London - Teamed with a silk top and heels, I thought jeans would be the perfect look for my friend’s baby shower. But, as I scanned the other guests gathered at the posh boutique hotel, I felt about as conspicuous as a cupcake at a weight loss convention.
With every other woman dressed up in a feminine summery frock, I suddenly felt scruffy, not chic.
Far from being the classic ensemble I’d envisaged, all of a sudden my designer denims, bright top and wedges felt like the lazy option.
I’ve been married to my jeans since my teens and, until recently, there’d been little sign of us divorcing.
But, as I sipped pink champagne with my friends that day, I grew increasingly uneasy about my attire. And when the temperature soars, my beloved jeans make me physically uncomfortable, too, quickly becoming hot and sticky and the seams leaving red welts on my legs.
Possibly because I work from home, I always wear jeans. My wardrobe is home to about 20 pairs: white, black, navy, skinny, bootleg, straight. You name ’em, I bet I own them.
After all, jeans are easy. Choose the right pair and they elongate the legs, trim the waist and perk up a saggy bottom. They go with everything, be it a thick winter jumper and wellies, or a delicate blouse, blazer and killer stilettoes.
Jeans are relentlessly practical and comfy and even on ‘fat’ days they have the power to make you feel slim in a way that a dress just doesn’t.
And I’m not alone in my jeans addiction - on average, women own ten pairs each. Many, like me, will have spent the past few days sweltering in their denims, wishing they weren’t stuck in a style rut, wedded to their jeans come hell or high summer.
So I contacted Cheshire-based stylist Nicola Cupples, who counts actresses and high-profile footballers’ wives among her clients, to see if she could ease me out of my wardrobe comfort zone and into dresses and skirts.
‘”ncreasingly lots of clients tell me they want to get away from jeans and go back to dresses,” says Nicola, who also offers personal shopping at the Trafford Centre in Manchester. “Fifteen years ago, it was unthinkable to wear a pair of jeans to a fancy restaurant or upscale party, but then designer jeans became en vogue and suddenly dressing down was the new dressing up.
“Now, women are eager to introduce variety back to their wardrobes and to distinguish between casual and dressy looks.”
Nicola says much-photographed women like Kate Middleton, Coleen Rooney and Victoria Beckham, who are rarely seen in jeans, are inspiring women to explore new looks.
“Jeans have become the ‘go to’ wardrobe item for most women because of their practicality, versatility and comfort,” she says. “The key to making the tricky transition from denim is ensuring the alternatives are just as wearable.”
But could Nicola’s style suggestions convince me to have a trial separation from my jeans? Here’s my verdict.
Nicola says: “For many of my clients, these ankle-grazers have been a revelation and have totally replaced their jeans this summer. They’re incredibly flattering due to the front pleats, which break up the area around the hips and thighs, disguising any roundness. Wear them dressed-up with summer sandals and a sleeveless blouse.”
VERDICT: In a different colour and with a lower rise - these were too deep in the crotch for my liking – these chinos are a great alternative to denim, as they are lightweight and versatile. And what a surprise to look down and actually see the wedges I’d searched high and low to buy, rather than them being hidden beneath the hem of my jeans.
Nicola says: “Increasingly, clients tell me they’re lacking femininity in their wardrobe and a tunic is a great way to address that. The benefit of a tunic or T-shirt dress versus jeans is that you don’t have to worry about what to wear with it as it’s a complete outfit in itself.”
VERDICT: Could this be the start of my wardrobe re-invention? With this tunic on, I was surprised to find it quite liberating to have my legs out and felt more feminine without being self-consciously over-dressed.
SLIM-FIT MAXI SKIRT
Nicola says: “If you’ve developed an obsession with skinny jeans, a slim-fit maxi-skirt is a great alternative as it gives the same fitted look on the lower half of your body while being extremely comfortable.
“It reveals just enough of the ankle to look feminine, while covering the legs so the wearer doesn’t feel as exposed as they would in a shorter length. You can get away without depilating and self-tanning legs, too. Dress it down with a loose knit or leather jacket, or smarten up with a crisp white shirt and patent belt.”
VERDICT: Now I know how it must feel to be dressed as a geisha -there was no hope of me walking anywhere very fast in this thick, clingy skirt. But I did feel quite confident in it and it certainly looked smarter than jeans, making it ideal for something like a working lunch.
Nicola says: “If you’re usually a flats and jeans girl then wearing a dress and heels can feel as though you’re trying too hard, especially during the day. Go for a dress on the knee and team with wedges so you feel more comfortable but still have the height to make the dress work. Alternatively, use a jacket or cardigan to layer over the dress, or a skinny belt to add structure.”
VERDICT: This was my favourite alternative to jeans. The soft draping of the fabric meant I could wear it without feeling constrained - and it would also hide an indulgent lunch! - Daily Mail