Denim never goes out of style, right?

DistressedJeans1You may not have thought about it or realized it, but denim and jeans have been on the back burner for the last few years. Have you noticed? Women have been wearing black leggings, skinny leg pants and yoga pants in place of jeans.

Well, it’s true – but I’m about to tell you that denim is back. And, of course, I’m about to tell you this classic is back in a new ways with modern tweaks.

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• Today’s denim trend is about a lot more than jeans. In years past, denim was associated with blue jeans, maybe a blue jean jacket now and then. Silhouettes beyond the jean are shirts, off-shoulder blouses, dresses, jackets, fly-a-way tops and rompers.

• Now we are seeing a whole new denim dimension added to this sturdy cotton fabric. Chambray and tencel are the best new complements in the denim universe. Technically, all three fabrics are woven differently, made from different raw materials and represent different weights, but the fashion world is grouping them together this year.

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• Watch for more diversity in the classic blue denim. From very dark indigo to pale washes, the color intensity of denim runs the gamut now. Generally the lightest colors are in blouses and other tops, as well as sundresses.

• Designers are working the denim on denim trend. Does this mean matchy-matchy denim from head to toe? Yuck! Instead what is on-trend are varying weights and washes, mixing darks and lights, mixing denim with lighter chambray or tencel, mixing blue denim with white or black denim, or mixing distressed jeans with a solid blouse or jacket.

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• This is a time for fabric innovation in denim, with surprisingly soft-handed fabrics and stretch technology. At Tres Mariposas we recently sold out of a denim jacket that was so super-stretchy that it felt like a sweater when you put it on. Literally, you couldn’t try it on and not buy it.

• For that effortless cool-girl vibe, add a pair of distressed or ripped jeans to your denim rotation. It’s meant to look a bit messy to show off your slightly wild side.

• Blue jeans are more fun than ever with a wide variety of styles. Cropped, skinny, flared, cuffed, higher rises, wide legs, you name it. The most advanced silhouette is a cropped flare. But most of us can’t quite move on from our skinnies.

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• A denim shirt can be your closet’s MVP. So versatile, with endless possibilities. Layer it under, layer it over, do the casual mixed with dressed-up pieces thing.

Bottom line: Make room for more denim pieces in your wardrobe this year, as denim and its sister fabrics are back and here to stay.

What to wear when touring New Zealand, Part 2

2 Rockburn Chasm

As I wrote last week, I have been on a family reunion in New Zealand. I absolutely loved the country and all the fun outdoor activities we enjoyed. It was a trip to remember. We learned a lot about the country’s history and culture – and we also learned to wear the right clothes for whatever came our way.

As I also mentioned in my last column, our adventure trip involved a whole new approach to fashion. Almost every day we were pulling on some kind of gear:

2 Windy seal coat

2 Windy seal coast 2

• Wind shirt. A wind-resistant shirt or windbreaker was just the thing for our excursion in the Wellington area to Terawhiti Station, home to both New Zealand’s most modern wind farm and the dramatic Seal Coast. And I thought El Paso had strong winds in the spring! We had to work hard to stay upright as we viewed the coast and a colony of New Zealand fur seals.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

• Swimsuit, wetsuit, wetsuit booties, warm fleece pullover, heavy parka and life vest. Whoa! On the morning we had to layer all this gear, I was nervous before we even started the day! This was what we needed for our exhilarating jet boat ride up the braided channels of the Dart River. We then transferred to inflatable canoes for exploring Rockburn Chasm and other remote areas.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

• T-shirt and shorts. Our day of sailing with just our family on a big catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park was wonderful. Talk about gorgeous! Our relaxation turned into work, however, when we were launched from the sailboat onto paddleboards. I had to work to paddle and try to keep my balance to avoid falling into the bay.

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board 2

Unfortunately, I didn’t paddle fast enough to get back to the boat when the tide was going out. So somehow the boat – my ride home – and I got separated. As the water receded, it left a very shallow separation between the sailboat and me. My family thought it was hilarious. A rescue boat had to be launched to come get me. My husband told the catamaran captain that a rescue attempt might be useless as I am stubborn and wouldn’t want help. Darn, I hate it that he knows me so well.

• Jeans, jackets and tennis shoes. We wanted to be comfortable when we visited a sheep farm. New Zealand is truly a land of sheep. Did you now that there are six sheep to every one person in New Zealand? Being in the apparel business, I’ve always known of prized merino wool, so I was happy we got to see merino sheep up close. My husband, Sam, ever the outdoor wear enthusiast, purchased a base layer merino tee for skiing made by Icebreaker, a New Zealand performance outdoor apparel company that has quite a presence in the U.S. and globally.

I’ve been told merino wool is breathable in the summer, yet insulating in winter, but I didn’t know how that could be possible. Well, it turns out that merino sheep live in the extremes of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, where it is freezing in the winter and beastly hot in the summer. No wonder the sheep evolved to have very different summer coats and winter coats. I also learned to pay attention to the micron or thickness measurement of merino fibers. Lower numbers are silkiest and finest.

2 Sam and Nan relaxing

• Lounging PJs. Finally in the evenings we would do something for which my fashion career more properly prepared me. I got to relax in my pajamas! Because we had a family group of eight – daughter and son-in-law from Thailand and their two kids; son and daughter-in-law from France, with Sam and me – we chose to go the Airbnb route and rent homes in each locale, instead of pigeon-holing ourselves in separate hotel rooms. Oh, my gosh! It was a very good way to travel. Every home had spectacular views. Hanging out with a glass of wine on the deck or in the living room in the evenings was a great balance to our adventure-filled days.

If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand, be prepared. Who knows what kind of clothes you might need for your own adventures on this beautiful island!

New Zealand adventures call for the right clothes

 On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.


On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.

As I wrote a in my column a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were heading off to a New Zealand family reunion with my son and daughter-in-law from France and my daughter and her husband and two kids from Thailand.

I am now back home – and nearly speechless with happiness and in utter awe of the beauty of New Zealand. It was a dream trip, with sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords, but the most important part of all was being with family.

I’ve always heard from El Pasoans who had visited that New Zealand was beautiful, but it was so far away that I never expected to experience it. Now I am the proselytizing zealot, crazy for this uncrowded, green and peaceful country. I was especially struck by how firmly proud and protective, almost reverent, the people of New Zealand are about their land and natural environment. Their delight and appreciation is contagious.

An isolated Pacific Island nation, New Zealand was settled by humans only recently in the grand scheme of history. Polynesians arrived about 1280, and the ensuing Maori culture continues to be an important part of the nation today. Later Europeans, primarily British people, settled in New Zealand and brought their English language and European ways.

The population of New Zealand is just 4.6 million, which is about the same as the El Paso/Juárez region, scattered across land the size of Colorado. Perhaps it is the small size of their population or the isolation and vulnerability of their island nation that makes the people seem unified in defining their culture. They are cosmopolitan, educated and easygoing and share heightened social and environmental sensibilities.

We visited so many places, including Auckland, Christchurch, Doubtful Sound, Nelson, Milford Sound, Picton, Queenstown, Rotorua, Waitomo and Wellington. We stayed at interesting places, ate well and tried adventurous activities. We saw sights that will stay with us always.

In my last column, I promised to stay on the lookout for fashion insights – and I have some unexpected observations. I soon learned, for instance, that our adventure trip involved a whole new fashion approach. The key was wearing the right outdoor gear for the right activities!

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

• Hard hats with headlights for caving. The Manawhitikau Cave in the Waitomor/Rotorua area was magical. We boarded a small inflatable underground river raft where we silently experienced a glittering display of glow-worms out of the total darkness. This experience was so amazing that even the grandchildren, ages 4 and 6, were awed into complete silence for 20 minutes!

• Sun visor for birding. Birdwatching? Excuse me? I have never thought much about wandering around looking for birds to identify. Birding isn’t athletic, cool or interesting, right? Shame on me! Oh, my gosh, birds in New Zealand are fascinating. First of all, most of the native birds do not fly. New Zealand has more species of flightless birds, both living and extinct, than any other country. They have such fun names: kiwi, kakapo, takahe, penguin, weka and moa. One reason New Zealand has so many flightless birds is that before humans arrived, there were no land mammals that preyed on birds. In evolutionary terms, they just had no need to develop an ability to fly. And I never knew they were so smart!

• Parkas, hats, sunglasses for travel by sea. We bundled up to enjoy the Interislander Ferry cruise from Wellington on the North Island across Cook Strait to the South Island.

• Hiking boots. I may be a designer shoe aficionado from way back, but my husband has always made sure I have up-to-the-minute hiking boots. Our most amazing hike was in Abel Tasman National Park.

As you can imagine, packing for an outdoor trip like this had its challenges. The experience gave me a whole new look at a vacation wardrobe, for sure. This was a far cry from resort wear!

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.