Shopping for jeans can be a daunting task, but there are a few ways to make it easier, and the most important thing is to know your ideal measurements.
I often list the rise, inseam, and leg opening measurements when I’m reviewing jeans here on the blog, and I use those measurements when shopping online to rule out jeans that won’t work for me.
But as I talk with friends and the ladies here in the blog comments, I’ve come to realize that most women don’t even know what their ideal measurements are. In fact, some don’t even know what I’m referring to when I talk about rise, inseam, and leg opening. So, let’s break it down.
Key Denim Measurements
Rise: The front rise is the distance from the middle of the crotch seam (right between your legs) to the top of the front of the waistband. High rise jeans are around 11-12″, mid-rise jeans are in the 9-10″ range, and low rise are 7-8″. These are ballpark numbers, but that’s the gist.
Your body type (hourglass/pear/straight/carrot), whether you are long or short-waisted, and general comfort level will determine the ideal rise for you.
I’ve learned that I’m happiest with something in that 10″ range. I can go up to an 11″ rise, and sometimes I’ll settle for a 9.5″ rise, but no higher or lower than those numbers, and 10.5″ is my happy place.
The best way to figure out your ideal rise is simply to measure the rise on your favorite jeans. And most websites provide that info, so if your favorite jeans are still available online, you can look it up that way.
Inseam: The inseam is the distance from the middle of the crotch seam (right between your legs) to the bottom of the pant leg. You take this measurement on the inside of the pant leg. Lay them out flat, folded in half, to get the most accurate measurement.
Once again, to determine which inseam length you want, it’s best to measure a pair of jeans you like. And you may want a few different options, depending on what shoes you are wearing or what style you’re going for. I keep several different lengths in my closet.
Leg Opening: This is simply the width of the bottom of the hem of the jeans, but before it’s sewn together.
To measure the leg opening, lay the bottom cuff flat and measure from one seam to the other. Then take that measurement and double it. For example, most skinny jeans have a 10″ leg opening, and when you lay them flat, they will measure 5″ across at the hem.
The knee measurement is sometimes listed, but it isn’t important unless you’re comparing flare or bootcut jeans, and then it’s nice to have so you can compare it to the leg opening.
Guide to Denim Fabric Composition
Denim is a strong cotton fabric made using a twill weave, which creates a subtle diagonal ribbing pattern. Historically, denim was 100% cotton, which makes them very rigid. These days, most denim is made with a certain percentage of Tencel, Spandex, elastane, etc. to give them a stretchier, more comfortable fit and feel.
My favorite denim composition is 98% cotton/2% spandex or elastane. In my opinion, that 2% is just enough to give them some stretch, but they still have the integrity of denim and they usually hold their shape quite well.
I do have some with more of the stretchy stuff in them, especially white and other colored denim, but I always look at the fabric content and try to go for that 98% cotton/2% elastane when I can.
As we look forward to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, which is now available online for Preview, I thought it would be helpful to have this information so you can shop more strategically and successfully!
My Favorite Jeans
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photos: Alison Cornell