It seems that just about every style of jeans is in the store right now. That’s great news because anything goes and you can choose the most flattering jeans for your body type.
Finding a favorite pair of jeans that work for your body is not inconsequential. If your body has changed in midlife, finding good jeans is one thing that can immediately make you feel better in your own skin. These are jeans that you’ll feel great wearing when you walk into a room full of strangers. When you find the perfect pair of jeans, they’ll help you see yourself through more accepting and loving eyes.
If your body has changed, the idea of jeans shopping may be the last thing you want to do. I’ve been there myself.
Nearing 40, I’d gained 15 pounds and was dating again after my first marriage ended. I didn’t know how to dress my new body or how to find jeans that I loved.
After trying several pairs, I stumbled upon a pair that I loved.
Gap Kick Fit Jeans, Fits TTS, wearing size 12
It only takes one pair. From there you can figure out what works about those jeans. And then look for those qualities in other pairs. Plus, you can go back to the store you got them from and they may have other jeans that work for you.
There are three things that make a world of difference in being able to choose jeans that fit. Know your measurements and how to read jeans measurements. Understand fabric content. Finally, pick the right pair of jeans for your body type. In this post, I’ll cover each of these topics.
When you know this information, you can look at a website description and know whether a pair of jeans is likely to work for you. Before you waste time ordering them.
Before we jump into the best types of jeans, let’s talk about the key jeans measurements. Knowing your measurements will make searching for jeans much easier.
Key jeans measurements
There are 4 key measurements I recommend looking at when you order jeans, the rise, waist, hip measurement, and leg inseam.
The rise of jeans is the length between the top of the front waistband and the crotch seam. It comes in three lengths, low, medium, and high rise.
To determine your favorite rise, pull out your favorite jeans or pants and run a cloth tape measure from the top of the front waistband along the zipper down to the crotch seam where the inner leg seam joins the front and back.
The front rise of jeans is listed in the jeans description and will tell you if the jeans are low, mid, or high rise.
For low-rise jeans, the waistband hits right at or below your hip bone. The rise measures 7 or 8 inches from the waistband to the crotch.
Mid-rise jeans have a waistband that stops about 2 inches below the belly button. The rise is 8 or 9 inches from the waistband to the crotch.
For high-rise jeans, the top of the waistband hits above or at your belly button. The rise may be 9 to 10 or 10-1/2 inches. And today we’re seeing extra high waist jeans that may have up to a 12 or 13-inch rise.
For me at 5’6”, 165 lbs, and a size 12 jeans, the best high-waisted jeans have an 11 to 12-inch rise. I own very high rise 13” jeans and have tried several pairs. In a very high rise, jeans with thicker darker blue denim make my belly look more prominent. But a medium blue wash can work.
What rise of jeans should you choose?
If you have a long torso…
- If you have a long torso and short legs. Choose a high-rise jean, the extra inch or so at the waist will make your legs look longer.
- For a long torso and a little extra in the middle that hangs over the top of your waistband, higher rises help to contain your midsection. Try shaping high-waisted underwear to smooth your middle.
If you have a short torso…
- If you have a short torso or are petite and under 5‘4“, if high-rise jeans come up to your bra, try mid-rise instead.
- If you have a short torso, choose mid-rise jeans to make your torso appear longer.
- If you have a short upper torso and long legs, a low-rise jean will shorten the length of your legs and make your upper body look longer.
If high-rise jeans leave your belly looking more pronounced, choose midrise jeans.
If you’re tall and want to shorten the appearance of your legs, choose low rise jeans.
If you’re 5’4” or taller and a size 12 or more on the bottom, a high-rise helps to hold everything in and lengthens the look of your legs.
The back rise. If you have trouble finding pants that fit your rear, some jeans list the rear rise. That’s the length from the top of the back waistband, down your rear, to the center of the crotch. I have a curvy bottom and wear size 12 jeans. I need more coverage back there to avoid a plumber’s butt. A back rise of 15 inches or higher is ideal for me. Not all stores list the back rise but Nordstrom does.
Measure around the slimmest spot on your waist, this is the spot that bends when you lean to the side.
Gap Kick Fit Jeans, Fits TTS, wearing size 12
This measurement is listed in the size guide chart with each garment.
Measure around the widest part of your hips. Stand with your feet together and measure loosely around the top of your legs across your rear end, or at the top of your thighs, whichever is wider.
Gap Kick Fit Jeans, Fits TTS, wearing size 12
This measurement is listed in the size guide chart with each garment. Use this measurement to help determine the best size to order. If the sizing chart size recommendation seems way off, read the reviews about how the jeans fit and use your best judgment about the size to order.
Your leg inseam
Measure from the crotch to the hem on your favorite jeans or pants.
Or measure your body from your crotch to your ankle bone (if you prefer ankle-length pants). If you’re looking at long jeans, measure to the spot where you want your jean hem to hit, whether that’s at your shoes, at the top of your foot, or longer to an inch above the floor. The leg inseam is listed in the jeans description. At 5’6”, to wear long jeans with flat shoes, I prefer an inseam of 29 inches. With an inseam of 31 inches, I’ll need to wear 2-inch heels.
Jot your measurements down and make a note of them on your phone so that every time you look for jeans, you can reference them and know how they will work for you.
Every time I shop for jeans online, I look at the rise of the waist, the hip measurement (to choose the right size), leg inseam, and fabric content.
The fabric content of your jeans makes a huge difference in finding jeans that fit.
You may think that 100% cotton jeans have the most stretch. But when we’re talking about jeans, stretchier jeans have a blend of mostly cotton fibers, with added elastane, polyester, or some other stretchy fiber. Those additional fibers offer some give where you need it. The jeans spring back into place.
Fabric content will be listed in the description and you’ll be able to able stretch the jeans with your hands and they’ll spring back.
If you struggle with tight waistbands, look for a pair with more stretchy fibers for more comfort.
For curvier bottoms, a very rigid nearly 99% cotton jean will have less give and feel more binding since it doesn’t have much polyester or elastane for stretch. For jeans that are fitted in the hips and thighs, you’ll want more stretch in your jeans.
If you’re mid-size or curvy on the bottom, then having some stretch is a good thing.
If you’re trying to slim your bottom half, look for gently draping fabrics that don’t hold the leg open rigidly.
Loft Wide Leg Jeans, Fits TTS, wearing 31
SHOP STRETCHY JEANS
If you’re trying to create curves on your bottom half, look for a higher cotton count since the leg will hold more rigidly open.
You’ll often see jeans with 98% cotton and 2% stretchy fabrics. These have just a bit of give.
SHOP HIGH COTTON JEANS
The jeans I’m wearing in the next photo are 98% cotton, which normally doesn’t work on my curvy size 12 rear. But they have a wide leg and are loose through the thighs so they fit.
J.Crew Factory Wide Leg Jeans, Fits TTS, wearing 31
Let’s dive into jean styles by body type!
Best jean styles by body type
If you don’t know your body shape, take a minute to read my post, How to Look Good in Your Clothes by Dressing for Your Body Type, to determine your body shape.
Triangle body type (also known as pears)
For pear shapes aka triangles, your upper body is smaller than your lower body. You tend to wear a size large on the bottom and have wider hips, a curvy bottom and defined smaller waists. And wear a smaller size on your upper body. This is my body shape.
Gap Factory Bootcut Jeans, Fits TTS, 31-short
When choosing jeans, your goal is to elongate your legs. Choose minimalist styles in dark colors to downplay your lower body.
- Choose simple flat-front jeans and dark-colored high-rise or mid-rise bootcut and flare styles. Bootcut jeans and flare jeans with a wider hem will help to balance out the width of your hips. The longer length makes your legs appear longer creating a slimmer appearance overall.
- You may feel like wide-leg jeans accentuate the thickness of your lower half but like the fact that they easily fit your wide hips. Look for a pair with soft draping denim and slimmer wider legs. Full-length draping wide-leg jeans lengthen your legs, which is slimming.
- High waisted kick crop jeans work well since they are wider at the hem and that provides balance to your wider hips. Wear them with sandals, flesh-tone shoes, or pointy-toe shoes to lengthen the look of your legs.
- Choose straight jeans over skinny jeans unless you’re wearing skinny jeans tucked into knee-high boots.
- Skip patch pockets on the hips, flap pockets on the rear, cargo jeans, pleats, rips, and whiskering and bleaching on your wide hips. They all draw the eye down.
- Look for jeans with stretch when buying jeans that are fitted in the hips and thighs. I prefer jeans with 85% cotton content. 95% cotton may fit if I size up one, but then the waist may gap.
- In jean styles that are designed to be loose in the hip and thighs like boyfriend jeans and wide-leg jeans, you may be able to wear a higher cotton content of 98%.
- Skip low-rise jeans that create a muffin top.
- For ankle-length jeans, choose high-rise styles since the extra length at the waist helps to lengthen the look for your legs, which is slimming.
Inverted Triangle body type (also known as the strawberry shape)
As an inverted triangle, your lower body is smaller, and your shoulders and back are wider. You tend to wear a smaller size on the bottom than on the top half. Your bust may be pronounced, your waist is straight up and down, and your hips are slender. You have beautiful, long legs.
When choosing jeans, your goal is to define your waistline and add volume to your lower half to balance your shoulders.
- Choose flares with a moderate bell, bootcuts, wide leg jeans, and boyfriend jeans. 90s jeans and mom jeans are great options. You’re looking for jeans that provide balance to your broader, upper body.
- Be careful wearing skinny jeans as they can make you look top-heavy and shorter since they stop at the ankle. Wear them with knee-high boots to balance out your upper body. Kick crop jeans work great since they are wider at the hem and that provides balance to your upper body.
- Look for lighter shades of blue denim and white jeans since they draw the eyes down to your slimmer bottom half.
- Add curves with patch hip pockets and back flap pockets on the rear.
- Draw the eye to your lower half and add visual balance with distressing, whiskering, and bleaching.
- Try 100% cotton jeans since they hold their shape and add volume.
Hourglass body type
For hourglass shapes, your shoulders and hips are a similar width and you have a defined waist. You have curves. Typically you wear a similar size on the bottom as you do up top. You have an enviable and shapely body type.
When choosing jeans, your goal is to pick styles that showcase your hourglass figure and your curves.
- Choose bootcuts, flared jeans, skinny, and straight jeans that show off your shape. When wearing ankle-length jeans, choose a high rise since the extra inches at the waistband will make your legs look longer in ankle-length jeans.
- Wide leg jeans add emphasis to your lower half. To keep your balanced proportions between your upper and lower body, wear tops with a flutter or puff sleeve.
- Low, mid, or high-rise jeans may work for you. Choose the rise that keeps your proportions balanced.
Look for jeans with some stretch to keep your waist from gapping.
Oval body type (also known as the round or apple shape)
You are curvy up top and on the bottom with balanced shoulders and hips, and without a clearly defined waist. Your measurements are similar on the top and the bottom, perhaps with a little extra in the middle.
When choosing jeans, you want to elongate your body and make your legs look longer. And define your waistline to create an hourglass shape.
- Choose flat-front wide leg, bootcut, and flared jeans since jeans that are wider in the leg and at the hem create balanced proportions with your wider upper body. You may feel like wide-leg jeans accentuate your lower half but like the fact that they easily fit your wide hips. Look for a pair with draping denim and slimmer wider legs. Avoid thick 100% cotton denim, if the legs hold open adding volume to your lower body.
- Tapered or straight leg jeans can work if you wear them with a heel to elongate your legs. Straight-leg jeans or skinny jeans with slim legs should stop above the slimmest part of the ankle.
- Go for high-rise or mid-rise jeans and a dark denim color in draping denim. Mid-rise jeans hit the right spot on your midsection to visually lengthen your torso. But high-rise jeans can make your legs look longer.
- Dark colors on the bottom make your legs look longer.
- Look for jeans with stretch and supportive technology to lift your rear and flatten the belly.
- Pick jeans that have minimal details. Skip patch pockets on the hips or thighs, cargo jeans, pleats, flap pockets on the rear, whiskering, bleaching, distressing, or rips.
- Look for a gap proof-waistband. A wide waistband supports the tummy.
Rectangle body type (also known as the carrot shape)
As a rectangle, your bust, waist, and hips are straight up and down and have similar measurements up top and down bottom. Your rear is slight. You look great in just about anything and have beautifully balanced proportions.
When choosing jeans, your goal is to highlight your waist and create curves on your bottom half while keeping it balanced with your upper half.
- Choose mid-rise or high rise, bootcut, and flared jeans, or wide-leg jeans to create the illusion of curves on your lower half. Choose slim wide legs with soft draping denim. High-waisted jeans help to define your waist and can add curves to your lower half. High-waisted ankle-length straight jeans can also work.
- Choose jeans that hug your rear and wear them with a belt.
- Details like whiskering, fading, and patch pockets on the hips add some definition to your bottom half.
Which jeans are most flattering?
Bootcut and flare jeans are the most universally flattering jeans for all body types. For the rectangle and inverted triangle, the wider hem adds curves on the bottom. For the triangle and oval, the wider hemline creates balance with the top. For the hourglass, they preserve the curves and defined waistline. The long leg extends the leg line for all body types.
Gap Factory Bootcut Jeans, Fits TTS, wearing 31-short
The best jeans for you are the ones that make you feel great. It’s easy to think that your body is a problem. But it’s not. The problem is that jean designers don’t offer enough options for a wide variety of body shapes. Once you’re armed with key stats to be able to select jeans that work for you, you’ll find the jeans that work. And remember, all it takes is one pair.