Aid for bluejean virgin
July 15, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Please help me buy my near-first-ever pair of jeans. I understand that they are blue and they come in many different styles. Where can I find some versatile, dressy-to-professional, comfortable jeans that will flatter my body type?

Somehow, I made it through the 80s (as a kid), 90s (as a teenager), and 00s (as an adult) in the urban northeastern USA without ever buying, or wearing, a pair of blue jeans. When I was younger I found them too scratchy and stiff. Then my high school dress code prohibited jeans, and I couldn't be bothered to get pants just for weekends. Over the past 10 years I've been noticing the enormous proliferation of various styles of jeans, many of them much more attractive than the blocky cardboard things of my childhood.

So, I think I'm ready to finally get some! Problem is, there are so many options that I'm not sure where to start. I've tried on jeans in various mainstream clothing stores (the Gap, Reiss, etc.) and I usually think the cuts are ill-fitting and the look overly casual. Then there are the really expensive, high-end jeans stores, but I'm not trying to mimic The Devil Wears Prada either.

I'd love to hear your recommendations on this. I'm 26, female, in the petite range, with a narrow waist, curvy hips and bottom, and relatively chunky thighs. I know nothing about fashion, brands, or stores, but I know what sorts of pants look good on me, and I have a fairly clear sense of what I'm looking for. My imaginary jeans are:

-very basic and versatile
-classy and suitable for dressy or professional wear
-dark blue, with no or very little shading
-snug around the bottom but with a wide-leg or straight-leg cut all the way down
-not skinny (ugh!), dramatically flared, or overtly trendy in other ways
-comfortable, with some stretch. soft soft fabric that's somehow still firm enough to look sculpted would be ideal.

My plan is to buy a couple of pairs of good jeans and then wear them with everything. Where should I look for jeans like these? I'm in NYC and my price range is something like up to $150 per pair. Suggestions for particular brands and stores gratefully accepted. And if you have suggestions for other styles that you think would look good, I'd love to hear those too. Thanks in advance!
posted by ms.codex to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Seriously, go to an upscale jeans boutique with some girlfriends. The sales people will try to upsell you.
posted by k8t at 8:27 PM on July 15, 2010

PS, I've found Banana Republic jeans to be remarkably well made.
posted by k8t at 8:28 PM on July 15, 2010

Response by poster: k8t: can you name an upscale jeans boutique or two?
posted by ms.codex at 8:34 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: I am 5'1" with a waist to hip ratio somewhere around .68, also with a curvy seat and heavy thighs. So, somewhat similar, yes?

I have worn so many brands of jeans and frankly, for short curvy women, jeans are hard. I have Gap jeans (curvy petite fit), Banana Republic jeans (curvy fit that they don't make any more), and designer jeans, and they all are fine for their various purposes. The designer jeans, though, are the most versatile.

I have found that, on me, Joe's Jeans fit quite well, go well between casual and dressy, and hold up well. You want the Provocateur cut, which is the petite cut -- the knee break is higher, for one thing. They are quite low-rise, which may or may not work on you, depending on whether your hips curve more at the high hip or the low hip, but if they work for you fit wise, they will meet all of your criteria.

As for stores, I usually have the most luck at Nordstrom and Macy's, but once you find the cut and size that fits you, you can also find unworn designer jeans on eBay.

It would be easier to answer this question, too, if you said what style/brand of pants you wear. That will give us some idea of your particular shape and style.
posted by devinemissk at 8:37 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: I feel like every time I shop for jeans it's like starting over from scratch. You're probably not as in the dark as you think you are.

My advice is to go into a store that sells jeans you can afford in a wide range of styles. Those "upscale denim boutique" type places will certainly do. A department store might not be a bad idea, either, just for the diversity of brands and styles they usually carry.

It's sort of pointless to recommend a brand, as each cut in each brand fits each woman differently. It's a total crapshoot, sadly. I don't even find that the more upscale jeans fit me any "better" than the ordinary ones.

Try on any and all jeans that look like the shape you're after. In a range of sizes. If you emerge with anything you don't hate, you win.

If you're not used to wearing jeans and the epic quest for denim seems overwhelming, what about a pair of "trouser" jeans? They're basically a trouser cut, but made out of denim. Usually looks nice, especially if you want something that dresses up easily.
posted by Sara C. at 8:37 PM on July 15, 2010

There seems to be a number of Levi's Stores in Manhattan.

They have a wide selection.
posted by Bonzai at 8:50 PM on July 15, 2010

Seconding Banana Republic Petites. Like you, I am short, but with hips and a waist (so boyish cuts don't work for me). BP will fit your price point and has some nicer styles suitable for a more casual workplace. I can usually find something there that works for me, although not always. I try on absolutely every pair that I think might work because all the styles fit differently and 80-90% of them don't work for me, but I usually find one pair that is great and I end up wearing them to death (they last a long time). The other thing with BP is that I often take a different size depending on the style--sometimes a size up, sometimes a size down from what I usually take.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:54 PM on July 15, 2010

Definitely look for a style called "trouser jeans." They are cut more like nicer pants and often come in dark washes.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:54 PM on July 15, 2010

I also like Banana Republic jeans. They meet all of your criteria and as k8t said, they're very well made. My only complaint is that my store rarely carries petite sizes, so they have to order them for me or I buy them online. But once you know your size, you can usually order confidently because their clothing tends to have a consistent fit (unlike some other brands, where I seem to wear a different size every time I go in the store).
posted by lucysparrow at 9:09 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: can you name an upscale jeans boutique or two?

lucky (I was just in one and there was an extremely helpful sales clerk, probably exactly what you're looking for)
7 for all mankind

Banana republic jeans have never done much for me, I have to say, but I am male (and I think others are right that it is kind of random). I also like express jeans.
posted by advil at 9:10 PM on July 15, 2010

I have a similar body shape to you, other than I'm very tall, and I've found Citizens of Humanity jeans to be flattering and comfortable. They run about $150-$250 in Canadian dollars, so you can probably find them in your price range in NYC. I tend to have the "gap in the back" problem with pants, and I've noticed that their jeans don't do this as much.

That being said, I recently bought a pair of Levi's (#618 Low Rise Boot Cut) for about $70, and they are one of the best pairs of jeans I've ever had. I definitely second Bonzai's suggestion to check them if, since they do have many many styles to try.
posted by just_ducky at 9:10 PM on July 15, 2010

NY Mag, Best of NY Issue 2010 says you can find the best jeans for women at Scoop, National Jean Company, and Jean Shop.

Probably more than you're looking to spend (unless you enjoy parting with $150-200 for a pair of jeans), but I find that designer jeans do fit me significantly better than store brands (I like Joe's Jeans too). Also, if you do some serious trying-on and invest in one $$$$ pair, you'll know what sort of fit you like and what brand you like and what size you are, and you can start trawling discount online sellers.
posted by sallybrown at 9:11 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Oh, and those three seem to be jean boutiques that carry a wide range of brands. Most department stores will also, and I know the Loehman's near me has a pretty large selection of reduced-price designer denim.)
posted by sallybrown at 9:13 PM on July 15, 2010

Seconding trying to find "trouser jeans": they tend to be darker, cut better, and don't have that hootchie low cut. As for brands, Kasil jeans work well for work.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:26 PM on July 15, 2010

I'm a big fan of AG Jeans. I find them well put-together (reasonably heavy weight denim; I would experience crotch blowout on DKNY jeans, for example), well-fitting and very comfortable (I'm a guy, so maybe I'm not the best judge of this for you), and with enough variety of washes to suit all occasions befitting jeans. Hopefully this isn't too far on the edge of pricy.

Since you're in NYC, I'd recommend visiting their store in SoHO to try some jeans on. Woodbury commons also has their outlet store; the quality seems much the same, and this has large reductions on the jeans as compared to the main store. (That said, the outlet does not offer as-you-wait hemming on the jeans, which is a nice touch that the SoHO store does provide.)

Best of luck!
posted by jangie at 9:29 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: Different body type so I can't help with recommendations but since you've never worn jeans and no one else has mentioned it, jeans can stretch quite a bit over the course of the day. Especially today, most jeans include a tiny bit of lycra or spandex and you mentioned that you wanted a pair with a bit of stretch. When you try them on, don't discount them if they feel a bit tight. Ask the sales person how much they will stretch over the course of the day. Seriously, I had a pair of trouser jeans that would fit fine first thing in the morning, maybe even feel a bit snug. By the end of the day I could take them off without unbuttoning or unzipping them. I started thinking, hmm, maybe all those young guys with their jeans half falling off? Maybe they actually fit in the morning. Lest I be caught with my jeans hanging down to my knees, I ended up getting rid of them after only wearing them a few times.
posted by kaybdc at 9:46 PM on July 15, 2010

can you name an upscale jeans boutique or two?

No, but try for one that isn't associated with a specific brand. Nordstrom should work as well.

I like AG Jeans too. I like Joes Jeans okay. Problem with both? Crotch is too low.
posted by k8t at 9:49 PM on July 15, 2010

I've been buying my jeans at the Levi's store (I go to the one on Broadway in SoHo) recently and agree with just_ducky.

My only issue with them is that they don't hem my jeans for free (or if they do, the salespeople are pretty mum about it), unlike Uniqlo. But Uniqlo tends to have only a narrow range of styles at any one time, and I think maybe only seasonally. So it's a tradeoff - jeans that fit my inseam vs. jeans that actually exist.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: It sounds like I have a similar body type to you and have come to love, love, love these J Brand jeans. LOVE them. They are only a bit bootcut so they don't flare out much (and after I get them hemmed they're basically straight on me) and the wash is just straight-up dark blue. No whiskering, or other crap.

Also, I think going to a department store might be less overwhelming than a full on jean boutique. At least it is for me.
posted by grapesaresour at 9:56 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: devinemissk: right now I wear, basically, whatever structured wide-leg pants I can find in neutral colors. I've had some luck with Anthropologie and the Lux brand from Urban Outfitters.

I'll definitely check out the stores and brands mentioned here, including 7 for all mankind (I pass that store every day), Banana Republic, Levi's, and others. Thanks all, this is so helpful-- keep 'em coming if you have more!
posted by ms.codex at 10:03 PM on July 15, 2010

not trendy or upscale but Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor loft sometime have dark wash trouser cut jeans. They have lots of petites, sizing runs a bit large but the petites do actually run short.
posted by oneear at 10:14 PM on July 15, 2010

Response by poster: grapesaresour: wow, that picture is exactly what I had in mind. I hope they fit me as well as they fit you...looking forward to checking them out. Thanks!
posted by ms.codex at 10:22 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: Oh man, two questions about jeans on the first page of AskMefi — just my luck! I'm kind of really into denim, particularly raw indigo (blue) denim. While I won't try to sound like too much of a complete nut, I can run through some of your points.

-very basic and versatile

It used to be difficult to find basic; pre-distressed, or washed, jeans were very dominant in the premium jean market up until the past year or so. It's now veering slightly toward raw, single-rinsed, indigo jeans.

-classy and suitable for dressy or professional wear

I would gather that anything short of a deep, dark, indigo would be considered casual. Anything without a wash would fit the bill.

-dark blue, with no or very little shading

The "blue" you speak of is indigo. The process in which denim is dipped and dyed is pretty cool. Most jeans are made with a couple of dips into indigo (which I learned not too long ago is inherently yellow, but oxides to blue — cool, right?) and then sent off to a factory to handle any pre-distressig for honeycombs (the wear behind the knees), whiskers (the wear at the lap), and pinching and holes and patches around the hem, etc. A jean that will retain indigo better will be dipped more times, and also the denim fibers will retain the indigo and "fade" less over time if there is more time given in between dips to oxidize.

The caveat of this is that jeans that are darker and dipped more times (sometimes up to 20-25 times instead of 3 or 4) is that they will bleed a little bit with wear. So no white sneakers unless you're wabi-sabi about it.

-snug around the bottom but with a wide-leg or straight-leg cut all the way down

That would pretty much be categorized as a slim-straight, though you may see the term "taper" being used to describe the hem. Usually the hem of a jean (or leg opening) starts doing its thang at around the knees; if it's going to be a bootcut, the gradual flare will start at around the knee or a little higher — the same goes for jeans that taper down to become skinny.

-not skinny (ugh!), dramatically flared, or overtly trendy in other ways

Many of the mainstream cuts, or most accessible cuts, from designer jeans have some form of wash or distress, as well as a potentially gaudy back pocket arcuate (the curved lines that create a design or pattern that represents a brand on a pocket). That is not to say all of them are distressed, but the big sellers have more "loud" back pocket designs and/or washes.

-comfortable, with some stretch. soft soft fabric that's somehow still firm enough to look sculpted would be ideal.

This is probably the most difficult of all aspects of jeans. Inherently, the cotton will stretch with wear. After you wash them, they may or may not lose its shape entirely. I've heard of many stories and/or met many people who are shopping for higher-end jeans complain about the way their old jeans were completely different in shape and fit after they washed and dried them.

Obviously this element is anecdotal and there isn't much empirical evidence from brand to brand, or even cut to cut. I will say, however, that stretch helps, and often times a small percentage of poly-stretch (like 5%) will increase the elasticity of the material so it doesn't lose shape. It's also way more comfortable than a regular pair of 100% cotton denim jeans.


Thankfully there are more choices now that are raw and unsanforized (unwashed denim that will shrink slightly when exposed to water, very much akin to the old 501's that my dad was into in the 70's where he'd soak 'em in a tub to fit him perfectly). If you go to a Barney's or high-end department store you'll get a variety of dark indigo single-rinsed or raw jeans. The most important thing is cut. If it doesn't shrink dramatically in the wash (which is to say it's advertised as rinsed or "sanforized"), I would make sure you try on multiple sizes of each jean. Sometimes they are vanity sized (as with some women's branded jeans), but if they are true to tagged size, you'll want them to be slightly uncomfortable and too small. When they stretch out and form to your body, you don't want them to be saggy and not fit you anymore! (Note: this does not apply to jeans with stretch. They hold their size and shape better and you can just wear what feels best out the store with no problems.)

I would also avoid hot drying your jeans since it can cause some abrasion if they fit slim and go through a lot of wear.


Okay, that was a bit ridiculous on my part I'm sorry if this was tl;dr or overwhelming. I'm a hugely into raw denim, so I've done a lot of research on denim manufacturing and also worked with a prominent raw denim shop based in San Francisco. I don't want to come off as trying to advertise anything to you, but after reading up AskMefi for a while it's nice to see a question I can contribute to! Feel free to email or message me if you want to discuss further or get some recommendations. Good luck!
posted by skidknee at 10:40 PM on July 15, 2010 [23 favorites]

The way to find jeans: try them on. A lot. The only ones I don't bother with are those that don't come in at the waist. I also have a tiny waist compared to my hips/thighs, and so if I can see that the top is cut straight to the waist, it's not worth my while.

I have never found a pair of low rise that will stay on when I bend over/squat down. You may need a belt to pull in the last inch or so at the waist. It's not perfect, but you'll generally be wearing a top over it. I have considered getting the waist taken in, but haven't yet needed to.

Oh, and if you do find a pair, take them home, wear them for a few days, wash them and wear for another few days, and if you still like them, Go Back and Buy More. Seriously. Because when they wear out and you need more, the store will no longer stock them, or anything like them, and you'll have to start the whole exercise all over again.
posted by kjs4 at 12:30 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Late to the party here so I hope I'm not too late, but as a curvy girl, I found my best ever pair of jeans in Bloomingdale's - they are Not Your Daughter's Jeans. They fit like a dream, have a little stretch and don't fade in the wash. They were, IIRC, about $100.
posted by essexjan at 1:44 AM on July 16, 2010

I'm also petite, and I have the same waist/hip ratio as devinemissk, except I wear plus sizes. The first pair of jeans that actually ever fit me were Lane Bryant's Right Fit Jeans (Blue tag, petite.)

The denim trousers in dark wash blue would be exactly what you're looking for (the dark wash blue colour doesn't have the faded/whiskering that's on the black.) I have a pair of these and really love them for the straight leg. With a jacket, they look casual/professional, and I've worn them to work several times.

They go down to size 14 Petite (or 1P, which is a 34" waist and 44-47" hip) if you swing that way. They're also slightly stretchy and comfortable, the back pockets are positioned right to look nice on a round butt, but they are of summer-weight (light) denim, which I like but maybe isn't what you're looking for.
posted by Ouisch at 5:03 AM on July 16, 2010

If you are petite enough to have to alter pants - you don't say, but I'm 5'1"/155 cm and I do - Levi's makes a 'petite short'. I own two pairs, 14 size, in boot cut and they are fabulous for their price (I can't bring myself to pay >$70 for jeans.)
posted by cobaltnine at 5:49 AM on July 16, 2010

Miss Sixty used to make jeans like the ones you are describing. I own about 15 pair in varying shades of dark blue, because they are extremely versatile. Most of them have a tiny (like, 3%) bit of stretchiness, which solves the ass-flattening problem that other jeans can give you. Don't be scared off by the horrible skinny jeans they mostly have these days, you can still find the older more awesome styles. You might want to try eBay for Nixie One or Tommy Boot Stretch or Extra Low Tommy Stretch. Otherwise, just go into the SoHo store and describe what you're looking for, most of the girls who work there are awesome and helpful.

Mango (MNG) also makes these kind of jeans. Again, you may have to wade through a bunch of horrible skinny trousers to find something you like, but it's worth it.
posted by elizardbits at 6:07 AM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: To follow on kaybdc, you're best off washing and then hanging dry your jeans when you like the way they're fitting. They'll be a little stiff next wearing, but comfortable. (And the dryer puts heavy wear on all your clothes.) If they've gotten a little stretched out, send them through the hot dryer, they'll shrink back.

The worst thing in the world is when your favorite jeans fit PERFECTLY and you accidentally dry them and it takes five wearings to get them back to the right fit!

I send jeans through with towels because jeans are so heavy, but I'm also washing like four pairs of man-jeans that my husband gardens in. If it's just my jeans, which are lighter-weight, smaller, and less dirty, I'll send them through with regular clothes if I don't have a load of towels to go. But not with delicates.

(BTW, similar sized to you, I have good luck with Levi's 550s, Boot Cut in Short. Can almost always find them in a nice, dressy dark wash, and I can wear them without hemming as long as I wear them with heels. The 550s do sit a little lower on the hips, which for me is good because I have a ridiculously long rise, so EVERYTHING sits low on my hips, it works better if they're meant to. The 512s are similar to the 550s but come up higher on the waist and have more smushiness to "smooth" your stomach. What I like about Levi's is not only can you get them cheap at Kohl's (yay! savings!), but they always look like Classic American Jeans (tm) to me, no matter if you've got the frayed ones or the dressier ones. Very James Dean.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 AM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Joe's jeans. The Honey cut. Hem to appropriate length.
posted by slateyness at 7:14 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Start in London specialise in high-end jeans - try dropping them an e-mail and see what they recommend.
posted by mippy at 7:39 AM on July 16, 2010

Jeans are my staple piece of clothing. I am a different size and body type, so I'm no help in that department. My advice, which may have already been offered by someone else, is this: If you find a pair that you absolutely love, buy more than one pair. I was hooked on the Gap Modern Boot Cut a few years ago and bought 3 pairs over the course of a year. Then the seats blew out from overuse. I went to the Gap looking for them and they had changed the style ever so slightly so that they did not fit/look/feel the same. I went all over looking for gently used pairs, and even called up a friend who worked for Gap Corporate and he told me that they do this - change the styling slightly over time.

So now I'm onto American Eagle skinny straight leg jeans. LoveLoveLove em! I bought 4 pairs and every time I go to a mall, I stop in to AE and buy another pair, just in case they change the style or drop it from their line.

Of course, I feel a bit silly being in there because I'm in my 40s and always the oldest person there. Hey, it's worth it!
posted by mnb64 at 10:23 AM on July 16, 2010

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