How to shop for jeans

I posted about how to shop for jeans on Facebook and got an overwhelming response asking me to write a post on the topic. So here you go…

I don’t like to be too prescriptive as I think that that approach can overwhelm people, but in the same breath, if my tips are too open-ended that’s also not helpful. So based on your request I am going to be prescriptive in this blog post, with a disclaimer stating that there are always exceptions to what I say so please shout if you have a different opinion or an exception!

1. The darker and plainer the wash – the more flattering the jeans. It’s common sense – white pants show more ‘imperfections’ than black pants, and the same goes for jeans. Dark navy is going to be more slimming than a faded out pale blue.

2. If you aren’t curvy and you want to add dimension to your shape, go for denims with wash detail e.g. the fade out detail down the thigh or on the knees etc. adds interest and shape.

3. Mid-rise is more flattering than low-rise. I am talking to normal women here, not teenagers with washboard tummies, right? Mid-rise elongates the leg, holds in the tummy and eliminates showing your undies when you bend down to pick up your child or fish out the school shoe from underneath the car seat in the car park at drop off.

4. Low-rise can be a better option for you if you are very square and have no waist, or you have narrow hips, or you have a very short torso. If you go for this option I’d suggest a boyfriend style i.e. something that sits loosely on the hips and doesn’t cut tightly into your torso.

5. Bootleg jeans are dated. Yes the rulebooks say that if you’re pear-shaped then bootleg jeans balance your shape blah blah and they do, but they’re dated and they look shite. And yes, the flare is back on trend, but unless you’re rocking that whole 70’s look like Gisele Bundchen on the runway then the flare is also going to make you look dated.

6. Skinny jeans are the most common option and are easy to wear, but it’s boring to only ever wear skinnies and they’re also a little bit ‘done’. Wide leg and boyfriend/loose legs are a great alternative to allow you to mix things up a bit.

7. Wide leg jeans are amazing for those of you with a small waist and bigger hips/legs (aka Nigella reference or the classic pear shape that everybody likes to reference).

8. High rise jeans are also really great if you have a shape like the one mentioned in point 7. They will fit into your waist snugly and show it off when you tuck your tops in. (If you’re very curvy then mid-rise can sometimes gape around the waist and you’d find yourself needing to wear a belt which can be a pain).

9. Boyfriend jeans come in a variety of cuts and styles. You can do proper boyfriend with the whole drop crotch and very ripped legs if you’re wanting something edgy, or you can go with a more subdued option that is basically a straight or loose-ish leg with some rip detail and that sit on the hips.

10. Mom jeans that are so on trend right now are also great for those of you wanting to get some edginess into your wardrobe. The high-waist really works on the Nigella figure mentioned above but can also work if you are straight, and slim. I wouldn’t go for the mom jeans style if you carry weight in your tummy, they’re not comfy and not that flattering or easy to wear. Mom jeans are generally in a stiff denim i.e. there’s not much stretch.

11. Consider the amount of stretch in your denims i.e. often the more spandex/stretch there is the more comfy they are, BUT a stiffer denim i.e. one with a higher cotton % holds everything in place more ‘firmly’, if you know what I mean?

In summary, go for the best that you can afford. If you buy a pair of stretch woolies skinnies they’ll probably look great for one season, thereafter the stretch starts to give and they start to pucker and lose their shape and just look terrible, so know that you are going to be buying again the next season which is A – a pain as you need to go shopping again and B it’s not environmentally helpful as you’re constantly disposing of clothes.

I started buying good quality denims about 8 years ago and I haven’t looked back. I do still try the odd pair on at the likes of H&M and Zara and have found a couple of pairs there, but generally speaking, once you’ve worn good quality denims you’ll never go back. What do I mean when I say good quality? Basically from my experience it’s the big international names like Mother, AG, Current Elliott, Paige, Rag & Bone, True Religion and so on. They truly last and get better with age i.e. as the wash fades they actually look better, they maintain their shape way better than the cheaper brands too. I still have the first pair of ‘designer’ denims I bought 8 years ago and they look great. 

Where to find the names listed above – I hear you ask? There’s a shop in Cape Town called Shop-Label that I always buy from as they carry loads of denim brands, or if you travel internationally at any time then that’s where you’d be able able to find your brand and buy. Otherwise, in the local malls my go-to brands are Diesel, G-Star and sometimes Levis. Levis being the most affordable. 

I hope this post was helpful to you? Please drop me any questions you have in the comments section 😉

This Article Has 6 Comments
  1. Caroline Rheeder says:

    excellent post. I live in Joburg so Levi’s here I come.

    Thanks Pippa, your advice is always so on point for women at my stage (hectic corporate job/35 years old/curvy-and carrying 5 extra kg’s from 2 kids/need no-nonsense stylish clothes for each part of my life!).

    Appreciate it!!

  2. Cara says:

    Great post! So useful especially when you have no time to ‘browse’. Thank you, Pippa!

  3. Sindi says:

    I get so grumpy every time I decide to look for new jeans. My favourite pair of thrifted Woolies jeans (from back in the day when they used more cotton than spandex) is wearing through, so I will definitely check out Shop-Label when I get a chance. Thank you! Recently all the pants I buy seem to fit in the shop and then feel too big when I get home. Any advice?

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