How to find the perfect jeans is probably my most requested topic when I ask for fashion post suggestions, so I decided to republish a post I wrote last year on this popular subject. You know me, I never get tired of talking about jeans!!
I have updated the information just a bit to keep up with the current trends, but it’s more of the same advice — fit and proportion are key, and don’t skimp on quality!! This is the one area where I will encourage you to splurge a bit on your wardrobe. (I mean, you know me, I will always encourage you to splurge, but if you have to choose ONE wardrobe item to splurge on, make it a great pair of jeans.) You will get your money’s worth, I guarantee you.
updated from 1/27/12
Finding the perfect jeans is a challenge for sure. It requires a lot of patience and lots and lots 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.
Here 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). (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.)
The exception to this rule is the skinny jean. It should end right below the ankle bone — or 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???
You may have to have more than one pair of the perfect jeans, sorry to say. 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!
This issue has actually gotten easier lately with the popularity of the skinny jean. You can buy skinny jeans that work for both heels and flats. It’s incredibly liberating if you’ve been hemming your jeans for different shoes for the past few years.
If you follow my Daily Mom Style posts, you’ve probably seen me wearing jeans this length, although with the recent cold weather I’m most often tucking my skinnies into boots. For example… these are the same jeans, but you can see that they work as well with flats as they do with heels.
Or you can always go for an ankle-length style. I think the ankle length pant is particularly flattering with heels. Take a look at how they are pictured in InStyle Magazine — with either ankle boots or pumps, they are equally adorable.
P.S. Colbat blue skinny jeans are very now.
Pocket Placement (and size and style)
You’ll definitely want to pay attention to the pockets when searching for the perfect jeans. 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.
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. (These, however, are TOO SHORT on this model.)
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.
I hope this post is helpful! Also, it’s a great time of year to get designer jeans on sale, so be sure to check out Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom and see what they have! Plus, their salesgirls are supremely helpful.
Also, if you’re looking for help building your wardrobe, I highly recommend Trunk Club, a personal shopping service by Nordstrom.
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