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Pack Light: How to Dress Up Denim for Any Occasion to Save Space in Your Suitcase

If you’re planning to travel on a short, domestic flight, chances are that you will need to observe a reduced weight limit for your checked-in luggage or you risk paying additional fees. The small amount of space in your suitcase can make fashion decisions challenging—do you pack for the most likely weather outcome or try to be ready for anything? And where on earth will you fit that formal outfit you had planned for a special dinner or work function during your time away?

While there will never be enough space in your suitcase for all the things you’d like to take (up to and including the home entertainment system...), learning how to dress up denim will at least save you space and time. Here are our top suggestions for how to style denim when you need to save space in your suitcase for other things you won’t want to live without!

Small suitcase with a hat, sandals, and easy-to-dress-up denim.

Choose the Right Pair

This goes without saying, but if you are only going to take one pair of jeans, it needs to be a style of denim that you can dress up or down with ease. Sorry to break it to you, but your favorite pair of distressed boyfriend jeans with colored patchwork and frayed hems is probably not going to fit the bill.

For Him

For men, we recommend going for a straight cut in a medium or dark wash. You could also dress up skinny denim styles in these darker shades as well. Whichever option you choose, we recommend steering clear of very relaxed-fit or light-wash jeans, as well as jeans with rips at the knees. These styles might work well for a day on the ranch or an afternoon at the skatepark, but don’t quite hit the mark when you’re looking for versatility.

For Her

For women, any skinny or straight style in a single color should do the job when you’re looking for a multipurpose jean to take on your travels. In warmer weather, a crop jean style provides a trendy cut in denim that’s easy to dress up as needed. For cooler weather, a pair of ankle jeans offers elegance and subtle, timeless fading that transitions effortlessly from a day at the beach to a night out dancing.

How to Style Denim for a Relaxed Vibe

When you’re chilling at home or walking in nature, nothing says “relaxed” like a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Medium to dark wash jeans will be your best friends to combine with any color top. You can easily complete the look with your favorite baseball hat and a comfortable pair of sneakers.

For a laid-back aesthetic, go easy on the accessories with a simple belt and nylon-strap watch. For ladies, a simple chain pendant necklace and/or pair of studs adds just the right amount of sparkle.

How to style denim for walking in nature with a grey T-shirt and denim jacket.

Keep it Cool with a Smart Casual Look

Your all-purpose go-to look for shopping in town and meals out with friends, smart casual style dresses up your denim for an aesthetic that sits between relaxed and elegant. For a smart casual look for men, don a striped or checked button-down shirt or your very best tee and a pair of color-coordinated sneakers or leather lace-ups. Ladies can combine a fun top and jacket with jeans and one of several kinds of footwear for a dressed up take on casual—ballet flats, dress sandals, and low heels all work great.

For accessories, consider layering your fashion-forward jeans with a light scarf and leather jacket. A bit of bling and a pair of smooth black sunglasses will add a dash of intrigue.

A man wearing dark-wash jeans and a white button-down shirt.

Dressing up Denim When You Need to Impress

Formal dinners, mixers, galas, and business conferences all require a polished look that can easily be achieved with the right combination of elements. Go for a streamlined approach when thinking about how to style denim for important occasions by pairing your jeans with solid colors and styles that highlight your best features. For men, a cotton or silk button-down shirt with a leather belt and wing-tip Oxfords provide the perfect complement for your straight-leg dark-wash or black jeans. For women, an elegant top with lace details and a pair of stilettos or leather boots will dress up denim in black, white, or dark-wash blue.

By planning your wardrobe around denim that you are able to style for any occasion, you’ll have plenty of room left in your luggage to pack accessories. This is where you can really let your flair for fashion shine. A luxury watch, neck chain, and a leather belt coordinated with leather shoes of the same color communicate masculine elegance along with a slick hairstyle and a drop of cologne. A tasteful selection of sparkling jewelry and a glittering metal belt add the crowning touch to women’s outfits and instantly dress up denim for even the most formal occasion.

A women’s lower legs with dark-wash skinny jeans and mid-heel black ankle boots.

How to Style Denim: The Premium Denim Difference

No matter which style of denim you take with you on your trip, the quality of your premium jeans makes all the difference. The strong, sturdy jeans that we produce at Xabi Jeans will not only look better than cheap alternatives but will also allow you to enjoy your time away with confidence—knowing that you won’t have to pack a backup in case of wear and tear or try to dress up denim that has a rip in the crotch (eek!).

While you’re away from home, keep your denim in top-notch condition by washing any dirty spots by hand and drip-drying your jeans overnight. By treating your jeans gently and subjecting them to as little friction as possible (from washing machines and dryers), you will be able to keep your jeans looking “new” for a good long while for denim you can dress up time and time again.