New York Your favorite "jeans" might actually be a blazer, shoes or even underwear.
Denim has become one of the most popular fabrics in all categories of clothes. Men and women alike are wearing dark denim suits, pairing jeans with expensive tops and carrying denim bags.
(So far, the jeans-style underwear, which is actually stretch tulle made to look like denim, is just for women.)
"Denim is more than just an American way of dressing, it's a billboard for individuality," says designer Tommy Hilfiger. "For the past 50 years, denim has achieved an ever-changing uniqueness by being the canvas through which people express themselves. Denim has become an established way of life."
It's also become an established fashion trend that is considered appropriate in many offices and restaurants that adhere to a casual-yet-professional dress code.
A denim suit with a fitted silhouette and a slight sheen is dressier than a stonewashed skirt, says Kim Sobel, senior manager of communications for Banana Republic. Mixing denim with other fabrics, like linen, allows it to be used in more delicate blouses and shirtdresses.
And the color palette of "denim blue" has been expanded to several shades.
"Washes have become very important over the past few seasons. Dark stiff denim has given way to more widely accepted lighter washes and treatments that create 'worn-in' vintage looks," notes Hilfiger.
Red denim pants paired with strappy black heels is a very sexy look, says Sobel, while denim trousers that have a slim waistband are office-appropriate, especially when worn with a blouse and dressy belt.
"For the person who loves jeans, they can now have denim pants for every occasion," she says.
Mixing denim with other sportswear components a crisp white shirt, herringbone pants or a trendy trench coat has made "the denim look" fashion forward instead of weekend casual, according to Nautica Jeans president Paulette McCready. And, she adds, the darker rinse now used on denim instantly creates a more refined look.
McCready says she wears denim to business meetings, the movies and even the theater.
Another plus in denim's pocket: lighter weights.
Garments are now available in 7-ounce denim as opposed to the 14-ounce denim of traditional Levi's five-pocket jeans, explains McCready. The variety of denim weights makes for a fabric that can be worn year-round in any climate.
A lighter-weight denim, especially if it has a little stretch, is great for travel. It's comfortable, it doesn't wrinkle and it looks fresh when you get off the plane, McCready says.
The availability of denim also fuels the trend. In just one shopping mall, denim garments will be in mass-market chains, specialty boutiques, cutting-edge, youth-oriented stores and outdoor-equipment stores.
So it seems as if the possibilities for denim dress is endless.
"The five-pocket jean, just about everyone has in the closet. And the jean jacket that began to make a strong showing about a year and a half ago, most women more than men now have," McCready says.
In the coming seasons, look for denim trench coats, more blazers and, eventually, underwear. And, in the immediate future, Occhi Verdi's "jeans" undergarments by La Perla can serve as a substitute.
"Denim is all over and we wanted to follow the trend," explains La Perla sales director Monica Piereck.
The bra, bustier and boy-short panties all have stitching that mimics classic jeans. The denim look on underwear encourages "creativity and irony," Piereck says.
The intention was to create "fashion lingerie," she says, although real denim isn't delicate enough to be used as an undergarment fabric.
"Underwear is so intimate, and comfort and feel is so important," Piereck says. "Stretch denim has come a long way but it isn't quite there yet."