Work-appropriate women's jeans recommendations for 2017/2018?
December 5, 2017 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I have realized it's time for new jeans. But I've also realized I'm out of touch with what's in style right now. Please help me pick a work-appropriate style that is most flattering to my body type and will not make me look a) fashion-ignorant or b) as though I'm trying to dress like one of my 20 year old students.

I am in my early 40s and teach at a college--the dress code is very relaxed so I generally wear skinny jeans, a shell, and a blazer or nice cardigan. When I have a meeting I swap out the jeans for slim fit wool trousers.

I am about 5'2 and 110 lbs. I have hips and a defined waist. I have a short torso, so lower rise pants sit at my natural waist, which is what I prefer. (Even medium rise pants have an unfortunate Ed Grimley effect on me.)

I want to try on the jeans before I buy, so online shopping is out. I live in a bit of a shopping desert, but in a few weeks I'll be in Vancouver, where I'll have access to a lot more decent stores. I'll be downtown, so easily able to get to Banana Republic (their petite denim stuff has fit me well in the past), Anthropologie, the Levi's store, anything available in Nordstrom or The Bay; it'll be more of a production to get to Uniqlo or Ann Taylor Loft but I'll do it if highly recommended.

It will make trying stuff on less overwhelming if I have an idea beforehand of what styles in those stores would look best on me. So...any suggestions on what to try and what to avoid? And as a bonus question: what footwear do I wear with my jeans? My job means I'm on my feet a lot; I will never wear heels on a daily basis. And it's going to be cold where I live for the next 4 or 5 months, so sandals are out for now.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Uniqlo jeans are worth it. Great price, good quality, excellent fit. Apparently their fabric sourcing ethics have come into some question lately, but they're still better than many. I'm wearing Uniqlo jeans I bought four years ago today – they hold up very well. They have skinny, straight, and boot cuts. I like all of them, and like you, I have hips and a defined waist.

For footwear I always recommend Rieker, and will again :) they have a wide range and are the only non-sports-shoe brand I never have foot issues with. I wear ankle boots with jeans in cold weather. If you can tuck in skinny jeans, try knee-high boots! (I realize that may be more of a European style, though.)
posted by fraula at 8:22 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I dress exactly like you do as a professor. Boots in the winter (often ankle boots nowadays) and ballet flats in nicer weather.
posted by k8t at 8:23 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of Women's Boot Cut Levi's 512 as work/professional jeans. They fit a little more snugly than women's work trousers, but they dress up really well with boots/heels. The boot cut isn't a stupidly tight as the skinny jeans.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:31 AM on December 5, 2017

I like madewell a lot, good quality and lots of options, if you find a store you should try em. I trust them enough to buy them online now.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:36 AM on December 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Fortunately, thanks to brands like Vetements and Re/Done I think almost any style of jean passes for fashionable these days!

I think your main challenge is your height so I would recommend avoiding anything too wide-legged. And maybe stay clear of things with logos across the crotch. And bootleg. I think boot leg jeans are still banished to the corner of 'mom jeans'. Not to be confused with Mom Jeans aka the Wedgie cut jeans from Levi's, which are actually very cool but also maybe difficult to pull off. I LOVE them on women, my husband HATED them when I tried them on. (Maybe I should I have just gotten them because I still regret not getting them. I digress.)

But other than that, I think a good, comfortable fit is key to looking fashionable. Don't be afraid to try on a ton of different sizes and cuts. You may be different sizes in different brands as well so go up and down as necessary.

From what I remember, Nordstrom has a large jeans department that is decently fashionable and I always found them very helpful. I remember a sales assistant helping me find a fantastic pair of slim fit jeans from there before. But this depends on your budget. It's very easy to spend $200 on a pair of jeans at Nodstrom. I'm pretty sure their jeans will start at $100+. Mine were $220 but I love them to death and they still look and wear fantastic at least 7 years later. (Although I just checked out their website and they seem to be having a sale with a lot of jeans a bit under that so you may luck out!)

For a more high street price point and fashion forward styles, check out Zara or Mango. Be warned, their quality is VERY variable so be prepared to try on a LOT before you find ones that fit you best. I have three pair from Zara I really like but I've returned many more.

I think it's def worth popping into Levi's as they have massively expanded their range of cuts. Last time I was in there, the assistant did my measurements and his recommendations were spot on and I loved my Skinny Fit jeans from there.

Knee high boots and skinny jeans are a classic winter combo. If you're inside all day I would be tempted to wear boots into work and then slip into flats just for a bit of variety. I am also a fan of white sneakers (as chic as Common Projects to timeless Converse) with jeans.
posted by like_neon at 8:44 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Came here to suggest Madewell too. I recently overhauled all my denim to Madewell - great quality, insanely comfortable, great fit (which I guess is personal, but I have friends of all body shapes that love Madewell denim too). And these jeans last way longer than any other denim I've owned. Their cuts/colors are easy to dress up or down. I have pretty muscular legs, and I NEVER have to do the *tug up the waistband* dance in any of these jeans, which is a first for me. I buy the skinny styles from them, and the fabric is thick enough that it's perfectly appropriate for the workplace.
Sadly, no brick and mortar shop in Vancouver, but if you sign up to be a Madewell Insider (free to sign up), you get free returns/exchanges. I usually buy multiple sizes and send back what didn't fit, so it's zero risk if you can remember to ship stuff back within 30 days.

Styling-wise, I love cuffing my jeans with ankle booties. Sorel has some great options that are comfortable, look polished, and most importantly, have a great sole for non-slipping confidence.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 8:45 AM on December 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Some of the Nordstrom's have Madewell stuff. Assuming you're talking about Vancouver, WA there's a Madewell store in Portland.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2017

I like Levi's Skinny in both the 311 (Shaping Skinny, although the rise is a bit high so those may not work for you) and the 711 styles. The "skinny" isn't too skinny/tight, but they also have a slim fit (712 seems to be what you'd want to look for).

I find Levi's bought directly from Levi's to be of good quality. You do run into problems buying them from other sites/stores, though, even if they claim to be the same thing.
posted by darksong at 9:37 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I sprung for some Madewell jeans on my last purchase and they’re great. I like a higher rise, so YMMV, but they have this remarkable technology on their higher waisted styles that sort of suck everything in but in a comfortable way? Like they look great and they’re comfortable enough that I’ll hang out on the couch in them vs. taking them off as soon as I’m home.

For shoes, I think various styles of flat ankle boots and lace up boots look good with jeans. There are also a lot of sleek loafer styles in stores right now that are a nice alternative to ballet-style flats and may be more supportive for being on your feet. Short block heels are also an option.
posted by MadamM at 10:14 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like Loft Cury Skinny. Looks great with flats, can also tuck into boots.
posted by radioamy at 11:46 AM on December 5, 2017

Just a note from a fellow short-torso, Madewell jeans have huge long rises. I guess they have some sort of 'pocket' to suck things in but really, they're not suitable for short rises imo (since short rise = short length between belly button and crotch, and is unrelated to belly dorsal-ventral proportions).

You could try some styles at Aritzia which I've heard of from (Canadian) style blogs. And the blog The Mom Edit has some cool women wearing jeans for look inspiration.
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:46 AM on December 5, 2017

Madewell has great jeans but I've had the best luck (hah) with Lucky Brand skinny jeans. Go try some on, they have a bazilllion styles and lengths and waists and fabric, but they ALL hold up great, wash well, and look good.

I'm a 32 year old CEO-mom and my uniform is skinny jeans + looser shirt + flats in the summer and ankle booties in the winter. Done and done.
posted by lydhre at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2017

If you have access to a J.Crew or J. Crew Factory, check out their skinny lines. They seem to be universally flattering, comfortable and don't stretch or bag out. 10+ women of all ages and sizes in my office have them, and we all love them.
posted by mjcon at 1:12 PM on December 5, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions and cautions about the high rises! I’m actually sort of looking forward to jeans shopping now. And shopping for ankle boots because that sounds like my best bet. Did not know Sorel made them!

Also, to clarify, I’ll be in the Canadian Vancouver :)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:49 PM on December 5, 2017

As a general comment, dark jeans look dressier as opposed to lighter blues.
posted by emd3737 at 3:51 PM on December 5, 2017

The bay downtown carries Levi's, as well as other brands. It's a good spot. I've also gone to the anthropologie and lucky, both on south Granville (at 12th ish?). For lucky, sign up for there email list ahead of time and you'll get discounts.

I have the same job as you, and I wear ankle boots or tall boots if I need to be outside, but I mostly keep a bunch of shoes in my office, and change there. So black ballet flats a lot! (Plus heels for life owing tall on the first day of classes). Town shoes also on south granville is fine.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 4:38 PM on December 5, 2017

Dark wash jeans with a straight-leg cut, well-hemmed, always feel professional to me. I’m a 40-something in a corporate environment and when we have jeans day that’s what I wear. I found some Calvin Kleins with a great fit.
posted by bunderful at 9:13 AM on December 6, 2017

For premium jeans, there's Dutil in Gastown.

Seconding the rec for Uniqlo. The ultra-stretch jeans are incredibly comfortable - they look like real pants but are stretchy like jeggings.

Check out Topshop too - the Bay carries them.

I think dark wash, straight/skinny-but-not-skin-tight jeans without distressing would work well. For shoes, oxfords and loafers would work.
posted by airmail at 7:34 PM on December 6, 2017

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