I am a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of gal — always have been, always will be. There’s something so amazing about finding that perfect pair of jeans and breaking them in so they mold perfectly to your shape. I am a denim brand’s ideal customer: I’m loyal and will purchase a sack of the same pair once I find a cut I like.
But why — oh God, WHY — is the process to find a pair of jeans so hard?
It’s like running the Gauntlet, fraught with perils like bad dressing room lighting, the wrong underwear and branding that simply lies. Also, the cost of denim is bordering on ridiculous. There is no such thing as denim that’s so sumptuous that it merits a price tag over $150. I’m sorry, but no.
Also, why is it that our asses are getting larger yet it feels like the pants are cut smaller? I don’t understand this logic, denim brands. We would like to buy your pants, but we have to be able to fit into them first.
All of that aside, I feel like I’ve gotten denim shopping down to a quick and easy science. One that allows me to find a pair quickly and with minimal dressing room horrors or thigh chaffing. Here’s what I’ve found works for me when doing the dirty deed of denim shopping:
1. Measure Yourself. I know, I know, I SUCK for saying this, but you have to know your measurements so you can reduce trial and error. Know your natural waist (right under your ribs), your “fashion waist” (the circumference around the top part of your pelvic bones), your hips (the widest part of your hip from hip bone to hip bone) and the circumference of each thigh (yes, one will be larger than the other). Write this info down, then light a candle and let it go. This isn’t a time for judgment: you need pants that fit and this is how you find them.
2. Do Research. The Internet is filled with brand information, size charts and all sorts of price points. Go hunting online and play around with 360 degree views of the jeans, the size chart (see, that measurement work helped a lot), and then go one step further: read the comments below. Commenters are happy to tell you if those jeans are everything they say they are. Everyone from Gap to Nordstrom allows comments on their pages, so read the reviews.
3. Make Two Lists, Check Them Twice. Make a list of the brands and cuts you like the most. Make sure there are least five on the list but no more than ten. Next, make a list of the retailers nearby that sell those brands so you can try them on. If you live nowhere near retailers that offer the jeans you like, order a few pairs and try them on in the comfort of your own home and return the pairs that don’t fit. But for the other 85% of you, you’re going shopping.
4. Prepare to Shop. A little preparation goes a long way. First of all, shop in the morning after a light breakfast so you’re as close to your ideal body mass as possible. And by light breakfast, I mean eat well but don’t go for the large muffin or the French toast. Because, bloating. Also, moisturize your legs. Pulling jeans on and off can eventually chafe your skin and the moisture will help them slide on easily. Pack a bottle of water and a light snack (an apple and a handful of almonds will do), along with a pair of heels. If you plan to dress these jeans up, you’ll need to try them on with the shoes that will be doing the work. Now, head to the stores.
5. Check Your Mood. It might sound crazy, but if you’re anxious, sad, going through a breakup, on your menstrual cycle or any other thing that could give you a skewed perception of your body, try again another day. This is tough work; don’t make it unnecessarily hard on yourself.
6. Shop Alone. Your best friend with the honest opinion, your mom, your boyfriend: none of these people will be with you when you’re getting dressed everyday. Go it alone and trust your own opinion.
7. Three Sizes = One Good Decision. Bring three sizes of each pair of jeans into the dressing room with you: your true size, one size up and one size down. Try them all on even if one pair feels like it’s the right choice. Unless it’s selvedge, denim will stretch a little, so make sure the pants are snug but moveable. Keep trying them on until you find a pair that works.
8. Comparison Shop. Now, here’s where it gets fun. You don’t have to buy the jeans right in the store. Unless they’re on super markdown or sale, you can probably find a better deal elsewhere. Sites like Old Navy, Gap, Piperlime, Nordstrom, Lane Bryant and Macy’s run sales ALL THE TIME. Leave the dressing room with your beloved pair and check online sales and coupons before you buy. Sites like Ebates will reimburse you a percentage of what you buy from their retailers, and Retail Me Not might have in-store coupons you can use. Grab those coupons and either order your jeans at a discount online from the store or take them to the counter and get it done. Ta-da! New jeans!
9. Make Them Yours. Just because they look great in the store doesn’t mean they can’t look better. Your local tailor (most drycleaners have one at the ready) can make a pair of sale jeans look custom cut. Have them take a little in at the waist, possibly hem a too-long leg, or move the pockets if the placement isn’t quite right. An extra $20-$40 can turn a good pair of jeans into a great pair. Bonus: many department stores have seamstresses on staff and they can do the work while you wait.
As for brands? When it comes to low-cost denim, you absolutely cannot beat Old Navy. I’m constantly surprised with the range of cuts and fashion-forward finishes. If you’re between sizes or just need the cheap thrill of a new pair of jeans, Old Navy is where it’s at.
Lane Bryant and Eloquii are brilliant for plus-sized gals, and if you head to the department store, I really love Calvin Klein Jeans for those of us with beautiful curves. Any of those retailers have great silhouettes and beautiful sizes.
If you’re hourglass-shaped and/or have a hard-to-fit waist/hip ratio, I’m going to tell you to run (don’t walk) to Levi’s and get measured for Curve ID. These are jeans that are cut for hard-to-fit beauties and the Demi Curve might save your whole closet. I’d also like to make a case for Old Navy again: the Rock Star cut works on pretty much anybody, but especially for hourglass babes.
If you’re athletic and have larger calves and or thighs, I’m a fan of straight leg jeans with plenty of stretch or boyfriend jeans. Straight leg jeans give the illusion of skinnies on those of us with more muscle tone without that whole struggle to pull them over our thighs. American Eagle makes great straight legs, as does Gap and Lucky Brand. Boyfriend jeans are everywhere, but for gals with muscles, give Rock & Republic, 7 for All Mankind, Hudson and Lucky Brand.
And with that, my beloved pair of Levi’s Curve ID and I are out to find another pair. I think I want 70’s bellbottoms to go with my whole Ali MacGraw look for fall. See you in the stores!