Style & Beauty

Denim: A User’s Guide

By Jessica Dostie

Whether stylish or casual, jeans are always versatile and therefore essential wardrobe items, and more and more brands—including some Canadian ones—are offering designs that are almost as comfortable as leggings. Here are some pro tips for finding the pair that’s right for you.

Trends are no longer trendy—the days when all you could find in stores was the latest hot style are over. “It’s not like it was 20 years ago. Today, you can find just about everything,” says stylist Marie-Claude Pelletier, founder of the personal stylist agency Les Effrontés.
In terms of what to look for, Pelletier says, “A slim cut will give the illusion of longer legs, while the opposite is true of wide-leg styles.”

The height of the waist is also important, according to stylist Louise Labrecque. To minimize a midriff, she says, “a high-waisted style is ideal. People who are smaller in stature, meanwhile, should opt for jeans that have a regular or even slightly lower waist. The colour of the denim is another factor to consider. The darker it is, the more lengthening it is.”

Pelletier recommends that, above all, you should consider the whole outfit. “Even if you’re shorter, there are ways to make baggy jeans work for you, like wearing them with a tucked-in tailored shirt.”

Pocket Placement

According to Pelletier, back pockets are key when you’re choosing jeans: “It’s all about the pockets! You really have to pay attention to their size, how far apart they are, and where they’re placed.” The higher the pockets, the more they create the impression of a curvy bottom, while pockets that are placed lower have a flattening effect.

The patina of the denim is important, too, Labrecque says. “A quality denim will have strategically placed areas that are made to look more lived in to slim the thighs or emphasize the waist.” That’s why she advises trying jeans on in the store. “Shopping online works well when you’ve found your style and know what size fits you in a particular brand,” she says, “but if you want to try a new cut or a new brand, it’s probably better to visit the store.”

The Fabric Revolution

While they were previously made of a “not very comfortable” cotton-polyester mix, most of today’s jeans contain a small percentage (about two per cent) of stretch fibres such as Lycra, Pelletier says, which makes them much more comfortable. In fact, with its 360-degree stretch technology, the Montreal brand Yoga Jeans has made stretchiness its trademark.

The latest material is Tencel. “It’s a soft and comfortable fibre that drapes well,” Pelletier says. “It may cost a bit more, but it’s a good option for ensuring that you have a pair of pants that look sharp.” In addition, it’s produced in a way that is more sustainable than the method used for some other fabrics.

Frank and Oak, another homegrown brand, has demonstrated its creativity with its Circular denim collection. Cut from denim made from recycled fibres, these jeans are manufactured using a process that minimizes water consumption, and they don’t have rivets, so they’re easier to recycle at the end of their useful life.

Maintenance 101

Here are the golden rules to follow so your jeans stay in great shape for years:

– Most jeans should be machine washed in cold water—ideally, wash them inside out to preserve the colour.

– The dryer isn’t a good idea, especially for stretch denim. “Heat damages the Lycra fibres, which will break over time,” warns stylist Marie-Claude Pelletier. The same applies to 100 per cent cotton jeans, which can shrink by up to three per cent. “It’s best to hang them to dry—but never over a heat source.”

– Air-drying tends to stiffen garments, it’s true. Pelletier’s solution is to soften them once they’re dry by tumbling them in the dryer for a few minutes; this also eliminates the need for ironing.