En español | Just say “baloney!” to anyone who claims women over 50 should not wear jeans. We've spent decades strutting our stuff in bell-bottoms and bootcuts, rocking rises high and low, working washes light and dark. No other generation has patched, rolled, cuffed, frayed and zipped up more jeans than ours. Give them up? No way! But, let's be realistic. Our bodies change with age and there's a difference between loving jeans and looking great in them. Here's how to find and wear your best pair right now.
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1. Buy your best rise
This is the distance between crotch and waistband that determines where your jeans “sit” on your body. Skip jeans with a low rise if you have a bit of a muffin top, since they leave it with nowhere to go and visually shorten your legs. If you have large breasts and/or a short torso, choose a medium rise that's around 9 inches and sits just below your navel. For extra control and camouflage, try jeans with a high rise of around 11 inches that sit at your waist and tuck everything in for a shapewearlike solution. Avoid rises that extend up beyond your waist as they shorten your torso and are uncomfortable to wear.
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2. Choose an inseam length that's practical
We've all seen social media shots of celebs with their long jeans dragging on the ground. Been there. We know that ends in dirty hems, an inability to wear our favorite flats and a good chance we'll trip when walking. Those are all fine reasons to stick with ankle jeans or at least a length that stays clear of the street even when wearing heels or wedges. If you're 5 foot 3 or under, a cropped jean (26-inch length or less) or an ankle jean (27- to 29-inch) may be your best bet. Why spend extra on tailoring?
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3. Pay attention to your torso/leg proportions
Find the right balance when choosing jeans. If you have a long torso and short legs, a jean with a high rise and an ankle-length inseam makes sense. If you have a short torso and long legs, a medium rise with a longer inseam is the way to go. If you're vertically challenged (like me at 5 foot 2), no matter what your size or shape (remember petite could be a 27 or a size 32W!) a long wide-leg jean is not your best friend — even if you love the look. Instead, opt for wide jeans in a cropped length or a relaxed style where you can turn up a narrow cuff to reveal slim ankles (à la girlfriend/boyfriend jeans).
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4. Choose uniform washes and stretch blends to flatter curves
While no-stretch jeans with an actual vintage look are enjoying a fling in the spotlight, the thicker no-flex denim doesn't help those with generous thighs. Neither do snug jeans in washes with a “fade” down the center, since they exaggerate roundness and width at thighs and calves. A black jean or a blue jean in even solid wash — whether light, medium or dark — in a stretch denim always works as a universal solution for extra give, maximum flattery and a comfy fit.
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5. Know the difference between girlfriend, boyfriend and mom jeans
While all three have a relaxed fit and provide a welcome break from tight jeans, only two are worth buying. Boyfriends are one good choice. They sit at the upper hips for a slouchy effect, and are loose and baggy through the thighs and legs. Girlfriends are another. They sit below the waist and have a laid-back fit, but are cut a little trimmer through the thighs and leg than boyfriends. Both look great with a rolled or cuffed hem (one turnup only!) to display ankles, and a belt for definition. Mom jeans, on the other hand, have a high waist and an allover baggy fit, so your belly bulges and your crotch, back of thighs, and derriere droop. Just say no.
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6. Consider switching from skinny to straight-leg jeans
If you're tired of squeezing into jeans with a sausagelike fit but still prefer a sleek look, make straight jeans (sometimes called cigarette jeans) your next pick. While skinnies have a sexy, glued-on rock-and-roll vibe, straights are slim with a chic, classy attitude. Skinnies reveal the curves of your thighs and calves like leggings, but straights have a lean line from knee to ankle. The degree of narrowness in straights depends on the brand, so know that while not all straight jeans are the same, they are totally classic and never look out-of-date.
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7. Let a bootcut or a flare jean balance your curves
Fitted jeans that flick outward for extra width at the hem are a good choice for curvy women. Whether that flare is the bottom line of a long jean (as in a bootcut) or at the ankle or just above (as in a kick flare) is a matter of personal taste. Kick flares are great for shoe flexibility, since the length works with anything from sneakers to pumps. Bootcuts are back, and the long fit-and-flare silhouette suits women with hourglass shapes or generous below-the-waist curves. Look for a stretch denim for control and a contoured waistband for no waist gap when you size up for hips, thighs and derriere.
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8. Tuck skinny jeans into boots for a trendy look
What goes around comes around in fashion. The newest thing to do with your skinnies is wear them inside a knee-high or over-the-knee boot. This solves the staying-warm-in-winter issue and provides a chance to revive our high boots — and give booties a rest. Knee-length riding-boot styles always look classy over skinnies, but let's note that the trend toward wider, fuller-cut tall boots is making this an easier style move for those with full calves. This style also works with cowboy boots, if you're a fan.
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9. Wear denim with denim ... it's fashionably fine
The “Canadian tuxedo” is what fashion people call a denim duo, so don't shy away from it. This retro coupling is a common uniform for millennials at rock festivals (where almost-matching distressed denim jacket and jeans are staples), but we can do it, too. Just be sure you pull it all together for a finished look with items like platform sandals or booties and a polished bag or a scarf. The denim-on-denim theme gets more sophisticated when you pair darker washes, mix up the washes with a lighter chambray shirt and darker jeans, or dress up the casual feeling with a tailored blazer over a denim shirt and your bootcut favorites.
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10. Choose tops that complement your jean style
You can throw on any old T-shirt with jeans, but make it an opportunity to elevate your style and enhance your body. Skinnies work best with volume on top: a popover shirt; a loose silky blouse; a long, flowing cardigan; or a boyfriend blazer. Full-cut or relaxed jeans pair well with fitted tops like a bodysuit, slim sweater or tucked-in tee. And even your oldest, most whiskered and weathered jeans will always look polished and runway ready teamed with a shapely blazer, a tailored coat or a classic trench.
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