7 Simple Ways to Dress Up Jeans, According to Stylists
Consider these tips to make your look a bit fancier with items you already have in your closet.
Jeans are a closet staple. Even when temperatures soar in the summer months, we often reach for a pair of white denim for an easy, trendy look. However, jeans are also typically associated with more casual attire—that is, not something you would don for a more sophisticated event. But if you feel best in denim, stylists say there are some ways to dress up jeans, making your closet that much more versatile.
"With dress codes becoming more and more casual and the definition of appropriate getting looser, denim is the perfect multi-occasion staple," petite style coach Angela Foster, tells Best Life. "And with just a few savvy style choices, jeans can easily take you from the office to happy hour and errands to date night."
Certified image stylist Elizabeth Kosich, founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling, agrees that jeans are a crucial component for a solid "high-low look."
"[A high-low look] says, 'Yes, I'm stylish,' but without putting on airs, creating a head-to-toe package that's chic, intriguing, and leaves people wanting more. Jeans can be a powerful part of the outfit equation because they ground any look by keeping fussy and frilly at bay," she explains. "Bootleg, skinny, trouser, or flared, any jean cut can be leveled up with the right styling, so it's time to reimagine this perennial, number one wardrobe workhorse into something way more fancy."
Contrary to popular belief, this process also doesn't have to be difficult—and you have options to take your look from casual to classy right in your closet. Read on for stylists' top seven tips to create an elegant denim look.
Pick the right jeans.
Before you start supplementing your denim looks, stylists say that you need to choose the right fit, wash, and quality.
"The first thing to consider when you're dressing up jeans is the jeans themselves," Holly Chayes, personal style coach and consultant at WhoWearsWho, says. "Starting with a dark wash well-fitted jean is a super simple way to dress them up. Consider taking them to a tailor or altering them yourself, bringing in the waist and perfecting the hem length is a really nice way to elevate a pair of jeans and get them to fit just so."
Foster also cites fit as an integral part of your look—and suggests that you avoid ripped or "distressed" jeans.
"It's best to skip the distressing and ensure a flattering fit for your hip, butt, and thighs," she says. "Late summer/early fall denim trends are again going loose and are the wide leg variety, which is terrific because they work on a variety of body heights and shapes—short to tall and curvy to slim shapes."
For day-to-day, more "slouchy" jeans are great, as they can be comfy and stylish, but you'll want other pairs on hand for a night on the town.
"Slouchy cuts are super comfortable," Foster concedes. "But if you want to dress them up, boyfriend, baggy styles are more challenging. Too oversized and too baggy can turn sloppy-looking fast."
Lastly, for a dressier look, reach for better-quality jeans at the store or in your closet. "High-quality clothes, even if it's as simple as jeans and a t-shirt, tend to look dressier than low-quality clothes," Chayes warns.
Add a jacket.
To make your jean-centered outfit look fancier, stylists also recommend adding a jacket.
"If you want to avoid the expected choice of a black or navy suit blazer, try one of this season's tweed options," Foster says. "Pop a graphic tee underneath, and you'll immediately be the most fashionable woman in any room."
Kosich recommends reaching for a tuxedo jacket as a trendy alternative.
"Try a satin-lapeled tuxedo jacket, two-toned dinner jacket, or either with tails for maximum effect," she says. "Consider shopping in the menswear department for an oversized fit, then style with rolled sleeved and a cinched patent leather belt to add tone-on-tone drama, a little luster, and an extra touch of oomph. Classic bootcut jeans match best to the traditional tuxedo silhouette, as do patent leather Mary Janes, stiletto pumps, or bow-tie flats."
Literally "level up" with heels.
A pair of heels are key for any truly formal outfit, and the same rings true with jeans.
"Pointed-toe stilettos are a brilliant and quick way to elevate your denim game. Try them in red or another unexpected color for an unexpected twist on the traditional black," Foster recommends. "Or, if you prefer to rock a funkier vibe—a bright-colored pair of platform heels or sandals are a fun option."
Hailey Rizzo, style expert and owner of the fashion and beauty blog Feeling Good as Hail, suggests a pair of heels in tandem with a blazer to really get that formal effect.
"I always recommend a blazer and high heels when seeking to elevate a jean-based outfit. A tailored blazer with a strappy heel takes jeans from casual to chic in the blink of an eye," she says, suggesting an "elegant top" as another option to go underneath.
Choose the right jewelry.
Chayes stresses that accessories are key when it comes to dressing up jeans, citing statement jewelry as one of the "fastest, simplest ways" to achieve this.
"Even when your jeans or the rest of your outfit are relatively casual, elevating your accessories dresses up the whole look," she says.
Foster adds, "It's time to dig out those oversized pearl studs or choker-length necklaces that are hanging around in your jewelry box. They'll add a brilliant pop of class when worn with denim and a dark blouse."
As an alternative, diamond studs and a tennis bracelet also exude the classy feel you're going for, and you can even add some gems to your hair.
"Expand your semi-precious/precious gem choice by adding a jeweled hair clip," Foster suggests. "It'll elevate your look above all the others and give you a truly pulled-together look."
Try metallics with white jeans.
If you're willing to play a bit with color, Kosich says that adding metallic jewelry, specifically, can be a great option to jazz up your jeans.
"Don't forget white jeans are in the denim family, and can be dressed up just as much as blue jeans. Go for head-to-toe monochrome and accent your summer whites with high-polished metals to level up the look—drop earrings and stacks of arm cuffs, pendant necklaces or statement rings, or all of the above," she says.
Add as many of these options as you want, but if you're going for "gobs of accessories," Kosich recommends keeping your footwear "simple and low to keep the look from going overboard."
"Think goddess sandals, metallic slides, or leather flip-flops for an easy-breezy, upscale look that is above all balanced," she says.
Add some texture.
Another easy way to make jeans look and feel more sophisticated is by introducing different textures and materials. Kosich suggests going for sequins or velvet.
"The shortest distance between casual and fancy is sequins. It upgrades any look automatically, and with very little effort," she says. "Match warm undertones to gold, cool ones to silver, and neutral pigmentations to champagne, or, for an extra splash, try colored sequins in your best accent color. Shop sequined tanks, one-shoulder halters, or off-shoulder tops and pair with high-rise, wide-leg jeans to maintain optimal proportions."
For cooler months and seasons, you can also pair velvet with jeans, Kosich says—and if you have a velvet blazer, even better.
"Try pairing a velvet blazer with skinny jeans, a skinny tee, and long, skinny earrings for a sleek, sophisticated look," she says.
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Swap out your handbag.
Any seasoned fashionista knows that your handbag is a pivotal part of your overall look. (Even if you put it down after making your grand entrance.) For this reason, Foster notes that you should carefully consider the purse you select when dressing up jeans.
"Remember your handbag when you're swapping out your daytime jewelry and shoes for dressier options," she says. "A big work tote bag can undo your other sophisticated choices. Instead, grab a slim crossbody or sassy clutch."