Finding jeans that fit correctly, hide flaws and don't put your underwear on parade with every move remains one of life's great challenges. Women are constantly on the search for denim that slims, trims, lengthens and makes them look like they simply slipped the jeans on with ease, rather than getting greased up and stuffed in.
If you're wearing jeans that are a size or four too small, that's an easy fix. Please wear your size — not your daughter's or little sister's. But when it comes to nailing the fit so your jeans are as flattering as possible, it's the finer details of the pants — such as pocket placement, waistband, leg width and wash — that make a difference.
We asked two denim designers and fit experts to weigh in. Paige Adams-Geller, founder and designer of Paige Denim, and Bradley Bayou, who designs a denim-focused line called Bradley for QVC, share what to look for and what to avoid when searching for the most flattering jeans.
Slimming the waist
The last thing any woman wants from her jeans (or any pants, for that matter) is a muffin top or belly overhang. First make sure you're not wearing low-rise jeans. Most classic rises hit 8 to 81/2 inches from the top of the waist to the start of the inseam. And while many women think that encasing their tummy and torso under denim is the best way to compress the waist and flatten the stomach, wearing jeans that hit your waist is actually unflattering. "The waist of the jean should hit about 1 to 2 inches below the belly button," Bayou says. "The sides of the waist should swoop up higher and continue around the back so you get that ballerina waist. This cut slims and elongates." He adds that it's the slight drop at the center of the waist below the belly button that controls gapping in the back as well.
Adams-Geller agrees, saying that wearing jeans right at your waist can give you the look of (or accentuate) a tummy pooch. "You might feel better because you're covering yourself up," she says. "But it's really unattractive." Having a two-button closure (one sitting above the other) will also help the stomach area look flatter and hold down that flap of denim that tends to stick out after a heavy lunch or too many bagels in the office.
Color and Contour
It's no secret: Dark colors are more slimming. So if you're worried about how your thighs look in a pair of jeans, opting for a solid indigo or black denim will be your best bet. But if you find yourself shopping for jeans with a tad more character and personality (think lighter washes, distressing or abrasions), go for something that's Iighter on the front of the thigh and gradually gets darker on the sides and inner thigh. "This contours the leg and gives it a thinner look," Bayou says. "The attention is drawn to the lighter part and gives the illusion that the leg is longer and thinner."
Adams-Geller compares the effect to highlighting and contouring the face with makeup to add angles and thin certain features. "There should be some light hand-sanding in the center of the thigh," she says. "It's like putting makeup on the face, highlighting and low lighting, so light in the center of the leg against the darker outer thigh draws attention to the center, which makes legs looks skinnier."
Wear a style that suits your body
One of the most uncomfortable things to look at is someone who is struggling to find comfort in skinny jeans. Just because skinny jeans and their even-less-forgiving cousin, the jegging, are massive denim trends doesn't mean everybody needs to wear them.
Adams-Geller says the body type that works best in a skinny jean or jegging is what she calls "emerald-cut diamond," a straight body shape that could use the curves a skinny jean creates by hugging the body.
But she adds that any body type can wear slim-cut jeggings. The key is in what you wear with them. "Heels and a longer tunic show off the prettiest part of the leg — the lower thigh to ankle," she says. In this kind of outfit, hips are hidden and the leg looks long and thin. "You just have to balance it out."
The straight-leg silhouette is also a popular style for fall and can be more forgiving and sophisticated than a skinny. "The straight-leg jean is a classic," Bayou says. "It's wonderful for girls who have hips, because the leg of the jean drops straight from the hip and follows the line down. This is a little more of an older, conservative look."
But Adams-Geller warns that the leg on a straight style should have about a 14-inch circumference from the knee down to the ankle. "If the total width of the knee is 18 inches and the ankle is 18 inches, then they're too wide and it will look too old-school," she says. Since a straight leg can look a little preppy and conservative, Adams-Geller advises rolling up the bottom and pairing them with high heels for the look of a really long leg and tomboy sex appeal.