How to find the perfect pair of jeans for your size and style

How to find the perfect pair of jeans for your size and style

A late contender for the year’s most popular tweet came in November, courtesy of comedy writer Molly McNearney, who explained, “There’s never been a more confusing time for women to shop for jeans.”

It’s hard to argue with their claim. While most Gen Zs would be caught in nothing but baggy or flared jeans, older fashionistas are still struggling to come to terms with the demise of their beloved skinnies, and everyone else is somewhere in between.

Ultimately, everyone has to decide for themselves what hemline and cut they choose, but when it comes to jeans fit, a few rules stay the same no matter what trend is happening at the moment.

Just ask Sali Hughes, journalist and author of Everything is washablea denim fan who, after years of trying, has turned jeans shopping into a fine art.

Here, in an excerpt from the book, Hughes gives her expert advice on how to find your perfect pair…

Try on many pairs

Jeans shopping can be trial and error (Alamy/PA)

“I generally avoid the horror of the dressing room if I can,” Hughes says, but she’s willing to make an exception when it comes to jeans.

“If you’re not sure about sizing and which style flatters best, it’s worth biting the bullet and visiting a store – horrible neon lights and all.”

And don’t be afraid to ask the shop assistants for advice, who really know their stuff: “They will have seen every butt shape and leg length and know exactly which jeans suit whom best.”

Step up properly

Jeans in a clothing store
So many waist options! (Alamy/PA)

So much emphasis is placed on jean hems, but you really want to start by determining the length of the “rise” — the length between the waistband and the inseam.

“Broadly speaking, a high rise hits you at the smallest part of the waist and gives your tummy a smoother, more flattering shape,” says Hughes, “and also gives the illusion of longer legs — high-waisted jeans with flat-waisted shoes make me look taller.” than mid-rise jeans and high heels.”

Unlike hem length, a rise cannot be altered or adjusted later, which is why it’s important to get it just right.

“Those with very short torsos and long legs may want to drop to a medium rise,” Hughes continues. “Few women – even those with the plumpest bodies – look best in a low rise.

The long and short of it

Want the illusion of longer legs? Do not automatically discount cropped jeans.

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“It’s a myth that cropped pants make your legs look shorter,” says Hughes, who is 5’3. “In fact, a flared ankle usually makes short legs appear longer and works for most shoe choices, either shoes or boots.”

She advises against hems that fall below ankle height unless you’re very tall: “The exception to this rule is flared pants, which should mostly cover the shoe to avoid looking weird.”

real colors

Woman in black denim outfit
50 shades… (Alamy/PA)

“In theory, the darker the color, the fancier the jeans. The paler the denim, the more casual,” says Hughes, who tends to favor indigo and mid-blue jeans.

“Dark navy rinse is dressy, slimming and can even look dressy enough for corporate attire,” she continues, as can black denim. “But remember that a true black usually runs small and you need to go up a size.”

Classic black denim (i.e., fabric that’s actually dark gray) is “a great way to break up an all-black outfit, add a bit of dimension and tone, and really, really stylish.”

stretch something


Fashion purists would have you believe that jeans can only be made from 100% cotton denim, but if you prefer a bit of stretch in the fabric, go for it.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that denim jeans that are 95-97% cotton, ie ‘medium stretch’, are the most flattering,” says Hughes. “Much less cotton than that and the denim can visibly cling to your cellulite and sag in your knees and bottom over time. More than 97% you have a rigid denim yourself and probably need to go up a size.”

Confused by clothing labels? With denim, you can forget about the degradation of elastane, polyester or nylon, says Hughes: “Tencel and other fibers are common in the blend…just check the cotton count on the label and ignore the rest.”

A good fit

Jeans in a clothing store
How tight should they feel? (Alamy/PA)

One last thing to consider when buying jeans is how denim will adjust when worn.

“Jeans that are the right size will feel half a size too small when new,” says Hughes. “They’re not painful – they’ll come off relatively easily and you don’t have to hold your breath. But they will feel a little bit firmer than you want them to be, and soon they will be.”

The cotton density will make a difference though: “Stretch denim tends to ‘give’ about half a size when you wear it.

And loose styles get even baggier: “Jeans that feel perfectly relaxed and comfortable when you buy them tend to feel too big, which is fine if you’re buying loose boyfriend styles or pairs that you want to tie up with a belt, but otherwise not ideal.

Everything is Washable and Other Life Lessons from Sali Hughes
(HarperCollins/PA)

Everything is washable and other life lessons by Sali Hughes is published by Harper Collins.


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