Timeless and tough, relaxed and versatile, our relationship with denim has been a loving and enduring one and is still very much alive. Colour Me Beautiful image consultant JULIA CUMMING gives some tips on how to look stylish in jeans

JEANS were originally created in the 19th century as men's work-wear, dyed with indigo.

The fabric later became popular with the Californian Gold Rush miners because it was so durable.

In 1853, a New Yorker called Levi Strauss moved to San Francisco, where he started a clothes wholesale business and made the jeans a popular item of clothing.

In the 1950s, just as celebrities dictate the latest look in jeans today, film stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean made denim jeans a fashion item. The rest, as they say, is history.

The great thing about jeans right now is that pretty much any style goes, as long as they look good on you. Denim is a great wardrobe staple with something to suit everyone, and this spring/summer, in addition to jeans, it is appearing in all sorts of guises, from dresses to jumpsuits and duffle bags.

Our body shape, personality and age all contribute to which styles of jeans are most flattering, so here are some basic rules to help you choose the right jeans for you:

1) Boot cut - straight at the thigh, flaring a little near the ankles. This style never seems to be out of fashion and that is because it is flattering on most figures. It has a softer look than a straight legged style, and is therefore more flattering for mature figures and for balancing out inverted triangle body shapes. Boot cut jeans look great with flat shoes and boots, but also are fabulous for dressing up with heels.

2) Skinny jeans - tight jeans that fit very closely on the leg. This style is best suited to straighter body shapes with little waist definition and small hips. Curvier figures can and do wear them, but just keep in mind that if you are heavy on the hip, thighs or bottom, the super-narrow ankle will accentuate those areas. If you are curvy but have good legs and slim ankles (many round/'apple' shapes do) then a narrow leg can work if you wear jeans as leggings, such as with soft flowing tops. Hourglass figures should opt for soft, stretchy denim so it won't fight against the curves. Good for tucking into boots.

3) Straight leg - completely straight on the leg, doesn't widen at the calf or ankles. In between skinny and boot cut and easier to get into than skinny. These can work well on triangle ('pear') and round ('apple') body shapes as they fit neatly at the top so there is no excess fabric adding volume around the hip or tummy. The straightness from the knee balances your shape better than skinny jeans. A bit of stretch in the denim will add comfort. They are also great for petite ladies as the straight style gives an elongating effect. Straight enough to tuck into boots. Good for all ages.

4) Flared - can be a looser fit from the top going down to a bigger flare at the ankle, or can be narrow at the thigh and knee, widening at the calf. Flares have been updated from the original 'bell bottom' jeans but they still give us a bit of trendy 70s chic. They are generally a looser fit and not as narrow at the top as the previous cuts. This style works best on taller ladies, from slim to very curvy. You need, however, to consider how loose they are and consequently how much bulk they add to your figure. If you are short then you should avoid flares as they will swamp you. Good for any age.

5) Boyfriend Jeans - looser fit from top to ankle, generally lower on the hips. These are exactly as the name implies - a man's cut made for women. They can be comfy and they are a very current look. However, it is a masculine style, so not the most flattering unless you can really carry it off with the whole look. Great on slim or younger figures and teamed with heels.


**Consider where the waistband sits on you; beware the 'muffin top'. Higher waistbands are more flattering on the tummy. If you are naturally high-waisted, you may prefer a slightly lower waistband to give the illusion of a lower waist, but take care if you are short in the leg, as they will appear even shorter, so choose straight leg jeans and slightly higher waistbands.

* Consider the weight of the denim: curvier figures need plenty of Lycra or spandex stretch in the fabric, while stiffer, more structured material is best for straighter body shapes. If you want the denim look without the stiff fabric you could opt for cotton denim and this season's denimcoloured clothes. If you have short legs, avoid wide leg jeans and flat shoes with your jeans; even a small heel will help elongate the leg.

* Colour: take care with pale denim on the bottom half if you are short and curvy - it can appear to add pounds. Darker denim is more slimming, elongating, versatile and stylish.

* Size: when buying new jeans, don't get hung up about the size; just get a pair which fits your individual body shape and proportions.

* Enjoy wearing your jeans and remember that price per wear, a good pair of jeans will earn their place in your wardrobe.