How to buy jeans like a pro
Because let’s face it, it’s always a nightmare, right? Wrong! Thanks to this brilliant styling service at John Lewis, Westgate. Tricky customer Kerry Potter gives it a whirl.
I find new jeans the most pernickety of purchases, up there with – horror of horrors! – bikini shopping. It doesn’t help that I’m a diddy 5’ 2 so routinely have to chop six inches off trouser legs to locate my ankles. I also work in fashion, am very fussy about the finer details of clothes and despair of my chunky thighs. All of which means Mechac Josephs, the personal stylist I met for my Perfect Pair Of Jeans session at John Lewis Westgate in Oxford, certainly had his work cut out.
He’s clearly a man who relishes a challenge though. Having scoured my pre-appointment questionnaire (you tell them about your lifestyle, size and preferred brands), Mechac had already put together rail of options for me to try when I arrived in the chic private changing room. The space is decked out in mid-century modern furniture, calming palm print wall art and moveable mirrors so you can check out your bum from all angles (a necessary evil here). My only criticism is the brutal lighting – every woman who has ever entered a changing room knows that spotlights are the enemy. A dimmer switch and a few gentle lamps sure wouldn’t go amiss.
Mechac, however, is totally perfect and immediately becomes my new best friend. He’s spent 15 years as a stylist and tailor to all sorts of celebrities (including Daniel Craig), knows literally everything about brands, trends, fabrics, cuts and washes and strikes exactly the right balance between being kind and being honest. He doesn’t work on commission and doesn’t pressure you to buy (although most people do, apparently). In fact, in a couple of instances he vetoes jeans that I think look OK because he says they’re not flattering enough. When I look more closely, I can see that he’s absolutely right.
His job, he says, is to nudge a client outside of her comfort zone and help her feel more confident about her body. We start by standing in front of the mirror to talk about how to dress for my body shape. I’m pear-shaped (those darn thighs) but, as he points out, tucking in my top emphasizes my small waist.
Then it’s try-on time. Mechac tells me that many women are still surgically attached to their skinnies, despite there being a plethora of new shapes and styles out there. Amid the six or so pairs he puts on the rail for each client, he likes to throw in a curveball style. “All I ask is that you don’t rule anything out just by looking at it,” he says. Which is how I find myself in a dazzlingly bright magenta pair by NYDJ, which admittedly look a lot better than I thought they would. I end up trying on several different styles and colourways from this US premium denim brand (it stands for Not Your Daughter’s Jeans). They’re around £140 a pair so an investment buy but the fabric tech is so whizzy they somehow give you a bum lift. One to remember.
I’ve never worn white jeans because, well, I’m not Liz Hurley but they’re big news this season and Mechac magics me into a pristine pair of Levi’s. Against all odds, I’m seriously tempted. The key with white denim, I discover, is to not go too skinny (unless you are La Hurley). I try on various other Levi’s – a brand I’ve not considered for many years – including their terrifying new “balloon leg” style currently beloved of 20-year-old Instagram fashion influencers. Miraculously, I just about get away with them, when they’re styled appropriately. While I peel pairs on and off, Mechac runs around the store, grabbing shoes, tops, jackets – whatever I need to best style each pair. It’s a total treat to have everything brought right to you.
I end up buying a pair of 924 Levi’s Sculpt straight legs in a summery light blue, a far paler shade than I’d normally dare try but I love them. I consider myself totally schooled by Mechac – turns out you can teach an old fashion dog new denim tricks. It’s an hour very well spent, in excellent company and a complimentary service, to boot. Speaking of boots, apparently the dreaded ‘90s bootcut jean is coming back. Sorry, Mechac, but a girl has her limits.
Book John Lewis personal styling sessions here
4 other shops in Westgate for jean-ius denim
Yep, really. Next’s denim is surprisingly good and the sheer breadth of their range is impressive. They’re probably the most size-inclusive retailer around, with their denim going up to a size 26, in petite, regular, tall and extra tall fits. Look out for the ‘lift, slim & shape’ styles which give good bum.
When I worked on a fashion mag, the stylists wore either premium LA brands that cost £200 a pop or 35 quid jeans from good ol’ Uniqlo. Indeed they’re hard to beat for quality fabrics and designs at insanely wallet-friendly prices.
Not been in since you were a 501-clad, Nick Kamen-obsessed teenager? You’re missing out. There’s a great standalone store in Westgate where you’ll find all the classics plus ultra fashion-forward styles.
Seeking a denim delight for Him Indoors? Jack & Jones is an under-the-radar treasure trove of fits, styles and shades, including a sustainable line of denim made with 50 percent less energy and water than standard jeans.