Denim is comfortable, hard wearing. It can be sophisticated or sexy, clean or rough. There’s more than one reason why it’s such a permanent fixture on the fashion map, and more than one reason why it deserves dedicated attention when it comes to looking at fall 2013’s fashion trends. Count its long and culturally significant history, its versatility, and its ability to find new ways into our wardrobes amongst them.

Jeans are a highly personal thing. Find what works for you, and odds are you’ll never want to take them off. We’re not here to tell you what jeans you must wear, but rather the broader denim styles that are trending – to help inform and inspire your winter denim purchases.

If you want to know how trends in denim are taking shape for the fall / winter 2013 season, including the key jeans styles to invest in, read on.

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Denim trends for women.

On-trend jeans styles.

Slim cut and skinny jeans.
Haters gonna hate, as the saying goes – but skinny jeans don’t care. No matter what other cuts come and go, skinny cuts remain.

skinny jeans street style
Skinny jeans on the street in Paris.

That said, the skinny jean has relaxed a little over time – so while skin tight legging cuts will always work on a model figure, everyone else can embrace those pairs that feel a little more effortless.

The skinny jean in fall 2013 is about having a little bit of give at the hips and thighs but tapering down to the ankle, a figure flattering slim cut that makes it look like you bought them skinny but they’ve gotten just an inch loose on you.

slim cut jeans for women
Slim cut jeans: street style in New York, DKNY and G-Star F/W ’13.

Wear them with pretty much anything from sneakers and a cosy knit, to a sleek pair of heels and a blazer.

Boyfriend jeans.
Boyfriend jeans burst onto the scene several years ago, becoming a major trend in 2009 in rebellion to the ubiquity of the skinny cut. Back then they were an extreme statement, the more oversized the better – not always to a flattering end. Having evolved, the boyfriend jean retains a flattering shape: find a pair that’s either slouchy at the hips but that stays fairly slim on the leg, or a pair that’s generally relaxed without bordering on sloppy (a few good examples are Rag & Bone’s mid-rise boyfriend jeans or this pair from Poorboy denim).

In terms of the styling:

  • Opt for a midriff baring top if the weather and your confidence allows it: the display of waistline helps balance out the lower silhouette.
  • For an overall relaxed look, nonchalantly belt a pair of boyfriend jeans and wear with a half-tucked in shirt or tee, a cool leather bomber, and a pair of sneakers or heavy boots.
  • For a sophisticated take, replace the casual footwear with a slick pair of pointed stilettos or ankle strap heels.
  • For another take, roll up the boyfriend jeans to the mid-leg or even up to the knee.

boyfriend jeans
Boyfriend jean cuts: street style, Maison Martin Margiela F/W ’13 couture.

Ripped denim.

From the shredded-up styles of a few years ago back to a series of rips – small or large – it’s another look to come back around. Warranting of its own separate report looking at the different styles of ripped denim and how to wear them, you can read more at the link below.

ripped denim: how to wear it now

Ripped denim: how to wear it now

In fall 2013 the ripped denim trend continues, from hacked-up, knee-baring jeans to shredded overalls. Go subtle or go all out, the choice is yours. Here's how to turn ripped denim into a sophisticated statement for fall.

Patched denim.

Not so much patched denim as patchwork denim, this season the runways moved away from patches as a symptom of ripped and distressed and into patches as way of adding interest to fabric. When we first wrote about the patched denim trend back in 2009 it mostly went hand in hand with rips and holes; in 2013, it’s cleaner, fresher, and best kept away from ripped denim.

patchwork denim
Patchwork denim on the runway at Junta Watanabe, Ashish, and Jen Kao, F/W ’13.

Much like patchwork denim, panelled denim also made a mark on the fall collections. In between a single block colour and a multitude of patches, this take is usually left to just two or three tones of denim. A pair of jeans with two tone panels that break above the knee give off the vibe of thigh high boots, while vertical panels like those seen at Nicole Miller can actually be quite flattering.

panelled denim
Panelled denim at Fidelity and Nicole Miller, F/W ’13.

Denim colours.

While the in-between shades of blue denim aren’t going anywhere, it’s the two polar extremes that sit high on the trends list for fall 2013. Soft, light denim washes ooze effortlessness, while deep, dark indigo shades brim with a clean sophistication.

Light denim.
It’s all part of the craving for effortlessnes, for looking completely cool and carefree: light blue denim returns in fall 2013 primarily with a washed out and faded feel. Soft, slouchy denim shirts in light hues or jeans in any on-trend cut – from skinny to boyfriend – are a go-to for layering up a denim look this season.

light blue denim trend
Light blue denim at Nicole Miller, G-Star, and Joe’s Jeans for F/W ’13.

Dark denim.
Away from the faded or distressed examples of years past, dark blue denim in 2013 is all about crisp block colours. A deep indigo dye can offer up a sophisticated and rich take on denim dressing, and again it’s not just for jeans. Dark denim jackets, shirts or dresses are all ideal for the cooler weather. Mix with other rich autumn tones like burgundy and deep green for the freshest approach.

dark blue denim trend
Dark blue denim at Rachel Comey, Joe’s Jeans, and 3.1 Phillip Lim for F/W ’13.

Women’s denim & chambray shirts.

It seems not all that long enough that denim shirts were cast away from every wardrobe with disdain. But recently they’ve become more than accepted: they’ve become a staple. Much like with jeans themselves, a denim shirt is best for fall 2013 when in a light or dark blue; but that’s not to discount regular denim hues in between. If in doubt, go for a soft chambray like Rag & Bone’s classic jean shirt.

emily ratajkowski denim shirt
Denim shirt worn by Emily Ratajkowski for Rag & Bone.

So how to wear the denim shirt in fall 2013?

The denim shirt & double denim.
Another one-time faux pas, the idea of double denim no longer offends – especially when we’re talking about a denim shirt paired with a piece of denim in a contrasting tone. Go for a slouchy, soft denim or chambray shirt worn with sleeves nonchalantly rolled up and buttons undone, tucked into a pair of darker slim cut or slouchy jeans; or, for a neater look, button your denim shirt all the way up and wear it neatly with a pair of straight leg jeans or dark denim overalls.

denim shirt double denim
Street style: denim shirts worn as part of a double denim look.

The denim shirt & triple denim.
It may sound crazy but the denim shirt affords you opportunity to go for an outfit consisting of denim, denim and more denim. Note that again, this look works best when it’s not too matched up (unless you happen to have a fully tailored denim suit) but rather is eclectic, effortless, and with a bit of haphazard layering.

triple denim look
Triple denim look: Levi’s F/W ’13.

Denim shirts + leather.
Nothing looks more right in 2013 than a light chambray or denim shirt worn with buttery black leather. Whether it’s neat and tucked in, or oversized and worn out, the denim shirt finds its perfect match in leather pants/shorts or a leather skirt for a sporty, cool-girl feel.

denim shirts with leather
Denim shirts worn with leather, street style.

Denim overalls.

Call them overalls, call them denim dungarees, call them whatever you want: what once was workwear long ago made the transition to the street, and now there’s nothing quite so cool as a pair nonchalantly unbuckled on one side and worn with a slouchy sweater or plaid shirt. Any length goes: a pocket to slip your hand into and some matching attitude are the only things mandatory.

A few picks: these vintage wash denim dungarees at Asos, or this slouchy J Brand pair.

denim overalls
Denim overalls on the street in New York, Milan, and London.

The denim skirt.

There was a time when the super-short, tight denim mini skirt was the only type of denim skirt, eclipsing all others as a summer staple that moved into winter with the assistance of a pair of opaque tights. It’s too soon to venture back into that territory, but that doesn’t mean that denim skirts are out. There are plenty of ways to give the denim skirt concept new life, and the main way is the cut.

Look for full skirt or circle skirt cuts in light or dark denim, fitted denim pencil skirts or denim skirts with pleats for a fresh take on the look.

denim skirts
Denim skirts for fall 2013: Chalayan, Jen Kao and off duty model street style.

Denim trends in the past.

Here’s what was trending last fall.

Cropped jeans

It’s been a while since we’ve been attached to jean styles that bare our ankles. It’s a small change but a significant once, considering key styles for the past few years have gravitated towards full-length skinny or flared styles.

On the fall 2012 runways cropped jeans were at their best when cut just above the ankle (as opposed to mid-calf or below the knee) and when kept slim cut or with a light kick out at the bottom. To lengthen the legs and make this silhouette really work for you, heels are the best option.

cropped jeans

Cropped jeans at Diesel Black Gold and DSquared2, F/W ’12

Western inspired denim

Isabel Marant’s fall 2012 runway channeled the Wild West with embroidery, fringing and contrast detail. Just because it’s Western inspired doesn’t mean it needs to be dirty; neat, structured denim in cropped cuts makes for a vintage cowgirl look in 2012.

western denim

Western style jeans at Isabel Marant, F/W ’12

Denim jackets

Denim jackets may call to mind all things ’90s, but this fall it’s all about getting creative with styling. Denim jackets made it into a number of runway collections as well as the look books of various denim brands signalling a return of this daywear classic. The trick is to keep it interesting: at Diesel Black Gold clean, dark denim jackets were styled over crisp long-sleeved shirts, while DSquared2 shattered all preconceptions completely by pairing their over glamorous rockabilly evening looks or layered under women’s tuxedo jackets. A plain denim jacket can be dull, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

denim jackets

Denim jackets at Diesel Black Gold and DSQuared2, F/W ’12

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