How to Shop for Denim



I love denim. My fashionable parents did too, probably because they were designing and selling denim long before I came along. But being the little 90s girl that I was, I wore denim on denim before I knew it was cool; probably with my black platform Steve Madden slip ons (anyone remember those?). I wear denim still, because it's comfortable, timeless, and goes with everything in my closet. Jeans are so versatile, yet they can be impossible to shop for. Once you do find the right pair, buy them in bulk-- trust me. 

Since I have been shopping for denim for something like 20 years now, I know a thing or two about what to look for in fit. Magazines always create charts with body types named after fruits, but that can be confusing. When I spent a few years working at Gap during college, I met so many women on the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans. Some of the biggest issues we all battle are finding the right length, the right fit around our middle, and the right wash.

I'm here to tell you that there's no reason why a $12 pair of jeans can't be as great as a $200 pair of jeans, as long as you know what you're looking for. 


MUFFIN TOP: It took me years to figure out that my wide hips don't fit into low-rise anything. Once I started trying on mid-rise and high-rise fits of denim, I started to feel comfortable tucking in my tops and didn't feel the need to wear lots of layers or long shirts to cover my butt. My "muffin top" quickly disappeared into high-rise jeans and flattered my shape, instead of cutting it in half. 

BUNCHING: Make sure when the jeans are zipped or buttoned up, that they lay flat over your zipper and crotch. Any bunching or wrinkling while you are standing up is a sign that they are too tight and could lead to unflattering creasing.

BACK GAP: If there is a gap of fabric at your lower back, look for a higher rise, and look for jeans with stretch, made to hug every curve. 

TIGHT OR LOOSE: Denim should follow the shape of your body, but look neither painted on, nor sagging. See that the backside has lift, and everything feels hugged. If you have to peel them off to take them off, chances are they are too tight. 

LENGTH: Ideally you want the inseam to hit at the top of your foot, if you're looking for that classic pair. Experiment with cropped jeans to show off your shoes, floor-grazing flares to add height, or cuff long slim fit jeans change things up a bit. 

POCKETS: Look for back pockets that are neither too large or too small, which can exaggerate the width of the backside. If the pockets are far apart, that can also add width. 

ZIPPER HEIGHT: If you're at the store with no time to try on, look for the length of the zipper's inseam. If it's about 8-10 inches, you can be sure it's a high-rise fit. Any time I've shopped for denim at stores like Forever 21, I eyeball the zipper height to make sure they're the style I need before taking 10 pairs to the dressing room. 


Dark washes are universally flattering, year round. For a few classic washes to start off your denim collection, stick to white, black, and dark jeans. Those three washes are the easiest to dress up and down. Lighter washes with the true blue jean hue are classic Americana, and pair well with casual pieces like a simple white t-shirt. Sometimes I'll wear a destroyed pair of light wash jeans with a sequin jacket, because it's fun to juxtapose super fancy with super casual to create something fresh. Whether you're a fan of prints and brights, or minimal neutrals, darker washes do not compete or clash with the top half, no matter what you're wearing. 


how to shop for denim /

1. Dark wash skinny jeans -- great for tucking into boots, dressing up with a blazer, or with your favorite top. 

2. Black skinny jeans -- the blacker the better, and my personal favorite for every day because they are slimming and so chic. 

3. Light wash boyfriend jeans -- a destroyed pair of jeans with a looser fit make a fancy top or plain tee look approachable and a little tomboy-ish in the best way. 

4. Medium or dark wash flares -- they even out proportions with a slim fitting top, and make legs look super long. 

5. A colored pair of cropped, slim fit jeans -- in either grey, white, or army green, it's nice to have a pair like these for showing off a little ankle and adding some color to your bottom half. 


J BRAND JEANS | super soft, incredibly flattering, and stretchy

TRY: high-rise maria, boyfriend

GAP | classic american denim

TRY: high-rise, boyfriend


TRY: black high-rise skinny jeans


TRY: 711, 721, Wedgie Fit