Embellished Jeans Beyond Form and Fit

Embellished jeans are the rage this season. Again, nothing new here. In the sixties many young people were decorating their jeans with anything from applied patches, to hand embroidered designs, to drawing on them with a felt tip marker or even a “Bic” pen. The Woodstock counterculture adopted the working man’s attire and adapted it with homegrown decorations.

In the 1970s, the sharp and clean cut disco fashion is imported from Europe, promptly displacing the unkempt hippy look. It was a time of tight bellbottoms with refined pocket decorations. The 1980s saw a comeback of the traditional cowboy image, metal studs, and all.

It was in 1999, however, that Tom Ford presented his frayed, embroidered, low rise Gucci’s in the Paris catwalks, going for a mere $3,500! The term “luxe hippie” is coined, and denim would never be perceived the same way again. This induction set the stage for the jeans revolution that we are living today.

Like so many other objects, the simple egalitarian blue jeans has reached levels of ornamentation (and price) that were unimaginable just a decade ago. The quality and sophistication of the decoration that we have seen these last couple of seasons are amazing! Possibly too much for some tastes, and pocket books, but sometimes trends have to swing far in one direction in order to eventually find their proper place.

I don’t believe this is a fad. Embellished jeans, jackets and skirts are here to stay. It is the style of the ornaments that will vary and evolve, and their quality that will make them timeless.

In the sixties, the images that were used were from a grassroots movement: flower power, peace signs, bubble letters. This millenium has seen a coming of age of the embellished jeans. The canvas has been liberated! We are seeing an enormous array of graphics as well as techniques:

  • appliqués
  • patches
  • beads
  • embroidery
  • sequins
  • rhinestones
  • Swarovski crystals
  • metal studs
  • painting/silk screening
  • lace
  • applications of jacquard weaves
  • laser “burned” designs
  • and even diamond and gold!

Advances in fabric finishes and cuts have paved the way to an ever more sophisticated product. The selling point of jeans is no longer just “comfortable and long lasting”.

Then again, not all embellishments, by the mere fact of being plastered on a well cut and finished pair of jeans (let’s take this as a given) are worthy of praise and our hard earned money.

Selecting a pair of embellished jeans is certainly not easy, and taste will play a large role. It’s ultimately a matter of talented design, good judgment, skillful craftsmanship, and a fit with your style.

Food For Thought

Still, there are some who really hate this trend. They would like to see embellishment start at the tag and end at the pocket details. Here is a question for the denim purists: does the elaborate ornamentation applied to Greek pottery diminish the artistic value of its pure utilitarian shapes? This is by no means a new issue. It has raged for generations in the history of art and architecture. Some movements in 20th century architecture rebelled against any form of ornamentation in buildings, calling it “decadent” and even “immoral”!

I personally like to see designers flaunt their stuff, good or bad…it doesn’t mean I’ll buy into every trend that comes along, and neither should you. Use your judgment. Consider your budget, when and where you’ll be using these jeans.

Some Other Things to Consider

  • If you do not want to attract too much attention to your rear end, don’t decorate it! Look for embellished jeans that have longer “strands” of ornament along the side of the legs, preferably below the knee.
  • Dry clean all of your embellished jean wear.
  • Remember that destroyed jeans are way past their point of no return with respect to aging. Very expensive destroyed and embellished jeans may not be your best investment.
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