Find the Perfect Jeans


I get a lot of Fashion Friday requests for a post on finding the perfect jeans. I’ve addressed it before, but I thought it might be time to revisit the topic.

Finding the perfect jeans is a challenge for sure, but I think you are up for it! It requires a lot of patience and a lot of trying on. Yeah, I know. No one wants to spend a day trying stuff on, but there is no other way to find the perfect pair of jeans.

Like most issues of style, it all comes down to fit and proportion. And of course, we are all proportioned differently so everyone has to figure out what works for them.

You can find good fitting jeans at all price points, but I am slightly addicted to designer denim. It just generally fits better than the rest. But never fear!! You don’t have to shell out your month’s grocery budget on them either. With off-price shopping like TJMaxx and Nordstrom Rack and daily deal sites like Gilt, there is plenty of designer denim to be had at reasonable prices. And don’t rule out thrift stores. If you find a good thrift store in a wealthy area, you can find designer denim at rock bottom prices.

And you can definitely find jeans that fit well at Target or Old Navy or the Gap, but frankly, those prices are getting awfully full of themselves these days. I’d rather shop for designer at off-price stores; I think it’s a much better deal. I’ve done well for myself at Nordstrom Rack.

There are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when shopping for (and trying on) jeans.


It’s tough, I won’t lie. There are no easy numbers to go by like men’s pants.

Some brands work better for some people than others. If you’re a curvy girl, your challenge is to find a style where the waist isn’t gaping. If you have more of a straight figure, try to find a pair that doesn’t cut in at the waist and give you the dreaded muffin top.

I always buy my jeans on the smaller side. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, and I’ve learned to listen to the salesgirls at Nordstrom. They usually know what they are talking about. They do stretch out as you wear them, and if you don’t put them in the dryer (I said it already but it stands to be repeated: NEVER PUT YOUR JEANS IN THE DRYER) they will fit perfectly when you buy them just a bit too snug.

This is simply a matter of trial and error. If you’re at a department or specialty store, the sales associate should be able to give you some guidance. Even if you plan to shop for your jeans at a discount, it’s a good idea to go to a full service store to try them on and determine which brand and styles work best for you.


Pay attention to the rise. If you are short-waisted, you may want a bit of a lower rise rise to balance that out. If you are long waisted, a higher rise will do more to elongate your legs and make you look well proportioned. And of course you want to avoid the dreaded muffin top at all costs. It is hard to find a pair of jeans that is low enough to be flattering and high enough hide what ought to be kept hidden. Just say no to crack, I always say.

An appropriate rise also depends on your age. The younger you are, the easier it is to get away with a low rise pant. As we get older, we have to be more careful about that. A mid-rise is always safe. The extreme high-rise is making its way back these days, but that’s more of a daring look. You really do have to have enough height to pull it off.


It’s very important to consider the length of your jeans. YOU MAY NEED TO HAVE YOUR JEANS HEMMED. Don’t rule out that possibility. There is nothing worse than jeans that are the wrong length. If they are too long, you look sloppy. If they are too short, you look frumpy. Sorry, them’s the facts. Very few of us are the exact right height for jeans off the rack. Of course, they vary by style and brand.

When having your jeans hemmed, make sure to ask for jean hem. They should retain the original hem. If they don’t know what you mean, run far, far away and find another tailor. It’s safest to have them hemmed at a department store. It costs about $20.

Your jeans should just barely skim the floor — no more than a half-inch off the ground (and that’s after they’ve been washed — leave 1/2 – 3/4 inch for shrinkage and NEVER put your jeans in the dryer.) Take a look at your view from behind, and make sure they are not dragging, but that they are JUST touching the floor (because they will shrink 1/2 -inch when you wash them).

The exception to this rule is the skinny jean. It should end right below the ankle bone. And they can be scrunched if they’re a bit too long, so they are more forgiving when it comes to length.

Did you know that I’m a mind reader? Right now you’re thinking that you have high heels and you have flats and how are you supposed to know what length your jeans are supposed to be???

I know. You will have to have more than one pair of the perfect jeans. Sorry. It’s just the way it is.

I have some jeans hemmed for flats and some hemmed to wear with heels. Of course the one exception is when you tuck your jeans into your boots. Then the length doesn’t matter. WOO! (But other there are other issues with those jeans . . .  stay tuned for a future post.)

Pocket Placement (and size and style)

Please pay attention to the pockets, ladies. If they are too high, they scream MOM JEAN! If they are too low, well, you might look droopy. If they are too wide apart or too close together, they can add unwanted pounds. Some of this depends on your shape, so try on a bunch and determine which works best. Ask a saleslady for assistance, or bring along an honest friend.

You also want to pay attention to the size of the pocket. If you have a smaller derriere, you probably want to go for smaller pockets. If you have a little more back there, then go a bit larger. If you try on a lot of jeans, you will start to notice smaller details like this and which ones look best on you.

Beware of the flap pocket. It can be a hard look to pull off. I like the flap pocket on me because I feel it helps give me a bit more volume back there (I need it!) but if you have a rounder tushy, you may want to steer clear of the flap pockets, or choose wisely.

The pocket placement on these is about right. The length is too short. Never judge appropriate pant length from the stores online. Models are almost always way too tall for the jeans you buy in stores, and so the photos online are rarely the right length.


A dark wash is dressier. A lighter wash is more casual. White jeans are a nice crisp look for summer, and you can even pull them off for winter if you wear them with the right pieces. Black jeans are nice to have for an evening look, and colored jeans are trendy right now. If you are going to have only one or two pair of jeans, go for one dressier dark wash and one medium wash for everyday wear.


If you’re trying to decide whether to buy skinny jeans, straight-leg, bootcut, wide leg or something in between, consider your lifestyle and where you are planning to wear them. Your body shape may come into play here as well, but I do believe with the proper top and accessories, almost any woman can wear almost any style of jean.

You may be more comfortable in a bootcut because you feel it balances out your wide hips.

Or you may feel more comfortable in skinnies because you plan to tuck them into boots every day.

A wide leg jean is dressier and may be appropriate for church or the workplace.

If you’re afraid of trying skinnies, give a nice slender straight-leg jean a try. Sometimes they read as skinnies on certain people.

Bootcut and wide leg jeans look best with a heel. If you’re a flats sorta girl, you probably want to stick with a straight leg or skinnies. Of course these rules vary based on your height. If you are tall and leggy, you can probably get away with bootcut jeans and flats.

Tell me. What are your favorite jeans?? Tell us your best tips for finding the perfect jeans.

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12 thoughts on “Find the Perfect Jeans

  1. Great article ! I love that you encouraged people to go designer. REALLY it is worth the price. It makes no sense to have 3 pairs of Target jeans @ 45.00 a pop that won’t fit after one season or that don’t really fit well in the first place. I am 5″10 and long waisted and in my poorer years I bought cheapies and as a result never really liked wearing jeans. I have finally learned that if I find the right pair of jeans and they are long enough and proportioned well…BUY THEM and stop waiting around and shopping around for forever. My favorite jeans are the Blanc cut jeans from White House/Black Market and those jeans can usually be had for a very good price on sale. Nordstrom also has “Kut from the Kloth” jeans and “Paige” denim. My husband somehow overheard I wanted a pair of skinny jeans and GASP went out on his own to buy some for me at Christmas. And yes, I was very very nervous when my 12 year old told me he had done this. The sales lady at Nordstrom was wonderful though and led him straight to a pair of Paige jeans that fit perfectly !

  2. I got my first pair of designer jeans about 15 years ago and I have never gone back. Ever. Many department stores will hem your jeans for free if you buy them there. You can often buy designer jeans on sale at Nordstrom for less than $50 – you just have to be patient. My favorite jeans, hands down, are 7 for All Mankind, followed by Joe’s Jeans. I have a pair of Paige maternity jeans that have served me well through three pregnancies now. The thing about designer denim is that they will last forever too!

  3. i’m totally on board with not putting jeans in the dryer. but i have sensitive skin and the thick denim seams of jeans can be so irritating, especially once they’re newly washed and stiff. what do you do to get rid of the wrinkly stiffness that air-drying causes? just wear them in again naturally? is there any harm in tossing them in on delicate for a bit once they’ve air dryed?

  4. I am going to buy good jeans for myself for my birthday this year. I’m tired of buying jeans that have too much stretch and end up looking sloppy after a few wears. I wish there was less stretch in denim these days. And I guess I’ll have to be a grownup and get stuff hemmed too. 😉 I like flap pockets because I also need help in that area.

  5. I have a difficult time finding jeans because I am 5’2″, have a small waist, and a larger hip, thigh, and backside. Jeans are either too long (even petite can be) or too large in the waist and too tight in the thigh and butt or both. Once in a while I get in the mood to go jeans shopping, but after trying on 5-6 pairs and no luck, I get so discouraged. I can’t find any skinny jeans for women my size around here, and no store around where I live does alterations, but then again, I live in the sticks.

    I put my jeans in the dryer for about 5-8 min on low to get the moisture out. Then when they are air-dried, I put them in for about 5 min to fluff them out. After that, I run an iron over them to get rid of the wrinkly stiffness.

  6. This post was just the motivator I needed to get out and tackle the world of denim! Thank you. Ever since my daughter’s birth 2.5 yrs ago I have not been able to find a pair of jeans that fit me well. The bit about stretching as you wear them is TOTALLY TRUE! Most of my jeans fall into that category…purchased a size too big to fit my mommy belly but now are too big for said mommy belly after several wears. Go figure. Well, I’m taking the challenge and WILL do all that is necessary to find the right jean for my fabulous mommy bod – come hem or high waist!

  7. My favorite jeans are Citizens. I’ve also found that I HATE when denim is too stretchy. I have a pair of Paige’s that I just can’t stand anymore because of how they’ve stretched. I prefer the 98/2% ratio. They seem to suck you in ;). I have definitely had to start buying a mid rise now that I’ve had a baby, even though I’m basically the same size as before. Muffin top is NOT the look I’m going for. I do still need to find a good pair of skinnies but I have to buy one pair at a time since they can be so expensive. Which is why I’ve asked for money for my 30th birthday coming up in 3 weeks. 🙂

  8. This was so interesting!!! I just bought some jeans the other day and went with the smaller size. I am so glad I did! And I had no idea you shouldn’t put your jeans in the dryer. I am going to have to try to remember not to do that anymore.

  9. I love your article but where do I find the back flap jeans! This is exactly what I am looking for…no bling just a little flap!

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