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Feel Like Burning All Your Jeans? What to Wear Instead of Denim

September 30, 2021

Listen: Bodies have changed. Your body has changed. Jeans, which are already the most inherently unforgiving staple in our wardrobes, feel especially cursed right now. Non-stretchy fabric? So judgmental. Tight and unrelenting waistbands? Painful. Buttons that aren’t attached to something flowy or elastic?? Unforgivable.

But cooler weather is upon us, and you have to find a way to replace the versatility of jeans in your fall and winter wardrobe. But at the same time, don’t give away (or burn) all your current jeans just yet. Here’s what to do instead:

When to store away

I think it’s safe to hold onto jeans that fit the following criteria:

  • Are within 3 inches of the size that fits you the best right now (inches, not number sizes!)
  • Classic cuts – dark denim, a statement wide leg without embellishment, skinny jeans,
  • Good quality – Old Navy jeans? You can pass those on. Something like Frame? Those are designed and manufactured to last you a long time

You might be thinking “why 3 inches?” Our bodies can change pretty drastically depending on the time of month, overall season, or stress. It’s good to have a range of options that you like so you always have something available, for when you’ve eaten delicious food over vacations or holidays AND when you’ve been living your best healthy life and have an easier time predicting your size!

Having staples that you enjoy should be a requirement in planning your wardrobe, not a reward!!

When to sell

If you’re still hanging on to jeans that didn’t fit before March 2020… it’s time to get rid of them. The reality is that we’ve undergone a lifestyle change. In addition to maybe not fitting, it’s very likely that those jeans don’t actually match or enhance your needs anymore.

If they’re classic styles (skinny or straight leg dark jeans) from brands known for the quality of their denim, it’s well worth a shot to sell them on Poshmark or Facebook Marketplace. But don’t worry about “getting your money back” – think about it as selling 3 or 4 old pairs as paying for one pair of jeans that actually fit the new you.

Some brands that come to mind that will sell well online: Frame, MOTHER, AG, L’Agence, Paige, Levi’s, Everlane, Madewell, Rag & Bone, Good American, Citizens of Humanity, Grlfrnd, 7 for All Mankind.

When to say goodbye and donate!

Anything that was super trendy at the time when you bought them but feels outdated now. Think patchwork jeans, massive rips, uneven bleaching, and patterns. Luckily, right now, all kinds of cuts are considered to be in fashion, so if your jeans are in good condition even with a more dated cut, it’s still worth trying to sell them (even for cheap!)

Something to keep in mind: it feels amazing to give clothes away. Don’t think about the patchwork or fringe-hem jeans you bought on a whim, wore once, and felt like an imposter. Someone else will appreciate them or transform them into something magical! Donate to your local thrift store, put them on Buy Nothing, or see if a local school is looking for donations to either distribute or use in their theatre program.

What to wear instead!!

Whether you’re giving up on non-stretchy denim permanently or you think you just need a break, here are some cute and on-trend substitutions to blend comfort and style for a variety of occasions.

Jegging Joggers – American Eagle ($59.95)

A modern cut, generous elastic waist, and high-quality fabric make this an awesome placeholder if your favorite jeans need to have a siesta in the back of your closet for a while! Pair with a blouse and long cardigan, or a statement sweater and boots for an outfit that is so comfy but put-together.

Black Stretch Skinny Jeans – WIT & WISDOM ($68)

For the perfect pair of black skinny jeans that don’t feel like true denim, it’s all about how soft (yet structured) the fabric is! Look for a structured waist, close-fitting but still stretchy fabric, and where it hits you at the ankle! You don’t want these to be too short so they look more like leggings, but also no bunching above your shoes. This, a classic white blouse, and a statement necklace would be very Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek.

Ultra Stretch High Rise Pants – Uniqlo ($29.90)

Looking for inexpensive but will get the job done? These pants from Uniqlo. They basically feel like thick leggings, but with a more relaxed leg and pockets. Also available in a sliiiightly more convincing denim lookalike.

Cotton-Blend Twill Trouser – Lululemon ($138) 

If you need something to help you wow at the office but still feel casual and approachable, these are definitely The Pants. The combination of crisp pleats and the small drawstring detail make these feel so put-together but still casual, and you can’t go wrong with a copper or black pant. Wear with snazzy oxfords or pointed flats and a fitted plain t-shirt for a look that really puts the smart in “smart casual”. 

High-Rise Knit Drawstring Ankle Pull-On Pants – Target ($20)

A sweatpant feel that can mostly get away with looking like dress pants? I think we’re done here. Inexpensive, available in a range of colors/patterns, and can give your blouses and sweaters a moment to shine.


I have a few significant tricks for picking these pants and turning them into outfits based on what you probably already have in your closet. Ready to level up your own styling? I have a virtual Style Master Class coming up on October 14th. Register now to join live or have a recording sent to you.

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