August 30, 1999 12:00 PM

Jean Therapy

Denim may be a staple of the dressed-down ’90s, but the jazzed-up jeans sported by the stars these days aren’t your typical Wranglers. “They have an edge,” says actress Elizabeth Berkley, who recently wore beaded jeans to a party in L.A. “It’s throwaway chic, casual couture,” adds actress Jennifer Tilly, who owns a sequined Gucci skirt with a very non-throwaway tab of $3,810. (“I wanted my denim pieces to be fun,” says Gucci designer Tom Ford.) It’s also conspicuous couture. “Any girl who puts on jeans with feathers or rhinestones on them is pretty self-assured,” says Hollywood stylist David Youkhannah, who has garbed Annette Bening and 3rd Rock from the Sun’s Kristen Johnston. “These are not timid clothes.”

Anything goes with this trend, so “being individual is key,” advises L.A. designer Kym Lubell, whose Bella Dahl line of decorated denims are favorites with Sandra Bullock and singer LeAnn Rimes. Indeed, you don’t have to spend a bundle to buy the look; anyone can spice up a pair of jeans with embroidery or a few spangles. Or just look as if they did. “Wearing fancy denim implies that you are creative with your hands,” says Tilly, “even if all you did was pull a credit card out of your wallet.”

with Steven Cojocaru in Los Angeles

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