Denim Mistakes You May Be Making (And How To Fix Them)

It’s been six years since I wrote this post about some of the common denim mistakes women make that can make them look frumpy! This is consistently one of my most highly trafficked posts, so I thought it was time for an update!

Jeans are one of the most common wardrobe items in a woman’s closet, and these days there are soooo many styles and options available. It seems like it should be simple, but finding jeans that fit right and don’t make you look frumpy can be quite a challenge. If you’re worried that your jeans are making you look frumpy, this post is for you!

Frumpy Denim Mistakes Women Often Make

#1. Wearing jeans that are too big or too small.

Denim Mistakes Women Often Make: Wearing jeans that are too big or too small.

AG Mari size 28 (just right) // AG Mari size 29 (too big)

This is probably the biggest mistake women make with denim. If your jeans are too big, they will sag and look schlumpy. If your jeans are too small, they will create unsightly bulges that add visual weight.

Most women actually tend to wear their jeans too big. If you go into any department store and work with a seasoned sales associate, they will almost always encourage you to size down in your denim. This is because most women are worried they will be uncomfortable or look bad if their jeans are too tight… but most jeans stretch out some with wear, and even the high end brands give a little and mold to your body.

FIT TIP: If you’re unsure if a new pair of jeans is the right fit, wear them around the house for a couple hours before taking the tags off and see how they look after they have some time to stretch out a bit (or to see if they will stretch out.) Some jeans stretch out a whole size after the first hour of wear, and others never really stretch out, so the only way to find out is to wear them for a while.

In the pictures above, the difference is subtle, but the ones on the right are too loose in the thighs and through the knees; the ones on the left are the right size. It’s also important to note this is a slim straight leg style; it’s meant to fit close to the body. The ones on the right are also too long to wear with those shoes… more on that below!

As with any wardrobe item, but especially with jeans, it is super important to dress for your current size, not the size you want to be. Most women fluctuate some with their weight; I know I do. Many of us probably keep a couple of sizes in our closets, and that’s okay. Just make sure the ones that fit best at the present time are up front where they’re easy to see and grab.

#2. Ignoring the rear view.

Denim Mistakes Women Often Make: Ignoring the rear view.

MOTHER The Weekender Fray 

I used to hate my rear view in jeans, and I figured it was just my shape. Then I found the brands that work for me, and here I am posting tushy shots all over the internet. Haha! But really, different brands fit differently, and we all have different shapes, so you just have to try a bunch until you find the ones that work best for you.

I’ve heard women say, Who cares, I can’t see it. Well, that doesn’t mean no one else can!!! Let’s face it, people are seeing us from behind probably as much as they’re seeing us from the front, so be sure to check your rear view — particularly the pocket placement. Some sit high, some sit low, some are wide apart, some are close together… and depending on your shape, some will look better than others.

This is why I often show rear-view pictures in my Try-On Hauls. It’s not that I relish having those pictures circulating the Internet for all eternity, but it is so important to take all angles into consideration when purchasing jeans.

I always take pictures like the ones above when I’m determining which jeans to keep or return. The MOTHER Weekender fits my rear view perfectly. The pocket placement is just right, they’re the proper size, and the jeans just have a way of shaping and molding to the body in a way that is almost magical! You pay a premium for MOTHER denim, but in my experience, they fit and flatter like no other.

#3. Not tailoring your jeans.

Denim Mistakes Women Often Make: Not hemming to the proper length

Edwin Marli Wide Leg Jeans 

When jeans are dragging on the floor, it definitely detracts from the overall appearance and creates a sloppy look, especially as we get older. But then again, if jeans are too short, they will cut off the leg at an awkward spot and look frumpy, so you definitely need to find your sweet spot with length and then hem your jeans if necessary.

Currently, it’s on trend to wear wide leg jeans a little too long, but for those of us who like to keep our looks more polished, it’s important to choose the exact right length, even if “the look” is to be a little long. In the photos above, the jeans on the left are too long; the solution is to wear a higher heel (as I did in the photo on the right) or to hem the jeans.

I think even with the picture on the right, the jeans could be an inch shorter. I prefer them not to buckle on top of the shoe, but with current trends as they are, it’s probably okay.

With crop and ankle length jeans, this isn’t QUITE as much of an issue as it is with straight and bootcut styles, but it’s still something to consider. Even ankle length jeans can look awkward if they are too long or too short.

FIT TIP: In general, skinny jeans should come to the top of the ankle, straight-leg jeans to the mid-point of the ankle, and wide leg and flares to about a half-inch off the ground… although these traditional guidelines are evolving a bit at the moment.

I know, so many factors! But as they say, the devil is in the details (and I would add, so is good style!)

Here’s a little visual for you.

proper denim lengths

straight // flare // wide leg

It’s hard to find pictures online that are exactly what I want to show… don’t assume they are shown the way they should look on your favorite retailer websites! Often the models are verrrry tall, and they will be longer on us mere mortals, but those images above look about right to me.

#4. Wearing too much embellishment or too much distressing/whiskering.

Denim Mistakes Women Make: Wearing too much embellishment or too much distressing/whiskering.

left: MOTHER The Weekender Fray // right: outdated distressed skinny jeans

Wearing moderately distressed jeans can be a valid sartorial choice, depending on the fit and quality and what is trending, but wearing jeans with lots of embellishments, excessive rips and tears, dramatic whiskering on the hips, and faded spots in unfortunate areas can add to the frump factor and look like we’re trying too hard.

In the pictures above, the pair on the left has some subtle fading on the thighs and whiskering at the hip, and the raw hem is on trend. They fit well, and they’re good quality and on trend, with a great casual vibe.

The pair on the right is what I would consider “excessive rips and tears.” Even though they’re not terrible (I’ve seen a lot worse!), it’s just a little much, especially for current trends, and they don’t give off a polished appearance.

#5. Tucking jeans that are too wide into your boots.

These days, I’m not wearing skinny jeans in my knee boots much at all, but if you like this look, I recommend keeping a pair of legging jeans in your closet for this purpose. Cropped or ankle-length skinny jeans are ideal for this because they don’t require you to roll up the hems to fit inside your boots.

If you must roll your jeans to fit into boots, create one large cuff, and then pull your socks on over top to hold your pants in place and keep them from looking bulky in your boots.

Shop My Favorite Jeans

(updated 3/1/24)

How to Care for Denim

And while we’re talking about jeans, let’s discuss denim care tips. After all, if you invest in good quality denim, you want them to stay looking good for as long as possible.These are best practices, not saying I bother to do all of these… but I always wash my jeans on cold and hang to dry.

  • Don’t wash your jeans too often. If they don’t look or smell dirty, put them back in your closet.
  • Wash your jeans inside out in cold water and hang to dry to protect the wash as well as the elastin.
  • Add vinegar to the water before you wash them the first time to help lock the color in. (This is more for dark wash jeans, not as necessary for lighter washes.)
  • Fold rather than hang your jeans. Supposedly hanging can wear on them over time… (although I do hang mine.)

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59 Responses

  1. I am curious on your thoughts about sneakers with denim. I save sneakers for ankle length denim. Do you think sneakers with flares and bootcuts increases the frump factor?

    1. If you had asked me this even last year, I would have said to stick to ankle length denim with sneakers, but the latest trends are the more relaxed straight leg jeans worn full-length with sneakers. I feel like at the moment, you can do either, or both.

      That said you have to do it in a way that looks intentional and modern, not like we did it in 2005. 🙂 Look at Amy Jackson’s IG feed, to see what I mean: https://www.instagram.com/fashion_jackson/

  2. Just this morning, 1/30/23, I read a blog post that skinny jeans are returning. Seriously? Right after people cleared their closets of skinnies? I will say most of the pictures looked closer to slim straight jeans than skinnies. But they were showing celebrities wearing true skinnies tucked into knee high boots again. You could get fashion whiplash from all the style changes!

    1. That’s why it’s ok to keep some things that still fit, like skinny jeans if you still like them and they fit your body right etc etc. like Jo-lynne says, add updated pieces to them. I think fashion styles are changing faster than ever and it tends to be more anything goes too. The whiplash can make you crazy if you aren’t a fashion blogger who does it for a living. Yesterday I wore my skinny jeans to church with my favorite warm sweater and booties. I felt I looked fine and yes, I live in a small town that you can get away with not keeping up with every trend but I really thought the proportions were right and I felt good. But, I also follow the trends too. My husband always says to me. No one cares, so if you like it that is all that counts. I think he is right in this if we are trying to dress for others and not ourselves and what we like. Enjoy fashion.

    2. I hope that’s not the case. I got rid of my skinnies and am loving the comfort of straight leg jeans. Not sure I want to go back. I also heard low rise is trending this spring. Say it ain’t so! As a 5’8” girl, they ride too low and feel like they’re falling off.

    3. The trend cycle is moving faster than ever, and it can be overwhelming. I like to be a step ahead of trends where I am, but not way ahead… I think we all have to find what makes us happy with that. Don’t stress over it, just wear what feels fresh and new to you.

      I follow a lot of influencers, and most of the more fashion forward American influencers that I look to for inspiration are just now adopting the more relaxed styles. The European ones have been wearing them for a few years, so they may start going back to slimmer styles sooner than we will over here. I heard that skinnies were going out of style for years before I saw people actually wearing the straighter styles. The same will be true for them coming back around.

      Evereve is a good retailer to use to gauge what new trends are becoming mainstream and the ones that are just over the horizon for those of us in less trend-driven areas. They are showing fewer skinnies this season, and more flares and straight and wide leg styles, but they’re all available.

      1. I find it funny to say back in style. Did they ever really go out. The majority of women are wearing them where I live. At a party I went to I was the only one wearing bootleg jeans. I think it’s going to be like capris. Many women love their capris and skinnies. They are not giving them up no matter how they may look in them.

        1. Remember that trends move on a spectrum, and where the trend exists on the spectrum depends largely on where you live. Skinnies are definitely on the downward slope of the trend cycle in most areas, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that stores don’t sell them or that women don’t wear them. I’m not surprised to hear rumblings of them making their way back up in some areas, since the relaxed/baggy styles have been mainstream for a few years in London and other extremely fashion forward regions. They aren’t even here yet in Philly… at least in the suburbs; I see them in the city.

          All that to say, there is really no “in” or “out” anymore. It’s more about them cycling in and out, and where you live and how fashion forward you want to be.

  3. How much vinegar do you use? Assuming white vinagar? I’ve always hung my jeans. Ummm??? As for the first photo. With the new trends it’s hard to not get the leg to look bigger at the knees. I’ve been so use to the tighter skinny jean feel, now my newer styles sometimes feel frumpy. I can’t wait until mule sandal weather. I just can’t get the newer styles right with boots. It’s been frustrating. Partly because the boots that look right are not a good heel height for comfort for my casual style and I haven’t been into the pointed toe but I know it’s coming back strong for new trends. Thanks for all your tips. You really have the jean thing down.

    1. I confess, I’ve never done it, haha! I included that section based on advice I’ve read, but I’m too lazy to deal with vinegar, and I haven’t really had an issue anyway. I would google for more advice.

      I hang mine too, I have way more hanging space in my closet than shelving space, and I feel like it’s easier to see which pair is which. But that is the advice I’ve seen.

      1. Oh ok. Gotcha. I would hate if my jeans smelled like vinagar. With my smell still not all the way back from Covid over a year ago I have to be careful as I won’t smell things. Lol.

      2. I saved a small card with washing instructions that I got with a pair of (I think they were Paige) jeans, over 10 years ago, from Piperlime. Do you remember that site affiliated with Gap…a blast from the past?!
        I taped it in the cabinet over my washing machine. It says:
        Denim: suggested washing instructions:
        *wash inside out
        *cold water
        *1/2 cup white vinegar (no detergent)
        I have followed this countless times!

        1. Don’t forget to zip them up and button them as well as washing them inside out. FYI – the vinegar thing works for swimsuits (especially black), too.

  4. Great post!! You are always so thorough and can tell you put alot of work and thought in to your daily posts! I’ve followed other fashion bloggers and they dont compare to you! Question about where pockets should be on jeans. I know it depends on body type but what is a general rule of thumb? Thanks!

    1. That could really be a whole post! Generally, you want the bottom point of the pocket to sit right above the back thigh, but not to where it’s folding into the crease of your bum. If it’s too high, you end up with the dreaded “long butt” lol, and if it’s too low, it looks sloppy. If they’re set too far apart, it can make your bum look wider than it is, and if they’re too close, it looks kind of awkward too. Ideally, the pockets will be centered on each cheek. Then there is the size of pocket, and that depends a lot on body type. Some ladies look better in larger pockets, and some in smaller. I prefer a medium size, not too big and not too small.

  5. Yes, I agree rear pocket placement is so important! Especially in my 60’s. On distressing and embellishments, we’re the pair on the right too distressed? I hope not since I love those jeans! I’m not sure what you mean about too many embellishments. I love Driftwood jeans with their beautiful embroidery and own several in skinny, flared, and bootcut. I also love the embellishments that are added inside the distressing in WHBM. Especially sequins inside the distressing. With the right top and shoes or sandals, it’s so much fun! I’m a 70’s girl and love wide flare jeans and distressing, Fit is really the key and styling embellishment jeans with something simple on top. Just my opinion. If it feels good. Rock it!

    1. I think with embellishments such as you describe, it depends largely on personal style as to whether or not it looks stylish and intentional or not. I also think quality plays a part here as well. And I agree, with you about fit and how you style them… it all plays into it.

      The distressed jeans I showed are the only ones I could find that I had a picture of that are a little much for my personal liking at the moment… but they really aren’t a good example of what I had in mind as far as being way overboard and tacky/frumpy. I should have probably looked for a website picture to use. I love my Mother Insiders and they have as much distressing as the ones in this post.

    2. I totally agree with you Susan! I’m in my 60ies and used to wear flares as a teenager in the 70ies. I also own several pairs of embroidered Driftwood jeans (all flared). I absolutely love them and I think I look great in them. I get compliments every time I wear them, so I don’t think they make us look frumpy! They are very stylish and classy! They must be at the price they are charging for them!😂

      1. I had to google Driftwood Jeans… Those are beautiful, high quality jeans that have a very distinctive look to them that I can tell would be lovely on ladies with a boho style. That is not what I had in mind when I mentioned excessive embellishments. This goes to show, I really need to show pictures of the “don’ts” I am thinking of when I do this type of post.

        I did a quick google, trying to find a picture of what I was thinking of, and I came across this article from 2016, and it made me laugh. I think 2016 is around the time I originally wrote this post, and clearly I also felt there was a need to address this dying trend… https://styleblueprint.com/everyday/stop-wearing-bedazzled-jeans/

  6. I know what you mean with the under the arms. It’s like they are making the arm holes too big. I will wear a cami underneath a lot of times. But in Summer it’s almost too hot here for a cami underneath. I considered looking for lacy bras that might “look” like a cami underneath. Good luck, let the rest of us know if you come up with a solution. Maybe in Jo-Lynne’s Fb group?

  7. What an informative and helpful post! For me, seeing how things look from the back before I walk out the door can be very eye opening, as well as a side view.

  8. Great Post! Thank you for the reminders!! Also, have you found a place that does a true jean hem? I’ve found plenty hacks on hemming jeans and keeping the original hem, but I can tell and feel like the hacks end up looking purposeful and sloppy. I’ve even considered purchasing a machine that does the hem since most of my jeans need hemming. UGH! Why can’t women get jeans in lengths like men? We spend the most on clothes, I wish the industry would cater to women like they do for men.

  9. I would really like to see you styling some of the wide leg pants that seem popular now. I would like to start adding this style to my wardrobe and I’m not really sure where to start. I’ve seen them with a chunky heel booties, that looks pretty cute.

  10. Could you comment on undergarments under jeans? I may be one of the people wearing jeans too loose… partly b/c of the undergarment issue. Thank you!

  11. Enjoyed this post! One thing I would like to know, as far as care and storage… You recommend folding. Suggestions on how to fold in store? How do you fold your jeans in such a way that you can see the brand and the hemline?

  12. Here’s my added mistake I see people making: Trying the sneakers with jeans look without studying the look on Pinterest first. The length has to be just exactly precisely right or you’re going to look very dowdy. Which is fine. It’s ok to be comfortable. But if what you want is a fashionable look accept that this is not an easy look to pull off and it takes a lot of trial and error

  13. Thanks so much for this info! So helpful, as well as the comments and questions/input from everyone.. Here’s my question regarding denim. I’m short and have a couple newish pair of straightleg jeans. They are too long so I’ve been cuffing them, but I think I should really cut them as I’m fearing cuffs look dated. Maybe cut one pair and see how they look? So…if I take the plunge and cut a pair, what would look better, to hem them myself (by hand with a blind hem) or have them hemmed by a tailor on the machine so they look like I bought them that length? I know I’ve asked about cuffing before, but that was at least 6 months ago and I never did anything. Thanks for your take on this.

    1. I would cut or have them hemmed professionally… and have them retain the original hem. A good tailor will know what you mean — they cut it off and reattach so any distressing remains.

  14. I was just hunting through your past posts for exactly this information! Thank you for such timely and helpful information. Love it!!

  15. Very helpful article. I finally learned to wear jeans with the tags on around the house. I actually went to pick up my grandkids in jeans with the tags on. Best advice. This month I kept one pair of jeans and returned another. You’re so right about jeans stretching one full size. Since following you I have learned more about jeans. Can jeans ever be shrunk on purpose?

    1. I would not recommend it. Putting the in the dryer might seem to shrink them initially, but it weakens the elastane and makes them bag out more with wear. I remember trying to do that many years ago and it’s a vicious cycle.

  16. I have no butt but have a belly that I’m trying to get rid of. I like western style jeans can u help me?

  17. Your article inspired me. I’m taking my baggy jeans to the tailor. My butt is flat, waist is high, and my legs are long for my short torso. I have yet to own a pair that fits my body. I buy straight leg only because I’m 30 pounds over weight. The waistline needs to be wide, but very narrow are the hips. Can anyone tell me a brand to try?

  18. Thank you for sharing this article. It was helpful to me. What I have trouble with is that I am short and when I go to stores and look at jeans and they say they are short on them can be still to long for me. So I have trouble finding jeans that are not to long or if I get jeans leggings that don’t bunch up at the ankle. I even been washing my jeans wrong. Now I know how to wash them. Help me find jeans that are for me who is 5′ 2” and not plus size but not a 14 16 size

  19. I practically live in jeans. But the item I received was a shacket.. great quality.. fits perfectly. I’ll be ordering again???

  20. I’m 70: worn and will wear jeans all my life. No ripped/crop jeans, but I do have straight leg, jeggings, skinnies, high waist, midrise, boyfriend AND wide leg denim in the closet. Jeggings/skinnies are best for wearing with boots without bulk and under tunic-length tops. I don’t own all cotton jeans – stretch fits the best. Save all the jeans you have that fit and flatter. They WILL come back in/stay in style.

  21. Thank you for all of the very helpful hints. The only issue I have with this is, all of your jeans are high end labels. Some of us that live on a fixed budget cannot afford Jeans at that cost! Would you be able to do a post on jeans that the average American can afford. Like Levi or Old Navy, Gap or even Wranglers? Some of those prices are a joke to people. I am not trying to be rude in anyway what so ever. I live a great life and have saved most of my life to have the things I do. That is the reason I have them. Just some more budget friendly for the average American. Most of us have never heard of any of the high end labels. With a few exceptions. Thank you.

    1. Hi, Debra. I appreciate that. I do feature a lot of jeans from Gap Factory, as well as KUT from the Kloth and sometimes from Old Navy and Madewell. I used my favorites for the examples in this post, but the tips apply to any price point. 🙂

  22. Having an issue buying jeans. My waist is the biggest part of me. If I buy them to fit my waist even skinny jeans are too loose in the legs
    And then of course if I buy them to fit my legs I have a major muffin top. HELP!!!

    1. Hi Barbara, you may need to have them tailored. You should buy them to fit the biggest part of you, and then perhaps alter them to fit elsewhere. Also, try different brands, as some are better for that issue than others. I feel like Hudson and Frame are more forgiving in the belly area. I do well with Paige too. Good luck!

  23. I really like your jeans article, thanks for sharing it. Any suggestions how to get rid of baggy news in your jeans?


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