Beyond skinny: Is there life after skinny jeans?

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Carola Long explores spring's key denim trends, from high-waisted flares to slouchy boyfriend silhouettes

The sine qua non of most wardrobes is surely skinny jeans. They are our desert island denims and without several trusty pairs on hand to take the thought /panic of out what to wear in the morning, some of us just wouldn't get dressed at all.

However, the enquiring fashion mind should take nothing for granted, and at the dawn of a new decade – not to mention a new fashion season – perhaps it's time for a rethink. After all, skinnies were the silhouette of the Noughties. Once we had collectively parted with bootcuts, we embraced the lean leg, which became progressively narrower as the decade progressed. It's as if we all sat in a giant cold bath until our jeans shrank to hitherto unimaginable clinginess. While the cold weather persists, a narrow ankle is still just the ticket for tucking into boots – flares trailing along damp pavements are hardly chic or practical – but a selection of new silhouettes are cropping up on the fashion horizon to tempt us into experimenting.

"In the winter I live in skinny jeans and boots, but come summer it's all about baggy boyfriend jeans and heels," says Grazia's fashion news editor Kay Barron – someone you won't catch in a fashion rut. The alternatives that have caught her eye are Gap's new pleat-front jeans, which she describes as "a peg shape that are much more flattering than they sound. They feature front pleats – which are everywhere – then taper down to a narrow ankle."

There's a warning though; Barron advises that, "you must wear heels with them, whether it's a sandal or an ankle boot, otherwise it's carrot legs all round." Acne's latest collaboration with Lanvin features a cropped, tapered jean with a hint of the harem. There are also full-on denim dhotis about, but approach these with extreme caution.

The boyfriend jean – as embraced by Katie Holmes and SJP – has been big for several seasons now and is still going strong. You can take the term literally by wearing men's styles – particularly oversized, faded 501s – but they are best when second- hand and soft, so that they drape around the body rather than sitting stiffly. Unless you are actually slobbing out, it's best to avoid wearing boyfriend jeans with trainers or plimsolls, or you risking looking like a Nineties student.

They need to be dressed up, but not overworked. Try wearing them with a lace T-shirt, neon heels or an animal print peep toe and bright pink lipstick, then roll up the bottoms for a feminine flash of ankle.

Anyone who finds the unreconstructed boyfriend too shapeless should try a new, slimmer version that is billed either as a slouchy skinny or as a sexy boyfriend. Catherine West, private shopping and events director at Matches boutique says, "These jeans have volume around the waist and then go narrow and skinny down to the ankle, which makes them an easy-wear jean."

Acne's Hug jeans have a high waist which is worn loose and low on the hips, then becomes tighter from the knee down to the ankle. The skinny slouch has the added bonus of making one feel thinner, as it skims the waist rather than digging in. Muffin tops begone.

For the most feminine silhouette, look no further than Stella McCartney whose high- waisted flares have a soft Seventies, Lauren Hutton vibe. Another way to escape the skinny dark jeans/jeggings rut is with a new finish. J Band's khaki boyfriend jeans are a cool twist on the preppie look, while Topshop have ventured into flower and heart print denim; have a go if you think you're cute enough. Severely distressed denim has made way for subtle rips, paint splats or patchwork detailing, as seen at Chloé and Gap. New jeans are an affordable way to reinvigorate your wardrobe, but if cash is tighter than the waistband on your jeggings there's a cheaper option still. Roll up the hem of practically any old loose-fitting jeans and suddenly they'll look so spring/summer 2010.

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