Build Your Basic Closet - Essential Jeans and Pants


In the last month or two, I have had several friends approach me about putting together outfits for them for upcoming events. I LOVE when people ask me for help with this - even if it's text messaging me photos - so I jumped at the chance to help them. What surprised me was that I ended up recommending that each of my friends purchase very basic items to update their closets. For one friend, it was a pair of dark wash skinny jeans, and for another it was a denim jacket and strappy brown flat sandals. They had a lot of cute clothes, but there were too many basics missing to make complete, updated, and chic outfits!

Last week, I started a series to help you take stock of your closet and now you know why - sometimes there are holes that are easy to fix but we don't know they are there! I am breaking down the basics in my wardrobe and listing out for you what may be missing. If you have updated basics, your current pieces can go farther, all of your clothing will look modern and fresh, and your outfits will mix and match well. Last week, we talked about Tees and Tops, and today I'm going through my basic jeans and pants recommendations. I know summer is coming and pants get hot, but this is my year-round basics list (and I tend to wear pants year-round anyway).

1. Dark, Dark Skinny Jeans - This is my favorite style of pant right now. I love to cuff them, or you can buy them cropped at the ankle. They are slimming on everyone and really hit the refresh button on any tees, tops, shirts, or blouses that you already own. They work well with most shoe types and really can be worn with anything. I especially love these pants to have a little stretch which makes them fit a little bit like a legging. 

2. Black Ponte Knit Pant - These pants are one of my favorites. I wear these instead of leggings and also instead of black jeans. Leggings are just too thin to be considered pants, but I love the look of black leggings with certain outfits. Rather then wear leggings, I will wear these fitted, stretchy black ponte pant under tunics, with boots, and in a lot of other situations. They are thicker than leggings but give the same look. I also like these pants because they stay a crisp black color where black denim will fade. I don't cuff these pants, but to get the cropped look I will sometimes roll the hem of the pant leg under. I have found several pairs at TJ Maxx for a good deal, but I do love the higher quality of my pair from Boden. 

3. Boyfriend Jean - There a lot of days where you don't want to wear skinny jeans, and boyfriend jeans can be a great alternative. They are always worn a little cuffed, and the loose fit means you will wear something slightly more fitted on top. You want to buy boyfriend jeans that are slim legged and still look pretty good from behind. Sometimes they can flatten your bum entirely and drown your legs. While they seem casual, these jeans can be dressed up or down and go with almost any shoe style. 

4. Distressed Denim - Distressed denim comes in all cuts of jeans. I love my skinny and straight leg jeans to have some distressing. I think it adds character to an outfit and also makes the pants more casual. My favorite distressing is ripped out knees with a little distressing on the thighs. I'm also a big fan of a raw hem and have cut off at least half of my jeans into raw edged cropped denim. You can purchase jeans this way, or you can distress your own to get the right look. Distressed denim will help create a casual chic look by adding the casual to heels and a blouse or strappy flats and a cute tee. 

5. Camo Pants (Printed Pants) - Camo is one of my favorite neutral pants and I add it to the list as a 'printed pant'. When I'm tired of blue jeans and I want something more interesting to pair with my basic tops, I will turn to printed pants. I also love floral denim and some geometric prints - even leopard. There are all kinds of printed pants, but you will want to find one that serves as a neutral or goes with many of the other colors in your closet. 

6. Colored Denim - Another way to mix up your basic tops is with colored denim. In the past few years, colored denim has exploded, and I do think things have toned down a bit. You can find jeans in any color, and that can be a good or a bad thing. While I don't have as many colored jeans anymore myself, I do think they have their place. I love the fresh pastel denim that is popular right now and I'm also still a sucker for white. Having one or two colored jeans that fit your style will stretch all of your neutral tops, graphic tees, basic cardigans, and chambray shirts farther. You don't have to wear the white jeans every day, but just having them as an option widens your outfit possibilities. 

There are definitely other cute and great looking pant styles and colors out there, but this list is what I find myself wearing all the time. These are the staples that I keep coming back to and would recommend to most of my friends. If you have a different body shape than I do, you can still find a way to take these recommendations and make them yours by looking at why these pieces make sense. Stay tuned for next time - Basic Dresses and Skirts! 

Do you have any other must-have jeans or pants? What do you wear the most?


  1. Love all the looks you put together. Looks like I have some shopping to do. :)

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  4. Kilee,,
    I love your should consider doing a fashion book for moms. I just had my 3rd boy and have been feeling frumpy. Your ideas make it seem easy to pull yourself together easily...keep it coming!

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  6. What are the jeans shown in the top photo as #4? Love your hints and styling suggestions! Thank you - I'm ready to go shopping !

  7. Please let us know about cutting off the hem to crop jeans! That raw edge.....what do you do with it? Let it fray, keep the strings clipped, only roll the raw edge or leave it out? Where to make that big cut??? I would love to do this to some that are too long (I am short!) but they sit because I haven't tried? Can you do this successfully with colored denim? I have a pair of mint jeans that are too long and would like to wear them. I get tired do rolling pants up!

  8. Do you have a favourite brand of jeans? After having my first baby, I have lost the baby weight, but my tummy is not the same. I am looking for something maybe with a higher rise...wondering if you have found anything like this


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