There is nothing like denim for durability and style. Since its invention in 16th century Italy, denim has been worn for work.* Whether that work is a on the deck of a Genoese naval ship, roping cattle in the American west, or roping a family into finishing their chores, denim gets it done. Double denim feels easy, stylish and tough. That’s why it was so hard for the fashion police to declare it verboten at the end of the 1990s. It just kept popping back up on the bodies of those who didn’t care, didn’t know, or didn’t listen. Stylistas gave up a few years back, and now we are all free to return to the Canadian Tuxedo, which I am assuming the Canadians, in all their good sense, never gave up on in the first place.
Looking back on iconic double denim looks, it’s amazing any of us bother to wear anything else: James Dean, Lisa Bonet, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Bruce Springsteen, the entire 1960s on a spring time Saturday afternoon.
Done right, denim on denim has a casual, “Oh, I just threw on two expertly worn-in pieces of my sparse and perfect wardrobe,” sort of feel. Done wrong, double denim feels conspicuous, too matchy-matchy, too studied.
Below you will find sample ensembles and a few guidelines. Enjoy.
The Ultimate Power Suit: Jacket and Jeans
My fabulous student Hunter showed up on the day of her big, in-class debate rocking her favorite jeans, denim jacket and Frye boots.
“It’s kind-of a power suit,” she told me, and then went on to win her debate.
What makes this work is that Hunter is singularly comfortable in each of these pieces. Put them all together and she looks completely natural, and powerful.
Old Friends: Denim Shirt and Jacket
This is my favorite to wear double denim. The shades blend beautifully, the layering adds interest, and it all feels so easy. It’s less of a statement, but I love the simplicity and ease.
Perfect Cool: Light and dark
This is the old school way to wear denim on denim. It always works. Celina Hess-Johnson shows us how.
Entry level: A Denim Dress
This is the equivalent of putting your feet in the river before jumping in. See? You look great. Keep going…
Base Layer: Add a Vest or Sweater
Double denim as the base to an ensemble is practical, but has a fashion-forward feel. Rather than popping a vest over all black, chose denim as your neutral.
Play With Proportion: Short and Long
A pair of high waisted jeans and a slim, sleeveless top looks fantastic. A chambray shirt and denim shorts is fun. Both are good looks for spring and early summer when it’s not hot, but warm enough to let a few extremities out.
A Few Precautions…
Playing around with double denim is endless fun, but to reign in the look, here are some guidelines.
Stick with two pieces of denim
I don’t know why this works, but I’ve tested this maxim again and again. I always go back to it. It’s double denim, not triple and certainly not quadruple denim.
Keep the accessories authentically you
Stylists warn about going all out country with boots and a cowboy hat. That said, my friend Danielle Glenzel can rock boots and a hat like nobody’s business, and she lives on an actual farm, and she’d look hot in double denim with her regular accessories.
The trick, I think, is to keep the accessories authentic. If you wear a lot of turquoise, go for it. If you are a sneakers and graphic t-shirt type, do that. I have seen women carry off double denim with high heels. That will never be me, but it might be you.
Brown and/or white are go-to
All that said, brown leather footwear and accessories will always, always work here. Same goes for a white t-shirt, sneakers and other add-ons.
Wear it with joyful abandon, and chickens
A few years ago, my daughter threw on this outfit and headed off for her day of adventures. No worries, no fear of being “too stylish,” no preplanning the hairstyle or worrying over which chickens she might manage to catch and how well their colors would blend. She just rocked it, because she’s Margaret Grace and that’s what she does.
Want to give it a try? I double dare you! Send me a picture of how you do denim/denim.
* Denim was first used for the uniforms of sailors in the Genoan navy, thus the very first people to wear denim wore double denim. It’s meant to be!
** About that heart I’m wearing throughout. I bought this piece of Tiger’s Eye when I was in Sedona with friends last summer. ( Travel lesson I learned from my stylish friends in Sedona) I wear it on days I have an enormous amount of work to do, and it reminds me to channel my energy, and have fun.