How to Find Jeans That Fit: The Ultimate Guide to Great Fitting Jeans

Jeans are a staple in every woman’s wardrobe, especially during the fall and winter. They come in different cuts and styles to suit all shapes and sizes. It can be difficult, though, to find jeans that fit perfectly. Given that the leg cuts and silhouettes are changing, many of you may be shopping for new jeans. In this post we will go over how to find the perfect fit of women’s jeans and what you should consider when shopping for your new favorite pair!

guide to jeans that fit

Some basic measurements for finding jeans that fit

First, know your measurements and body shape/type. Many jeans are sold by waist size, so you definitely want to measure your waist. You may also want to measure just above or below your natural waist if you are seeking a high rise or low rise jean. This number will vary depending on where the waistband of the jeans sits on the body. The waist measurement may not be your jeans size- it’s not for me, but it’s still helpful to know, especially if you shop online.

Next, measure your rise. The rise is distance from the crotch to the top of the waistband. The back rise is generally three inches or so longer, but measure the back the same as the front.

The three rises:

Low rise – Waistband sits 2 to 3 inches below navel. The rise is around 7 inches or less.

Mid rise– Waistband sits just below navel. 8 inches

High rise – Waistband sits at or above navel. 9-11 inches.

Generally, a mid-rise is universally flattering and more comfortable, although high rise jeans can be comfortable if you have a longer torso. Your unique body shape/length will effect how a rise fits on you. A curvy or pear shape body type will benefit from a higher rise, especially a higher back rise.

Know your inseam. Measure from your crotch to your ankle or where you want the hem to fall. This will very depending on whether you are shopping for boot cut jeans that should fall to just above the floor, or if you are shopping for a cropped pair of jeans. Where do want the crop to fall on you? Regardles of the leg style you choose for jeans, they should not bunch or pool at the bottom.

If you don’t know your body shape, you can take a helpful quiz to determine your shape.

how to find denim that fits

Now that you have the basic measurements down, let’s take a look at the different fits of jeans and the body types they work for.

Jeans come in a few fits. Slim, straight, curvy and loose/relaxed are the basic fits. Don’t confuse fit with leg style. Skinny, straight leg, boot cut, etc are all leg styles and don’t have much to do with how jeans fit your waist and hips.

Unfortunately, many manufactures focus on rise and leg style now so you have to take a closer look at the jeans to determine the fit of the hips and thigh area. Each brand may also differ in their description of fit.

Head to JCrew and you will see slim fit jeans that come in slim straight leg as well as straight fit defined as “A classic fit with our highest rise and a not too slim, not too relaxed leg.” JCrew defines their boyfriend jean as “A relaxed fit that sits lower on the hip for just the right amount of slouch.”

At Old Navy you will find descriptions like “fitted from hip to thigh” or “relaxed from hip to thigh.”

Go to Madewell and you find some varying descriptions of leg fits.

Confused and frustrated yet? Think it’s impossible to get perfect fitting jean?

Here’s the deal on waist/hip fit.

If you are a rectangle, apple or inverted triangle body shape, you likely have slim hips and legs and need a slim or straight fit jean. You don’t have a huge difference in waist to hip ratio. If you are hourglass or pear, you likely have fuller hips and a smaller waist and need a curvy fit that has a smaller waist and bigger hip.

A relaxed fit is a little looser in the hip and thigh area. Where do skinny jeans fit into the picture? Skinny jeans are fitted from waist to ankle, but they make them in straight and curvy fits, so most any body can find a pair that fits. However, you may not be comfortable with form fitting jeans, so other styles are totally acceptable and are becoming more popular.

It can be hard to tell from a brand’s description if they are a straight fit or curvy fit, so here are two tricks for eyeballing denim and getting a feel for the type of fit the jeans offer.

If the waist curves down some in the front when you lay them flat, it’s geared more toward a curvy fit. If the front of the waistband is more even with the back, the jeans are a straight fit. 

waistband of jeans

You can also look at the yoke on the back. The more the yolk curves or dips, the more likely the jeans will work for a curvy fit. If the yoke is straigher across tje back of the jeans, it’s likely a straight fit.

yoke of jeans

Okay, so we’ve got all of these fits (vs leg shape) down, but why do some jeans bag and stretch more after wearing them?

This has everything to do with fabric content and stretch and that also plays a part in finding a pair of jeans that fit.

The best fabric content for great fitting jeans.

100% cotton- True denim is 100% cotton. Beware cotton will always eventually stretch or break down, and won’t recover back to it’s original state because there is no stretch or elastic in the fabrication. 100% cotton jeans will feel tight at first. Save 100% cotton for looser, relaxed fits like boyfriend jeans.

Jeans now come in fabric blends that have some stretch to them to help them fit better and make them more comfortable. Higher quality jeans will bounce back to their original shape after wearing instead of looking misshapen in the rear or knees or any part that has had significant push on the material while wearing them. Stretch denim is usually some combination of cotton/ Lycra or spandex or elastane. (different names for the same material.)

98%/2% is the best combination but some brands include as much as 3-4% elastane. A higher elastance content makes the jeans super soft but also very stretchy, so be careful of buying them too big. They will stretch out a lot.

Even after shopping with all of these criteria in mind, there are a few more things you can do to find good fitting jeans.

Try on three sizes- your size, one up, one down. Go in person, or order online from retailers that offer free shipping and free returns. Sizing varies greatly from one manufacturer and brand to another. If it’s not premium denim, try the same size in a few pairs. Less expensive clothing is manufactured in bulk and often cut in bulk. The piece at the top of the stack will not be the same size as the piece at the bottom becasue the stack of fabric may have shifted in the cutting process. The seam allowance may not have been strictly adhered to for each pair, so one size 6 Old Navy will not be the same as another size 6 Old Navy in any item.

Grab a pair you already love and measure the jeans as outlined above. Check the label for the fabric content and stretch. Knowing what already works goes a long way in finding a fabulous replacement pair.

Be patient and wear them around the house before cutting the tags and committing to them. Most women mistakenly buy the pair that’s comfortable in the fitting room, only to find that they have stretched out after a few hours of wearand are actually too big. Put them through a test at home so you don’t make that mistake.

Also pay attention to the wrinkles and folds your jeans make especially in the thigh area and the back of the thighs. If the folds are inverted, they are too small and you need a roomier fit. If they fold outward, the jeans are too big and you need a narrower thigh, like a slim or straight fit vs a relaxed fit.

Finding jeans that fit can be time consuming and challenging, but worth the effort to have a great fitting staple in your closet to go to over and over.

Notice we have only discussed fit here- getting  a pair that fits your waist, hips and thighs. What happens from the knee down has to do with leg styles, and the leg style you choose can make a pair of jeans more or less flattering on your body, but that’s another post for another day.

I wear a curvy fit jean. Here are some of my favorites:

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Ultimate Guide to Finding Jeans That Fit