Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dark Wash Jeans Advised for Older Women and the Role Of Contrast

 On Edit: If you're in a rush, start first with the comments! Many readers chimed in with smart, fantastic points - and they're not long winded like me. Thank you to all who took the time to comment!     First, apologies for the rather uninspiring photography. But this post is constructed more as an experiment, less as an aesthetic excursion. The photo on the left was taken simply to remember the outfit, as i enjoyed wearing it and liked the subtle play of color and the monochromatic feel. I felt it lent a pulled-together effect to the look and created, as Kendall Farr puts it, "the Almighty Unbroken Line".

Ms. Farr's description encapsulates one species of advice often given to women hoping to 'dress better'. The idea is to create a long, lean, smooth silhouette in your clothing. No lumps and bumps, no super tight areas or swaths of uncontrollable fabric. Also, no high contrast 'breaks' in unflattering areas - for example, do not wear a white blouse with a black skirt with the 'edge' between the two at your natural waist, since this will cut your figure in half, creating a blocky feel. One obvious way to implement this advice is to wear monochromatic looks. The whole of your outfit flows easily from tip to toe, creating the longest line possible.

Another very popular piece of advice, especially regarding those leaving childbearing years behind, is to only wear very dark wash jeans. The darkness hides lumps and bumps and it recedes as well, so your bum, thighs, and whatnot will tend to fade away and look smaller, possibly more discreet. Now, i've recently been wondering about what would be the consequences if a woman were to follow both of these pieces of advice simultaneously. I think I've been reading so much of this type of thing recently that my brain made an executive decision: 'time to synthesize!'.

At any rate, a few days later i was getting close to finishing the darker jeans. They are iteration number two of the Palmer and Pletsch Perfect Jeans pattern, this time in bootcut silhouette. I suddenly realized that i could 'isolate the variable' in the monochromatic outfit - change out a light wash denim for the dark wash denim that is strongly recommended as the only wash worth wearing for ladies over forty and observe the result!  I was hoping to get a feel for which 'piece of advice' was more worth following strictly. (And frankly i was hoping to show that following any piece of advice to the letter all the time is folly.)*** 

So, i ended up taking the dark wash jean pictures in the same place as the original 'notebook' photos. I did my best to adopt similar poses and camera position. Looking at the two outfits, i'm more drawn to the monochromatic look - even though the lighter wash jeans don't 'hide' as much of what's going on as the dark wash do. On me the high contrast line cutting right through my hips seems too stark, and ends up emphasizing the width there.  I do wonder how much this has to do with my overall low-contrast coloring, however. On a woman with high contrast coloring this look may well appear more harmonious.

Which brings me to the last point this experiment brought to mind. If i like the way a monochromatic look creates a nice line, and i only wear dark wash jeans, it will be very hard to avoid wearing a lot of dark colors right next to my face. And generally i prefer to wear lighter colors next to my face - because i find they are more flattering! Which i thought was the driving motivation behind all this fuss.  Good grief, all these 'rules' can drive a person nuts!!!! That's the one rule by which i am sure to stand.

I don't often discuss non-clothing related topics on this blog (although my definition of 'clothing-related' is quite expansive). But i've recently run across a couple of videos which may interest some readers. First, if any of you are interested in the more rigorously collected evidence for life after death/communication with spirits, i cannot recommend this video enough. It outlines the Scole Experiements, a five year long project in Scole, UK which involved four people meeting twice a week to attempt communication with the dead. Well done. (As a style-aside, at 38 minutes in observe how different the 'red rose' mother looks in video versus a still photo. Different media capture our likenesses in different ways.)

Secondly, for decades now my family and friends have wearily endured my exuberant soliloquies on the genius of Jacques Vallee. Being the basis for Lacombe, the French UFO investigator in Speilberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (played by Francois Truffaut) was only so impressive.  Not that i cared about that - his identification of Marshall Applewhite as a dangerous cult leader years before the Heaven's Gate tragedy, his vast knowledge of ancient and historical encounters with otherworldy beings, his ability to wring every last drop of physical evidence out of the most unpromising circumstances, his masterful 'Contact' trilogy......

I could go on - and for many years, i have. Now that TED has tapped Dr. Vallee for a talk on The Theory of Everything (else), i 've been having a wonderful time saying, "I told you so........"

*** In other words, yep, this experiment was rigged!

Jacket: made by me of a vintage Anne Klein for Vogue Patterns
Henley: Aeropostale
Belt: Betsey Johnson
Pocketbook: vintage Coach, gift
Light Wash Jeans: Levi's Curvy Fit (no longer available)
Dark Wash Jeans: made by me of McCall's 5894 Palmer & Pletsch The Perfect Jeans
Booties: Maine Woods


  1. I agree that the monochromatic look is better, but mostly because it's more harmonious with your natural coloring, which is light and doesn't have a lot of contrast. I'm just beyond impressed that you make your own jeans!!!

  2. Not buying the dark-wash-only jeans for the over-40s rule. Most of mine are actually lighter washes, and I think they look OK. Could be that natural colouring issue, as I'm very fair.

    Making your own jeans is crazy impressive. They do look amazing on you!

  3. Bonjour Mdme. Pesu and welcome Ana! as you two suggest, i am pretty convinced that a look which harmonizes with the individual's unique physical aesthetic will be more flattering. hmmm, now i'll have to try some dark wash jeans in low-contrast looks and see how they work!

    you are very kind to be impressed. I relied heavily on the large amounts of very helpful advice i found on the internet and in the P & P pattern instructions. It made all the difference!! steph

  4. I love your double denim ensemble (a couple of posts back) on you & both those pieces are quite dark. Of these two ensembles, I prefer the one with the pale jeans. You always look so stylish. Regards, D.

  5. Imogene Lamport talks a great deal about the 'Golden Mean'Fibonacci proportions on her blog:Inside Out Style. I think that the overall pale jeans work because it creates a column of color on you. You appear to be very tall and lean so where you cut your body with your top has to be either at the 1/3 line or the 2/3 line in order to look in proportion. The dark jeans make this more evident. I think the top needs to be shorter so the cut is at 1/3 and your pants will be the other 2/3. (I hope this all makes sense)I would try a dark top with the dark jeans and the lighter jacket and see how that looks. I believe that no matter what you put together you will look really good it is just a matter of tweaking and getting 'scientific' :)

  6. Hello D.! thank you for your kind words :) i think that Adrienne explains it all in her comment - in the two double denim looks you preferred,it's about the 'column of colour' creating a nice long line!

    Adrienne, you put it together perfectly! in fact, you make my point better than i did! i've so often seen 'older ladies should wear dark wash jeans only' without seeing a lot of discussion as to how it will affect the rest of your outfit - in this case, as you point out, the contrast with the lighter top creates a 'break' at an unflattering point.

    if i'd tucked in the top (or scrunched it up) then the proportions would have been more flattering. In fact, that is why i generally wear my jackets at hi-hip, since that creates more of a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio. BUT for this post when i realized that the jeans i was making were a dupe save the wash, i decided to just switch out the wash of the jeans as an experiment.

    Thank you Adrienne for leaving such a thoughtful comment! steph

  7. I too like the more monochromatic column-ish look. I think the dark-wash "rule" will fade (no pun intended??) over time as different washes go in and out of fashion. After all, pale gray and even white jeans are touted as "in" for Women of a Certain Age. We have to dress in what looks best on us!

    I will be looking at the TED lecture, for certain!

  8. See, now I would put that high contrast line exactly where you have it, to emphasize the width and natural curve of my hips, and trick the eye into lowering my waistline (especially with the cute little belt over). I actually like the more contrasty outfit on you but I can see how the lighter one fits your aesthetic more.

    I don't wear light wash jeans most of the time because they seem very casual to me and I don't get much use out of them except in super-casual summer. It's not so much about what they show on my body, but that they easily show every insult that jeans take and look more rumpled and disheveled by the end of a day.

  9. One of your family members paid attention and searched for a certain book in every city visited. So - not so wearily, after all; however, also, not as enthused. 8-) xoxo

  10. Hi Patti! heehee, i love your take on it! and i agree!

    Cynthia, those are very good points! i think that a sharp line at the hip would accentuate your curves as well via contrast. and your point about dark wash jeans reading as more formal is excellent as well. "It's not so much about what they show on my body, but that they easily show every insult..." Ha! very well put!!

    oh Mom, you are a steadfast supporter indeed! even though you didn't feel inspired to cough up $250 for The Mothman Prophecies back in the day..........heheheh!!!

    Happy Sunday!! steph

  11. You left out where you plan to wear the outfits.

    The light jeans do have a more monochrome look, but they project a far more casual image. Possibly not a look for work, depending on the state of your office.

    The darker jeans don't give you the column of color but they do look more polished, and possibly office-worthy.

    Lighter colored non-jeans pants aren't in your closet?

  12. Hello Rose! I'm glad you brought up context, as i also think that it's a very important part of style. as it happens, i'm a housespouse, and both looks were worn for days of housestuff and running a few errands.

    i also have nerve damage which makes wearing many pants irritating to painful. Right now i do not have any light colored non-jeans, as i don't have much use for any. If i'm going more dressy these days i'll more likely choose a skirt (easier on my leg).

    all you readers are full of great, useful points! it's a lot of fun for me!

    Happy Sunday!

  13. Very interesting experiment. I do agree that darker wash jeans make us look thinner, but gosh darn it, sometimes a woman just wants to wear something different. It may not be the most flattering look, but if it makes you feel fabulous, then why not?

  14. Hear hear Debbie!! plus, looking 'thinner' may not always be the most flattering look. In all the wrong colors, people may think you lost a few pounds because you had a stomach bug ;) I go with your idea of feeling fab!! steph

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