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Denim do's and don'ts

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Denim is everywhere this season. In fact, if you do it right, it can even take the place of your LBD for an upscale night out. But first, you have to have the right pair of jeans.

What exactly should you be looking for?

Dark. The darker the better, but stick with a dark indigo. No need to actually buy black denim (unless you just covet it) because it cycles in and out of style too quickly. A good dark indigo will stay in style season after season.

Your size. I cannot stress this enough. Just because you can squeeze into the next size down does not mean you should. You should never ever have a muffin top. If you have an excess roll of flesh above you're pants, they do not fit. Go up a size. If that doesn't work, try a different cut or brand.

Fit. Buy pants to fit the largest part of your body. Have the rest tailored to fit. If your hips are the biggest part, buy a pair that fits your hips and pay someone a few dollars to nip in the waist. These are an investment wardrobe piece, just like a nice suit or a pair of black pumps. You want to be able to wear these for years. Chances are you are spending at least $70 on them, so throw in the extra few dollars for tailoring.

Pocket placement. Ideally the pocket should be minimally embellished, medium-size and centered (one on each cheek). Don't get pockets that are tiny; they'll make your hind end look huge. And don't get oversize pockets; they'll make your booty look flatter than a pancake. If you can find a set of pockets that gently curve up toward the outside, even better! That is a super-flattering optical illusion that gives even the flattest backside a lift.

Spandex. To stretch or not to stretch? This is tricky. You want a touch of spandex because it keeps the garment's shape, helps prevent saggy bottoms and knees and is just generally flattering. What you don't want is for your jeans to border on leggings or, heaven forbid, those hideous jeggings that should only be worn by elementary schoolchildren or as pajamas. If I can read your underwear label through your pants or trace your panty line, they shouldn't be worn without another layer.

Skinny jeans. Denim manufacturers have finally realized that women of all shapes and sizes are buying skinny jeans and they've begun to cut accordingly. They've lengthened the ankle so, in effect, you get a longer, leaner look.

You can deal with this extra fabric in a few different ways. If you're wearing them casually with flats, you can scrunch them like leggings. If you are wearing them with heels (which is what you should be doing for a glam look), then the extra fabric can drape over the foot and the top part of the shoe, lengthening the look of your leg. Or, if you want a polished look with flats, for the office or an evening involving a lot of walking, you can have them hemmed to just below the anklebone and brushing the top of the foot.

What you don't want to do is let that extra fabric hang down in the back and get walked on. Nothing ruins an upscale denim look like someone walking away with a frayed-out hem.

Now that you've picked the perfect pair of jeans, how do you transition them from T-shirt and sneakers to evening-out worthy?

Three words: shirts, shoes and accessories.

Pick the top you want. Go wild, and wear anything you would pair with black dress slacks or a skirt. Glitter, fine. Sequins, heck yeah. Shiny metallics, bring it!

Now, here's where it gets a little sketchy. You can ruin a perfectly acceptable evening look with the wrong footwear or handbag. Just because you're wearing denim is not an excuse to skip nice footwear or to carry a huge slouch hobo bag.

Keep it classy. More likely than not, that means a pair of heels. My personal belief is, the higher the heel, the closer to heaven. However, if you absolutely cannot stand a stiletto, how about a glittery kitten heel? Something to lift you off the ground further lengthens the leg and keeps the glamorous feel you're going for.

Pick a handbag that goes with the dressy theme. If you were wearing a party dress, what bag would you carry? A wristlette or a clutch is probably your best bet.

And do not stick anything in your pockets! If it doesn't fit in your bag, leave it at home. Nothing ruins a nice look quicker than a bulky bunch of keys jammed in a front pocket or the outline of a cellphone in the back.

Pick jewelry and a hairstyle to complete the look. Try a swept-up 'do with red lips and a chunky necklace. Or try loose waves with a smoky eye and some long, sparkly chains. It's your look. Just remember: Denim as semiformal wear is not an excuse to dress down, it is an opportunity to stand out.

Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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