the store and I could only buy a couple pairs anyway) but I would highly recommend going in there to try stuff out! Or, if you have a TJMaxx or Marshall’s near you, they tend to sell Lucky Brand for waaaaay cheaper (try around $39 instead of $89 or $99).

  • erin July 18th, 2012 12:09 PM

    oh jeans! My favorite pair of jeans right now are these shorts I made out of some mom jeans I thrifted. I luuurve them. I also recently thrifted some overalls, which I made into short-alls. But other than that, my denime collection is kind of sad lately. Good jeans can be so hard to find! Which is why I mostly just turn to skirts these days, they just aren’t as picky.

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 10:46 AM

      Hehe I wear tons of skirts for the same reason — you don’t have to think about how a leg fits! So much less fabric to be concerned with! Perfect denim is sublime, but skirts are JUST SO EASY.

  • mar9ar3t July 18th, 2012 6:02 PM

    This second hand store near me is selling, I swear, the exact overalls the girl is wearing in the ugly 90s picture!!! I really want to buy them and cut them into short-alls!

  • thecurlygurly July 18th, 2012 7:07 PM

    This is an amazing article. My favorite article on rookie. I have to admit, I have felt this way about jeans before, but this article makes so many awesome points that I’m totes gonna wear jeans more often. Also I really want a pair of super sweet overalls now.

    • Leeann July 20th, 2012 10:45 AM

      So flattered — thank you! ^_^

  • funnygirl July 22nd, 2012 8:31 PM

    honestly i don’t like the long overalls,the short ones are cute,but the long ones kind of remind me of farmers. not being an american i still wear jeans:)
    but unfortunately i also don’t have the access to shops,so i’m a little bit jello-bean.
    any ways i really like your star “jorts”,and hope to snatch a vintage pair in my local shop:)

  • samanthabuiblog July 22nd, 2012 8:41 PM

    Fantastic post, thanks for showing us great ways on how to style denim. :)

  • amelia July 24th, 2012 9:43 AM

    i don’t know what fashion blogs you’re reading, but all the blogs i like read LIVE on denim… double denim, triple denim even… i’d say in recent years its regained its importance in fashion :)

  • Caltha August 7th, 2012 6:37 PM

    I really liked the comprehensiveness of this article! However, I am one of those girls who only wears dresses and skirts (I’ve maybe owned 2 pairs of jeans in my life). It’s just that, like, 1% of the entire trouser population fit both in my waist and hips. I’ve also always thought of jeans as worker’s clothing and I rarely see people sporting a more sophisticated, elegant look (like in the fitted mom jean photos, which are a great inspiration!). But I do fancy denim jackets on top of flowy summer dresses.

  • TheAwesomePossum September 2nd, 2012 6:04 PM

    I’m not even done reading this article yet but


  • melmarbell October 3rd, 2012 8:20 PM

    oh my gosh I DIED when you linked the mom jeans sketch!! I saw that something was linked and I knew exactly what it was!

  • Ree October 25th, 2012 1:31 PM

    I always thought that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) wear cut offs or shorts because I don’t have the most toned legs in the universe.

    But then I saw pictures of Lena Dunham wearing shorts and I thought she looked beautiful and people called her fat so she said ‘My response is, get used to it because I am going to live to be 100, and I am going to show my thighs every day till I die.’

    And now I wear denim shorts.