Runway To Real Way: I Dream of Jean-ie. A Fantasy Closet of Summertime Denim

Summer is officially here and with it, brings the flouncy, flirty fashions of the season. And although we’ve been waiting to break out the sundresses, swimsuits and skin-baring separates, we don’t have to bid adieu to our favorite bottom staple—the jean. Jeans may not be the first thing one thinks of for summertime fashion, but there’s plenty of ways to spruce up the old denim standby for warmer weather wear.

The easiest recipe to infuse a bit of summer fun into your denim: just add color.  Punching up a pair of jeans with a jolt of color will immediately brighten your wardrobe—and your mood. Marc Jacobs chose a tangerine-tinged orangey red for his funky, urban ensembles. The zesty hue brings out the accents in the rest of the outfit, so feel free to play with different shades from top to bottom.  J Brand’s saucy 811’s provide the same punch of panache at a more wallet-friendly price so you can scoop up one for each color of the rainbow.

Another way to revamp your jeans is to go backwards—retro that is.  High-waisted styles that were first popular in the 60’s and 70’s have been making a huge comeback on the runways in recent seasons. The super feminine styles are equal parts sexy with their hip-hugging fit and soft with their light blue wash. Chanel’s laid back boho aesthetic on their spring runways featured the high-waisted style with embellished pants and frayed cuffs—a decidedly modern take on the flower child.  A more casual option comes compliments of Mother, whose high-rise stretch-denim shorts are the perfect hybrid of comfort and chic.

As flirty and feminine as the high-rise style is, distressed cropped jeans are the definition of don’t-mess-with-me cool.  A little dirty wash here, a little ripping there and you have the effortless look of someone who just happens to be tragically hip. Uber-glam label Balmain sent their distressed cropped jeans down the runway, resplendent with one of their signature embellished leather jackets. Denim label Current/Elliot serves up the same amount of ‘tude with The Roller, a distressed style in a slouchy boyfriend fit.  Note: both houses boast rolled cuffs yet sport different styles of shoes, making a great example of how the style can be dressed up or down.

For those looking to make a major statement this summer with your denim, pattern is the way to go. Not for every person or every occasion, patterned jeans have also made a huge comeback in recent years, reborn as a more modern cousin to their counterparts of the 80’s.  And though florals and splatter designs have a time and a place, stripes can be surprisingly versatile (not to mention leg lengthening!). Timo Weiland took a nautical route to showcase his denim stripes. With a traditional blue wash and neutral-colored stripe, the jeans could easily be paired with either a solid or contrasting patterned top. For further thrill-seekers, we revisit Balmain for their black and white striped, low-rise skinny jeans. Indeed they are bold and perhaps a bit more bust on the budget, but the statement they make is, without a doubt, “I am fabulous.”

Keep your denim in rotation this season and make a splash with these summer-friendly styles!

1. Bright Red/Orange Jeans
Runway: Marc Jacobs Spring  2011 RTW
Real Way: J Brand 811 Mid-rise Twill Cropped Skinny Jeans, $175

2. High-Waisted Retro Jeans
Runway: Chanel Resort 2011 RTW
Real Way: Mother The Drama High-rise Stretch-denim Shorts, now $68

3. Distressed Cropped Jeans
Runway: Balmain Spring 2011 RTW
Real way: Current/Elliott The Roller Distressed Jeans, $229

4. Striped Jeans
Runway: Timo Weiland Spring 2010 RTW
Real Way: Balmain Striped Low-rise Skinny Jeans, now $1028

—Alia Rajput

Runway Photos: NYMag.com

Image Layout: Jillian Jaslowski

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