Reader Request: Styling White Jeans

styling white jeans

Reader Sarah had this request:

I was wondering if you could point me to a post or you could do one on styling white jeans. I finally found a pair that feels flattering and now I am excited to experiment with looks. They look so cute for the spring and summer, but in some ways because they go with everything, it is hard to figure out how to highlight their good attributes.

Although I don’t wear mine terribly often, I love the look of a bright white jean. And I agree with Sarah that they can be very versatile but also very tricky. Here are my tips for making them work:

Consider your footwear

white jeans light shoes

Left | Right

Regardless of the length or cut of the jean, your own size or shape, or what type of shoe you prefer, light colored shoes will generally look better with white jeans than dark colored shoes. Since the jeans are light, light shoes will create a longer leg line but even if you don’t care to visually elongate your legs, pale shoes will generally look more summery and natural with white jeans.



Now if you have dark skin the leg elongation situation shifts somewhat: In order to create that unbroken line down to the ground, you’d need to wear a light, super high-vamp shoe … and you may not be interested in doing booties for summer. To keep your look seasonal, a shoe that is no darker than nude to your skin tone is still your best bet. Tan, pastels, and metallics are all great options.

white jeans footwear

Left | Right

If you’re going to do a shoe that is dark in color, opt for one that has narrow straps or delicate details. To my eye, the dark olive suede shoes on the left look less natural than the black strappy sandals on the right. Black and white are natural partners and doing a black top with white jeans can work nicely if you repeat the black elsewhere, especially by bracketing the look with black at your feet. But again, shoes that feel light instead of heavy will keep the vibe fresh and summery.

Repeat white for cohesion

white jeans outfits 1

Left | Right

Now I’ll admit that this tip comes directly from the office of the Mayor of Matchy-Matchytown, so bear that in mind. Although white jeans can be worked into a variety of outfits, pairing them with tops that have white in their print or pattern is a fabulous way to create a look that feels intentional and complete. Both of these outfits include tops that have both white and another color AND both outfits also repeat that color in the shoes. Chic and elegant.

Bright contrast or cool monochrome

white jeans outfits 2

Left | Right

You could also consider doing your pale shoes and white jeans with a bright, summery color like coral, mint, or yellow. Dusty shades like olive, mustard, and most jewel tones won’t work as well as colors with a bit of bite to them. White jeans look fabulous with cream, ivory, pale tans, stone, and other like shades for an arty monochromatic look.

Light neutrals or navy

white jeans neutrals navy

Left | Right

In addition to white variants like ivory and stone, light neutrals like heather gray and tan look very modern and sophisticated with white denim. Sticking to this palette will create an arty, minimalist look but adding metallic accents like those in the outfit on the left will create a funkier vibe. Navy is a classic choice to pair with white jeans and is perfect for anyone who loves all things preppy and/or nautical.

Column of white or pretty pastels

white jeans outfits 3

Left | Right

If you worry about breaking up your figure or want to appear as tall as possible in your white jeans, wearing a white top to create a column of color will help. You can then add a vest, blazer, scarf, or other element for interest and your long line will remain unbroken. I had trouble finding a good example of what I consider to be an easy, classic, nearly foolproof pairing for white jeans: Pastels. The look on the right here includes a pink striped top, but any pastel will do from lavender and butter yellow to pale blue and seafoam. I love the look of a pastel top, white jeans, and tan shoes.

And that’s all I’ve got! Hopefully some of these tips and outfit suggestions will help you generate new ideas for wearing your own white jeans. I’d love to hear any additional white denim outfit building advice you have to share. How do YOU wear white jeans?

Top images courtesy Gap.

Originally posted 2014-06-05 06:30:53.

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12 Responses to “Reader Request: Styling White Jeans”

  1. bubu2

    Very informative – thanks! I have not bought any myself – both because of my not knowing how to style them, and fear they would be unflattering, but mainly because I fear they will get dirty in an instant and never clean again. Any tips on keeping white jeans white? I’ve never really gotten the hang of bleaching.

    • Sally McGraw

      ME EITHER, Bubu! Bleaching seems like it should be the easiest, but I always make a hash of it. I’ve been told that white vinegar in the wash can help, as can OxyClean. I wear mine relatively infrequently, so I just make a practice of spot-treating ANY stains immediately (I carry a Tide Pen with me everywhere) and washing them after each wear with whites only.

      Anyone else have tips for keeping white denim white?

      • bubu2

        Glad I’m not alone! I instead just stocked up on light khakis (lighter for summer anyway) so I think I can use a lot of these tips for those as well!

      • Monica H

        I have had very good luck with spot treating with oxyclean and letting it sit for 10-15 minutes before washing. They are more stain-resistant than I would have expected. And I’m a big klutz. 🙁

  2. Anon

    Bleach can actually yellow whites when used too often or without enough dilution. What will really make all whites seem white to you is something our grandmothers used: bluing. It’s basically a fine, blue iron powder (or it is suspended in liquid for easy addition to your laundry) and works by adding just a trace of blue to the yellowed clothes, making them appear whiter to your eye (see: the subtractive color model of color perception). This is the same principle of using blue shampoo or rinses on blonde or white hair. (The blue-haired old ladies have used too much blue toner to cancel out the yellow in their hair.)

  3. Monica H

    My top 2 style ‘recipes’ for my white jeans are shown in your looks also. 🙂 I think they look fabulous with a striped tee with white in it. I have a few bright striped tees from Gap that look fresh and crisp with white jeans, even though they are totally casual and easy.

    I also like the denim-on-denim looks with white. They seem a bit much to me when it’s blue on blue,but I love wearing my white jeans with a chambray shirt or with a blue denim jacket. The gray vest you showed looks fab too!

    I have also found that for me, brightly colored shoes can work too. I have some cute red sneakers that look great with my white jeans!

  4. walkercreative

    Thanks for mentioning the difference with darker skin tones. It really does give a different visual grouping. I would also add that my sparkly black peep-toe sandals look good with my white jeans, because my hair is black and I do high contrast easily. Everyone may not be able to carry the look, but I can do black shoes with white jeans just fine without it looking heavy.

  5. Naomi

    I just wanted to say thanks for posting a variety of sizes in your example pictures. I follow your posts and I see that you consistently make an effort to show both “straight” and “plus” sized models and as a size 16, that’s very refreshing for me. Thanks!

    • Sally McGraw

      You’re very welcome, Naomi! I want everyone to feel included here, and many of us are not model-sized, so I do my best to use a variety of images. Thanks for reading!

    • Sally McGraw

      The aqua ones will be great, Chris – especially with the white sole. The red Mary Janes could be cute, too, but might feel a bit heavy – maybe see about incorporating the black from that sole into the outfit elsewhere in a bag, a print, or accessories?

  6. Lynne

    I just don’t wear white jeans. Not sure why, I kind of fear them.