Digging on Denim: My Favorite Summer Fashion Trend and How to Wear It

Fashion magazines always show trends before they hit the stores. I can recall freezing in my house; the heat was on but the cold was so intense outside I was still shivering though in a ski cap, wool socks in wool slippers, and swathed in fleece. I flipped through a magazine, can’t recall which glossy now, but I can recall what the pages held. Shiny, almost waxed denim in a very blue hue. Yellow stitching, and lots of it from side seams to topstitching on self-belts and collars. Waists up to the ribcage, butterfly collars, and culottes.

Barf.

Maybe it’s because I was born in the ‘70s, owned Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt in the ‘80s, switched to Guess? Ankle-zips and oversized CK Jeans in the ‘90s but I can’t imagine wearing denim that looked like what my mother wore in Instamatic photos from my infancy. It looked like a costume, so unwearable, a trend I had no desire revisiting.

But with all fashion trends, once it has trickled down to the mall it has become more wearable. And the current denim trend? I am all over it. While there is plenty that looks very dated (excuse me, VINTAGE), and a lot that looks like a 1980’s kindergarten teacher, I’m still finding many denim pieces that are flattering, wearable, and have style that will look on trend this spring and summer and still look chic a year from now. My favorites:

Denim Dresses

I wore a calf-length denim dress for the first day of school 8th grade. It was subtly acid washed, snaps down the front, and those loops to hold up the cuffed sleeves. I paired it with a wide leather belt and ankle boots. Looking back, I could wear that very outfit today and look fashionable. While I don’t plan to revisit acid washed denim, I do love the look of denim dresses. Style with pumps and a polished leather belt for the office, slip on some sandals and a turquoise necklace for the weekend.

denim dress trends for spring

  1. This chambray shift from Old Navy is light and breezy, perfect for humid summer days. The embroidery keeps it from being ordinary; pair with tan leather thongs and a fedora for a street festival, heeled sandals and a couple silver bangles for dinner, or wear as your beach coverup.
  2. With detachable wide straps, this charming stretch denim dress from Ann Taylor will prove quite versatile. Imagine paired with brightly-colored heels and a bold lip, styled with tan sandals and turquoise jewelry, or worn with a crisp white blazer to the office.
  3. Many denim shirtdresses are stiff, this one from LOFT is soft making it comfortable and more figure flattering. Wear it as is, or switch out the self belt with another in your closet. Come fall pair with ankle boots and leggings.
  4. This fit and flare dress from Adriana Papell proves that denim can work for dressier occasions. Style with nude pumps for the office, or tan sandals for brunch or a baby shower.
  5. I wasn’t feeling this dress from Boden until I watched the video on their site; now I understood the positive reviews! Soft drapey fabric makes this comfortable and figure flattering and not too twee. I love how they styled it with ankle boots to balance the volume of the skirt; also consider pairing this with skate shoes, espadrilles, or a wedge sandal to prevent looking too top-heavy.
  6. A bit of quilting and tassels on the drawstring waist make this simple chambray dress from LOFT a stunner. Breezy fabric keeps you cool on the muggiest of days.
  7. How adorable is this halter dress from City Chic? This would be perfect for everything from a date to a garden wedding. The strap is detachable giving you two looks with one dress.
  8. This drawstring-waist Tencel dress from Halogen is effortless summer dressing. Leave as-is, cover the drawstring with a wide belt, and come winter pair with a turtleneck and opaque tights. Available in regular and plus sizes.

Denim Jumpsuits

A decade ago I saw a photo of a woman online in denim coveralls. They were perfectly rolled at the arms and legs, the collar popped, and she styled it with the craziest platform ankle boots. I printed out that photo as inspiration and searched high and low on eBay, in thrift stores, and boutiques for something similar. Now it’s 2015 and you can find denim coveralls, jumpsuits, overalls, and rompers in every wash, rinse, and style imaginable.

denim jumpsuit trends for spring

  1. This chambray jumpsuit from LOFT is soft without being droopy, the legs can be left long or cuffed for a casual feel. Add a belt and heels to dress up the look, unbutton the placket to show a hint of a camisole.
  2. This jumpsuit from Daisy Street reminds me a bit of those coveralls I coveted a decade ago. Imagine it paired with a wide leather obi belt, or unbuttoned to show several different strands of pearls. You’ll be surprised at how versatile a jumpsuit can be.
  3. Be a modern-day Rosie the Riveter in this belted jumpsuit from eShakti.  This could be carried off in a more casual or creative office environment, paired with peeptoe ankle boots or heeled sandals.
  4. Adjustable straps, a slouchy fit, and elasticized waist makes this chambray jumpsuit from Splendid casual cool for summer.  Dress it up with a belt, heels, and hoops or go relaxed with slip-on sneakers and a messy topknot.
  5. These traditional coveralls from Jenni will transition nicely into fall and winter.  For summer keep the look light by rolling the sleeves and pairing with tan heeled sandals or booties.
  6. Many rompers are too cutesy to be worn by many over the age of 25; this one from Free People is loose with a drop waist making it more wearable and classic.

Denim Tops

It’s likely you have a denim or chambray shirt somewhere in your closet. A few years ago you may have paired it with a floral pleated skirt, a sequined mini, or something flippy and made of lace. This season, consider pairing it with more denim for a fresh look on the old standby. Ignore the old rules about denim on denim or having to contrast washes; in 2015 anything goes. And speaking of anything, denim now comes in all shapes and silhouettes for tops: shells, bustiers, tunics, halter tops, wraps, and more. The key is to steer clear from anything too Southwest or Country – denim this season is either crisp and chic or edgy and inspired by street style.

denim top shirt fashion trend for summer

  1. The Weekday soft denim tee shirt from ASOS is amazing; soft finish, v-neck, and a crisp style that would be the perfect contrast to white flared jeans or a funky print pair of shorts.
  2. I love the pindot print on this denim shirt from Talbots; it adds a feminine touch and would make for cute pattern mixing with a floral skirt or paisley ankle pants.
  3. This flirty little swing tank from Anthropologie would look amazing with high-waisted white denim or a funky printed high-waist pencil skirt.  I'd also love it with wide-leg dark denim and some brown leather stacked sandals.
  4. The hemp/cotton blend of this two-layer top from Eileen Fisher will keep you cool in the heat while still looking polished. Wear under a blazer for the office, or pair with white linen pants or boyfriend jeans for the weekend.
  5. This chambray sleeveless popover from Lucky Brand looks basic from the front, but has an unexpected cutout in back that will give you some air conditioning while still covering your bra as well as most of your torso.  Wear untucked with Bermuda shorts or tucked into a printed midi skirt.
  6. Gap's 1969 Tencel denim tee shirt is a classic piece that will look great this summer of denim and for years to come.  Wear untucked with linen pants or white jeans, tucked into a black pencil skirt, or under a boyfriend blazer with skinny jeans or shorts.
  7. I owned a denim shell very similar to this one from Michael Stars back in college and wish I never got rid of it.  I used to pair it with everything from khaki shorts to nice black pants and heels, such a wash also looks spectacular paired with graphic prints and bold colors.
  8. I adore this drapey chambray top from Banana Republic; the shape is so unique yet so wearable.  Imagine with pants in white, black or even a bright color like red or orange; lots of silver jewelry and metallic sandals.  Or wear an obi-inspired belt over it and style with a pencil skirt for the office.

Denim Skirts

If you have a denim pencil skirt from a few seasons ago, pull that baby out and wear it this year with pride. However, not every denim skirt from your past may pass muster. As mentioned with the tops, edgy or elegant denim is hot, cowgirl vibes are not. Consider a sleek pencil or wiggle skirt, a high waist, a bit of distressing, a deep dark rinse or an ultra-faded hue.

denim skirt fashion trends summer

  1. This is the type of denim skirt that could be worn to the office.  The edge-stitched skirt from Ann Taylor gives a crisp, elegant effect and would lok great paired with Breton stripes, a crisp white shirt, or even balance a silk blouse.
  2. The combination of high waist and long length on this distressed white denim skirt from ASOS makes it look very modern and fresh.  I'd pair with this Breton stripes, a band tee, or even a shunken blazer over a cami.
  3. I tried this denim skirt from Old Navy in a different wash and while I didn't like the color I loved the fit. This is a darker color from what I ordered, but it also comes in white and a very light blue.  This is a classic denim skirt with stretch that would end up almost as versatile as your favorite pair of jeans.
  4. A reader mentioned in the comments on a different post on how flattering and fabulous this denim skirt from Lands' End is. She chose white, which I think is a brilliant choice for this spring and summer – it pairs great with pastels, neutrals, bold hues, and also beautifully complements denims of any wash or rinse.
  5. I have this drawstring-waist skirt from Adrianna Papell; while it runs big (seriously big, go down a size), it's perfect for summer. Breezy, airy, and pockets! You can see here I paired it with a striped top and pumps, but this summer I'll likely wear with a ribbed tank and sandals.
  6. This flippy denim skirt from City Chic is utterly adorable, and a great way to dress up casual summer tanks and even band tees.  I'd also love it come fall with a black turtleneck or crisp white shirt and ankle boots.
  7. This hemp/cotton blend skirt from Eileen Fisher screams summer.  Knee length, with a structured waist but plenty of breeze-catching fullness in its a-line style and the wonderful addition of pockets, this is a skirt you'll be wearing all season long, dressed up for Casual Friday or paired with flip flops and a linen tee for the weekend.
  8. I love the look of a dark rinse denim skirt; a bit below the knee and with stretch for a slim fit such a skirt can dress up for casual or creative office environments or be relaxed enough for a backyard barbecue.  Pair this rinse denim skirt from Style&co with a white blazer and colorful heels, a band tee and ankle boots, a sleeveless shell and flat sandals, or a simple white v-neck and Chucks.
  9. You can't go wrong with an original. The Levi's Icon Skirt is truly that; with a raw hem and classic pockets and back patch, this skirt, no matter what color you choose, will be one that will be chic for years to come.  Wear now with a slouchy linen v-neck, Breton tee, or a floaty cotton cami; come winter pair with a cashmere sweater, tights, and boots.

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14 Comments

  1. Lilliasrose
    May 19, 2015 / 10:30 am

    I had put away my old denim wrap dress from the GAP because it got too big, I just hauled it out again and wearing it like a smock over a black sport bra and leggings, super cute! I also found a great denim maxi peasant dress at the thrift store- I love it when things I already own become trendy (at least, until they go out of style again!) And I still rock my denim trumpet skirt and chambray shirt (love, love love chambray with black skinny jeans or a easy printed skirt.) Now, if I can just diet back into my fabulous denim trench coat…that thing is NEVER going to the thrift store!

  2. Lee4
    May 16, 2015 / 7:42 am

    I love Loft! I went in one last night after seeing this blog post, wanting to look at dresses. I wish the chambray dress was available in the store b/c it’s super cute! However, many of the reviews mentioned how sheer it is. I found a similar dress in the store that had very tiny stripes running through it. Very cute–but it ran extremely large & it was super sheer. What’s the point of a lightweight summer dress if you’ve got to wear a slip underneath to be decent? It also had a very weird smell. Not sure what the fabric is but the smell was on 2 different sizes that I tried on. Needless to say, no dress for me. I did manage to snag some of the t-shirts that are on sale & some white denim crop pants. Thanks Allie!

    • May 17, 2015 / 9:57 am

      Oh that’s unfortunate about the sheerness, I too don’t get it for summer dresses. Your scores sound good, I have had a few misses but more hits from LOFT lately!

  3. Patricia
    May 15, 2015 / 5:14 pm

    Dress #3, the Loft Chambray shirtdress is my jam. And it’s in stock locally so I can try it on. I’ve got a trip to Sicily next week and this would be a perfect piece. And all summer long, depending on how it looks on. Always a mystery until you get it on.

  4. crtfly
    May 15, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    I think there is a thin line between vintage and dated. And that line vacillates depending on the current trends. I have a dark wash a-line maxi skirt that I like. I guess it does look like 1968 although I bought it recently. I guess I don’t care if I look like a throw-back. No cowgirl vibe, I promise.

    Chris

    • May 17, 2015 / 9:56 am

      There’s nothing wrong with a skirt like that, and to be honest, nothing wrong with ANY style of denim, even if it does go in the cowgirl direction, if it works for you! As you know, my advice is for those who need or want it. Those who disagree have the right to because they already have a clear defined personal style! Your skirt sounds great!

  5. Becky
    May 15, 2015 / 1:18 pm

    So you’re not feeling the denim jean jacket vibe, huh? I live in the midwest and everyone seems to have one here.

    • May 17, 2015 / 9:55 am

      Oh no, I like denim jackets, I just didn’t feature them because they’re a bit heavy for many parts of the country for spring and summer 🙂

  6. Michelle Van Ellis
    May 15, 2015 / 12:31 pm

    I love so many of these but size is an issue. I did manage to snag a cute drawstring waist denim dress 2 summers ago so I guess I was ahead of the trend and a great maxi with embroidery from eshakti. They have a lot of tencel type denim pieces.

    Now I just need to find a pair of white denim boot cut or flared jeans. Bought a pair of NYDJ and they came up over my rib cage and still bunched up under my bra!?!?! They went right back. I can find all kinds of crops, boyfriends and skinnys but no plus boot.

    • May 15, 2015 / 12:40 pm

      I sound like an ad since they partnered with me, but check out Jag Jeans. They sent me their Paley Boot Cut which has the pull-on waist, but it’s a true boot and it’s not see-through or thin fabric. They have them a few places, I googled and found them at Zappos (http://www.zappos.com/jag-jeans-plus-size-plus-size-paley-boot-leg-in-white ), Amazon, and a few other places. I felt like a fool because they sent me these jeans, i was so psyched, then when taking my summer clothes I realized I already owned these very same jeans! LOL well now I have a pair when the others are dirty!

      • Michelle Van Ellis
        May 15, 2015 / 1:32 pm

        Thank you Allie!

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