How to style a denim jacket to max out your cost-per-wear

How to style a denim jacket: Here's how to wear one, according to a fashion editor

influencers showing how to style a denim jacket
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When it comes to the question of how to style a denim jacket, the possibilities feel endless. An easy layering piece, few items are quite as versatile as the denim jacket. 

The best denim jackets will slot seamlessly into your capsule wardrobe, quickly bringing down their cost-per-wear as you wear them with everything from the best dresses to your favorite jeans. You just need to find the right one for you.

“It can be overwhelming when looking for a denim jacket as there are so many washes, shapes, styles and fits out there,” explains Farrah-May Archer, Styling Team Lead at Stitch Fix UK (opens in new tab). “Deciding whether you want to invest in a classic, timeless piece that you’ll wear year-after-year, or opt for more of a trend-led piece to wear on specific occasions is a good place to start.”

“When my clients are looking for a classic denim jacket, I always suggest a slightly oversized style from the likes of Levi’s or Whistles, as it’ll look chic draped over dresses during the summer, but will also allow you to wear jumpers underneath during the colder months. In terms of wash, you can’t go wrong with mid-wash denim, as the shade will go with everything.”

So far, so good, but how do you know what denim jacket styles are in fashion? “This season’s denim trends have clearly taken inspiration from the '90s and '00s with oversized styles and head-to-toe denim appearing across the catwalks at Saint Laurent, McQueen and Loewe. From loose, grungy styles to super cropped lengths and patchwork patterns, the jacket styles we saw gain popularity during the '90s are ironically the most modern styles to wear this season.”

How to style a denim jacket: Outfit ideas from a fashion editor

Not sure how a denim jacket should be worn? Acting like the best sweaters and cardigans, a denim jacket is the throw-on wardrobe essential that will add a cool edge to any look. We've given you the lowdown of how to style a denim jacket with nearly everything in your closet to prove that this is the key piece to invest in this season.

1. Midi dresses

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with midi dresses

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Denim has a knack for making everything in your wardrobe feel a little more laidback, and a midi dress is no exception. Adding a denim jacket is a brilliant way to make your dressier pieces feel more wearable in the daytime, allowing you to get more use out of them. If you’re worried about the boxy fit of a denim jacket distorting your silhouette, use one of the best designer belts to cinch in your best midi dresses, or choose a dress with a defined middle. Remember, you don’t have to wear your denim jacket properly either it’ll - look just as cool draped across your shoulders in a cape like fashion. 

2. Double denim

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with double denim

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The term double denim has been coined to describe wearing a denim jacket with your best jeans, but the term also applies to denim skirts, denim shorts, and even denim jumpsuits. Double denim has earned itself a reputation for being a difficult trend to wear, but the reality is that denim goes really well with more denim - as demonstrated by these street-style models. Mixing different tones of blue can land you in tricky sartorial territory, so stick to blues in a similar hue. The best white t-shirt makes for the perfect base layer.  

3. Tailored trousers

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with trousers

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It’s official, our love of the best loungewear is slowly starting to wane. And, as we wean ourselves off of all things knitted, tailoring is making a welcome return to our wardrobes. For some, the transition from at-home dressing to smart-casual feels quite dramatic, and that’s when the denim jacket comes into its own. It will make more formal pieces, like tailored trousers, feel more relaxed. For a classic look, opt for trousers in a neutral color palette of navy, black, cream, or beige, all of which pair beautifully with blue denim. 

4. Smart shorts

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with shorts

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They might be few and far between, but there are days when the weather allows for bare legs and a light jacket. When they roll around, make your shorts a smart, structured pair, with a defined waist, this will stop the boxy shape of a denim jacket from overwhelming your frame. Team with the best crossbody bag and your best white trainers or comfortable flats for laidback days, or dress up with the best designer heels to elongate your legs. 

5. Jumpsuits

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with jumpsuits

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Understanding how to style denim jackets with a flattering jumpsuit is similar to styling one with a midi dress, highlighting how versatile this jacket style is. If your jumpsuit is one color, a denim jacket offers an easy way to break this up, creating flattering lines across your silhouette. The open shape of a denim jacket means it won’t cover up any detailing around the neck area either, whether you’ve chosen a low neckline, a high one, or even added a statement necklace from any of the best jewelry brands

6. Mini dresses

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with mini

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We might be mostly devoted to midi dresses, but when the mercury soars, the mini - a big fashion trend 2022 - can quickly become a front runner. A denim jacket looks perfectly preppy over a mini dress or skirt, especially if yours is floaty, flouncy, or adorned with a pretty polka dot or floral print. To stop your mini from appearing too short, or covering up your dress, go for a cropped denim jacket, or one that ends at least a few inches above the hemline of your dress - the perfect solution to the question of what to wear to a bridal shower

7. Bold prints

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with prints

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Wearing print is the perfect way to add some personality to your look, but they do have the potential to distort your frame. Adding a denim jacket into the mix will break up the print, creating a flattering, elongated middle section, also known as an illusion panel. The block color will also temper bigger and bolder prints, making them feel easier to wear. Indigo and black denim works well with darker prints, while blue and stonewash denim is perfect with lighter, more summery prints. 

8. Heels

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with heels

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Further proving our point that you can wear a denim jacket with just about anything, these street style influencers show us how to style a denim jacket with heels. Use the extra height and elegance that strappy heels or court shoes offer to elevate more casual outfits to smarter terrain. As the denim jacket is a neutral piece, it gives you the space to have more fun with your footwear, think on-trend bold colors, statement straps, and added detailing. The extra height also allows you to wear slightly oversized jackets too as the heels help to balance out proportions.

9. Colorful denim

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with coloured denim

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Who says denim has to be blue? The classic denim jacket has been re-imagined in a wide variety of hues this season, from khaki green to pale pastels. If your denim jacket is in a neutral hue, like white, grey, or black, the styling opportunities are just as vast as true blue, allowing you to wear them with almost anything in your wardrobe. Bolder denim jackets might need slightly more consideration but will work well with pieces in a similar color palette. To make things even simpler, just team with a matching pair of jeans for a '90s nostalgic co-ord. 

10. Skirts

street style models showing how to style a denim jacket with skirts

(Image credit: Getty)

Not sure what to wear with a pleated skirt? An a-line skirt? A mini skirt? A denim jacket is the answer to all your skirt-based styling quandaries. For a fresh take, wear thinner denim jackets buttoned all the way up and tucked in as if it were a shirt. This will add an edge to more feminine, floral skirts. If your skirt has a lot of volume, wear it with a form-fitting top in a contrasting hue to highlight your waist beneath your denim jacket. 

Is it ok to wear a denim jacket with jeans? 

For some, the idea of wearing “double denim” seems as natural as teaming jeans with trainers. But for others, the idea has negative connotations, which makes them feel nervous about trying the trend.

“The thought of wearing a denim jacket with jeans can be quite a daunting one, but there are subtle ways of wearing both together without looking like a '90s celebrity,” advises Farrah-May. “The key here is to play around with different washes and colors. A lighter wash denim jacket, for example, can be worn with black jeans and a simple striped tee for a casual daytime look, or it can be teamed with a pair of white jeans and tan sandals to create a super fresh summer look.”

“Colored denim is a great way of mixing and matching denim items in your wardrobe. Boden has a great selection of pastel tone denim jackets that will brighten up your wardrobe and can easily be worn with classic blue jeans.” 

Alternatively, wearing a jacket and jeans in coordinating shades of denim can give your look a cohesive feel that’s not unlike suiting. Ultimately, it’s all down to personal preference and what you feel most confident wearing.

Can you wear a denim jacket with everything? 

The beauty of a denim jacket is that they go with almost everything in your wardrobe. Think floaty dresses through to tailored trousers, cozy loungewear to Lycra activewear. Much like the best leather jackets, denim jackets are well-suited to all seasons too, helping you to get the most from your purchase. As a general rule, the lighter the denim, the more summery it will feel, and the darker the denim, the more winter-appropriate it will feel. But you can bend the rules depending on the colors in the rest of your outfit.

“Every wardrobe should include a good quality denim jacket - they go with everything and can be worn year after year, whatever the season,” says Farrah-May. “The key here is understanding how to style your denim jacket to best suit the weather. In the colder months, try layering your jacket over a hoodie, or under an overcoat for extra warmth. In the spring and summer months, you can throw a denim jacket over dresses, shorts, playsuits or skirts to take away the evening chill.”

How do you style a denim jacket when you’re over 50?

Styling a denim jacket when you’re over 50 is remarkably similar to styling a denim jacket when you’re under 50. We’re firm believers that fashion doesn’t have an upper age limit, and that choosing and styling clothes should be based on what you enjoy wearing. 

If you do feel you need some direction or don’t know where to start, keep it super simple with a traditional style (small collar, pockets to the front) in a mid-blue wash. These classic details will never date, making your look feel timeless in the process. To ease yourself in, wear with reliable items in your wardrobe that you reach for time and time again. It might be a midi dress that you always feel good in, or with a pair of neutral trousers that never let you down. By using these fail-safe pieces as the basis of your look, introducing a denim jacket won’t feel anywhere near as daunting.

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.