How to Wear Skinny Jeans

Genevieve Ang
Graphic t-shirt with blazer and skinny jeans
Graphic t-shirt with blazer and skinny jeans

If you have yet to take the plunge into skinny jeans, come on in - the water's perfect here! Skinny jeans can work well with all body types, despite their name and reputation. The keys are choosing well-fitting skinny jeans and styling them with tops that balance out the silhouette.

Seasonal Style Ideas for Skinny Jeans

Skinny jeans are definitely a year-round staple, regardless of whether you live in California or Minnesota.

Spring/Summer

Skinny jeans work well with loose, simple tops during the warmest months. The below options would work well with a light-wash denim, slightly ripped denim, or even cuffed skinny jeans -- all reflective of the casual appeal of denim in the spring/summer months.

  • Tank tops: ASOS makes some great tank tops in longer lengths and in a slightly oversized fit that work well with skinny jeans.
  • Graphic t-shirts: Urban Outfitters offers a wide range of reasonably-priced graphic t-shirts.
  • Dolman-sleeved tops: This loose sweater-knit top from Old Navy would be perfect for warmer months. It sells for $20 and is available in sizes XS-XXL. Dolman-sleeved tops work because the bulkiness of the batwing sleeves gets balanced out by the skinniness of the jean. The key to finding an appropriately-sized dolman sleeved top is to ensure it fits you at your shoulders.

Fall/Winter

During the coldest months of the year, oversized tops like sweaters, boyfriend-style jackets, and even capes are a great way to top off your skinny jeans. As skinny jeans are tapered and cling to the leg, an oversized top will balance out your silhouette. Some options to consider:

Skinny jeans worn with an oversized sweater
Skinny jeans worn with an oversized sweater
  • Boyfriend-style jackets: Nasty Gal, an online-only retailer, frequently offers boyfriend-style, oversized jackets on their e-commerce website.
  • Capes: This cape from Zara, $120 and available in sizes XS-L, would be great over a thin long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of dark-wash skinny jeans. It is difficult in general to go wrong with capes, but because it is such a trendy item, one should stick to neutral colors. Try capes on before purchasing to ensure it doesn't overwhelm your frame. A good rule of thumb is that anything longer than mid-thigh would probably be too large.

Occasion-Specific Ideas

Skinny jeans are adaptable for (almost) every occasion, especially evenings out and casual settings.

Evenings Out

Skinny jeans in a darker wash can be appropriate for an evening out if paired with dressier tops and a pair of great heels. Some dressy top options:

  • Lace details: A lace top would pair best with a pair of black skinny jeans. Lace looks more expensive than it actually is because of the intricate detail, and it will contrast well with the casualness of a jean. In general, for pairing with skinny jeans one should veer toward lace tops that fit longer in the torso and skim the body.
  • Leather top with skinny jeans
    Leather top with skinny jeans
    Sparkle: Embellished tops are a lovely mix of dressy and professional, making them great for after-work drinks with coworkers or desk-to-dinner evening events. Consider tucking one into a pair of colored skinny jeans in a darker wash, like wine red or mossy green, or even dark jeans with a bright heel.
  • Leather: A boxy leather top would look great over a pair of dark washed denim for an edgier nighttime look. The slightly boxy fit allows for balance with the skinny leg, and would look great on apple shaped ladies.

Casual Settings

Skinny jeans are great options for casual attire, even for the 'casual Fridays' allowed at offices where wearing denim is encouraged. Casual doesn't mean sloppy; look stylish and feel great in:

  • Silk button-up shirts: Equipment is by far the premier silk shirt provider. For cheaper options, Everlane ($80, sizes XS-L) and Uniqlo ($50, sizes XS-L) offer silk shirts in similar styles. Go for something slightly oversized -- the buttons should not gape open at the chest, shoulders should be fitted, and sleeves should end at the wrist.
  • Skinny jeans with a casual blazer
    Skinny jeans with a casual blazer
    Peplum tops: Ann Taylor offers some work-appropriate peplum tops in a variety of fabrics, colors, and patterns. In general, look for peplums that are slightly longer and looser in the torso. This will ensure proper proportion in relation to the skinny jean.
  • Blazers: Theory makes some great-fitting blazers. Go for a slightly oversized fit to balance out the tightness of the denim bottom.

Accessorizing Skinny Jeans

Great shoes are the best way to accessorize with skinny jeans. For the warmer months, open-toed flat sandals and ballet flats would be a great complement to skinny jean looks. For the fall and winter months, skinny jeans tucked into tall riding boots will provide the most warmth, while cuffed denim paired with booties to show off the ankle is an especially chic pairing.

Where to Buy Skinny Jeans

Just about every retailer offers a range of skinny jeans. To choose the most flattering pair of skinny jeans, one should try on different sizes and styles from different brands.

  • Levi's: The original denim pioneer, Levi Strauss & Co still produces some of the best denim around. Levi's jeans are extremely accessible -- they are sold at most department stores. Curvier ladies might want to try on their Curvey skinny jeans, which are made especially for ladies with hips, $78 and available in 24-34W/ 30-34L.
  • Gap: Denim options abound at mall-staple Gap and their recent colored and patterned skinny jean offerings have been on-trend without breaking the bank.
  • Seven for All Mankind (7FAM): The brand that started the designer denim craze, 7FAM jeans are pricier options than Levi's and Gap, but are extremely flattering.

Make Skinny Jeans Your Own

As one can tell from the above wealth of options, skinny jeans are one of the most versatile bottoms that one can own. Skinny jeans make a great foundation for virtually all closets.

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How to Wear Skinny Jeans