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Finding the right pair of jeans for you

How to choose the jeans that look right for your body type

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky September 22 2007

sexy girl wearing jeans

If there is a single fashion article that you count on finding inside the closets of most women, it would be a pair of jeans. Most of us, in fact, own several pairs; some in light denim, some in dark denim, some that are stressed, and some that are acid washed.

Now that I no longer work outside of the home, most of my wardrobe consists of denim. However, that wasn’t always the case. A few years back I didn’t own a single pair of jeans. Why? Because I couldn’t find a pair that I thought suited my body.

Let’s face it, we women don’t wear jeans just to have something to put on. We wear them to make a statement and, for obvious reasons, we want that statement to say “bodacious babe!” However, finding jeans that fit properly to accentuate the positive and negate the negative can be a daunting task. Some of us don’t even have a clue where to begin.

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Gone are the days of the single “cowboy” cut pair of Levis that so many of us wore in our youth. The truth of the matter is that those old fashioned jeans only looked good on about one-quarter of the population. The rest of us ended up looking like sausages stuck in a too tight casing or like little girls dressed in mom’s obviously too-big clothing.

Today, however, there are hundreds of denim brands on the market. Each brand generally consists of several different cuts. Some of the most common include:

  • the skinny jean
  • flare cut
  • boot cut
  • wide leg
  • straight leg
  • high rise
  • low rise
  • mid rise
  • ...and others

Before you can find the best fitting jean for your body type, you must first have a clear understanding of what your body type actually is. That, in itself, is no easy task since a lot of us aren’t a clear-cut type, but often a mixture of two or more. To help you determine what that might be, let’s explore the differences.

Determining your body type

Curvy women like me often tend to have an hourglass figure. Back in the 40’s and 50’s that type of figure was highly desired. Men liked their women to have curves. Today, however, we are a bit outdated since modern man seems to prefer a slimmer form. Consequently, some fashions on the market today are not cut to fit our body type. Unfortunately, that also includes jeans.

Hourglass figures tend to have an average to ample sized bust, full hips, a rounded bottom, and a defined waist. Think about what was once considered the perfect figure – 36/24/36 – and you’ve got the hourglass shape.

An amazing number of women, particularly those over the age of 50 and women with sedentary lifestyles, fall into the pear shaped category. The overall silhouette looks just like its name suggests. It is that of a pear; smaller on top and bigger on the bottom. Women who fall into this category generally have a smaller than average bust size, a well-defined waist, exaggerated hips, and a full rounded bottom. It is often difficult to purchase an outfit straight off the rack to fit this body type. If the bottom piece fits, the top is often way too big. On the flip side, if the top fits properly then the bottoms are generally far too tight.

While the more Rubenesque women of days gone by often fall into one of the top two categories, today’s ideal woman is totally different. A common body type today is rectangular in shape with an average bust size, flat bottom, and waist that is barely defined. It is often referred to as a “boyish figure.”

Although the rectangular body is generally slim overall, few garments, including jeans, are made without clear definition between the bust, waist, and hips. I know lots of women with this body type who end up purchasing their jeans in the boy’s department. While the jeans may fit better than most that are made specifically for women, they are by no means perfect.

Another common form among today’s woman is the inverted triangle. Although there are some similarities between this and the pear shaped body type, there are also decided differences. Women in this category tend to have a medium to ample sized bust, an average waist, and narrow hips. Bottoms can be average with a shape that is flat or slightly rounded.

Once you have defined your body type, it becomes easier to shop for jeans that will fit.

Finding your best fitting jeans

With all of the styles available today, it is possible to camouflage any figure flaw so that jeans accent the body and make a woman look her very best.

If you have determined that your body type is hourglass, you will want to look for jeans that have a smooth fit. Avoid extra pockets, especially in the back, and heavy denims that tend to be bulky particularly in the thigh area. Think about choosing stretch denim that will hug your natural curves and make the most of your womanly form. Seek out jean cuts that tend to be fuller in the hips and narrower in the waist in order to avoid an unsightly gap in the back area. Mid-rise jeans look best on women with average to longer legs while low-risers are better for those with a short waist. Avoid jeans that are too big or baggy as well as those that are too tight. A flare at the bottom of the leg will help even out the overall look. Medium to dark washed denim best suits the hourglass figure.

Women who are pear shaped should choose softly flared or boot cut jeans for a long, lean look. Avoid anything that is too tight as they will likely result in an ugly muffin top effect. Also avoid extra pockets, especially those on the backside that will accent the negative. Low-rise jeans that fit properly will make this body type’s torso appear longer. Stay away from pleating of any kind and quickly move away from horizontal detailing, particularly in the hip area. In fact, embellishment on the whole doesn’t work well on this body type. Choose dark shades of denim in stretch fabrics that fit well.

If your body type is rectangular, look for straight-legged jeans or those with a slightly flared leg. You can generally wear gentle relaxed cuts but don’t think about jeans that are baggy. This body type can pull off the tapered cut in some instances but it isn’t highly recommended. Those who are short waisted can easily wear low-rise jeans while long waisted figures can choose a higher waist. Look for jeans that accentuate your curves, particularly in the hips. A contoured waistband can create additional curves for those who want them. Back pockets with flaps or embellishment can make the butt look fuller and add some often-needed bulk. Stone or acid washed jeans or those with fades along the legs also help to add shape to this figure type.

Inverted triangular body types should choose boot cut or flared leg jeans in order to promote a long, lean look. Avoid tapered and straight-legged jeans, which aren’t flattering on this body type. Women in this category want styles that enhance their backside without giving off any appearance of sagging. Unusually svelte figures should choose jeans with side pockets to give the illusion of a fuller thigh area. Jeans with back yokes will also add much needed fullness to the backside. Low-rise jeans with contoured waists look wonderful on women in this category. Embellishments and fancy washes are also perfect for this body type. Lighter wash colors and jeans that fade along the legs add shape to the thighs while darker washes will make hips look smaller.

General tips for choosing the best jean fit

If you throw up your hands in desperation because you just can’t figure out which body type you are, then try sticking to some general tips that should offer any figure a longer, leaner look:

  1. Choose stretch denim. Not only is it more comfortable, it is also more forgiving.
  2. When in doubt, opt for a relaxed fit, medium rise jean.
  3. Never choose jeans that are too bulky or baggy.
  4. It’s hard to go wrong with the standard five-pocket classic jean.
  5. Most women can wear boot cut and flared leg jeans because they make any figure look long and lean.
  6. Few women can wear the skinny jean or tapered cut well because they basically require the perfect body. If it’s a choice between jeans that are snug or those a little big, go for the snug. Denim relaxes as it is worn.
  7. Don’t choose jeans that are either too short or too long. The hem should cover most of your shoe.
  8. Darker denims make any body appear slimmer while excessively light denims can actually add bulk.
  9. Avoid focusing on “size” and pay attention to “fit.”
  10. Be certain that back pockets don’t add ugly bulk or make the bottom look too large because of embellishment.
  11. Just because everyone else is wearing embellishment doesn’t mean you have to if it doesn’t flatter your figure.
  12. Make sure that “fades” accent your figure rather than working against it.
  13. Take your body measurements with you on your search so sales clerks can help you locate the right fit.
  14. Don’t get hung up on a designer label. Look for jeans that fit, even if that means a cheap pair of Levis.

Once you understand which cut and fit of jean best suits your body type, narrow down your choices that also suit your personal style. To make a statement with your jeans, they have to suit who you are as a person. That is almost as important as the fit itself.

Jeans brands worth trying

I’ve tried on a lot of different jeans over the years and for me designer Diane Gilman’s DG-2 jeans offer the best fit and variety of options. Diane started in the business designing jeans for singers like Cher, Janis Joplin, and others. Her connection with the rock world also made her an expert in the area of embellishment. She designs hand-painted, embroidered, and bead embellishments that are both stunning to look at and lots of fun to wear. She also does denim in a variety of fits, cuts, colors and washes that give her customers tons of options. For a look at Diane’s jeans, visit hsn.com.

Other popular jean brands include:

  • Banana Republic
  • Diesel
  • Faded Glory
  • Gap
  • Levis
  • Lucky
  • St. Johns Bay
  • Seven
  • True Religion

Most are available at local retailers as well as on-line.

Although the popular belief is that you have to pay premium bucks to find a pair of great fitting jeans, nothing could be further from the truth. Often designer jeans simply aren’t made to fit every body type. If it is a choice of owning a pair of Calvin Kleins that don’t fit properly or a pair of Levis that fit like a glove, the option should be clear.

With denim continuing to gain popularity, finding jeans that fit both your body and style is a must. Hopefully this information will help get you started in the right direction.

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Comments

Posted on 05/11/07 09:27 by: julie

can you help, i would love to own a pair of jeans that fit!! I am topheavy with short left little bit of a tummy, what would be the best jeans to go for? 
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Posted on 22/04/08 11:00 by: Zelia Young

I have been desperately seeking properly fitting jeans for years and have been wearing low cuts which keep falling off my waist. I would like to get a pair of mid waist flare, light blue, slim in the legs, size 14 jeans but cannot seem to locate them anywhere. I like the colour of light blue jeans but am not sure of name colours - stone washed etc. Could you also describe these different colour types. I would appreciate this.
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Posted on 14/02/09 14:13 by: kate

I am 5ft 4, size 15 with chubby thighs. I am curvy but like to think I dress well and can still be sexy and need some smart dark jeans to wear with heels and a fab top that will not gap at the back but have tapered/straight legs. Please help - I don't mind spending if I have to!
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Posted on 15/02/09 15:36 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

Kate, if you get Home Shopping Network or one of its other versions on TV or can go online at hsn.com, try DG2 jeans from Diane Gilman.

Diane makes jeans for a woman's curves so they usually take into consideration the very places you mentioned. She almost always has a variety in indigo dark denim and she makes a petite version for just about any style as well. Best of all, if they don't work for some reason, you can return them within 30 days for a no questions asked money back guarantee.

Another option is Kymora's jeans with a built-in shaper. They can be found on "As Seen on TV." They work to make the most of your curves while covering the flaws you might not like. Both jeans retail for around $60 to $70. However, DG2 jeans are often on easy pay. You get them right away but have two or three months to pay them off so as not to wreck your budget.

Kymora also offers her body shaper as bonus gift. You just have to pay S&H. Let me know if you try them and they worked for you.


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Posted on 15/08/09 09:17 by: Emma

I'm not rectangular because I have a few small curves but I'm very skinny and have very long legs. What "shape" am I and what sort of jean would be best for me?
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Posted on 18/11/09 09:25 by: jessica

I am tall and pretty thin. I usually wear a size 6, 7 or sometimes 8. I like to wear baggy or flared jeans because I have thin legs. Please help me out!
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Posted on 26/12/09 19:36 by: Maya

I've found that crafted jeans have a very nice fit, especially the skinny flare type - tight round the thighs, flare out at the knee.
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Posted on 16/01/10 15:21 by: Lee

We sell a new brand of jeans called Little in the Middle that caters to all sizes of women that have a curvy shape.
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Posted on 28/01/10 23:38 by: paula Terry

Hi - I'm so frustrated with finding jeans that fit.  I have a tummy, a flat behind and skinny legs.  All my jeans bag out in the legs.  Im 5'2 and 48 yrs old.  Can you help?  Thank you!
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Posted on 29/01/10 10:52 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

It sounds like you have a body similar to mine. Unfortunately, finding a good fitting pair of jeans can be a frustrating process. Once you find them, though, you'll be so happy you did. I personally only wear one brand of jeans - Diane Gilman. She used to make jeans for rock stars but now makes then for real women instead. She allows more stretch in the waist without adding the bulk in the rear and thighs so they might work for you. Plus her designs are beautiful. Check out her line at Home Shopping Network (www.hsn.com). The nice thing is that you always have that free 30-day money back guaranty if you don't like them.
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Posted on 04/05/10 23:50 by: Pat

I haven't found any jean that fits me or is any way flattering.  I am round... average top, bigger stomach than hips and thin legs. I hate the muffin top and wearing baggy jeans.  Any suggestions? I love wearing jeans but since I got older I got the tummy with it.
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Posted on 06/05/10 14:17 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

Pat, I hate to sound like a broken record but I suggest you try Diane Gilman jeans from HSN. Why? Because she automatically builds in 2 to 3 inches of extra stretch in the waistband and she uses more spandex in her jeans than most other manufacturers. Also, some of her jeans sit just below the waist to help avoid the dreaded muffin top. Best of all, you have 30 days to try them out. If you don't like them, send them back for a full refund. I think you will like her diverse styles and colors too, and I don't know of any other jeans that are as "forgiving".
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Posted on 09/07/10 19:25 by: lee

Check out www.littleinthemiddle.com for curvy jeans.
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Posted on 13/07/10 17:08 by: vicky

I need help. I'm a size 22 and don't know what jeans to buy. Please help.
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Posted on 15/07/10 12:58 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

Just My Size and Lee Riders are great for plus sized women. I have also found Gloria Vanderbilt jeans a good option. Look for jeans that contain spandex. Also watch for ones that hit below your natural waist. They will be more comfortable and help avoid the dreaded muffin-top affect. Consider boot cut since the flared leg will help balance out the body's proportions. Stay away from jeans with huge pockets on the derriere, especially if they contain button flaps. Those are rarely flattering on anyone over a size 8.
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Posted on 28/08/10 00:41 by: shyla

Any ideas for a person with a rectangular body but I do have a butt?
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Posted on 29/08/10 02:41 by: Charlie

Shyla, look for jeans with at least 4% spandex to allow give in the waist area. As I've aged I have found my hour glass figure turning a bit more rectangular. I honestly buy mostly Dianne Gilman jeans from Home Shopping Network. She makes every kind you can think of - skinny, jeggings, boot cut, flare, etc - and they fit just about any woman's body.
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Posted on 24/11/10 14:35 by: valerie

I am middle aged, 6 feet tall, have an average waist but have the dreaded roll of flab between hips and waist, but not too bad.  I have about a 10" difference between my waist and hips.  I have a flat butt and slender thighs.  All my jeans bag below the butt and have major wrinkles going across the back upper thigh area. I have about a 35" inseam and my rise area is also longer than average.  What jeans might fit me?  I do not like the super low rise jeans. Thanks!
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Posted on 30/11/10 21:31 by: Charlie K

I'd look for a stretch denim jegging. If you don't like the tight ankle, there are bootcut varieties available too. These usually have good stretch and therefore don't bag where you don't want them too. I sound like a broken record I know, but Diane Gilman makes the best "real woman" jeans anywhere. Check her out on Home Shopping Network. If you order, order true to size. Keep in mind, if they don't fit, you have 30 days to return them with no questions asked. I wear nothing but her jeans and they are always perfection.
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Posted on 10/12/10 15:25 by: Sheila

I am 4'11, petite for the most part but have a big behind. Low rises are not for me because back is hanging out. Help! I am 54 years old but look pretty good for my age.
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Posted on 17/12/10 13:05 by: Charlie K

Sheila, jeans for petite women can be difficult to find. If your local petite stores don't carry them, I would try Denim and Company jeans in petite from QVC or Diane Gilman's petite jeans from HSN. You have 30 days to wear and check them out and if you aren't happy, you can return them.
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Posted on 15/03/11 22:41 by: Dan

Great article. It's not just tough for women to find that ideal pair of jeans, spare a thought for us guys. Men hate shopping so you can imagine what it's like if we don't find a pair that fits in the first 10 minutes...
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Posted on 19/05/11 21:08 by: ej

Diesel are the best ever!
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Posted on 06/07/11 15:35 by: Petre

I found a pretty cool facebook community discussing this very thing, got some interesting data in there: https://www.facebook.com/pages/What-jeans-do-you-wear/184016544990426?sk=wall
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Posted on 23/07/11 23:27 by: Rose

Thanks for this! I'll be checking out those brands. For years it's been almost impossible for me to find jeans that fit right, because I'm 4'11", skinny, and an hourglass shape. It's very frustrating because even size 0 juniors' jeans are several inches too long for me, so I wind up buying all of mine in the children's section!
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Posted on 27/07/11 16:01 by: Elana

I searched for years for a good pair of jeans. I usually hit the mall so at some points I only shopped at Pacific Sunwear and American Eagle due to their lengths. I'm 5'2", 120bs and have short, sort of thick legs (always have a hard time with boots and my calves.) Over the years those stores changes length to longer so I was SOL, haha. Then I tried on Delia's jeans since before I ignored tham. And now that's the ONLY place I shop so I can get 28" :)
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Posted on 17/08/11 08:26 by: bliyys

I'm a girl who has bowed legs. Whoever sees me will comment on it. I feel ashamed to wear jeans and sometimes I feel like I don't wanna get out from house. Which type of jeans should I wear? I like skinny jeans but it looks terrible for my bowed legs.
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Posted on 22/08/11 15:48 by: Charlie

Blyss, it amazes me that people would hurt you by commenting on your bow legs. I lot of people have them, including movie stars. The rudeness of some just irks me. You are right, however, in guessing you might want to avoid skinny jeans since they accent what you don't want highlighted. Luckily today there are lots of options to choose from. I'd try a straight leg, boot cut or trouser jean. They are all popular right now and they'll help minimize your leg shape. Straight legs and trouser jeans flow down from the hips without hugging the leg too much. Boot cuts vary, so you'll need to try on different brands to see what suits you. Good luck in your search!
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Posted on 18/11/11 06:49 by: lele

I can't seem to find the right pair of jeans. I am 4"11 and weigh 100 pounds. I have a flat stomach, a wide semi big butt and proportionate sized legs. Can you help?
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Posted on 15/01/12 15:29 by: Charlie

There are several jean brands today that offer different shapes, cuts and lengths in stretch denim (not to be confused with stretch knit made to look like denim). A large department store locally very likely carries one or more such brands. The problem is you'll have to try on several sizes, cuts, etc. to find the one right for you. The biggest problem you might have is in length but keep in mind you can always have them hemmed if necessary. Don't be afraid to ask for help from the sales clerk. It's their job to know what might work for their customers. But be aware, you'll probably have to pay a bit more to get jeans that you really love. 
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Posted on 09/12/12 01:25 by: Maggy

I have a large butt but a little flat. I am 5"4 and I am a 29 year old woman. I am not too happy with jeans that I have. Could you please tell me what type of jean i need to wear?
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