Alina's Denim Essentials: The 8 Pairs I Can't Live Without

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I am a denim fanatic. In fact, the original angle for this piece was going to be "Alina's Wardrobe Essentials" - except when I went to my closet to pick the top ten items, eight of the pieces ended up being denim. It stands alone as its own category, but when generally assessing my entire catalogue of clothing, 80 percent of what I deemed essential were pieces of denim. (The other two items were a white burn-out tee by Shaina Mote and a black, cropped, kick-out flare pant, if you were wondering). 

There's almost no fabric in fashion that's more versatile, especially when you own the right balance of styles and washes. Of course there are limitations to what you can wear to the office depending on your career. I love that denim is such an iconic part of L.A. culture - as much as surf and sand - and fairly accepted as a professional category here. I was recently at a business lunch spot where I looked around and 15 of 17 people I counted were in different pairs of jeans - it was kind of amazing. 

But I found that even when I lived in D.C. and worked for the federal government, denim was still the strongest workhorse in my wardrobe because of sheer cost per wear in my non 9-to-5 life. I don't wear anything more than my favorite jeans,  so today I'm sharing the best eight pairs I've ever purchased. 

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{Left to right; with flats, high heels, and mid-height booties}

{Left to right; with flats, high heels, and mid-height booties}

The Specifics: Medium wash, double clean knee hole, slightly cropped at the ankle, very stretchy 
The Brand: Frame, Le Skinny de Jeane (similar pair here, which I would get tailored to be slightly cropped at the ankle)
Description: Classic, cool, essential
Goes With:  Everything 
Shoes: Works just as well with high heels as with mid-height and flats (see above) 
Notes: These are the best pair of jeans I ever bought. Every girl needs a crisp pair of medium wash (not too dark, not too light) skinny jeans with a simple hole in both knees and a slight ankle crop.  I find them to be far more versatile than skinny jeans that aren't distressed, because the knee holes add instant cool factor to even the most simple ensembles (t-shirt + flats, for instance).  

You can see how the hole here is a clean-cut slice with light fraying around the circumference - there's no shredded cross-circle distressing; or additional patches anywhere else on the jean. It's just your quintessential hole-in-the-knees pair to throw on with everything - ankle booties, flip flops, mules, oxfords, tennis shoes, ballet flats (I love the contrast of hole-in-the-knees with a chic ballet flat). You can dress them up with a sexy stiletto for a night out - they're effortless to wear.

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Left, with mid-height mule booties; right with high heel single sole sandals 

Left, with mid-height mule booties; right with high heel single sole sandals 

The Specifics: Black distressed skinny jeans (double shredded knees), stretchy 
The Brand: Rag & Bone, The Skinny Jean in Rock With Holes (the holes started out shredded, but I've worn them so much that all of the strings broke and expanded to these giant holes, which I love)
Description: Slimming, sexy, edgy 
Goes With: Pretty much everything 
Shoes: All heights 
Notes: Black distressed-knee skinny jeans are as versatile as blue jeans of this variety and they're twin necessities for your wardrobe. In fact by chance as I write this, Emily is currently wearing an AG pair of black distressed-knee skinnies, a casual-cute henley tee; and black-and-tan ballet flats—and looks so chic. Pop on a stiletto and a silky top and you can get drinks/go out in the same pair. They make a very sexy date night look with a heel and more casual top to balance the "revealing" knees. The combination of the jeans with a cozy knit sweater  is also one of my fave year-round looks, paired with boots, white converse, or ballet flats. 

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Dark Wash High Waisted Flare Final Single.jpg

The Specifics: Extra dark wash, super stretch denim, wide waistband 
The Brand: Goldsign, Sissi Platform Flare Jeans  
Description: Flattering, slimming, sexy, high-impact, chic, sophisticated
Goes With: Tops that are cropped or tied to show off the nipped waist 
Shoes: Heels of a certain height only, platforms preferred
Notes: I've received a number of compliments and comments about the look of these jeans. A deep, dark blue (so blue it looks black) high waisted flare creates a dynamic effect to the eye. They make a statement, elongate legs, and and offer this fun, architectural silhouette that take your look up a notch. I feel so confident when I wear these and every time I grab them off a hanger, I think to myself how glad I am that I purchased them. I wear them to work often - their dark hue and sleek look make them almost like a trouser pant. My favorite top to pair them with is something that ties right at your waist since the waistline cut is worth highlighting. They'll always remind me of Victoria Beckham - she often wears this silhouette  (see here also), and knows a thing or two about looking lean. 

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The Specifics: Medium wash blue denim, slight stretch 
Brand: Goldsign (similar here
Description: Effortless, perfect dichotomy of relaxed and polished 
Goes With: Cropped tops, t-shirts, sweaters, blouses, tight turtlenecks  
Shoes: Higher heels only, platforms preferred 
Notes: In addition to my high waisted dark flares, these are another pair that I'm glad I purchased every time I reach for them. They're really a hardworking staple in my wardrobe, and also just like the dark stretchy flares, they make quite an impact and always receive compliments. They don't create the same hourglass shape as the high waisted flare - they have a casual feel and flow that I think is more girl-hot than guy-hot, while still making you look really put-together. I like that they're not the most standard silhouette, but a great pair of wide legs is a nice way to switch up your daily look. 

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The Specifics: Light-medium wash, clean blue jean, soft and stretchy 
The Brand: J. Brand (similar pairs here and  here
Description: Easy, fun, retro, classic, hip
Goes With: In my opinion, flares benefit from pairing with t-shirts of all kinds (especially vintage), to play up their throwback, athletic '70s-summer-camp vibe 
Shoes: Heels of a certain height (mules and mid-height boots work great)
Notes: Every girl needs one pair of great stretch-denim flares - this medium light blue shade is the most versatile and true to their retro vibe. I always feel so comfortable and laid back when I'm wearing them. A flare jean should be simple and clean - they don't need whiskering, button pockets, or tie-dyed hemlines. Keep it simple. 

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Left, with flat Converse sneakers; right, with mid-height pumps 

Left, with flat Converse sneakers; right, with mid-height pumps 

The Specifics: Medium wash, cropped at ankle, no stretch  
The Brand: Levi's 501s
Description: Nonchalant, French-girl, "non-look" look 
Goes With: Anything goes but especially classics - cotton basics, stripes, and knits 
Shoes: Mid-height heels, cute sneakers, flats
Notes: I bought these somewhat accidentally on my hunt for the dream vintage pair. I didn't realize people don't simply go into the Levi's store and buy their perfect pair off the rack (even denim freaks have a learning curve with vintage). When I got home to try them with outfits, I was initially disappointed in their lack of style: they're not tight, skinny, flare, culotte, or straight leg per se...they're just kind of, "there," hanging on your body. But I quickly came to LOVE them precisely for their strange, "Mom-like" lack of shape. I actually feel oddly cool when I wear them - they're imbued with a Parisian vibe, to be worn with converse and a cream tee, or a chic little knit striped sweater and rounded toe block-heel pumps. I think they look best with mid-height footwear or stylish sneakers. 

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The Specifics: Distressed, slouchy boyfriend fit, no stretch whatsoever
The Brand: What Goes Around Comes Around (similar here
Description: Beachy, chill, cool-girl vibes
Goes With: Tees, tanks, boho blouses, slouchy sweaters 
Shoes: Sandals
Notes: Every girl needs a pair of vintage denim cut-offs. It isn't summer (or warm weather) without your one pair to slip on every day until they get even more authentically lived-in and well-used. I used to be a denim cut-off addict - I had so many pairs, lots of Levi's (but none vintage). Then I found this one, perfectly worn-in vintage pair from the vintage authority What Goes Around Comes Around, and the difference was staggering. They're just better. They've gotten better and better with time, too. They have a look that new cut-offs can't compete with and a look cut-offs should have: that Zoe Kravitz, L.A.-in-the-'90s kind of thing. Nobody's cut-offs need to be too tight. Daisy Dukes aren't as versatile as a pair that looks borrowed-from-the-boys. 

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Left to right; with high heel pumps; flat mules; and mid-height booties. 

Left to right; with high heel pumps; flat mules; and mid-height booties. 

The Specifics: Faded medium wash, shredded knees, stretch denim 
The Brand: Frame, Le Skinny de Jeanne Jeans in Laurel 
Description: Edgier, for an alternative to classic hole-in-the-knees skinnies 
Goes With: Everything 
Shoes: All heights 
Notes: If you're going to pick, obviously go with the first pair of skinnies; I lived for several years with just those - but recently added these to my repertoire and they really do bring something new to the table. Distressed jeans, where you mostly see shredded white threads versus skin, is a different look. I like the contrast between grunge and classic: the shape of the jean itself is a standard skinny, but the distressing is kind of grungy, and then when you pair it with a super chic, tailored sweater + classic pumps, everything offsets nicely. 

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What are your must-have pairs of jeans? Tell me below!