The Skinny On Shopping For Skinny Jeans

There's much to be said for skinny jeans that fit you like a glove. Our closet would be in a sad state of affairs without at least one tapered pair that hugs our frame (and our bum!) just so. Over time and with frequent wear, though, even a "perfect" pair of jeans can fall prey to sagging, bagging, and fading. To help troubleshoot these dilemmas and extend the life of your denim, we talked with the field experts at Paige, AYR, DL1961, and American Eagle Outfitters for the real skinny on our skinnies.
Whether your issue is knee fabric that's irreversibly stretched out, denim that's too tight fresh out of the dryer, faded rinses, or a host of others, we grilled the experts for tips and tricks to combat 'em. We found tons of flattering, functional styles to shop along the way, too. Click your way to that perfect pair, ahead.
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The Problem: Fabric in the knees is too stretched out

Many of us have loved a pair of jeans until long past their prime — we're looking at you, baggy-kneed skinnies. As Jac Cameron, AYR cofounder and design director, explains, "The knees of jeans are a high-stress area, since they're the section of the leg that is the most active — therefore, they'll see the most wear and impact from the body over time."

To tighten up the baggy area after repeated wears, American Eagle Outfitters style director Preston Konrad says “washing [your jeans] in cold water and hanging them to dry should bring things back to their original shape, if not make them a bit snugger." Sarah Ahmed, creative director of DL1961, also suggests a shopping tip: “Look for jeans made with elastane or Lycra, a durable fiber that returns to its original length when it is relaxed. The combination of Lycra and cotton creates a jean that will move with you, but never loose its shape.”
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DL1961's stretch denim is engineered for all-day comfort; it boasts state-of-the-art fit and shape retention — no matter what you do in 'em.

DL1961 Emma Power Legging, $178, available at DL1961.
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"Typically, a jean stretches out in the knees if it is made out of fabric that doesn't have good recovery," Paige cofounder and creative director Paige Adams-Geller tells us. "Jeans that are 100% cotton don't bounce back, and neither do jeans that don't have enough Lycra or spandex. The only solution is to look for skinny jeans that have super-stretch recovery. Paige's Transcend fabric doesn't stretch out, and [the jeans] fit like a glove."
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J Brand's smoothing and sculpting stretch-denim is made to stand the test of time and wear — you can even get away with doing squats in them!

J Brand Maria High-Rise Skinny Jeans, $175, available at Net-A-Porter.
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J.Crew's premium stretch cotton boasts amazing stretch and recovery, meaning this pair shouldn't bag out quickly.

J.Crew Toothpick Jean, $125, available at J.Crew
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The Problem: Rinse fades noticeably after a few washes

It’s quite a bummer when the wash of your jeans — a major reason you chose them in the first place — changes significantly after just a few rinse cycles. “Indigo is a natural dye and it’s built to fade,” Cameron explains. That said, there are steps you can take to preserve it longer. Konrad suggests “going as long as possible without washing your denim.” She adds, “When you do wash them, be sure to turn your jeans inside out, machine- or hand-wash them in cold water, and finish by hanging them to dry.” Adams-Geller notes, “You can also put a quarter cup of vinegar in the wash to try and hold the indigo dye in the jeans longer.”

Cameron plays by different denim rules: “I never wash my jeans. Instead, put jeans in a plastic bag in the freezer, which helps to kill any bacteria or odor and protects the indigo shade.” Don't knock it until you've tried it.
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The combination of cold water and turning your denim inside out will help preserve dark indigo rinses.
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Unique washes, like 6397's faded, beach blue rinse, just need a little TLC. Keep them away from the dryer, folks.

6397 Beach Blue Boy Jean, $97.99, available at Need Supply.
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Mother's darker wash features slight whiskering on the front pockets — we like them styled best with plain white tees.

Mother Looker, $205, available at Mother.
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This pair is made with just the right amount of stretch. The gray wash and high rise offer a little something different than your standard blue jeans.
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The Problem: Pocket placement on the butt is all wrong

“Pocket placement is a detail that is different on every brand’s jean,” Cameron explains. "We are so specific about our back-pocket placement that an eighth of an inch is the difference between an amazing bum and a not so amazing bum," Cameron tells us of AYR's design.

Ahmed's advice to shoppers? “Focus on finding jeans where the pockets are centered on the fullest part of your butt. This is the most flattering location for body types across the board.” Unless you have a flat bum and are looking to create volume, she suggests avoiding “flap pockets, or any design where there is bulky material on the butt.”

When it doubt, get yourself into the fitting room, try them on, and crane your neck for a booty check! Konrad continues, “Pocket placement in proportion to your hips, waist, and backside is super important. You do not want the pocket size to overwhelm a tiny frame, or vice versa.” Feel out your jeans before you buy, and take advantage of that three-way mirror, if there's one nearby.
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"If the pocket placement isn’t sitting right, it means they are too low, high, big, or small. The bottom of the pocket should sit where your cheek and thigh meet," Adams-Geller says.

BDG Twig High-Rise Skinny Jean, $58, available at BDG.
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Look at that pocket placement all front, er, back and center like that. Good stuff, 3x1. This pair will look especially flattering on a bubble butt.

3x1 W4 Super High Rise Shelter Skinny Coco, $275, available at 3x1.
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The slight whiskering and fading of the butt on these Current/Elliott jeans also helps draw emphasis to your bum's center.
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If the back pockets are sitting too far to your sides or too low, the jeans may not be the style for you. It's mostly a matter of guessing and checking in the fitting room, but you'll know if the back pockets look right.

Mango Super Slim Fit Andrea Jeans, $79.99, available at Mango.
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The Problem: Inseams are just plain confusing

Inseams are a matter of personal preference. A lot of women choose different inseams depending on the shoes they’re wearing. “Personally, I like my skinnies to sit right below the ankle for a clean, sleek look when I’m wearing flats,” Adams-Geller tells us. “When I wear heels, I think skinnies look sexiest when they stop right above the ankle.”

Ahmed’s pro tip if you don’t want to commit to a shorter inseam: “You can always cuff or roll your jeans, that way you don’t have to worry about hemming them too short."
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"AYR offers custom inseams, so that no matter what height you are, you can create the right visual for your body," Cameron says. "We intend our skinnies not to collapse or bucket at the ankle, and to expose a little bit of skin, so we recommend buying your skinny jean to hit right at the ankle bone, which creates a slimmer, cleaner leg profile."

AYR The Skinny, $175, available at AYR.
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When in doubt, cuff your denim.

Zara Mid-Rise Jeans, $49.90, available at Zara.
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The 28-inch inseam on this pair offers a slightly cropped look that's perfect for warmer weather.
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"For that cute Audrey look, I suggest having them hit just above the ankle bone," says Konrad.
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Free People Easy Goes It Denim Legging, $58, available at Free People.
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The Problem: Denim is too tight fresh out of the dryer

It really comes down to the fabric of your jeans — “a stretch-infused jean shouldn't be a problem at all, since the fabric isn’t as rigid or stiff to begin with,” Konrad says. What if your jeans don't offer much in the way of stretch? "A little trick of mine, believe it or not, is to try a few squat type stretches in the jeans before heading out the door," Conrad reveals. "This should open things up a bit, and then as your day continues, your jeans will be in perfect shape in no time."

Nine times out of ten, the culprit at play is your dryer. We know it’s so quick and easy to toss your laundry in they dryer for 30 to 50 minutes at a time, but any denim designer worth her salt will advise against it. Some, like Cameron, shun the idea of jeans even touching water, let alone adding them to a rinse cycle, then a heated dryer. Major takeaway? Air-dry your denim.
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Go for stretchy buys, that way tightness won't be a serious concern.
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"Most premium denim on the market does not shrink — it is already pre-shrunk," Adams-Geller says. "Before purchasing a pair of jeans, ask if they are pre-shrunk."
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Gap's stretch denim is soft, comfortable, and it's designed to help define your shape.
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The Problem: Skinnies aren't skinny all the way down

Skinny jeans that don't hug your legs all the way down to the ankle are no bueno. In fact, they’re not skinny jeans on you. Adams-Geller recommends an ultra-skinny or jegging silhouette. “Look for the skinniest leg opening possible in a super-stretch fabric. If your calves are too skinny you may need to have your jeans altered.”

Another explanation? “You might be wearing the wrong inseam if there is too much collapsing or bucketing of fabric at the ankle,” Cameron notes. “AYR makes shorter and longer inseams, so that its skinny style fits true to all different body types and heights.”
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The leg opening on these jean leggings is very narrow at just 10 inches.
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AG's cropped jean legging features a generous amount of stretch to ensure a close but comfortable fit. They also feature a super-narrow, 10-inch leg opening.

AG The Legging, $245, available at AG.
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Part legging, part jean — these are AEO's skinniest leg opening available to shop. Bonus: This style comes in at a crowd-pleasing $49.95.
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