En español | Like us, jeans are practical, cool, sexy and just get better with age. They're the secret to dressing in a contemporary way with very little effort and a low cost. The only tricky part is choosing the jeans that work for your current body and lifestyle. Do I buy mid-rise or high-rise? Should I toss my skinnies or keep them? Straight, wide-leg or bootcut? Cropped or long? Dark, medium or light wash? Rips? No worries. My tip sheet has all you need to rock jeans at 50:
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1. Choose a rise that helps your shape.
Great fitting jeans depend on two things — stretch denim (which in my fashion editor opinion is the Universe's gift to women) — and a rise that hovers between waist and belly button so the waistband can tuck in any tummy bulges or muffin top. If you have a short torso and/or a big bust that'll be a mid-rise for sure. If you have a belly bulge, a thicker middle or a saggy derrière a slightly higher rise can add extra coverage and structure. Skip extreme highs and lows and always leave enough midriff space to elongate the torso so your bust is not practically sitting on the waistband. Know that mid-rise jeans work with tuck-ins, semi-tucks or untucked tops while high rises look best with tuck-ins or boxy cropped tops that just clear the waistband of your jeans.
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2. Pick a jeans length that works for your favorite shoes.
There are really only two choices here: cropped jeans or regular “long” ones. Having to change your jeans to wear certain shoes is annoying and while you can have jeans of more than one length, one length does simplify things. Ankle crops (which can be skinny, straight, bootcut, relaxed, flared or wide leg) offer total shoe versatility. You get to switch from ballet flats to wedges, booties to sneakers, sandals to clogs without changing jeans. Try ankle jeans, which are cut a little longer and hit just above the anklebone, or cropped jeans, which are cut an inch or two above the bone. The other option — especially if you prefer a long, leggy jean look or like adding some height — is to stick with full-length styles in a straight, wide or boot cut and pair them with your wedges, platforms or low, chic heels like kittens or blocks. Leave your old high-heel pumps and stilettos in the closet; they make jeans look cheesy.
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3. Let bootcut jeans balance your curves.
Plenty of women are fine with body-hugging jeans but wish there was some way to balance curves at the hips, thighs and butt without choosing a loose, wide-leg or baggy style. The “new” bootcut styles do exactly that with four-way stretch, contoured waistbands that are higher in back and lower in front, and modified width at the hem for symmetry. These are not the old ‘60s Sonny & Cher bell-bottoms, ‘70s flares or even ‘80s go-to-work bootcuts. Styles flare at the ankle in a more subtle way to fit easily over ankle boots and have higher pockets to lift your backside up where it belongs.
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4. Make skinny jeans work for you.
Sorry, but skinny stretch jeans are here to stay so either hate them and say buh-bye forever or make them your flattery partner. Skinnies do have a value. Their narrow line makes an excellent base for bigger, looser, longer tops. In fact, if untucked button-downs, popovers, tunics, blazers, sweatshirts or relaxed sweaters are your daily look, these narrow jeans still might be your best bet. They make slipping on boots from knee-high to above the ankle easier, too. Just avoid those labeled super-skinny — styles that squeeze and make getting them on or off a daily struggle. If you end the day with seam lines on your thighs and calves, they're too tight.
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5. Opt for straight-leg jeans as the classic choice.
The variety of jeans styles can be overwhelming but a straight-leg jean (also known as slim or cigarette jeans) looks classy day or night and suits every wardrobe style and situation. Though the exact fit varies, straight jeans basically are fitted through the thighs and knee and then fall in a straight line to the ankle. Pass on any pair that hugs the calves and goes narrow at the ankles — you want to avoid the curve-catching effect of skinny jeans here. Straights can stand in for tailored pants in a dark wash or black, appear chic but more casual in a light or vintage wash.
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6. Consider boyfriend jeans an alternative to sweatpants.
If you've been eyeing boyfriend jeans (also known as girlfriend, tomboy, boy, relaxed or “Mom” jeans) and thinking about trying them out, know four things. They are available in both slimmer and wider cuts; they tend to be a little rigid at their worst and a tad low-slung and slouchy at their best; and they look stylish in medium or vintage wash. Mom jeans have a higher waist and a looser fit at hip and belly, boyfriends are boxier, slouchier and girlfriends have a relaxed leg but fit more snugly at the hips. Boyfriends work best with gutsy shoes like sneakers, ankle boots and lug-sole loafers. A flash of ankles helps the look so don't hesitate to cuff or roll the bottoms. (See tip 10.)
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7. Be trendy with wide-leg voluminous jeans.
While wearing these roomy jeans and a tee shirt for summer sounds like a good idea, know that they also make a comfy dress-up solution for parties and evenings out (when we do them again!). The almost triangular shape can be found in long and cropped lengths and suits any woman who loves the freedom of full midi skirts and dresses. Let me add that “balloon” jeans are another wide-leg style you may have heard about. They have a softly curved, wide, ‘80s-style leg, sort of like parentheses. Tip for the wise: Opt for the former, not the latter.
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8. Pair distressed jeans with fancier pieces.
Unless by some miracle you possess an actual pair of naturally aged Levi's jeans, consider distressed or vintage wash jeans created in a factory. They're the edgiest jeans of all these days. Though not for everyone, jeans with frayed edges and a worn, lived-in wash have the same attitude as a black leather moto jacket. Look for a pair without rips and tears. Celebs can handle holey jeans, but rips take jeans into trying-too-hard territory for regular folks like us. Resist pairing them with that leather jacket, though, and instead add feminine, polished pieces like a silky blouse, a tweedy blazer, a cashmere sweater, ballet flats and a chain-strap bag. Even your pearls!
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9. Wear black or white jeans for a sophisticated look.
Switch to white or black jeans for a pulled-together look that resembles real clothes. Try all-black or all-white for a nonseasonal monochromatic solution that makes a great backdrop for accessories. It's also the ultimate dress-slim jeans trick. You might make black jeans, black sweaters and booties your fall/winter uniform and wear the same black jeans with black tees and flats or sandals for spring/summer for example. Wear white jeans with black, of course, but also with not-too-sweet colors like soft gray, camel or navy blue for an elegant change that is still neutral.
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10. Don't overlook the bottom line of your jeans.
Even if you have finally found the greatest jeans possible, pay attention to what's going on at the hem. Frayed hems are one solution. You can even hack off the bottom of any skinny or straight jean you own to shorten it to the ankle and get a frayed look — just be sure to wash, dry and then trim the stringy bits before wearing. Give boyfriend jeans or any relaxed jean more style by turning up the cuff or rolling the edges. The point is to show a flash of ankle and plenty of shoe. Ready-made wide cuffs are super trendy but go narrow for real life. To cuff jeans, fold the bottom up about an inch and then again — no more than twice to keep the cuff flat and not bulky. To roll, take the jeans hem and roll up around a half inch once and then again. Keep a roll casual, not exact or symmetrical.
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