Shopping for plus-size jeans that fit, are comfortable, and will last past a handful of wears is as difficult as scoring low-price vintage in extended sizes or buying boots that fit over wider calves. Like many areas of the plus-size fashion market, many brands haven’t quite figured out what it takes to make a good pair of jeans for women who wear a size 16 and up. “I've been plus-sized my entire life, and shopping for jeans has always been a nightmare for me,” says Meghan Germek, who works in social services in Alabama.
On Twitter, questions about plus-size jeans run the gamut, from “Can we please start reinforcing the thighs of plus-size jeans?” to “Why do all plus-size jeans, no matter what brand, have that damn waist gap?” Others on the platform complain that sizes aren’t consistent, styles are limited, and prices too high for the quality provided. On other platforms like Reddit's r/PlusSize, that's home to over 46,000 people, users similarly air grievances about fashion’s continued ignorance toward their sartorial needs.
“Curvy denim brands need to be more aware of ALL body shapes, or the sizing will never fit enough people.”
- Remi Bader
But even with countless pleas for better and more options, many women are still forced to order jeans that don’t fit or tear after only a few wears. Why is that? Germek believes that most brands don’t take into consideration the range of different plus-size body types when they design jeans — or really any clothing for that matter. “I carry my weight in my hips, lower abdomen, and thighs,” she explains, “but my calves, feet, and ankles aren't particularly big.” Because of that, when she’s looking for skinny jeans, most options are too big toward the ankle, thus keeping her from being able to actually wear skinny jeans. “I'm sure designers do this to accommodate for women who do have larger calves and ankles, and I understand that, but I do wish plus-size skinny jeans were truly skinny in the same way that [skinny] jeans made for straight-size women are.”
TikTok star Remi Bader echoes that: “Curvy denim brands need to be more aware of ALL body shapes, or the sizing will never fit enough people.” She says she has the opposite problem from Germek: “I always notice that when brands make ‘plus-size’ or ‘curvy’ jeans, they add extra fabric in the stomach area, assuming that anyone curvier has a larger stomach,” she says. “For me, who has a big butt and big thighs, but not as large of a stomach, this makes a lot of curvy jeans fit me completely wrong.” To combat this, Bader suggests knowing your measurements, so that you can look at the numbers provided online, rather than sizes, and find one that works for your specific shape. “It’s most important to know your waist and low hip measurements,” Bader says.
Both Bader and Germek agree that more style options are needed, too. “It's incredibly hard for me to walk into a store and find a pair of jeans that aren't [either] straight leg or faux skinny, and medium or dark wash,” Germek says. “If I wanted a pair of distressed, light wash jeans, they’d be nearly impossible to find.” Jess Sims, a freelance writer, tells Refinery29 that she also wishes she could find distressed denim that didn’t result in big holes caused by her larger thighs.
Sims adds that retailers need to also stock more plus-size denim options in their actual stores: “Many retailers who claim to be ‘size-inclusive’ absolutely refuse to sell their clothing in the store, making it impossible to actually try things on.” According to Bader, as a plus-size woman, there are so many variables that must be taken into consideration prior to purchasing a pair of jeans, including whether they’ll be too long or short depending on your height, how the stiffness or stretchiness of the fabric will affect sizing, and how the closure method — zip or button — will impact comfortability when sitting down versus standing up. “Just having [the] option [to try jeans in-person] would make the experience 10 times better,” Sims says.
“You can't just take a straight-size item and make it larger. That's a disservice to plus-size women.”
- Jess Sims
“A lot of brands in the plus-size space are lazy and misleading,” says Brooke Cundiff, the co-founder and chief merchandising officer of CoEdition that offers clothing in sizes 16 to 30. “They simply cut a jean by sizing up from a size 6.” This isn’t only a problem with denim. Many brands that make plus-size items use a grading system that involves taking a straight-size sample of a garment and scaling it up to create larger sizes with no other considerations. According to plus-size fashion brand Henning founder Lauren Chan, who spoke about the topic with Refinery29 in July, if a brand skips “steps of redesigning, perhaps resourcing, refitting, and regrading, that cut corner is going to result in clothes that don’t fit people.” Cundiff adds that, in order for plus-size brands to offer women jeans that are both flattering and comfortable, they need to “contour to vastly different figures,” meaning take shape into account.
According to the women I spoke to, there are some brands that have succeeded at creating denim that fits plus-size women comfortably. “On the affordable side, I live for Target's Wild Fable denim,” says Sims. "It is around $25 (£18), goes up to size 28W, and is of great quality for the price.” Sims also recommends Measure and Made, Good American, and Fashion Nova. Bader seconds Sims’ Good American recommendation and adds that American Eagle also has a good range of styles that flatter curvy body types. Members of Reddit’s r/PlusSize offer recommendations like Torrid and Democracy.
All bodies are different, which makes finding a pair of jeans that fits just right hard, no matter what size you wear. That said, when you enter into plus-sizes — which 67% of Americans wear — it gets tenfold more difficult, and in turn, frustrating. “I just want more jeans that make me feel confident, but also comfortable,” says Bader. When you think about it, that’s hardly too much to ask.