Fall 2021 Denim Guide
Want to know a secret? As a wardrobe consultant and personal stylist, I can’t stand articles or publications that refer to trends. Fundamentally, there is always a way to make something you love work, and there will always be a denim cut or two that consistently flatters your body. And, yet, somehow we have gotten to this point of denim styles being controversial, which I find especially challenging when most of us are just trying to work up the energy to wear jeans again.
Skinny, straight, boyfriend, flare, cropped. I love them all, and there is a way to make any cut you love feel modern and current. All of these styles are widely available from low-cost retailers up through designer labels, which hopefully drives home the point that really any cut you love goes. If you feel like changing things up, I recommend trying a style you haven’t had on repeat recently — it will feel new and fresh to you, and the right fit will always look modern and pulled together.
Before we get into style, let’s talk length. As much as retailers say they follow industry size standards, there are definitely variances between retailers. Generally, most retailers have short/petite lengths for 5’3” or 5’4” and under; regular lengths 5’5” to 5’7” or 5’8”; and tall lengths for 5’8”-5’9” and taller. Petite denim sizes often have shorter torso cuts while short denim sizes keep the torso the same length and width as standard sizing and only adjust leg proportions. Tall lengths often account for both longer legs and a longer torso.
Skinny. Yes, they are a classic and comfortable. To modernize them, try balancing them with an oversized blazer and statement kitten heel. Heels, I know, may not be as much of a priority as we figure out our style moving forward but kitten heels are super manageable and comfortable, and add a lot of visual height. Their polish also compliments the polish of skinny jeans. Pair with a casual, slim or fitted top and an oversized blazer, and you have a sophisticated and comfortable approach to fall denim appropriate for the office or dinner out.
Straight. If you’re venturing into straight jeans, it can be a little overwhelming, especially with extremely high rise ones that need to fit just so. Start with looking for slim straight styles that have some stretch in the fabric. They’ll still have a flattering straight leg without overwhelming your frame. If you’re curvy on bottom, this is an especially flattering cut that accentuates your curves. If you have a straighter body, try the traditional 100 percent cotton, high-waisted straight jeans to visually add curves.
Flare. Honestly? They never really went away. I’ve been wearing them and styling clients in them for the past several years. The key to flare cuts is to find a style that is cut for your leg length. These lengths are important for all denim to flatter at the right point but especially for flare denim because the streamlined look is completely dependent on the flare starting at the knee. If you’re petite trying to wear standard length, the flare break will happen to far down and make you look shorter instead of elongating you, even if you get them hemmed; if you’re taller, the both the break and the length may be too high with standard lengths, even if you release the hem for additional length.
Heads Up: most major retailers cut the length for flare jeans about 2 inches longer that you would need with the expectation that many women wear heels with them. Block heels or block-heeled booties are a great way to ease your way back into heels if you want to go for the full look because they are comfortable and stable.
Cropped. Cropped jeans in all styles are such a great option to transition to Fall. They’re a fun opportunity to pair with a statement ankle bootie. The key to sophisticated fall looks with cropped jeans is to maintain a waistline by tucking your shirt in. Even if you have a longer sweater or jacket over, the tucked-in shirt will keep a visual waistline, maintaining flattering and elegant proportions.
Boyfriend. I have always loved boyfriend jeans and have no plans to quit them any time soon. The most modern way to style them is to have the natural hem, rather than a rolled hem. Pair with a classic button down shirt or feminine blouse tucked in to have visually complimentary proportions and styles. Boyfriend jeans can feel a little ordinary so to help you feel pulled together, I highly recommend a statement flat with boyfriend jeans.
General Retailer Sizing: 5’5”-5’7”; Sizes 00-14
Straight: AG Ex Boyfriend Relaxed Slim
Cropped: LOFT Fresh Cut High Rise Kick Crop
*This classic denim cut is super versatile. They’re wide leg without being over the top and can be styled anywhere from honing in on ‘70s vibes to crisp workwear.
General Retailer Sizing: Sizes 16 and above. All recommendations below go up to at least a size 26.
*These are sized by range and one pair can fit 4 sizes, accommodating for weight fluctuations that everyone goes through.
*Linked in distressed; available in other washes.
*Linked in Faded Black; available in other washes.
General Retailer Sizing: 5’3” - 5’4” and Shorter
*Mid Rise jeans help keep flattering proportions, elongating shorter frames.
Straight: J. Crew Petite Vintage Slim Straight
*A straight jean cut for petite proportions that are narrow enough to avoid overwhelming smaller frames.
*These are both truly fitted for petites, meaning the torso is cut shorter and narrower, as well as the length and knee hitting at the right place. The Gap pair has a higher cotton content, making them a stiffer, more traditional pair of denim and the Banana Republic pair is almost a knit denim, making them extremely comfortable.
Cropped: Madewell Petite Cali Demi-Boot Jeans
*Madewell petite denim is most similar to short lengths from other retailers so you can expect a higher torso from this brand.
Boyfriend: Old Navy Mid-Rise Boyfriend Jeans
*These are a great option for petites because they come in petite sizing, which scales, but they are a straight cut, so they don’t overwhelm small frames.
General Retailer Sizing: 5’8” and Taller
Skinny: Loft Tall High Rise Skinny Jeans
*With a 37” inseam and proportionally cut leg, this flare is both comfortable and flattering on tall frames.
*Comes in a medium blue, perfect for fall.
Boyfriend: J.Crew Slouchy Boyfriend Jean
*Tall frames are particularly suited for slouchy boyfriend jeans — height compliments the looseness of a boyfriend jean so well.
Wide Leg: Free People Chalet Wide-Leg Jeans
*Free People denim is cut longer than average lengths, and these jeans are meant to be a bit shorter. Tall frames compliment the width of these jeans particularly well since they are a wider cut version of wide-leg jeans.
A note: To give my clients and followers the best service possible, I do not receive commission are have affiliation with any brands at this time. I’ve selected the styles linked in this post because they are some of the best current available options.