For a Perfect Pair of Jeans

By Karen R. Smith


Had you at the title, didn’t I? Let’s face it -- we are all looking for that perfect pair of jeans. If you are lucky enough to have found yours, drop what you are doing and go right out and buy at least another two pairs. You need to do it right now because manufacturers change jeans ALL THE TIME. Sometimes in little ways, like adjusting the dimensions to work better with the other clothes in their line. That adjustment might not work for you, however! And lots of companies simply change their jeans each season, so what was available in the spring is just a memory by summer. Again, if you are reading this as the owner of a perfect pair of jeans, get out there and buy more while you can!

But if, like many of us, you are still looking for denim perfection, let’s start with some facts.

The Rise and Waist

The rise is the measurement from the center of the crotch to the top of the waistband on a pair of pants. The less curvy you are, the less rise you need for a pair of jeans to look great. More curves? Look for pants with a higher rise, which also disguise a belly rather nicely. The rise can be extended in the back for curvier women who want full coverage when they sit down.

In addition to the rise, pay attention to the waistband. If you curve in at the waist, your pants should too! Most curved waistbands are made in sections, while straight waistbands are a single piece of fabric.

Solid or Fade or Slashed or Frayed

Every change in color or texture distracts the eye, stopping it for the merest moment. Jeans that are one ‘wash’ from top to bottom, whether light or dark, let the eye glide in one motion. Those that feature faded areas draw the eye to those places where the color lightens. You can hide a pound or three in a dark wash...or simply distract away from your thighs with a fade down the legs.

The current trend is highly distressed, and here again, you’ll have to try them on to find what works on your body. In general, from the knees down, slashes and rips look great on any body type, but remember, they will stop that roving eye…!

The Back Pockets

The smaller the back pockets are, the larger your butt will look. So if you have a flat butt, you’ll want a bigger back pocket. A larger pocket will be more flattering, but where the pockets hit will make a difference in how your butt appears. Lucky Brand jeans, for example, are known for the slight curve on the outside edge of the back pockets on their jeans, which can be very flattering.

Either bring a friend with you, or be sure your favorite store has lots of mirrors for you to get a good view of your rear. Look at the space BETWEEN the pockets. On Rag & Bone’s Boyfriend jeans, that space is a rectangle...while on H&M’s, that space is a trapezoid. Both can do great things for your butt, but you won’t know which is better until you see them on your body.

Here in the land of cowboys and rodeos, lots of gals look for bling on those back pockets. Which is fine if the fit flatters...and horrendous when it doesn’t. Same can be said for pockets with buttons and flaps. Note to self: those flaps will never lay right when you are out, which means your butt will spend the night surrounded by bumpers. Besides, who wants to sit on hard metal buttons all night?

The Long and Short of it

A word here about length: most women’s jeans are 32 inches long. If your legs (or your legs plus your favorite shoes) are that length, congratulations! You can wear most brands right off the rack.

If you + your shoes are shorter than that, you’ll want to find a good tailor who knows how to shorten jeans. Ideally, they will cut off the hems, shorten the pants and then reattach the original hems so you don’t lose the original look. Some tailors avoid this by matching the stitching in both color and length; they just shorten them and restitch.

The folks at the Gap make their petite sized jeans in a 30 inch length, and I am sure there are other companies doing a similar shorter leg for their petite sizes. If you are proportioned for petites, you may be able to skip the tailor entirely.

If your legs + shoes are longer than the 32 inch standard, you’ll have to shop for brands that either come with unfinished bottoms (more common in menswear than in ladieswear, unfortunately) or for those who cater to the longer of leg. My tall friends swear by Long Tall Sally, a company making wonderful jeans in 38-inch lengths.

Straight, Flare, Cropped or..

Today, just about every manufacturer makes at least a dozen styles of jeans, so whatever you favor, it’s out there. Is there a style that’s best for your particular body? Probably -- but you’re going to have to get out there and try them on to find it!

If you are looking to add length to your profile, visually, think floor-dusting flares. The unbroken line of these jeans will make you look both taller and slimmer. Straight legs come both narrow and wide, and both have their fans. Cropped look fresh again (if you remember pedal pushers, or capris, it’s them again!) and are a chance to show off your sandals or espadrilles...which I’ll talk about next month!

About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at