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All About Denim

Your One-Stop Guide to Jeans Shopping

April 26, 2018

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The world of denim can be a tricky one to navigate. However, jeans can be broken down into three, easy-to-navigate categories; fit, style, and length. Once you know what you want from each of those categories, jean purchasing will be made an infinitely less intimidating task.

Get the best fit

If you have a great-fitting pair of jeans right now, you’re off to a great start! You can use those jeans as a template for all the other jeans you buy. To get the best fit, measure the jeans. All you need is a flat surface and a soft measuring tape.

Lay the jeans out on a table, close the button and zipper, and flatten them out. Measure around the waistline to find out your ideal waist size, or measure across the front of the waist and double it. That’s your basic waist size.

Next, measure the distance from the crotch of your pants down to the hem at the ankle. That’s the length or inseam.

Last, measure the rise. That’s the distance from the crotch of the pants up to the top of the waistline. That last measurement determines whether these jeans sit low on your hips or up by your bellybutton, and that is just a matter of comfort and style. According to The Denim Shop, low-rise jeans sit at or below your hips and fall within the 7-8" range, mid-rise jeans sit between the hips and the belly button at around 8”, and high-rise jeans sit close to the belly button at about 9-10”. Some experts say high-rise jeans can make your legs look longer, although every pair of jeans and every body is different.

If you don’t have a great-fitting pair of jeans, measure yourself as a guide instead. You may need to grab a partner for this activity to make it easier to measure and record. Measure around your waist, your inseam from the crotch to your ankle, and the rise from your crotch to where you like your jeans to sit comfortably.

Use a sewing measuring tape to get the best measurementUse a sewing measuring tape to get the best measurementCourtesy of Pxhere

It's tough to figure out what size you are. Some brands list a size by using the waist size and inseam. For example 29/30 would be waist 29” and inseam 30”. Adult brands usually go by size number and use even numbers to represent sizes: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16. Junior brands often go by 00, 0, 1, 2, 3 or use odd numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13. They also can be found in XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL, just to make things even more confusing! Knowing your waist size and other measurements can help you find the best fit no matter what the tag says, even if you're shopping online.

Find the best style

A good pair of jeans doesn’t just fit right -- it’s stylish, too! There are a variety of styles, so, to pick the ones that work best for you, think about which style works best with the tops in your wardrobe.

You don't have to shop 'til you drop to get the right pair of jeansYou don't have to shop 'til you drop to get the right pair of jeansCourtesy of Andrès Martínez Ricci

Made to fit over tall boots, boot cut jeans have legs wider at the ankle than at the knee. Typically worn over heeled boots, the heel of the boot peeks out at the base of the jean. This style is versatile, as it can be styled in for a dressier occasion -- such as work or an interview -- or it can be worn with sneakers and a T-shirt for a sporty look, or for anything in between.

While flare legs are similar to those of boot cut jeans because they’re wide open at the ankle, the flare starts lower down -- around mid-calf. Additionally, flare jeans have openings even wider than those of a boot cut pair. Flare jeans give off a seventies vibe and look best when paired with flowy shirts and a chunky belt.

Wide leg jeans are wide all the way down through the leg, and the fit is slouchy for a casual appearance. Wide leg jeans can be styled with an ascot and striped shirt for a Parisian feel, or they can be styled with a one-side-tucked, long-sleeve dress shirt for edgy chic street style. Wide leg jeans are similar in appearance to the shorter culottes worn by suffragettes in the early 20th century, so this style makes for a great way to thank your sisters for your right to vote!

Straight leg jeans are approximately the same width -- narrow -- all the way down through the leg, but not so narrow as to hug your leg. Straight leg jeans are the easiest to cuff — a plus if you’re on the petite (shorter) side. These jeans have a more relaxed feel than skinny jeans tend to, and are wide enough at their base to wear over a pair of short boots. Straight leg jeans can be dressed up with effort, but typically have a more casual appearance. These jeans are best worn with a half-tucked long or untucked short cardigan, or a T-shirt with a long jacket. As for footwear, these jeans will work with any pair of short boots, flats, or tennis shoes.

The opposite of boot cut jeans, skinny jeans are narrow at the knee. You can wear them tucked into boots or with heels or flats. Skinny jeans can also be cuffed, but it can get a little tight.

Boyfriend jeans are the most casual jean category of the list. It’s rare to find a pair of boyfriend jeans that isn’t ripped or distressed in any way. These jeans are narrower at the waist and have a wider and slouchy feel until the ankle or lower calf, where they are almost always worn rolled up. Boyfriend jeans make an outfit look edgier and trendier, and look great with a thin belt.

Often confused with boyfriend jeans, mom jeans have been making a comeback this year and can be seen styled in many different ways by celebrities. These jeans give off an “artsy” vibe, especially when worn rolled up to just above the ankle with a favorite pair of sneakers and a tucked-in oversized T-shirt.

A pair of flared jeans adds flair to an ordinary outfitA pair of flared jeans adds flair to an ordinary outfitCourtesy of Denimology

Length Makes the Jean

Ankle length jeans end at -- you guessed it -- the ankle. Ankle length jeans can come in any style, but are typically skinny or straight leg.

Capri jeans are significantly shorter than ankle length jeans and typically end at the lower calf. Capri jeans are almost always skinny or straight legged, and look especially great when worn with flats or heels with an ankle strap.

Cropped jeans expose the ankle and lower calf, and are, in contrast to capris, typically wide-legged. These jeans are often characterized by the fray at the base of the jean as a result from their “cropping.” These jeans are easy to style and make any outfit look chic.

Petite jeans make styles work for jean lovers on the shorter side. These jeans are often denoted by a “P” in front of the size number on the tag. 

There's a great pair of jeans out there for everyone. You just need to know what to look for.There's a great pair of jeans out there for everyone. You just need to know what to look for.Courtesy of Pxhere
Have Your Say

Do you have a hard time finding the right pair of jeans? What brands and styles work best for you? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments below!