The “Other” Essential Denim

There are some things that have just become accepted staples in our wardrobe. Topping the list,  and having probably stolen several slots on our “essentials” list, is our most beloved denim.

First and foremost we all know that a great fitting pair of jeans is a MUST! Whether they’re skinnies or wide-legs, no modern woman’s trousseau (Do people still say “trousseau”? If they don’t, they should! It’s a great word!) is complete without at least a couple of well-fitted pairs.

Next, we may think of our favorite denim jacket. They’re so versatile! Taking us through multiple seasons, as we layer them on top of everything from turtlenecks to  sleeveless dresses, there’s almost nowhere these sweet little pieces can’t take us. And no longer are we tied into just the traditional cut – there are blazer cuts, bolero cuts, embroidered, sequined, and a multitude of colors!

Finally, there’s the tried and true chambray shirt, who like it’s previously mentioned denim cousins, seems to have an endless array of versatility. Light weight, heavy weight, light wash, dark wash… these great shirts are season-less, go with everything, stand alone or layer effortlessly!

And, so, my friends, you may think we’ve reached the end of the denim essentials, but, I would argue, not so… Let me share my reason why…

It started with a typical need for a day out at the thrift shops… just some “unwind” time. (You fellow thrift-ers feel me, I’m sure, as does anyone who’s felt the call of some “retail therapy”.) It was a wicked hot day, as has been the norm around here – we’re either roasting or drowning – take your pick! I grabbed a favorite jumpsuit – very lightweight and strapless – and since I’m not 100% comfortable in strapless, I also grabbed my denim vest and threw over the top – and off I went!

This in and of itself prompted nothing in my thinking. At least not until my shopping trip was done. (Slow day… I left with only 1 item. WHAT?!) Just as I reached my car I was stopped by a lovely lady, probably my age-ish, who was just heading into the store with a child and what seemed to be her mother. She just couldn’t say enough about how much she loved the way I was wearing my denim vest! How creative, she said! She would never have thought of that! She told me she had a denim vest she loved, but she never wore it because she just never knew how. She had just decided she was going to have to get rid of it. We stood in the parking lot for several moments and talked about all the different ways she could wear her vest. She walked away excited to get home and wear her vest, and I got in my car, excited that I was able to make someone so happy just because of a simple vest, and with my mind racing with all the ways I DO wear my denim vest.

The thought occurred to me – “I wonder how much I actually have used this vest in the last year since I got it?”  So, I sat down with my phone and started scrolling through the gallery. Even I was amazed at how often this little unsung hero of the denim world has popped in as the completer to an outfit for me. So welcome to my photo narrative –

“The Styling Adventures of a Denim Vest: As Seen Through the Life of Ronnie”

The outfit that prompted this post. Taking pictures for IG just before taking off for the thrift store. My trusty vest paired with the sleeveless/strapless jumpsuit, a statement necklace (thrifted), dangle earrings (thrifted) and my favorite black rosette-topped sandals (DSW clearance). The vest is a great option when you’re a little uncomfortable with strapless tops, want to layer, but still want to keep cool.


Being a little silly after having taken about a million pictures! Here I’ve placed the vest with a Ralph Lauren ruffled multi-colored blouse (thrifted), a yellow ombred scarf (thrifted), Loft white jeans (clearanced), white Balloons sneakers (thrifted) and various thrifted jewelry. I used the vest to tone down the “preppiness” of the look and add a little edge to it.


As you can see, I always take my picture-taking soooo seriously! R-I-G-H-T! With both of these pictures I’ve used the vest to accentuate a skirt or dress combo. On the left I have on a t-shirt and skirt combination. (the t-shirt and jewelry are thrifted, the skirt is gifted from WHBM) I used the vest because I feel like the t-shirt is a little more fitted than I usually like and I feel a little self-conscious about, well, “jelly rolls” – c’mon guys, don’t tell me you never get that way. I can’t be the only one. Again, it’s summer. It’s hot. You want to layer, but a whole denim jacket or even a cardigan and you’re going to feel over-heated. The denim vest is the perfect compromise. And, again, the vest adds that little bit of edge that more suits my personal taste.

With the little black dress, the vest simply was used as a means to tone down the dress from something that appeared more “dressy” to something much more casual for everyday. Once again, it’s a much cooler option than a full denim jacket.


Ok, first let me say I have NO idea what is going on with my hair in that first picture, but whatever it is, it is a bad, bad thing! Our vest appears again with these then newly thrifted pieces from ThredUp on the left. The handkerchief top from Talbot’s and the jeans from Paige. The wedge/canvas peep-toes are from American Eagle, also, thrifted, from a local shop. I used the vest with this set merely for effect. It just “felt” right with them as a finishing piece. It was late Spring when I purchased these pieces and beginning to get quite warm. Once again, a full denim jacket felt like too much, yet, I felt like I wanted something extra besides just the top and jeans. The vest was just the right addition.

In the second look, we were still into the Winter. The vest actually filled a dual purpose. First, as you can see, other than the hat, I’m almost completely in black. I used the vest as a color break to keep the look from being too dark. Even though I’m “A Winter” and black is one of my colors, I can wash out fairly easily. The lighter colored vest helps keep that from happening. Additionally, the vest works on a “shape” issue happening here. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a rectangle shape. Normally I would not recommend a rectangle body shape to wear a shift dress such as this because it simply makes you look even more like a square and less like you have any shape. However, there’s a story behind why I bought the dress (raining, no umbrella, air conditioning, freezing, buy what you can afford… long story) and I don’t like to waste what I own. By adding the vest it first draws the attention to the top with the light color – already a plus – then draws attention to my imaginary waist because of where it stops – extra points – thereby undoing some of the damage of the “wrong” type of dress for my body.


The final two outfits, again, I’ve worked with skirts, and are the first two looks I put together with this vest… at least as evidenced on my camera! Having a small chat with Tucker on the left, in an almost completely thrifted outfit – sans the boots, which were clearanced at Ross. The vest, in this instance, working purely for aesthetic purposes – I just liked how it looked. Ok, ok, I’ll come clean! The Karen Kane top underneath – a little on the overly fitted side for my taste. So, yes, once again, though I DO like the look, I was covering up a little of the “jelly roll” look! Welcome to female insecurity people!

On the right, I believe the first time I styled the vest, I placed it with a thrifted moss-green Old Navy t-shirt, rust colored suede Payless booties (clearanced) and a Target (children’s department) full-length skirt I got for free for testing an on-line app. I used the vest with that outfit, once again, as a multi-purpose piece. First, the outfit just screamed for a finishing piece – it was just bland. Secondly, it was a lot of “dark” colors and the vest helped break up the look. Third, and probably most important for me, I didn’t care for the way the t-shirt and the skirt “met” at my waist. The skirt had a lot of gathers and when you tucked the tee it created more of a gathered look. The light-colored vest landed at that same spot. It drew your attention and caused the dark pieces to recede back and become less noticeable. Ahhhh, color magic!

Well, there you have it, my friends – the epic saga of the unsung hero of the denim world – the denim vest! Hopefully, I’ve helped you to see how incredibly useful this little gem can be all year round in your wardrobe! And, though, yes, you can pick one up at many retail sources, let me encourage you that there is rarely a time I’m out thrifting that I don’t come across at least one denim vest for a fraction of retail. Can’t find it in a brick and mortar shop? Try on-line thrifts such as eBay, Poshmark or ThredUp. I’d love to see pics of what YOU do with your denim vests!

Until We Meet Again!


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