What to Wear with Each Denim Wash

I get this question in various forms from time to time — basically what to wear with each denim wash.

While denim is a neutral and goes with everything, it comes in a variety of washes and shades of blue, and certain washes do look better with certain colors. Let’s break it down.

What to Wear with Dark Wash Jeans

Dark wash jeans are probably the easiest to dress up or down, but I don’t feel they’re the most versatile. I actually find myself gravitating to my dark wash jeans the least. That said, they definitely have a purpose in my wardrobe.

Dark wash jeans pair really well with bright colors like red and hot pink because they create pleasing contrast.

Kelly green looks great with dark was jeans too, especially in the springtime.

And I love wearing burgundy and rust with dark wash jeans in fall and winter.

Dark was jeans are also a lovely match for florals. In this case, the floral print had a navy background, allowing the floral pattern to really pop.

And here I paired dark wash jeans with a lighter floral pattern that also had some navy sprinkled throughout.

I also like to pair dark wash jeans with light neutrals such as white, camel, or taupe for smart-casual outfits.

Here’s an example of dark wash jeans with a camel sweater and cognac boots. This outfit is a few years old, but it’s always been one of my favorites.

And don’t forget about stripes! For some reason, I really like dark wash jeans with stripes — especially navy and white stripes.

But any stripe pattern that has navy in it works.

In this case, this pretty sweater has shades of pink and white, and I wore blush colored shoes to bookend the look.

Striped Sweater Outfit for Spring: Caslon Side Slit Sweater with Good American Good Legs High Waist Skinny Jeans and Stuart Weitzman Marabella Wedge Mules

In this next look, I paired dark wash jeans with an ivory sweater with navy and yellow stripes — this seemed like an obvious pairing because the navy stripes pick up the dark blue from the jeans, and the ivory background creates a nice contrast to the darker bottoms.

I chose white sneakers to give it a more casual vibe, but I’ve also worn this outfit with navy suede flats. (These jeans are 55% off, by the way!)

I rarely pair navy with mid or dark wash jeans because it doesn’t provide much contrast. If I do pair navy with a darker wash, it’s with the intent of looking nonchalant and a little undone.

I don’t know if I should consider these jeans dark wash or mid-wash… they’re definitely on the darker side of mid-wash, but they have quite a bit of distressing for a dark wash.

I probably wouldn’t wear this navy sweater with the super dark wash jeans above, but I like it with these.

I also like pairing darker wash jeans with a lighter shade of blue. The neutral shoes and bag look effortlessly chic against the shades of blue.

Dark wash jeans also are perfect for pairing with a dressy top or blazer when you want an edgier dressed-up vibe, and they always look good with red.

In this case, I added leopard pumps for another element of interest.

How to Rock a White T-Shirt and Jeans: with a red blazer and leopard pumps

And sometimes I wear a black top with dark wash jeans for date night; it creates an almost monochromatic outfit that looks effortlessly chic. Again, I’ll often pop this look with a statement bag or shoe… like red or leopard.

I came across this blast from the past looking for a good example of this look… this was the winter of 2018, just before we moved.

It seems like this pairing would be boring, but I think it’s super chic, and I like how it allows the red bag and gold accessories to shine.

What to Wear with Light Wash Jeans

Light wash jeans are the most casual of the denim washes, and they’re very on trend right now. I like my light wash jeans best in the warmer months, but I wear them all year-round.

I think light wash jeans look great with navy blue . . . I’m dying to give this white tee a front tuck.

I wore this navy linen top a ton last summer with these light wash crop skinnies.

And black looks great with light wash jeans as well.

This outfit is one of my all-time favorites.

Jo-Lynne Shane wearing VEJA Esplar with AG Raw Hem The Legging Ankle Jeans, black Bernardo leather moto jacket, and Everlane cashmere scarf

Light wash jeans also look amazing with light neutrals like white, khaki, and camel.

I love the simplicity of this look — ripped light wash jeans with a white sweatshirt and white leather sneakers. The taupe bag is another light neutral, so it keeps the look casual and low contrast.

In this next outfit, the snakeskin booties take the simple pairing of a white sweater and light wash jeans up a notch or two.

And this is another oldie but goodie… I was playing around with pairing camel and grey, and I chose light wash jeans for the low contrast against the other light neutrals in the outfit.

Light wash jeans also pair well with pastels, especially pink and blush.

This sporty look pairs light wash boyfriend jeans with a color block tee in white, blush, and grey. I also wore light grey slip-on sneakers and carried a light grey bag.

I’ve been wearing this mauve sweater with mid and light wash jeans on repeat all spring.

This darker shade of pink looks great with lighter wash jeans too.

What to Wear with Mid-Wash Jeans

In a nutshell: EVERYTHING! There’s a wide range of shades that can be included under the umbrella of mid-wash jeans, and pretty much anything goes with them. They’re definitely the most versatile of the three washes.

I love grey with mid-wash denim, and mixing neutrals (grey and beige) instantly elevates this basic grey tee and blue jeans outfit. I also added a stack of bracelets for extra interest.

In this case, I wore a grey sweater with mid-wash jeans and navy suede loafers… again, a simple combination elevated with a few bold accessories.

The warmer neutrals like camel work great with mid-wash jeans too.

And I love ivory and mid-wash denim together.

Of course there’s always white. I love this combination of a white shimmer sweater, mid-wash jeans, and black suede OTK boots for a casual holiday date night.

And you can never go wrong with black and denim. I wear black with all denim washes, depending on the look I’m going for, but I think I like it best with mid-wash blue jeans. There’s just enough contrast without being too stark.

I often add a leopard accessory for a pop of pattern and texture… leopard calf hair flats always work.

Or a leopard scarf in the wintertime.

Like all shades of denim, mid-wash jeans look great with bold, bright colors like magenta.

Mid-wash jeans also look good with navy and white stripes.

And with florals

Pretty much any print works! Here I wore a leopard print cami with mid-wash jeans and a black leather jacket to attend a concert with Paul.

Pastels work with mid-wash jeans as well.

And let’s not forget mustard yellow.

Again, I love to pop this pairing with a leopard accessory.

Ultimately, it all comes back to preference and personal style — there’s no right or wrong when it comes to what to wear with each denim wash — but I hope it helps for me to explain why I put things together the way I do.

There are so many more examples I could share — my daily outfits are full of various denim combinations, if you want more denim style inspiration!

Shop My Favorite Denim

Obviously, there is some overlap between the different categories, but I tried to order these from light to dark.

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39 thoughts on “What to Wear with Each Denim Wash

  1. Informative and very helpful post. Some days when pairing jeans & a top, I stop and ask myself “What would JoLynne do?”  I stand there and try and recall a photo that’s similar to what I’m trying to pair up. Based on this post, it appears I’ve done well. Love the clarification. Thx. 

  2. Oh, I wish I could order jeans online and know they were going to fit. I prefer going to try them in the store, but thats not going to happen.  I need new jeans bad.  I hate returning online purchases especially during this virus deal.  I love some of the older pictures you found.  You look so pretty and the outfits still work.  The mustard yellow sweater, purse and leopard print one really stands out and you look so great in that picture.  Not everyone can wear mustard but you sure look great.  For some reason I haven’t thought of wearing navy blue flats with a grey sweater.  I really like that outfit combo.  My navy flats had to be thrown out, so I’m looking for another pair but wondering if I should get suede. Can you wear suede all year round?  Do the J.Crew ones you are wearing run TTS?  Navy shoes are hard to find that don’t look like you are wearing your grandma’s shoes.  I love navy and don’t know why there isn’t more navy shoes to choose from.  It really is a great neutral.  Thanks for the great post.  I rarely wear black with any color denim than light wash. I just like how the black pops with light wash.  🙂   

  3. I’m trying intermitting fasting and finding it hard to drink black coffee. What type of espresso machine do you have maybe that would help. 

    1. Hi Beverly, 
      I read your comment and would like to suggest to add a little cinnamon to your black coffee. It really takes the edge off. Before you go out and purchase a new machine, it might be worth trying. 😊 I don’t think it would break your fast but I’m no expert on that. 

    2. Switching to black coffee was the hardest part, for sure. I still don’t love it but I don’t really miss the cream anymore either. I have the Nespresso machine, and it makes a rich cup of coffee with some froth on top – it definitely helps ease the bitterness a bit, but it’s strong so I usually add a little hot water to lighten it up a bit. That has helped a lot.

      1. Do you ever make a cup of coffee with cream later in the day when you break your fast? Or do you always drink it black now no matter what.

  4. This was a fun post!  It is nice to see all the many combinations and realize what your eye is drawn to.  Lighter jeans really do add to the spring/summer look and it’s fun to pull them out this time of year.  I just ordered a pair of Paige Hoxton straight leg jeans in a light/medium wash.  I’m looking forward to wearing those.

    Thanks for the puppy update in your email.  I hope you have another good day with him settling in.

  5. Great post, thanks! I assume that if you didn’t post a link then an item is no longer available? I love that white long sleeve tee with the pink/blush sleeves and gray collar. It’s in the very top picture and in the medium wash section. If it’s no longer available, do you know anything like that out there now? So cute and perfectly casual for this stay at home time! Thanks!

  6. Hi Jo-Lynne,
    On the dark wash AG jeans that are on sale, would you recommend sizing up? I really liked this post. Most of us live in jeans so it’s nice to see such a great variety of outfits.

  7. I’m definitely a light wash gal but I do also like the med wash. I did buy a darker wash this past winter to dress up over the holidays more. I found most dresser blouses didn’t look good with the light wash unless they were light themselves. This post was very helpful! 😊 

  8. Oh yeah and that outfit with the black leather jacket and grey scarf has always been one of my favorites! 

  9. Oh wow what an interesting post and makes sense about wearing the lighter jeans in spring and summer and darker in fall and winter. Under your light jeans section the jeans in the first pic are very similar to a pair I have, light washed cropped and I was debating weather to continue to wear them cuffed up or down and cut and fray them? But I like how you styled them and will be sure to do a front tuck with my white tee. 😉

  10. LOVE these tips! So helpful!! One question,,,what category do gray jeans fall into, whatever wash they are or are they a separate category? I have a super comfortable gray jeans – the most comfy jeans I have! – and I want to wear them more, but I can never decide what to wear with them except black, navy or white. They’re a fairly light wash but I just can’t decide if they look right with other colors.

      1. Gah! Super helpful, thank you! I struggle with what shoes to wear with gray jeans, too, so this helped that quandary, too! (WHY are gray jeans hard?!!!?)

        1. Hi Rebecca!  One of my favorite combos with gray jeans is pastel pink, especially in spring!  I’ve also seen them paired with bright yellow, cherry red, or chambray (which could be tricky bc you wouldn’t want them close to the same shade).  Hope this helps!  Check out Pinterest for more inspo!

          1. Thanks, Megan! Great ideas! Actually my chambray shirt would look good with my gray jeans – there’s a good contrast. Thanks!

  11. Fantastic post and oh so helpful!  To the lady/ladies that asked the question, THANK YOU!  I am confident with time Savannah and Ozzy will become best buds.  And it sounds like she is still getting the attention that she is used too, which is good.  How old is Savannah?  I hope you are having a good day!

  12. I really like this post. I’ve tried to add it to my Pinterest board but it doesn’t seem to work. Could you please pin this to your board so I can refer to it? Thank you. 

  13. Thank you for analyzing this for us! One thing I took away from the dark wash part was to pick a print that has a thread of dark blue in it. Hadn’t thought to look for that specifically, but will now (along with your other recommendations on floral prints which have been enlightening). Thanks for coming up with new and helpful ideas in your posts!

  14. Great info!  Love the pic with the red jacket, dark bootcut jeans, and leopard pumps.  Cute outfit but also your hair looks so cute pulled back from your face!  Makes you look so young!

  15. Thanks for assembling all of this SUPER useful info in one spot! I finally had to go order a pair of plain white sneakers and a grey knit scarf so I can do the black moto jacket outfit. Every time I see that pic I just love it! Still looking for the right pair of distressed jeans. It seems like the larger distressed areas hit right around my knees, and are easy to blow out when kneeling down. I am on the tall side, so maybe the weak areas just hit me wrong.
    For your IF, have you tried consuming your calories in a 8 or 10 hour period?? I ended up doing that, and find it equally effective to a tighter timeframe for weight stability and yet still make healthy eating choices. Also, when I break my fast, I start with a pile of veggies and big hunk of cheese. Then I am not hungry for quite a while, but have not started an insulin response. Working from home … the wine and snacks can start any time after 4:15!

    1. No, I find when I do a longer window, I always eat too much. But I do some 6 hour ones when it works out that way. I’m still playing around with it so it’s something to consider. They say the real fat burning doesn’t ramp up until you’ve been fasting for 16 or 18 hours? I can’t remember which, so I’ve been aiming for 19 and sometimes go 20. I might try to back it up to 18 tho, and have a light lunch and take a break from eating, rather than just diving into snacks before dinner. Once I start the snacks at 3:30 or 4:00, I don’t usually stop eating until I close my window after dinner, and that’s not working out very well. I’m eating too much crap. I’m going to try do do a light lunch around 2PM and then wait till I start dinner around 5 to have a snack. It’s definitely a work in progress!

  16. This post is amazing with all of the information you have provided! Not only do I now know what colours to wear with different jean washes, I also know what coloured footwear to wear. Thank you so much!

  17. I am on your list to receive daily emails and  weekly blogs. I have not been receiving either for the past several days. I attempted to sign up again, but was unable to do so. 

    1. Hey Nancy, I just looked, and they are sending, but I can see that you haven’t opened any since June 19th. Have you checked your Spam and Promotions folders? Or search my email to find it: [email protected].

      When you find them, make sure to mark them Not Spam, or move to your Primary folder, so gmail knows where you want them. You can also set up a filter to put them in your Primary folder. Also, try adding my email to your Contacts, so gmail recognizes it as valid.

      Let me know if you need more help! 🙂

  18. Hi, such a great post, there’s so many ideas here.
    I have polo shirts for work but can wear any bottoms and shoes (although closed toe is best). The polos I have are grey, black, navy, white and green (like a vibrant tree green) 🌳 what should I pair with them to look pulled together and not just slapped together?

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