It's hard to tempt a girl out of her jeans, but this season's alternatives – from playful dungarees to super-skinny cords – might be enough to make her ditch those denims

Schools may have only just broken up, but assiduous style students will no doubt already have begun to consider what they will be wearing when la rentrée rolls around (or even before that, if Britain's summer weather proves as erratic as usual).

You don't need to go anywhere near a trend round-up, however, to know that some things are unlikely to change with the season: one, every look will always be plausible on a 6ft 17-year-old; two, it isn't that easy to transform one's look with a bargain accessory; and three, no matter how designers may try to tempt us out of our favourite jeans, it's not going to happen.

That last assumption has felt particularly reliable in recent years. A visiting alien could be forgiven for thinking that half the Earth's human population were currently welded into skinny denim. For all the fanfare that this summer's peg trouser and its more bohemian sister style, the harem pant, received, neither has come close to stealing the special place in our wardrobes reserved for our jeans. Turns out we weren't as keen on dropping our crotches as designers had imagined.

But with autumn around the corner, a new crop of alternatives are on offer — and they feel a lot more convincing. From chinos to cords via Oxford bags, all enjoy the preppiness that has been defining the everyday casualwear of early adopters for several seasons, and now looks ready to tip over into the mainstream.

Traumatic as it may be, prepare to shelve those denims. But not before turning over for your essential guide to the relative merits of the styles available and how to choose the right one for you. '


APC Madras, £85; £115

What's to love? If you can get over the kids' TV presenter connotations, there is something endearing and playful about short dungarees. You are basically flashing the same amount of leg as you would in a mini, yet they will always fall on the right side of the sweet/slutty divide.

How should I be working them? As tempting as it may be to show your legs off to their best advantage with heels, overt glamour is all wrong here. Go for flats, and woolly tights when it is cold. Unless your name is Jordan, always, but always, wear a proper top underneath – a nice smocky cotton number, as shown on page 19, will do nicely.

Any deal-breakers? Their naïve, childish aesthetic is part of dungarees' appeal, but it also means they are not the garment for negotiating yourself a pay rise in (well, depending where you work) – nor, indeed, any occasion at which you have to present yourself as a highly serious adult.

How's my rear view? Your rear view? Heck, what about your front and side views? If you are slender and well-proportioned, enjoy your genetic lottery winnings and wriggle into a pair. For everyone else, it's a flat no.

Better than jeans? Frankly, we don't foresee a time when dungarees will ever serve the same multiplicity of purposes as denims, but if you want to lead the fash pack, this is a cute, not-trying-too-hard option.


Gap, £29.50

What's to love? Gap's new slender-fit chinos received an enthusiastic reception at their preview to the fashion press and there was already a waiting list when these hit the shelves with the rest of the autumn collection last week. Usually much maligned for their Sloaney-pony image, by contrast the chino of 2009 looks sweetly nostalgic and scruffy – the sort of trans-seasonal trouser that an off-duty Parisienne might plump for.

How should I be working them? Picture how a Bugaboo-wielding yummy mummy might wear her chinos as she pounds the King's Road, then go for exactly the opposite effect. Rough them up with Nordic-looking knitwear and tuck them into leg-warmers and boots when the weather gets colder – as they did at the Gap catwalk show – or roll them to the ankle with plimsolls while the sun shines.

Any deal-breakers? The new chino is cut slim on the leg, so if skinny jeans didn't suit you, these won't be the trews for you.

How's my rear view? Fortunately, the new Gap cut sits lower on the hip than the average pair of chinos and is all the more flattering on your posterior for it.

Better than jeans? Chinos need some thoughtful styling to avoid the Middleton sister look, so they are harder work than denim. That said, their chic potential for daytime casualwear is far greater.

Tel: 0800 427 789


Banana Republic, £49.50

What's to love? Continuing in the androgynous vein that has been simmering for a while, this season's cords are cut super-skinny and look nothing like the flared, 1970s numbers you might associate with art teachers. The sharper shape makes them an autumn daytime staple when layered with knitwear and a leather jacket.

How should I be working them? Narrowly cut in black, like this Banana Republic pair below, cords make a good base for this season's rock-inspired pieces, and are a more flattering than skin-tight leather trousers. Wear them cropped high on the ankle with heels to keep the feel bang up to date. For a more playful, casual look, check out American Apparel's unisex version in a rainbow of eye-catching hues.

Any deal-breakers? Keep cords for days when you can be bothered to pull together a stylish ensemble – if you throw them on with just anything, their new-found cool will be lost entirely.

How's my rear view? No better or worse than in any other tight trouser; just watch out for any unflatteringly placed pockets.

Better than jeans? There's something comforting and wholesome about corduroy, and now that it has been given a much-needed glamour injection, it is looking like a serious contender for your favourite autumn trouser.

Oxford bags

Toast, £125

What's to love? As slouchy as their name suggests, Oxford bags pull off that rare marriage of style and comfort. This is good old-fashioned preppy à l'anglaise – so Brideshead Revisited as opposed to Gossip Girl, and with all the intellectual kudos that entails. Your IQ will go up 20 points the moment you slip into a pair.

How should I be working them? Avoid going too period drama, so steer clear of any tops that feel too blousy or vintage. Simply paired with a plain tee, these will look like a stylish, contemporary option. For footwear, stick to brogues or similarly mannish flats.

Any deal-breakers? The vertically challenged may find themselves a little swamped by the wide leg style, and since heels feel wrong, it may be better to give them a miss in this instance.

How's my rear view? A high waist doesn't do a lot for an ample behind, so if you do decide to invest in a pair, make sure that they are loose enough to skim your curves without being unflatteringly, er, baggy.

Better than jeans? Definitely a better bet when you need to look smart but unfussy. What they lack in rock'n'roll value, they make up for in high-brow elegance. Unlike jeans, however, Oxford bags can't be glammed up for after-dark easily, so confine them to your daytime wardrobe.