I know purchasing denim can be traumatic and so I try to buy jeans infrequently and then in one fell swoop. Thus, when I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Chicago last May, finding a couple new pair of jeans was a priority. Except for a pair of dark straight-leg Levis, I hadn't bought any denim since Fall 2006. It was time!
Most of my denim came from GAP and J.Crew until I tried on my first pair of Citizen of Humanity jeans. Honestly, they made my ass look so good and I realized that there was a major hole in my wardrobe. I still love my casual jeans from Levis and Express, etc, but there is a reason to spend some money on a well-fitting, fashionable pair of denim: You Will Look Better, no matter what your size. Now, I don't advocate going crazy (unless you can truly afford to fill your closet with Current/Elliott or what-have-you) but I highly recommend that you:
Consider investing in a high-end pair of jeans.
As most of you know, I live in Central Illinois so while we do have boutiques that sell high-end denim, they carry limited sizes and styles. That brings me to my first rule of jean shopping:
Look for jeans at a major department store that carries a huge selection.
You want to try on a variety of silhouettes and have access to a range of sizes. The internet is no good; you can't possibly know what will look good on you or what size you will need from a photo. Every brand fits differently. By all means think about what appeals to you in terms of brand and style and wash, and make notes on pictures you see online or in magazines. But go in with an open mind.
I investigated Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue first--I have had success there in the past but I found their inventory spotty and disorganized. We had a long list of things to look at so we moved on. Eventually we ended up at Bloomingdales, where my husband purchased a pair of shoes. By that time I was feeling rather indifferent about the prospect of jean-shopping. I was tired and didn't relish the possible let-down of squeezing into twenty pairs of jeans and looking in the unforgiving mirror. But we apathetically decided to pass by the denim area before leaving the store.
Luckily, all things came together at Bloomingdales. First, the selection was promising. Earler, I had culled a list of possible brands and styles I might be interested in. My first priority was blue denim, and I thought I want might want a skinny silhouette, since most of the jeans in my closet are straight-legged or boot-cut. I also hoped to find a great pair of white jeans, but I was less hopeful here. At Bloomingdales, initially perusing the racks, I found most of the styles and brands on my list. But best of all, I was almost immediately approached by a great sales person named Joseph Porter*. And so my second piece of advice is:
Find a great salesperson.
Why? First, they know the inventory. I gave Joseph my list and he found the styles I was looking for. Second, they know how the brands fit. I usually take two (or three) different sizes of each style into the dressing room with me to make sure I'm choosing based on looks and not size!
Third, because they know what's on the floor, they can recommend brands and styles you might not have considered or know about. I personally have had more success with male SAs. I'm only guessing but I think the young female SAs take me less seriously--who does this 40+ woman think she is wearing hip denim??! The guys, they seem quite aware of who has the cash! Just be careful that the SA is honest with you. So, number three:
Take someone whose opinion you trust with you.
For me, that's my husband. we've been shopping together for almost twenty-four years now and he's developed a great eye and I utterly trust him. He's appropriately critical and appreciative as the situation calls for. He's pretty patient, too. And why would he want to lead me wrong--after all, he has to be seen with me!? I'm really lucky.
Finally, make sure the jeans fit. If you're going to spend all that money, the jeans better look good! DON'T worry about the size, focus on the FIT! Look for gapping on the back of the waistband, too much muffin top (a little is fine, especially if you opt for a lower rise--just know that you'll need to wear longer, loose-fitting tops), and pulling across the hips. Also, be sure they are not too big! Too big = sloppy. Jeans with lycra will stretch out as you wear them! Study this website or this website ahead of time so you know what to look for. Don't worry about length--jeans can be easily hemmed. I personally hem my own; here are the instructions. When you do hem, please remember that you will have to decide whether you will wearing the jean with flats or heels, and hem accordingly. Sorry, you can't have it both ways...unless you go with really skinny legs that you can scrunch up while wearing flats.
With Joseph and my husband's help--and after trying on about ten styles in varying sizes (I never said it was quick and easy), I opted for two pairs, both skinny. Neither style had been on my list of possibilities; thanks to Joseph I was hooked up with two unexpectedly and incredibly flattering options. Mission accomplished.
The first, in a creamy white, is by Adriano Goldschmied: The Premiere Skinny Jean.
The second, by Rock & Republic, in dark blue denim: the Berlin.
These are obviously not me, but I'm wearing them elsewhere on the blog. See here and here.
*If you live near Chicago, please seek Joseph out to help you find a great pair of jeans. His contact info is:
Joseph Porter, Denim Specialist
900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago