With the possible exception of the little black dress, a perfect-fitting pair of blue jeans could be the single most essential item you can have in your wardrobe. Not only is finding perfect jeans for your body a major confidence booster, but it also equips you with a versatile fashion staple that can be dressed up or down for nearly every occasion. You can wear a great pair of jeans to look fashionable at the office, cocktail parties, on a date night, and for all your casual days and evenings.
For many women, though, the perfect denim fit is hard to find — and shopping for jeans can be stressful, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. I’m a huge believer that every woman deserves a pair of jeans that fits perfectly, looks stylish, and feels comfortable enough to wear all day (or evening) long.
That’s why I’ve put together this reliable guide to the crucial things you should be shopping for in a flattering pair of jeans, to help make the shopping process easier.
Check the Fit at the Waist
Have you ever owned a pair of low-rise jeans that gap at the waist when you sit down, revealing too much of your backside? A waist gap — whether it occurs when you’re standing or sitting — is a major sign that you’re wearing the wrong denim cut for your body. When you try on a pair of jeans, they should fit your waist snugly (without being tight — you don’t want a muffin top). Even if the jeans fit you beautifully through the hips, rear end, and legs, if they expose your skin at the waist, you need to put them down and walk away.
So how do you find jeans that fit perfectly at the waist, if you’re not shaped like a model? The trick to finding jeans that will hug you around the middle is knowing what jeans “rise” flatters your body shape best. The rise refers to the number of inches from the top of the waistband to the crotch of jeans, and finding your perfect rise is essential to getting the right fit.
Check the Rear View
When you’re shopping for jeans, you probably instinctively turn your back to the mirror and look over your shoulder to check out your butt. Doing this is a must when jeans shopping or you risk buying a pair of jeans that looks good from the front but lets you down when you’re walking away. In fact, it’s worth bringing along a friend when you shop for jeans, so she can view you from different angles and give you the plain truth about what those denim are doing for your derriere.
Most women find their most flattering jeans have some degree of stretch in the fabric. Denim blends that include elastane (typically, stretch jeans will have between 1-3%) can help to lift and shape your behind for a flattering effect. If you’re seeking more from your jeans, today some designers offer innovative body-shaping denim constructed with a higher degree of stretch, strategic seaming, and hidden panels that work to contour and lift your backside, while slimming legs and sucking in a tummy. Learn more about these in my round-up of the best body-shaping jeans.
Besides lifting your butt with stretch fabric, great jeans should highlight your rearview with pockets designed to flatter your particular figure. When you try on jeans, pay close attention to how the size and placement of rear pockets either visually reduce your bottom or make it look flatter or wider. The right-back pockets depend completely on your body shape, so consult my guide to the best jeans back pockets to make your butt look amazing.
Check the Length
Do you have a pair of jeans in your closet that generally fits you well, but you never wear it because it’s the wrong length with all your shoes? This is a common problem, as many women don’t shop for jeans with shoes in mind, and buy jeans that are too short or too long. When shopping for jeans, always bring along the pair of shoes you anticipate wearing with them most often. For instance, if you’re buying a pair of dark denim jeans to wear at the office on casual days, bring a high heel pump with you that you typically wear for work. Many department stores and denim boutiques will have spare high heel shoes on hand for you to try on your jeans with. A perfect-fitting straight leg or bootcut jeans should barely skim the floor if you are barefoot or in heels. If you’re shopping for skinny jeans, a perfect fit will taper right at the ankle, and skinny cropped jeans will end just a few inches above the ankle toward the bottom of your calf.
What if you want to wear jeans with heels sometimes, and other times with flats? The short answer is, buy two pairs of jeans, each with the correct length for the shoe you’ll wear with it. Another option, if you’re comfortable with a rolled cuff look for casual days in flat shoes or sandals — which can look stylish when done correctly — is to buy a longer pair that will work with high heels, then roll them shorter for wearing with flats. Just keep in mind that you’ll always have to roll up jeans on casual days, and consider whether that suits your style and wardrobe. Learn what denim cuffs look right with different outfits in our guide to rolling up your jeans.
Remember that you can always make jeans shorter, but you can never make them longer, so never buy a pair that won’t work for your lifestyle (and your shoe collection). Also, keep in mind, if you find a pair of jeans that fits perfectly everywhere but is too long for your legs, you can always buy them and get a tailor to take up the hems. Or, if you’re handy with alterations, give it a try at home with my tips on altering jeans length.
For tall women who are challenged to find jeans that are long enough, be sure to shop brands that offer multiple length options, such as 7 for All Mankind and NYDJ.