My Perfect Jeans
Credit: Diana Poisson

I love wearing jeans, but I hate shopping for them.  I get overwhelmed with the many different styles to choose from.  I am 5’ 3”, so that makes me a petite, but then I see that the misses department carries short jeans.  My stomach isn’t exactly flat, so the first few pairs that I try on are usually tight around my waist.  Does that mean I need a relaxed pair or do I go up in size?  My problem is that when I find a pair that zips up easily, the jeans are then too baggy around my buns and thighs.

I lost 10 pounds and the three pairs of jeans that I alternated between were getting too baggy and they were also very worn out.  I know that oversized and torn jeans are the style for some, but not for me.  It was time to make that dreaded trip to the mall.  I came home empty-handed as I couldn't find any pair of jeans that fit right.  I decided that before my next trip, I had better figure out my pants size and study up on the different style options out there.

Get the Tape Measure Out
When shopping, you may see pants sizes listed as two numbers, such as 28x33.  The first number stands for the waist size, the 2nd represents the inseam. 

  • Find your waist size - stand in front of a mirror and with your shirt off and feet together,  use a tape measure to measure around your waist.  The natural waistline is just above the belly button.  Don't suck your stomach in.  Pull the tape so that it is snug, but not too tight.   If you already have a pair of jeans that fits comfortably, you can also measure the waist on that pair and double the number.
  • Measure your inseam - this is the measurement that runs from the upper part of your thigh to the bottom of your ankle.  Either have a friend measure it for you or if you already own a great fitting pair of pants, measure the inseam on that pair.

Figure Your Approximate Size
Not all manufacturers label their sizes with the two number format.  You may see pants sizes converted to the standard format.  This format is shown as one number, such as size 8, 10 or 12.

Conversions to the standard numbering system unfortunately, can vary greatly in size.  But a general rule of thumb to get started is to take your waist measurement and subtract 20.  For example, if you have a 28 inch waist, start with trying on a size 8.

Get Your Shoes On
One last suggestion before you leave for your shopping trip.  Either wear or bring the pair of shoes that you plan on wearing with your new pair of jeans.  This is to make sure your jeans are the proper length for your shoes, they look good together and more importantly, that you can get your shoes on.  If you have a pair of cowboy boots, you may need to look for a flare or boot cut style.

At the Store - Choose Your Department
When I enter a clothing store, I do a quick visual check of the departments and I tend to navigate towards the petite and misses sections.  Here is a description of some of the departments that you may find at your store:

  • Juniors - typically for  teens with a less curvy figure.   Junior sizes are odd and often range from size 1 to size 15.
  • Misses - sizes are in even numbers, such as 2 thru 12.  Cuts are more generous in the hips and bust to compensate for a curvier figure.  
  • Womens - sizes are even-numbered, typically starting at size 14 or size 16.  Cuts are more generous for larger figures.
  • Petites - for shorter women, under 5' 4".  This doesn't necessarily mean skinny, as the sizes typically range from a misses size 2 to 14.

Keep in mind that there will be some overlapping of sizes between manufacturers and fashion styles may differ by department. 

What is the Best Style for You?
I am glad that the clothing designers have recognized that all women don't have an hour glass figure and there are now more styles to choose from to find a fit that works for your body shape and style preferences.  However, I do get overwhelmed with all of the choices.  A few of the more popular styles are:

  • Low Rise – jeans sit 2 to 3 inches below the belly button
  • Mid Rise - jeans sit right around or just below the belly button
  • High Rise - jeans sit a few inches above the belly button
  • Boot Cut - jeans that are wider on the bottom of the leg
  • Skinny Cut - jeans that fit snuggly though the leg and end with a small leg opening
  • Relaxed Cut - Sits at the waist, not baggy, relaxed in the hip and thighs

Kohls has a jeans guide that lists 29 different cuts and styles for jeans.

I Found My Size
Remember, there will be size variations between styles and manufacturers.  A size 12 pair of  Levis jeans may fit differently than a size 12 pair of Lee jeans.  Like me, you may need to try on several pairs before you find one that fits great.  I found that great fitting pair on my second trip to the mall and I only had to try on 3 pairs to find it.   I believe having my measurements and a better idea on what the different styles meant helped me find a pair quickly.  What works for me?  The Charter Club's Size 8 Regular, Tummy Slimming, Classic Narrow Leg Cut. 

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(price as of Oct 19, 2013)