Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Jeans fit for fashion

Classic five-pocket pant updated and styled for all-day wear

By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press

The five-pocket jean is a classic - no doubt about it - but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

This might be the time for denim devotees to take a look at newer models since a new generation of jeans has been born, emphasizing fit and fashion.

James Jeans designer Seun Lim says women want jeans that can take them from day to night, weekday to weekend. "You need pants for 24/7. They need to look good with heels, and the same pair should look good with sneakers."

And they need to flatter. Lim uses optical illusions, such as a darker rinse on the inner thigh of the jeans or strategically positioned back pockets, for a more flattering appearance. "It's all about highlighting and disguising the good and the bad," she says.

Some other tricks include placing the "knee" of a boot-leg jean slightly above the wearer's actual knee to create a longer and leaner look; using "whiskers," light horizontal lines, in a very compact area around the zipper to make hips look narrower; and a bi-level waist, lower in the front so the front of the jeans sit on the hips and higher in the back to ensure full rear coverage when the wearer sits down.

These touches don't come cheap: James Preserved Denim retails for $130 to $150.

One of the pioneers in this "luxury" jeans category is 7 for all Mankind. Design director Tim Kaeding says that now that stylish jeans have become available at all price points there is even greater attention paid to fit.

"Customers can demand great fit because there are so many choices out there ... but there is nothing harder to fit than jeans because you start out with a fabric that's as stiff as a board," he says.

Furthering complicating things is that denim doesn't shrink uniformly, it might get twisted in the wash process (necessary for finishing jeans), and women generally wear their jeans tighter than other pants.

If a company can offer someone a great fitting jean, that company has a customer for life, Kaeding predicts. "Once you find a jean that you get complimented in, you'll never go back (to another brand) and you'll buy five more pairs."

Offering its own variation of the five-pocket, Gap has resurrected the pencil-leg jean.

"You can't even say the pencil leg is 'coming back' because it's been so long since they've been around. We really haven't seen them since the '50s," says Rebecca Weill of the Gap. "The leg is cropped so the ankle is showing - a difference from the slimmer fit jeans from the '80s."

Weill says the pencil-leg jean will fit in nicely with the other polished, ladylike looks this season.

"You can wear it with twin sets, a silk blouse with a cardigan, ballerina flats, a ribbon belt," she suggests. "This jean is very feminine. There's no doubt this is a jean for women. It has a retro, romantic look that lends itself to soft sweaters."

New Blues rockNo rock 'n' roller would be complete without jeans, and the creators of the Sacred Blue brand say jeans aren't complete without a little rock 'n' roll.

"When real rock 'n' roll was coming up - I'm talking about Zeppelin and the Ramones - they (band members) were always wearing denim, and it was always worn denim. Sacred Denim wants to be that true denim, one of a kind, that fits to your body over time," says marketing director Tara Narayan.

Sacred Blue's jeans, which are produced one by one at a Los Angeles factory, were first introduced to the public at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Although the inspiration for the design is 1970s music, these aren't your former flower-child's jeans. The leg is slimmer and the denim darker.

"We learned our lesson from the best - the '70s rocker jeans. But we want to be relevant today," Narayan explains.

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