Jeans always seem to be too long, too short, somehow simultaneously gaping at the waist and unable to fit over hips — it often feels like you’re supposed to make yourself fit them, as opposed to the other way round. And yet, they always look so effortless and cool on a certain sub-sect of fashionable women. What is their secret? We asked 21 women for their advice and recommendations, hopefully taking at least some of the pain out of finding the perfect pair. From photographers to tailors, women of all stripes (and jean preferences) weighed in on the best brands at price points to fit everyone’s tastes and body shapes, from best plus-size, to the best sustainable options.
Best Overall Jeans
Asos was the most frequently mentioned brand, garnering five separate recommendations. Tattoo artist Harriet Street relies on Asos for jeans that allow her to do her job without distraction. “I sit down a lot for work and crumple myself in awkward positions, so mostly I need something that can move with me, isn’t uncomfortable, and is reliable; they can’t rip at the seams or strangle me in awkward places,” she says, adding that she favours Asos’ denim label over other brands because “the quality is always great, there’s a lot of diversity in size and cut, and [they have] really great styles.” Her preferred style are straight leg jeans, and she loves the Farleigh cut.
Anz, a DJ and musician, is so satisfied with the jeans she bought from Asos six years ago that the jeans unintentionally inspired a self-imposed denim ban. “They’re cute enough to have stopped me from buying any other jeans since. They’re soft but structured, and super reliable.” Her exact pair, from an Asos-only label called Daisy Street, is no longer in stock, but we tracked down a very similar style.
Best (More Expensive) Overall Jeans
Photographer Sophie Davidson loves Cos’ tapered jeans because they’re thick, structured, and, crucially, free of spandex. “The fabric always ends up feeling really soft after a few washes and they are always very roomy,” she says. “I also don’t really want any stretch in my jeans.” Ferren Gipson, an art historian, also loves her Cos straight-leg jeans because the high-quality material and attention to detail makes them look expensive. “They have the sort of look that makes people ask you where you got them, which is always a nice feeling,” she says. “They’re totally worth the money.” [Editor’s note: this product is currently sold out].
Model and director Breanna Box swears by Eytys, which uses high-quality heavyweight denim inspired by American workwear, for the most flattering fit. “They’re tight in the waist and cup the butt just right,” she explains. Is that not all you could ask for from a pair of jeans? Even better: Because they’re unisex, the size range goes from a 24” waist to 36”, and the pockets are abundant and generous — a priority for us all. (They do not, however, offer any length options, which may be limiting for the more petite among us.)
“I really like Nudie Jean’s Skinny Lin; I have a pair in black,” says musician and programmer Hinako Omori. “I’ve had them for a few years and they haven’t lost their shape at all.” Nudie’s all about sustainability, and they offer a lifetime repair service. They’re made of organic cotton and, like Eytys, they’re unisex, which means they come in a handful of washes, a bunch of waist sizes, and a generous range of inseams.
Like Nudie, Black Horse Lane Ateliers will repair jeans for life, which is only part of the reason pattern designer Ellie Pashley has them on her wishlist. “The raw organic denim is from Europe and all the jeans are manufactured in the East London studio,” she explains. “There is an emphasis on community, as they supply local jobs to machinists, and a lifetime repair policy.”
Best (less expensive) organic cotton
Three of our sources shop at Scandi brand Weekday: Eva Alex Liu, an animation supervisor and musician, recommends Weekday’s wide leg Ace jeans, and radio producer Mary Bolinbroke recommends straight Voyage cut. Both love that they’re made of organic cotton, and both have kept their shape and colour well. Weekday excels with denim that’s thick and retro style — a great option if you love the vintage look but aren’t into vintage shopping. Journalist Rachael Krishna rates the Weekday Way Peralta, and notes that they’ve retained their colour well.
Hinako Omori also loves the Topshop Jamie jeans. “They have shorter length options, which is great for my height, and the material is very stretchy and lightweight. They’ve retained their colour well when washed.”
TyLynn Nguyen, the designer and creative director behind her own eponymous clothing label, says that her favorite high-rise jean is Everlane’s High-Rise Skinny, for its comfort and stretch. The pants were especially useful in the months after she had her third baby: “They’re stretchy, comfortable, and perfect for a changing body,” she says. Not to mention that the classic high-rise fit is simply “chic and cozy.”
Best Straight Leg
For people who don’t like the severe taper of a skinny-leg jean, or any sort of flare, the best middle-of-the-road option is a straight leg. Alysia Alex, art and design partnerships manager at Ban.do, always returns to these jeans from Everlane, which run ankle-length on her five-foot-four frame. “They’re so affordable, and fit true to size in all the right places (they’re called cheeky for a reason).” They’ve even earned a devoted following among Alex’s friends: “I have a dedicated Everlane denim group text with a few girlfriends that will back me up.”
Bolingbroke recommends Urban Outfitters’ BDG range (particularly the Pax straight leg and the Flood wide leg jeans) for “fitted, true denim” jeans — that is, actual thick, 100 percent cotton denim, not stretchy jegging materials. They’re high-waisted and their rigid material means the hold their shape. BDG also offer longer leg options — unfortunately not a shorter leg option though, so not best suited for those who are petite.
If you are looking for an all-black wash made of a more rigid denim, we recommend this pair of high-rise jeans from Levi’s. It has a hidden button-fly, a bottom that sits flush against your tush without sagging, and a relaxed fit that’s perfect for pairing with Doc Martens. (Both Bird owner Jennifer Mankins and Madewell design head Joyce Lee are fans, too.)
“If I’m not wearing pajamas, I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt,” says actress Brie Larson — specifically, these high-waisted, bootcut Levi’s, which Larson included on her list of things she can’t live without. “Levi’s are just a classic that I can dress up or dress down. These fit right and, because they’re classics, last forever. They always look effortlessly cool.”
The Monki Kimomo jeans came out as a favourite in the “mom” jean style. Unlike actual vintage jeans, the cotton is soft, making them comfortable enough to wear all day, with no uncomfortable waistband gapping or squeezing. Gena-Mour Barrett, journalist and Netflix host, loves them for those reasons, and they’ve lasted her a fair few years, and she’s now on the second pair — but only because her size changed, as they wash perfectly and don’t fade.
Asos are able to offer a huge selection in sizes that “physical stores often don’t stock to any meaningful extent,” says Rebecca Hendin, an illustrator who has always struggled to find jeans the right length for her 5’0 stature. “I buy all my jeans online from Asos, which has THE most impressive petite section.” There’s a wide variety of styles and sizes, with waists starting at 22” and going up to 34”.
Felicity Hayward, a curve model and self-love activist, and Chloe Elliott, an online creator, both love the Asos Curve range. They specifically swear by the Ridley jean; “[the jeans] have been my classic go to, especially for castings. It has a high waist band, classic skinny shape and has the stretch” said Felicity. The jeans come in sizes 18-28, and rings up at a very reasonable price of £25.
Best Online Vintage
Vintage ’90s Calvin Klein jeans are perfect for that straight-leg, high-waist silhouette. Professional tailor Claudia Chan found hers in the upstairs section of ARCH 389, a vintage store right next to London Fields station. “Working as a tailor, you just know it when something is fitting right. I bought them straight after the fitting without hesitation.” If you struggle to find the right fit off the rack, take a page out of journalist Emma Cooke’s book. “The cheaper price [of vintage jeans] means I can justify getting them tailored, so they fit perfectly,” she says. “The ones I bought have lasted over three years.” Emma bought hers at Beyond Retro, but most vintage stores, as well as resale apps and websites, will have them. If you’re willing to invest a bit more cash, look to Re/Done, a denim label that’s already done the work of reviving vintage jeans to a modern standard.
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