A couple of weeks ago I shared my favorite denim brands. I professed my love for Madewell, obsession for wide leg jeans and which brands make the best shorts. But today I wanted to chat about finding a great fit. As a Nordstrom salesperson for a few years in the denim department, I learned several important things to finding a great fit. From the fabric, to the waist, to getting the best hem. Here’s my tips on how to find your best fitting jeans. Plus a simple guide to what style works for every body type.
HOW TO FIND YOUR BEST FITTING JEANS
FABRIC: WHAT TO LOOK FOR
First let’s chat fabric. I’ll never forget always telling shoppers at Nordstrom to size down because their jeans will stretch. Never failed, every time they didn’t take that advice, they’d come back a few weeks later swapping them out. Here’s why.
Denim is usually 90-98% cotton. The rest should be made out of spandex or lycra, some sort of stretch. But the fact that most of it is cotton, guess what’s going to happen the second you spend some time in them? They’re going to STRETCH. Cotton is a breathable and soft fabric so over time it stretches and gets relaxed. Take your favorite white cotton tee, I’m sure over the course of a day it gets a little stretched out, right? Same with jeans. That 2-10% stretch that’s added is to help keep that all together. So first and foremost, look at the fabric makeup of the jeans you’re trying on. If they’re 100% cotton, beware of serious stretch. I always recommend looking for 1-3% stretch in spandex or lycra in your jeans for a great ratio that will last and look great.
FIT: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE DRESSING ROOM
So now that we know what cotton will do over time, let’s chat about the fit. When you’re trying on jeans in the store, they should be TIGHT. As in, very tight. No you shouldn’t struggle to button them, but once they’re on, they should definitely feel snug. They should be tight in the areas that you move around in most too. So the hips, butt and knees. Over time these areas will start to give and relax and they will mold to your body perfectly. Be sure there isn’t any puckering or pulling in the front zipper area, as this means they’re TOO tight.
If you think that I’m absolutely crazy here, just try on the next size up. If they fit perfectly, they’ll be too big. And if they do, then you know the smaller size is the right one. You can easily start to see the jeans to give a bit by just sitting down for a few minutes in the dressing room. Trust me, you’ll thank me later when you go smaller!
THE HEM: TO ALTER OR NOT TO ALTER
When trying your jeans on, be aware of where they’re hitting you at the hem. Keep in mind what kind of shoes you’d want to wear with these jeans too. Most department stores will bring in different shoe styles for you to try them on with, just ask!
For me, I like my skinny jeans to be my everyday jeans so I want these to hit right at the ankle. This allows them to be worn with booties to show a little sliver of skin, or flats without having to fuss with them.
For wide leg jeans, I want to wear these with high heels so I always try them on with my tallest heels. All jeans besides skinny jeans should kiss the ground. They should never be an inch off the ground. If you had to choose, I’d rather them drag and buckle a bit, than be too short. Yes this may mean you have to buy an extra pair to wear with shorter heels, or taller heels, but it’ll give you a more refined look.
Now if the jeans you’re trying on aren’t hitting perfectly it’s totally fine! Most department stores will do a basic hem for free. If you want an original hem (which is where they cut off the bottom, shorten the jeans, then sew the hem back on) they’ll charge for that. The ONLY time you’ll want to do an original hem is if the hemline is unique. This is rare, and I just recommend a regular hem anyway. If the store doesn’t’ do it, any dry cleaner should be able to do a regular hem for $5. Personally, I typically take my skinny jeans and just cut them with scissors. Yup, you read that right. Almost all my jeans you’ve seen me wear I’ve just taken a pair of scissors to. They don’t fray out of control and I like the raw hem anyway. Just be sure to mark them properly and get good scissors.
TIP: When altering jeans, I always recommend to wear them a time or two and wash them. Even if it just means around your house. This will allow for the most accurate length when you go in to alter. And ALWAYS bring your own shoes.
WASH: THE MOST FLATTERING WASHES
I like to look for jeans that are dark washed, with minimal whiskering or fading. These will always be most flattering on every body type. If you want to go lighter, I just recommend being conscious of fading and whiskering. These are two techniques that happen during the dye process to give jeans a worn in look. Poorly placed fading can be unflattering, and whiskering that’s over done just looks ridiculous. These techniques should be done in a way that makes the jeans look more worn in, and less like someone spent a ton of time manually whiskering them. And yes, it’s a manual process! Here’s a little video on how it’s done along with stone washing and creating raw ripped hems. So yes, you are paying someone to destroy your jeans, pretty crazy right?
In my personal preference, I like whiskering and fade to be just 1-2 shades lighter than the rest of the jeans. Anything more looks overdone. Also steer clear of major fading around the back pockets and back of the leg. It’s not flattering on anyone! Yes, some whiskering and fading may help to add curves if you’re lacking in that department, but just keep things as natural looking as possible.
STYLES: WHICH STYLES TO WEAR
If you’re tall…
Well aren’t you lucky to be tall and have long legs. The dream! You can get away with many styles but keep in mind the hemline. You’ll want to make sure jeans aren’t too high in the hem creating a highwater effect. Also, steer clear of capris! There’s several great brands that offer tall styles like Madewell and GAP. But fun fact, most designer jeans like 7 For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity purposefully make very long inseams so that you can hem to where you want.
Your most flattering styles are wide leg jeans, trousers, boyfriend jeans and straight leg (my personal favorite but my short legs won’t allow them to work).
If you’re short…
Whether petite, just short, or have short legs (hi that’s me!), your tailor is your best friend and so are skinny jeans. Make sure to hem your jeans for a great fit and silhouette. Keep things long enough to kiss the ground for wide leg styles, and always allow your ankles to show when styling skinny jeans. If you’re petite, there are several great brands that make petite styles. Technically a petite fit will have a shorter inseam which means even the knee is brought up to fit better. I highly recommend checking out Paige, Banana Republic or J. Crew for their petite denim.
Your most flattering styles are skinny jeans, high waisted and also well hemmed wide leg jeans with sky high heels of course!
If you’re curvy…
You’ll want to create balance if you’ve got curves. Balance out your hips with a boot cut style. Skinny jeans will only accentuate your hips making you look wider than you are. Plus a higher waistline helps to smooth things out and elongate your legs. Lastly, stick to clean lines and minimal fading or whiskering. These just add the look of volume so keeping things all dark washed will be your most flattering style.
Your most flattering styles are bootcut, high waisted and dark washes.
To see some of my all time favorite brands, check out this post. From the best wide leg jeans, to my go to brands for denim shorts. Stay tuned for my next post on how to care for your jeans to make them last as long as possible!
SHOP MORE DENIM
Featured image by Vivi Carrasco