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Top Tips for Buying Jeans You Love

Ginger BurrI know what you are thinking…you love to wear jeans, but you hate to buy them. Of course, once you have a pair that is comfortable and fits you well, you are excited and wear them endlessly hoping and praying they will last forever. But, until then…

The shopping process is sometimes more than you can bear! Outside of bathing suits, shopping for jeans is the thing women like to shop for the least.

To be honest, I have put off writing this article because the task of finding the perfect pair of jeans is often daunting and rarely simple. If, however, you can reduce the variables involved in selecting what to try on, you can streamline the shopping process and immediately eliminate some possibilities.

I realize that while I cannot guarantee you will only have to try on one or two (or three or four) pairs of jeans before finding ones you love, I can at least give you hope that you can find them and give you some guidelines to make the journey more pleasurable and productive.

Your chance of leaving the store with success increases when you know where to start.

Let me begin by sharing some basic helpful tips for buying jeans:

  1. When in doubt choose a mid-rise jean. It will come to just below the belly button. It reduces the chances of muffin-top and doesn’t feel like you are wearing mom jeans (although rumor has it the dreaded mom jeans are coming back into style!). Also, from someone who cannot stand anything tight around her waist, the mid-rise is perfect because it doesn’t squish my stomach. This does not mean you can’t wear a high- or low-rise jean, it just means this is a good starting point with the greatest chances for success.
    1. That said, like all women’s clothing, the definition mid-rise is not standardized. I’ve seen it described as anywhere from 8″ to 10″—go figure! Your best bet is to narrow it down to what they say is mid-rise and then look for other features before you try them on. And, once you find a brand or two that you like you will get more consistency.
    2. Of course, if you adore low rise or won’t wear anything but high-rise then you already know what you like so go for it.
  2. Stay away from any obvious whiskering at the front pocket or crotch area unless you want attention drawn to your hips and thighs. If not, choose a pair of jeans that has a more consistent wash. The same is true for distressed or fading along your thighs. If you have a straight figure, this feature is good because it draws attention to that part of your thighs and adds curves. Otherwise, skip it.
  3. Curvy women: Do not tuck your top into low-rise jeans unless the top is very fitted. Otherwise you will look like a shapeless box—even with the popular trend of tucking in just at the middle of your waist. You will do better in a mid- or high-rise jean anyway because it follows your curves.
  4. A saturated dark wash is more slimming and less fussy or distracting and can be worn more places because it looks dressier.
  5. The length of your jeans is critical to a flattering, balanced look. When you are wearing a bootcut, flair, trouser-style or slightly wider straight leg jean, the length needs to be super long. Generally touching the top of your shoe and about ½” to no more than 1″ off the floor in the back or as long as you can get it without it breaking significantly (unless you have really long legs) on the top of your foot. The wider the hem the longer the length should be. This elongates your leg line. (See examples here of what’s too short and what is just right.)
  1. If the jean has stretch (which most do) go down a size (yes, they will be extra tight) or you run the risk of having them feel too baggy and oversized after just a few wearings. The tightness will go away relatively quickly and they will fit perfectly. In the meantime, denim has enough body to it that you don’t have to feel exposed or self-conscious that you are revealing too much.
  2. A skinny jean should come at or preferably below your ankle bone. The tighter it is to your leg the shorter it can be (you can read more tips on this in an earlier blog post.) Otherwise, your legs will look extra short and it throws off the balance of your body. Of course, if you are tall with super long legs then this is less of an issue.
  3. If you are curvy look for jeans with a contoured waistband. This is very important for women who usually find that they buy jeans to fit their hips or thighs and the jeans gap at the waist. The contoured band is curved (like your body) and is higher in the back. A pair like this can work:

You will see more examples of contoured waistbands and jeans for curvy bodies here.

  1. Jeans can be tailored! If they gap a little at the waist or the length is too long, take them to a tailor (make sure they match the original stitching). The money is well worth it to have them fit perfectly (you are more likely to enjoy them and wear them longer that way) and you do not have to waste any more time shopping!

Bootcut? Straight? Skinny? Trousers? Pull-On?

Knowing what leg style to wear can feel oh so overwhelming. Skinny jeans are still incredibly popular and while the bootcut style is making a comeback (not that they ever really went away for anyone on whom they look good), skinny jeans are still everywhere. A straight leg cut is classic and right now a slim flare is gaining popularity.

What’s a girl to do?

It is a toss up as to whether the straight leg or bootcut style is more universally flattering. If you carry a little weight in your hips or thighs a bootcut balances the curves. As long as the bootcut is not extreme this style can look good on nearly everyone. Of course, a straight leg style is classic and creates a long lean line. These days the straight style is slimmer than it used to be so even classic styles change with the times!

The skinny jean is much more flattering than you would think. It’s all about the cut, the length and how you style it. If you are not sure it’s for you, try these tips before dismissing the style altogether:

  • #1: Wear a top that covers your butt and/or the widest part of your body.
  • Buy a dark wash. It will feel more slimming.
  • Choose a mid-rise so you don’t have to worry about continually pulling them up, reduce the chance of muffin top or, if you have a tummy, adding extra width right at the waistline.
  • Make sure they are long enough – slightly below your ankle bone is great. Otherwise your legs look shorter and your hips will look wider.
  • Whenever possible, wear them with a heel or wedge shoe and make sure the vamp of the shoe is low (check out my video for more information on that topic)

If you can wear trouser pants, you can wear trouser style jeans. They are particularly good for someone with fuller hips or thighs. They generally have a wider waistband and more subtle stitching than typical jeans. Sometimes they have angle pockets. If they do and the pockets gap have then removed them and have them sewn shut.

Trouser style jeans create a continuous straight line from the hips to the floor rather than going in dramatically at the knees as other jeans do which makes your hips look wider relative to the lower part of your leg. They also add elegance to the look of denim. Because they are fuller looking good in them is all in the styling:

  • Wear a shorter top or structured jacket with them or you will run the risk of being overwhelmed by fabric and looking bigger than you are.
  • Wear them with a heel or wedge to add extra length to your legline.
  • Wear them very long – about ½” off the ground in the back.

Pull-on jeans have style these days. They are not the old elasticized waistbands that made you cringe. They serve a very useful purpose (besides being unbelievably comfortable). If you have ever put on your favorite jeans with a fitted top and everything looks great except the tab of the button sticks out, you know what I am talking about. Jeans with a flat front take care of that problem and that’s what pull-on jeans are. Here is one example:

And you will see several more examples here.

The Flap Over Back Pockets

There are so many different back pocket details for jeans it is hard to know what to choose. They come with flaps or not, embellishment, buttons, contrast stitching and varying degrees of bling! Or, even no pockets at all. In addition to the style of pockets, paying attention to the size and placement are additional elements that are key to finding a pair that is flattering. Where do you begin?

I cannot cover every imaginable combination so let me share the most important.

  • Smaller pockets will make your butt look bigger—which is good if that is what you want to happen.
  • If you have a full butt, choose pockets (no flap) that sit slightly wider and lower on your behind. And, unless you want to draw attention there (which is fine if you do), avoid contrast stitching or excess embellishment on the pockets.
  • If you have a flatter rear, avoid pockets that sit lower than the bottom curve of your butt. They will make your butt look droopy. (And that definitely goes for boyfriend jeans that by design have a somewhat droopy appearance.) You can also find jeans that will enhance your butt like this pair that actually have padding:

If you do not want to go the way of padding, check out my other suggestions for enhancing your behind (including brands) here.

  • If your backside is somewhat wider choose mid-sized pockets placed in the center to draw the eye inward.
  • As you can see, the style of pockets and pocket placement plays a roll in balancing your body. Never choose jeans without back pockets unless they are a legging jean and you plan to wear a longer top to cover your bum. Without back pockets your derriere looks bigger and it is too easy to see your pantyline.

Price Point

The price point for jeans is all over the place. You can find them for under $30 at Kohls or Old Navy.

Or for $150+

If you do not mind the treasure hunt, then searching thrift stores (which is also a very eco-friendly way to shop for jeans) and off-price stores like Nordstrom Rack can reap you great benefits.

The key is to find a pair of jeans you love at a price that feels comfortable to you. They are out there and I am sharing lots of popular styles and price points here.

Yes, Tailor Them

Jeans are like any other item in your wardrobe–they need to fit you perfectly. If they don’t and you do not plan to tailor them, do not buy them. Whether they require shortening or need to be pinched in at the waist, the benefits will outweigh the cost when you wear them constantly because they feel and look so good!

How to Care for Your Jeans

Never over wash jeans or they will stretch out and be unwearable before you know it. Wash inside out in cold water and line dry. No dryer! The heat destroys the stretch. That’s it. Once they do finally stretch out from wearing them so much you can put them in the dryer to temporarily shrink them back, but if you do that in the beginning you will dramatically shorten their lifespan.

What to Do Next:

I know this is a lot of information. Before you sigh and give up, go back through the article and circle the tips that apply to you. Check out all of my suggestions here.
Then, make a list. Maybe it will look something like this:

  • Mid-rise
  • Bootcut and maybe try a skinny jean
  • Wider back pockets (not too low)
  • Brands: Levi’s and Liverpool

That gives you a jumping off point. Whether you go to the store or peruse one of the online stores with free shipping and free returns, you can start shopping. The good news is that once you find a brand or two that you like your next jean shopping experience will be easier.

You will see lots of examples of jeans HERE in these categories:

  • Curvy Styles
  • Trouser Styles
  • Pull-On
  • Jeans for a Flat Butt
  • Favorite Brands of Jeans
  • What’s the Right Length for Your Jeans

7 Responses

  1. All helpful, but special thanks for the length guide. I had questions on that. Looks like this was a major undertaking. Thanks for the time and expertise to bring us such useful info.

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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.