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How to NOT Wear Jeans: 5 Denim-Free Outfit Ideas


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In my last post, I talked about style resolutions for the fall, and many of you responded with enthusiasm about the first rule, cutting back on the denim uniform. Wearing denim every day is a hard habit to break, so I decided to create a post with some denim-free outfit ideas.

Things to Consider

When dressing without denim, there are a lot of factors you have to consider. What are your options for a day with no jeans?

  • Consider the weather and the day’s events. There are many ways an outfit without jeans could go wrong – if it’s super windy out, you probably don’t want to wear a skirt. At the same time, consider how appropriate it is to wear super-short shorts to, say, a job interview (hint, it’s not!). And while leggings and a tee may be fine for some, consider how comfortable you are walking around without real pants on. Essentially, you can’t keep a resolution if you can’t practically execute it.
  • Borrow ideas from our friends across the pond. Believe it or not, wearing denim every day is a very American thing. While Europeans are known for their well-cut denim too, they also wear different styles of pants and legwear that are rarely seen in the States. We don’t even really have comparable words for most of them (tapered trousers, hotpants, jumpsuits, cropped trousers)! This is where UK retail sites (, and fashion community sites (Lookbook and Chictopia) really come in handy. Do your research and get inspired!
  • Think outside the box. Often times when people hear “no jeans”, their minds jump straight to skirts and dresses. But when the weather cools down, skirts and dresses are near impossible to wear without freezing to death. Denim is not the only legwear option! You can stay warm in leggings, khakis, cargos, tights, trousers… there are options!

How to Dress Without Jeans

So now that we’ve talked about the basics behind the resolution, lets get to the fun (and most challenging) part: how do you dress without jeans?

Here are my top tips to creating cute outfits that don’t involve denim – it’s easier than you think to pull off!

* Warm Weather Revival

I probably cannot stress this enough: get some mileage out of your warm weather clothes while you can!

I know it’s tempting to break out the fall clothes as soon as school starts, but in a few months after you’ve worn them all, what will you wear then? Resist the urge to wear your fall/winter stuff as long as you can, and bust out your summer florals and trendy shorts instead!

In the outfit below, I paired a pretty summer dress with a cardigan (in case your classes are overzealously air conditioned like mine) and some summery footwear to help your warm-weather wardrobe go the distance.

In the second outfit, shorts and a simple button-down plaid shirt are paired with cute flats and a straw fedora to channel some summer spirit. A neutral handbag finishes this outfit off for a look that would be perfect for class.


Product Information: Dress – Topshop, Cardigan, Ring and Shoes – Modcloth, Bag – Urban Outfitters.

no jeans1

Product Information: Shorts and Flats – Charlotte Russe, Blouse – Modcloth, Bag and Fedora – Urban Outfitters.

* Unique Legwear

Tights, leggings and legwarmers (yes, legwarmers) should be staples in every college girl’s wardrobe.

Not only are they versatile, but they’re also cheap, getting you the most bang for your buck. These unique legwear options are also great because they help transition your skirts and dresses into fall (even your shorts, if you’re adventurous), practically doubling your wardrobe.

To stand out, I highly recommend buying tights in a multitude of colors, textures and patterns beyond the basic black opaque. Go for a Blair Waldorf look and pick some up in white, navy and red, or channel Jenny’s rocker chic persona with some trendy cutout leggings. Legwear can help you distinguish your true style persona.

Now on to the outfits! In the first outfit below, a summery dress gets a fall update with the addition of cable knit grey tights and a cardigan. A quilted bag and some amazing flats add a hint of Gossip Girl chic to finish the look off.

In the second outfit, I wanted to show you a new way to wear legwarmers (or even knee socks, if you have them) under your boots. Just a hint of pattern peeking out from the boots adds interesting dimension to an outfit while keeping you warm.

no jeans2

Product Information: Dress –, Shoes – Juicy Couture, Bag and Tights – Urban Outfitters, Cardigan –, Ring – Modcloth.

no jeans 3

Product Information: Legwarmers – Free People, Boots – Piperlime, Shirt and Skirt – Modcloth, Bag –, Cardigan – American Eagle.

* Diversify Your Pants

When Katie Holmes stepped out in that infamous pair of boyfriend jeans last year, I had an epiphany: Why do we as women hide our phenomenal shoes (that we’re incredibly proud of) under our pant legs?

I became an instant fan of cropped pants and still am to this day. Not only do they show off your shoes, they also make your legs look fabulous. So when you’re trying to avoid jeans, why not try the harem trend or some cropped trousers and pair them with a showstopping shoe? You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results!

In this outfit, I mixed trendy harem pants with a loose tee and some cool accessories for an effortlessly chic vibe. Here’s a tip: make sure to tuck in the shirt – this makes the outfit appear more polished and you’ll achieve a breezy, relaxed effect.

no jeans 4

Product Information: Shirt, Bag and Necklace – Modcloth, Pants – Forever21, Shoes – Piperlime.

What do you think about NOT wearing jeans?

I hope that this article helps all of you planning to diversify your wardrobe.

What do you think of my ideas? How do you survive on days when you don’t wear denim? I’m always open to suggestions, so don’t forget to comment with any questions you have or anything else you’d like me to address!

Posted on on September 8, 2009 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , ,

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45 Responses to “How to NOT Wear Jeans: 5 Denim-Free Outfit Ideas”

  1. 1
    September 8th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Never thought of wearing legwarmers under boots.. but now that I think of it that sounds excellent..

    It’d be great to not rely on jeans all the time

  2. 2
    September 8th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Loved this post! I would wear any and all of these outfits.

  3. 3
    September 8th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I think not wearing jeans everytime is a good idea,also this fall I’m willing to try wearing skirts dresses and tights rather then denim.. Being a bit different from other girls out there is always better :)
    nice post :)

  4. 4
    September 8th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Loved all the outfits you picked out. Great sense of style!

  5. 5
    September 8th, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I only have 1 pair of jeans that I wear right now (i know, i know) I’m really hoping to wear more tights and dresses this fall. I live in Miami anyway so I won’t be in need of too much I think I can pull it off.

  6. 6
    September 8th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I love all these outfits! I rarely wear jeans…maybe once a week when it’s freezing cold out. I never wear them in the summer. I love seeing non-jeans outfits! Jeans are so common and can be very boring so I love seeing alternatives to jeans. The legwarmers and boots are a great idea. I never wanted a pair of legwarmers until now. I need to go shopping. Great post!

  7. 7
    September 8th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Great post!!! I love the many outfits you included. More is always better :) Thank you!

    (PS: This rseemed like something Zephyr would post.)

  8. 8
    September 8th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

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  9. 9
    September 8th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I loved most of the outfits. I don’t think cropped tops and high heels would really work for class – at least not here – and I’m not sure about the harem pants either, but I really love the tights and legwarmers! And the Gossip Girl references ;)

  10. 10
    September 8th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Excellent post! I love the classic and creative elements that blend in all of these outfits. The legwarmers with boots would be so cute! Also, just thought I’d mention that lately I’ve been wearing my cute, summer denim cutoffs (okay, so they’re denim. But it’s a related idea) over tights, and one of my friends who studied abroad in London last year looked at me and said “Omg, you look like the British girls! Why does no one ever wear stockings over here anyway? They were all over London with every style in every colour.” Everyone else just said I was so original…three cheers for borrowing from across the pond :)

  11. 11
    September 8th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I really love this post! Like some other people said, the heels are not practical for classes, but everything else is great!

  12. 12
    September 8th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I loved this article and really love your sense of style and the outfits you put together. Definitely some fashion inspriration here.

  13. 13
    September 8th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Thank you. I love my denim, and am really dependable on them, but lately I do want to branch out and try some new legwear.

  14. 14
    September 8th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I wear jeans a lot (nearly every day that I’m not working and so have to dress up business casual) b/c I hate wearing shorts/short skirts/short dresses. I really liked the outfits you put together, but I would have liked to see practical pants that I could buy, as well as cold-weather outfits.

  15. 15
    September 8th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I love this post! I’m so happy CF has more writers now (though I love you Zephyr!) because it means so many more posts :) This is my first time commenting. I’m going to university in three weeks in England and this blog is invaluable for style lovers :)
    I only started getting into jeans recently (you’re right, it’s definitely an American phenomenon) and I have a few pairs but I normally wear dresses and skirts, sometimes with leggings, but normally with opaque tights in winter. You have inspired me to branch out to other kind of tights! I am always wary about what kind of shoes to wear without looking mismatched or too matchy matchy though…I love the grey ribbed tights you show but I don’t know if I’d have the courage to wear them with red flats! Shorts with tights under is always fun too…
    Anyhow, I love this article, so thank you!

  16. 16
    September 8th, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Great post! I’ve loved wearing sundresses all summer and haven’t been looking forward to switching over to jeans every day. Thank God for tights. Cute outfits!

  17. 17
    September 8th, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Such great outfits! I could definitely seeing myself wearing each and every one of these.
    It’s so refreshing to see creative outfits without jeans.
    The leg warmers + boots is something I would never have thought of; I have a pair of leg warmers in the back of my closet I bought on a whim awhile back I may finally put to use!

  18. 18
    September 8th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I agree with you when you said it was an american thing- I’m from Europe and I own jeans but I wear them not very often because we just don’t really do things like that. We were trousers, and skirts (with tights in the winter), and not a lot of jeans.

    I am a HUGE, HUGE fan of tights- they are so pretty and chic and versatile and they slin your legs and keep you warm and show off your pretty shoes. Yay for tights!

  19. 19
    September 8th, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Personally I prefer cords and khakis to jeans, I only really like to wear jeans to labs and outdoor events.

  20. 20
    September 8th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Great article, one of the best I’ve seen on CF. Totally agree that jeans can become kind of a fashion crutch.

  21. 21
    September 8th, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    I’m a sophomore at a southern university that is known for really tough academics AND really pretty/fashionable girls. Looking cute is the easy part, haha, and since I’d rather focus on schoolwork (and bonding with friends) I made certain both this summer and last summer to a) get a job and b) do really good bargain hunting. I wear jeans like twice a week, max. Dresses and leggings are the way to go…so much quicker, girls. And you can often find three or four quality, figure-flattering sundresses on sale for the price of one pair of designer jeans. Hit up T.J Maxx, Marshalls, Steinmart, ect. With jeans, you waste extra time finding the right top, ironing it, matching it to your bag…a dress is just one thing to iron in the morrning when you’re running late to your 8 am. Now, I’ll admit that–once it gets super-cold outside–I’ll care a lot less what I look like, haha, and will depend on jeans more often. But leggings/tights work perfect with stretching dresses into the early winter. One secret: layer your leggings on extra-cold days! Your legs won’t look fatter, I swear, haha, and you’ll stay twice as warm! I’ve literally worn three pairs of tights at once before! Thanks Zephyr, for the awesome article!

  22. 22
    September 9th, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Love this post! Wrote a similar article on how to get out of that denim rut:

    I think we all rely on denim a lot (I live in London and even being in Europe you see jeans *everywhere*!) and really need to consider other options sometimes! :)

    xx Leia

  23. 23
    September 9th, 2009 at 2:41 am

    I live in Europe so I didn’t quite understand this “no jeans” thing until now. Most people around here wear leggins and jeans come in second. I myself wear skirts most of the time, with tights. When the weather get colder, I just buy thicker tights and a couple of pair of kneehigh socks.

  24. 24
    September 9th, 2009 at 6:17 am

    wow!great post!
    I agree on prolonging the use of summerclothes with some cardigans!
    Thnx, you gave me lots of ideas!

  25. 25
    September 9th, 2009 at 7:57 am

    I rarely wear jeans myself, only when I start missing them lol. There are soo many other things to wear! Shorts, skirts, dresses, capris…just mix and match them differenly with other tops, and you never have to wear jeans!

  26. 26
    September 9th, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I love this article! I checked out lookbook. COOL SITE! I have lots of ideas now thanks to you!

  27. 27
    September 9th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Funny you should mention European winter dressing – a few years ago I never quite got why most american transfer students seemed to only wear jeans for the week or more that they were there. I live in Denmark, and I love tights/overknee stockings :) So far in the past month, the jeans have only been out once and this winter ill try to have at least two ‘no-jeans’ days a week :D

  28. 28
    September 9th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I love this post! I am guilty of wearing jeans way too much in the colder months (though I’ll wear skirts and dresses in the summer since I’m not into shorts). I’m going to try some of these ideas this year! I bought some leggings to layer under my dresses the other day!

  29. 29
    September 9th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Wow, good post!

    Maybe it is an American thing, i’m British and I only own one pair of jeans! I just feel nicer wearing tights skirts and dresses, and I only tend to wear my jeans if i’m in a hurry or i’m just running down to the shop for milk or something.

    Jeans don’t hold up to well in our rainy weather :P They feel gross when they’re wet!

    P.S good links, topshop is my Mecca!

  30. 30
    September 9th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I’ve already worn a skirt this week and a dress last week. Switching up between trousers and jeans the rest of the time. I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks for dressing nice for class but it’s not stopping me!

    I’m homebound a lot so even putting on “real clothing” is a success some days.

  31. 31
    October 3rd, 2009 at 10:14 am

    wow :) new ways to not wear jeans. although i have gotta say, avoiding jeans is good in the UK cause of the rain, so alot of the girls at my college tend to live in tights and leggings with long tops and skirts :) its awesome :)

  32. 32
    November 28th, 2009 at 1:34 am

    I really enjoyed this blog. I am a jeans and tshirt kind of girl because I do not know how to wear the other styles that are out there. Thank you for the tips!

  33. 33
    July 3rd, 2010 at 9:50 pm


  34. 34
    January 2nd, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I HATE to wear jeans, they are so uncomfortable ! Great article : )

  35. 35
    January 5th, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I’m a sophomore in college, and I have this TERRIBLE habit of wearing basketball shorts or jeans four out of five days a week. Last semester I challenged myself to switch it from wearing them four out of five days to only once or twice a week. It felt great. I always feel like going to class in my pjs if I’m not sticking around after class, but I think I’m going to cut that out this semester. (Except when my friends and I declare it National-Wear-Pjs-To-School-Day!)

  36. 36
    September 27th, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Nice article, but I’m not giving up my jeans, ever. ;) I love them way too much. I was forced to wear tights and dresses and other clothes all the time as a kid. Jeans are what I wear year round. I can’t wear heels or flats because I have odd shaped feet. And I don’t do hats or purses.

  37. 37
    November 1st, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Always a fan of jeans but the company I worked for does not allow us to wear them. Thank you for this post. Made my day. I want to experiment on Aryn K items.

  38. 38
    January 30th, 2012 at 2:10 am

    i didnt wear jeans during the last 3 months of 2011, not really because of a fashion challenge (altough it was!), but because somehow, through the year, i managed to rip all of the jeans i had in a way that made them just unwearable (and i lost some weight so the ones that i didnt rip, didnt fit either…) and couldnt afford to buy new ones (in my country they are rather expensive) soooo i just survived with dresses, leggings, tights, shorts and skirts. it was really fun though! & now i bought some new pairs of jeans (because after all they ARE a must, at last for me) but i dont wear them nearly as much as i did before those 3 months. i guess it helped me get more creative when it comes to dressing up.

  39. 39
    April 12th, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    literally gasped when i saw that first dress… :D ton of good pointers here too (definite bookmark!)

  40. 40
    July 17th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    LOVE THIS POST!!!!!!!!!! I only own one pair of Jeans (plus some denim cutoffs), and even then I only wear them for farm chores like haying. Truth be told, I sometimes feel odd. I love all of these outfit ideas! I would totally wear them all….especially the first one! I love this site. Thanks. :)

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