How To Get The Most Flattering Pair Of Jeans For YOUR Body

We treat our denim like our second skin. That's how it should feel. Yet, sometimes, we'll run into a skinny jean that's too tight or a boyfriend style that's too stretchy and loses its measured slouchiness. But everyone has that brand they swear by, a style they've been buying for years and just can't quit. We can't help but envy the individuals that have found their denim nirvana — as we embark on an epic quest to reach our own. Finding the right fit boils down to intuition: that gut feeling you get when you're standing in the dressing room, looking at your would-be match in the mirror. Are you comfortable? Do you think you look good? Do you feel good? If you've got a triple-yes on your hands, boom! It's done. But there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind before you start the shopping process that can change the game entirely. So, we tapped the denim experts at Siwy, Industry Standard, and Mother Denim to share their know-how on getting that second-skin fit every time.
Pay Attention To The Positioning Of The Knee
We may pour most of our denim-seeking effort into the waist and the hem, but it might be worth your time to hone in on the knees. Anne Taverniti, one of the creative directors of Siwy, notes that the positioning of the knee on your jeans can actually affect the overall look of your leg: “When you have the knee position a little bit up, on top of the true knee, you have the illusion that the legs are longer,” she explains. Having rips, sanding, or other detailing sit right above the natural knee lengthens the look of your calves by playing with proportion. Another benefit of paying attention to this slight detail: If the cinch at the knee falls slightly above where it actually is on you leg, it gives you more movement down the leg, so it doesn’t fit so tightly around the joint. Nicole Najafi, founder and CEO of Industry Standard, echoes the importance of the knee — especially when it comes to skinny jeans, her company’s speciality. “In skinny jeans, the jean around the knee tends to bag out as it gets loose,” she says, a situation all too familiar to slim-leg devotees. To combat this, she argues that quality is everything: “You want something that will stretch out, but not something that will become loose in some areas, especially around the knee.” So, reading the fine print to understand the composition of your denim can make or break it (more on that later). Usually, the knee will be positioned 13 inches below the crotch, according to Taverniti. If you know your inseam (or have an estimate of how long your limbs are), you can more or less decipher where the knee of the jean will fall on your leg by scanning any measurements listed online. Our picks:
Siwy's Alaina: From the very beginning of the design process, Siwy takes the positioning of the knee into consideration: All of its jeans position the knee slightly higher than where it naturally sits for a lengthening effect.
Industry Standard's The Simone Midrise: The stretch on this skinny style gives enough comfort and movement to the leg, without completely losing the shape and bagging around the knee.
DL1691's Emma Power Legging Jeans: These slightly distressed skinny jeans have a little more movement (thanks to a cotton-blend composition that gives it more stretch) and distressed detailing that sits above the natural knee.
Try A New Rise On For Size
Good jeans, according to Taverniti “give you some proportions,” enhancing and flattering your favorite features. There are many ways to achieve this. First, there’s knee positioning. Second, there’s rise: how high (or low) you go affects the overall proportion of your body, since it cuts into your torso. A large part of the selection has to do with what’s current in the fashion industry: “High-waisted jeans are a trend now and people are going to wear them regardless,” explains Tim Kaeding co-founder and designer of Mother Denim. As far as looks go, a high rise works all around, argues Najafi. “If you have a long torso, a high-rise jean is going to trick the eye and make the legs look longer," she notes. “I also see women with long legs and a shorter torso who also do high rise,” she counter-argues, “so visually, the high rise is all-around flattering.” Our picks:
Mother's The Siren: The extra-high rise at the waist defines the waist and butt region, while the slim, straight leg highlights the shape of the thigh and calves.
J Brand's 2387 Tailored High-Rise Flare: The trouser fit — with a slight kick at the hem — evens out the shape of the leg, while the high rise lengthens it.
Current/Elliott's The High-Rise Girl Crush Wide-Leg Jeans: A wider leg all the way down accommodates a wide range of proportions — wide thighs and thin calves, thin thighs and wide calves, and everything in-between — and works to even out the frame.
Seriously, Check The Label
A huge consideration for fit and comfort is the breakdown of the fabric. You need to ask yourself: What do you want out of your denim? Do you want it to be rigid or do you want some stretch? “Most of it comes down to the fabric, then you can just gauge by pulling on it,” Kaeding told us. At the end of the day, that physical contact will give you the best sense of how much the material will give, so you can know what to expect from your jeans by poring over all those numbers and percentages in the “Composition” tab of any product page. Taverniti walked us through some of these numbers: “Rigid is 100% cotton, comfort is 2% Lycra.” While the latter type of denim has some give (comparatively, at least), “It’s not really stretch,” she notes. “You have some jeans today that have 30% recovery,” she goes on, describing a style that would be closer to a jegging. So, find where you stand on the straight-leg to jegging spectrum and pay attention to the fabric of your pants. Depending on how much stretch there is, the positioning of the knee might not matter: A softer, more flexible fabric lets you move around, so there’s room to play with how it fits around your leg. In terms of what type of fabric is best for you, it depends on a couple of variables: what silhouette you like and what you prefer in terms of feel. A good way to start is by picking the style you want to wear: For example, if you want to wear a boyfriend jean, “Stretch isn’t very relevant,” says Kaeding. It’s more about a loose fit. Najafi also suggests thinking about fabric in the context of style preference — and to pay attention to where it's coming from. “The best cotton comes from the U.S., Japan, and Turkey,” she believes. Why is this an important consideration? “Denim is cotton — if it’s not good cotton, then it’s not going to be good denim.” Fast-fashion can be convenient, especially when it comes to one-off trends, but a solid pair of jeans is worth investing in — for lifespan as well as longevity of the shape. Our picks:
Siwy's Kendra: This boyfriend jean is 98% cotton and 2% elastane: it has the teensiest bit of give, but is still sturdy enough to maintain its silhouette.
Paige Denim's Skyline Skinny Jeans: The 6% elastomultiester and 4% elastane in the DNA of this skinny helps it to mold perfectly to the shape of your leg, without bagging and loosening at the knee.
American Eagle Outfitters' High-Rise Jegging: Made with super-stretch cotton-blend denim (70% cotton, 16% viscose, 12% polyester), this style finds the perfect balance between flexible leggings and a sturdier jean.
Find Your Number
Time to break out the measuring tape (you must have one lying around somewhere...). It’s that magic number that makes shopping for denim so much easier. How do you get to it exactly? Measure from where the seam starts at the crotch straight down to the ankle, according to the team at Siwy. If you want a slightly cropped fit, you can adjust the number proportionally. Then, take into account the estimated position of the knee on the jean, if you’re shopping remotely (approximately 13 inches from the crotch). If you’re shopping for skinny jeans, “It can hit anywhere from above your ankle to the bottom of your ankle,” advises Najafi. “A clean break without any bunching at the bottom is ideal,” she continues. Boyfriend jeans give you a little more freedom, since you can cuff to your own preference. Once you zero in on that measurement and identify the right rise, “You’re halfway there,” says Kaeding. “If you’ve got the front rise, the back rise, the inseam, and your calf looks good, and you’re getting it over your mid thigh — those are all the hardest, tricky parts.” Check, check, and check. For a silhouette like a flare, where tailoring might actually affect the look of the leg opening, there are a lot of brands that offer specialty sizing for petite and tall shoppers, who require very particular inseams. We pulled some options, below. Our picks:
Citizens of Humanity's Emmanuelle Petite Jean: Citizens of Humanity took their classic Emmanuelle silhouette and shortened the inseam to 31" to better fit the needs of flare-seeking petite shoppers (taking the tailor out of the equation).
Mother's High-Waisted Cruiser: This high-waisted, flared style is a '70s dream — with a 34.5" inseam, it has a slim fit down the leg, which opens up dramatically right under the knee.
Frame Denim's Palisade Forever Karlie Flare Jeans: Inseam issues touch every corner of the shopping spectrum. To accommodate taller shoppers who also struggle to find an inseam that fits their (in this case elongated) limbs, Frame teamed up with model and taller-than-average individual Karlie Kloss to create a line of jeans with a 37" inseam.
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Find A New Style To Love
Denim will always be a staple in your wardrobe. Why not mix it up? We had our experts suggest different styles for specific leg proportions and shapes, according to comfort and fit. At the end of the day, pick whatever silhouette makes your heart sing. It never hurts to try something new. Our picks:
For a muscular leg, Industry Standard's The Odette Midrise: The brand's head honcho suggests a midrise skinny jean for people with muscular, athletic legs. She explains, "When a jean is midrise, it has less fabric and it just doesn’t make your butt look as long." The slim — but not overly tight — fit highlights the definition of the leg.
For a skinny-all-over leg, MiH's Phoebe Jean: If you want to create the illusion of volume, try a boyfriend jean on for size. This particular style has a boxy, menswear feel to it, but the cropped fit puts the slim ankle on display — a particularly dramatic look with a killer heeled sandal.
For wide thighs and thin calves, Levi's 714 Straight Jeans: "If you’ve got thin calves, obviously skinnies and straight legs are going to be right up your alley," explains Kaeding. A straight or trouser leg "gives you new proportions," says Taverniti, because it masks the true position of the knee and the shape of the calf by evening out the silhouette.
For thin thighs and wide calves, Mavi's Straight Classic: Again, a straight fit creates a single line all the way down, balancing out the proportions of the leg. This jean has a little more slouch and stretch to it — it's made from 67% cotton and 33% polyester — for extra comfort.
For a curvy-all-over-leg, Joe's The Mustang Flared Jeans: Kaeding likes the idea of a flare for someone who's curvy all over, because "it balances out the curve of your hips." (Not to mention, it's the flame that keeps burning for the '70s revival.) The spot where the hem starts opening up right below the knee helps define the shape of the leg.

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