TONY personal shopper

We assembled an expert panel to solve New Yorkers's burning denim conundrums.

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I loved Blue Cult jeans, but I guess they went out of business because I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. Are there any jeans out there that are similar?
True to its name, French designer David Mechaly’s denim line earned a cultlike following for its flattering, figure-hugging fit. But after Mechaly split from his wife and business partner, Caroline Athias, the company dissolved in 2007, leaving its loyal customers at a loss. But there’s good news on the horizon for Blue Cult fans: Mechaly is in the planning stages for a new denim brand called American Dress Code by David Mechaly, set to launch in early 2011. “It’s going to be the Blue Cult fit, which was very well known, but it’s going to be much more evolved, using different, softer fabrics that are more comfortable and sexy,” says Mechaly. In the meantime, Mechaly suggests trying Paige Premium Denim (829 Washington St between Gansevoort and Little West 12th Sts, 212-807-1400 * 245 Columbus Ave between 71st and 72nd Sts, 212-769-1500 * paigeusa.com), which he believes boasts the closest fit to Blue Cult (Paige’s founder, Paige Adams-Geller, was Blue Cult’s first fit model). If you simply can’t settle for anything but the original, we’ve seen select Blue Cult styles floating around on Yoox.com and eBay.

Where can I find longer-length jeans that won’t totally break the bank? For a city full of supermodels, it’s surprisingly difficult to find anywhere that carries jeans for a 6-foot-tall woman!
Take it from a supermodel herself: “Express does a great job in the specialty sizes for both taller and shorter women,” says actress and jewelry designer Molly Sims (graycebymollysims.com). “I personally love the new bootcut Stella style.” Indeed, most of the chain’s jeans come in a long version with a 35-inch inseam, and at $60 to $88 a pop, “they won’t even crack the bank,” says stylist Stacey Kalchman, who seconds the brand’s long-length offerings. And don’t forget some of the affordable classics. “In the age of premium denim, consumers have forgotten about old favorites like Levi’s and the Gap,” says stylist and wardrobe consultant Amy Gordon (styledbyamy.com). “Both stores carry at least three different inseam lengths.”

I’m looking for a great pair of jeggings for under $80 in a dark wash or black. I also don’t want them to be too revealing of my behind so I can keep them work appropriate. Any ideas of where to shop?
Though Francine Rabinovich, founder of repair service Denim Therapy (denimtherapy.com), questions whether jeggings have a place in the office, “if you have a very relaxed work environment that doesn’t have a strict dress code,” she recommends hitting American Eagle for its stretch-cotton denim jeggings in deep indigo ($40) and soft black ($50), New York & Co.’s hazel-wash five-pocket jeggings ($47) and the black Mossimo jeggings ($15) sold at Target. For a more office-friendly take on jeggings, Jessie Thorpe, NYC editor of the blog Denimology (denimology.com), suggests shopping at Free People. “In particular, they are carrying a flared jegging, which is perfect for the work environment, thanks to a sleek body-con shape disguised as a regular-style jean.”

White jeans can look so good or so bad. What is the proper way to wear them, and how can I avoid pitfalls?
One thing all of our experts unanimously agreed on: When it comes to white jeans, your pair should fit impeccably. “Make sure to wear your size, because lumps and bumps are clear as day in ill-fitting jeans,” says Thorpe. If you have any skin dimpling, Kalchman recommends wearing shape wear, such as Spanx Skinny Britches ($32--$45), to smooth things out. But imperfections aren’t the only thing that becomes more visible in white jeans: “Just because it is denim does not mean it is opaque,” warns Kalchman. “Invest in a nude thong that matches your skin color.” As for what to pair them with, Sims prefers “a great white top with a colored belt,” while Rabinovich advises that you should “always keep the colors neutral—think nude, tan and grays if you don’t want to overpower the whole look.” Footwear, on the other hand, may take some advance planning. “You might have to decide to wear them with either flats or heels and get them altered to fit exactly at that length,” says Kalchman. “White jeans will easily collect dirt at the bottom, and can make you go from sleek to sloppy in a second.”

What denim is appropriate to wear for work? Is a denim dress okay for a Casual Friday if it’s a dark wash?
“If you work in a very creative environment, you can probably get away with a light-wash or distressed jean,” says What Not to Wear cohost Clinton Kelly (season eight premieres on TLC in October). “But the average cubicle-dweller should stick to dark-wash denim that is free of holes, frayed hems and major bleaching.” Our experts also agree that classic silhouettes (bootcut, straight leg, trouser) are the way to go, and that skinny jeans should be reserved for the weekends. As for that denim dress, Thorpe enthuses that “you can get away with a lighter wash so long as the length is professionally appropriate and the cut declares you mean business.” If you’re still hesitant about busting one out on Casual Friday, Gordon suggests topping it with a cardigan or belt “to give it more of a work look.” But dresses and jeans aren’t the only denim pieces suitable for the workplace, if you follow Kalchman’s rule of thumb: “A dark denim blazer or pencil skirt can be incorporated into your work wardrobe as long as it’s paired with a more traditional suiting piece like a wool pant, a tweed jacket or a silk blouse.”

Where can I find reasonably priced jeans that come in short lengths? Some jeans I find that are my size fit great, and then I try on the “short” version in the same size and it seems as though they don’t fit the same!
“Be careful not to mistake a shorter inseam with petite styles,” advises Gordon. “Petite items are cut for different proportions.” If that’s not your issue, the brand might be to blame. “This can happen sometimes in lower-priced labels,” explains Frank Pizzurro, co-owner of Williamsburg shop Brooklyn Denim Co. “Most better brands 'grade’ their fits—as the size changes, the proportions change accordingly. AG Jeans is a perfect example of proper grading for each fit.” Another line to try for its shorter-length jeans is J.Crew. “They fit exactly like the regular length,” gushes Kalchman. “Speaking from experience—I’m only 5’3”—jean shopping used to be a nightmare, having to chop off so much material from the bottom that you could make a skirt. J.Crew short length has changed all that.”

Can’t afford to hire a personal shopper? We’ll do it for free. Send us your style and product questions to personalshopper@timeoutny.com and we’ll hunt down what you’re looking for.

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As a man with childbearing hips and a big ass, it’s very hard to find comfortable jeans to wear to clubs. More seriously, it’s very hard to find anything in a 38 or higher waist. Can you recommend jeans that might cater to someone in my position?
If you’ve got more junk in your trunk, our experts resoundingly recommend Levi’s, which offers many styles in up to a 54 waist (in particular, Brooklyn Denim Co.’s Frank Pizzurro suggests trying a pair of classic, straight-through-the-seat 501s). If you’d prefer a premium label, Evan Hecht, co-owner of Brooklyn Denim Co., endorses AG Jeans, which “sizes their men’s denim very generously. We had a gentleman who typically wore a size 40 waist; he tried on the size 38 from AG in their slender Geffen cut, and the jeans fit him perfectly,” he explains. “They looked like regular jeans, not dead stock from a Big & Tall outlet.”

When I wear a button-down shirt, sometimes I wonder if I should tuck it into my jeans. But I try it and instead of classy, I feel like it’s effeminate-middle-aged-dad wardrobe. What’s the deal?
The answer to this question is as much about fit as it is about style. “First, your jeans should hit just below your natural waist, not up at your belly button,” notes stylist Amy Gordon. When choosing a shirt, stylist Stacey Kalchman says to reach for a classic American-style button-down. “European or slim cuts should be kept untucked,” she adds, noting that wearing a belt is a must. “The shirt should also fit close to the torso; a shirt that poufs too much looks silly,” cautions Clinton Kelly, cohost of What Not to Wear. Pull this off the proper way, and Hecht calls it “a classic, solidly masculine look that invokes the timeless sartorial style of badass icons like Steve McQueen or Marlon Brando. Plus, chicks love it.” Not convinced? “If you’re still not totally comfortable, there’s nothing like a well-tailored blazer to finish off the look,” advises Kalchman. If you’re set on letting it all hang out, proceed with caution: “When wearing an untucked shirt, be mindful of the shirt’s length,” says Kelly. “One that covers the entire crotch looks sloppy and like you’re ready to go party at the Tribeca Grand seven years ago.”

What is selvage, and why does it cost so much?
“Selvage is a high-quality form of denim that is produced on old-fashioned shuttle looms and made in smaller quantities,” explains Denimology executive editor Andy Knight. “Modern nonselvage denim is mass-produced on projectile looms to ensure that costs are kept down, but this results in a lower quality of fabric.” A pair of selvage (also known as selvedge) jeans can cost upwards of $500, but it’s not just the old-school small-batch nature of production that accounts for the price. “Most of the selvage looms are found in Japan, which contributes to the high cost,” says Denim Therapy founder Francine Rabinovich, who adds that you get what you pay for: “The weaving process takes longer to complete but achieves a tightly woven, heavier-weight fabric that is built to last.” The distinctive notch at the seam, which is often characterized by a white or red line down the inside inseam, prevents the fabric from fraying, adding to the denim’s durability. It also gives label whores one more reason to spend so much cash: “Ultimately, flashing the red ticker line on your turned-up cuffs is a status symbol that says your jeans cost more,” says Hecht.

What shoes should guys wear with denim? Are there different shoes for different cuts?
Though denim’s versatile nature means you generally can’t go wrong when it comes to footwear, certain cuts do look best with specific shoes. “If the leg opening is narrow and the cut is more fitted, the shoe can’t be too bulky without looking clumsy,” says Hecht. “Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule: A Nike Dunk or a classic pair of Jordans always looks great with a skinny jean.” Knight prefers pairing his slim-cut denim with a pair of Converse, and suggests wearing Red Wing work boots with straight legs. “Bootcut jeans, as the name implies, look great with boots and should never ever be worn with sneakers,” he says. As an all-purpose fallback, “you can never go wrong with a great pair of loafers,” says Kalchman. “No matter what the cut of the jean is.”

When is it time to throw in the denim towel? I have a problem with holding onto my favorite jeans for too long. Should I refurbish or just toss?
If our experts’ polarized reactions are any indication, the answer depends on whom you ask. “Refurbish? I’m not sure how one would even refurbish a pair of jeans other than sew a bunch of patches on them, which would be fine if it were 1973 and/or you were 12,” quips Kelly. “Jeans have an expiration date, just like any other article of clothing. And when they look like crap, chances are you will too.” On the other side of the coin, “a good pair of jeans is forever,” according to Tomoko Ogura, women’s fashion director of Barneys Co-op. “Denim lovers all over the world scramble to get their hands on vintage jeans.” If you decide you can’t part with your beloved dungarees, let a seamstress or other skilled professional work their magic; Hecht recommends taking them to Kill Devil Hill (170 Franklin St between Java and Kent Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 347-534-3088, killdevilhillshop.com) or Self Edge (157 Orchard St at Rivington St; 212-388-0079, selfedge.com) for repairs, while Knight suggests Denim Therapy (denimtherapy.com). Refurbished or not, just make sure your pants fit properly. “If those busted jeans are saggy in the ass, they’re a waste of everyone’s time,” warns Kelly.

Where can I find cycling-specific denim? I bought an awesome pair of Osloh biking jeans from Chari & Co and would like to know what else is out there and who might have a better selection.
Rabinovich suggests trying out the offerings from Iron Heart (ironheart.co.uk), a Japanese brand known for its near-indestructible denim (the company was founded by Harley-Davidson fan Shinichi Haraki with bikers specifically in mind). You’ll find the label at Self Edge (157 Orchard St at Rivington St; 212-388-0079, selfedge.com), a denim specialist boutique Knight recommends for its “fantastic selection of the highest-quality Japanese selvage that is more than capable of standing up to the rigors of cycling through the city.” The men’s team at Barneys Co-op (236 W 18th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, 212-593-7800 * 2151 Broadway at 76th St, 646-335-0978 * 116 Wooster St between Prince and Spring Sts, 212-965-9964 * barneys.com) has also recently launched an exclusive biking jean with cycling apparel company Swrve. “The jeans have all the necessary cycling requirements: articulated knees, a reflective strip, a cell-phone pocket, a pocket for a bike lock, a higher waist and a lower rise,” boasts Ogura.

Can’t afford to hire a personal shopper? We’ll do it for free. Send us your style and product questions to personalshopper@timeoutny.com and we’ll hunt down what you’re looking for.

Women | Men

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