High-waisted jeans have many advantages: wearing them accentuates the waistline, elongates the leg and, while sitting, prevents visible butt-crack — the bane of any low-rise jean wearer’s existence. However, as flattering as high-waisted jeans can be, they do have some negative side effects, especially when worn while sitting for long periods of time. On top of causing wedgies, they can dig into your waist and put pressure on your bladder, generating all kinds of discomfort. To find the pairs of high-waisted jeans that are simultaneously flattering, easy to sit in, and that work for all different kinds of body types, we reached out to stylish women to find out their favorites.
As we conducted our search for the best pairs of high-rise jeans, there was one pair that we heard about again and again: Levi’s Wedgie Straight Jeans. They’re a favorite of Bird founder Jennifer Mankins, Joyce Lee, who heads the design team at Madewell, and Dianna Cohen, founder of hair-care line Crown Affair. Despite their name, the jeans don’t actually give you a wedgie (at least not in the bad way) — but have the butt-flattering effect of your favorite vintage-shop find. “They’re popular because they fit you like you want old 501s to fit. So a perfect straight leg, but with a bit more of a generous/modern cut. And it has a bit of stretch and natural rise that hits right at your belly button, so it’s high, but not too high,” says Mankins. “High-waisted jeans have become super comfortable now that there is stretch in the fabric — it’s amazing how technology has enabled us to innovate with new denim fits without losing an authentic vintage look,” says Lee (who is partial to Madewell jeans first, of course). For Cohen, the jeans are a daily staple, even in a time when denim may not be your go-to for pants: “It’s the only pair I’ve worn frequently at home during quarantine— they’re almost as comfy as sweatpants, but make you feel more put together if you have a meeting and want to wear actual pants (even if the other participate can’t see them),” she says. “They look as great on when they’re still-tight and just out of the wash as they do once they’re more worn and loosen up through the week.”
“It took me 34 years but I finally tracked down the perfect jean,” says designer Susan Alexandra. “I’m hesitant to share this because they are oft sold out, but here goes: I present to you the Levi’s Dad Jean.” Alexandra calls the slightly-retro light-wash, pair a “wardrobe staple” evocative of the best vintage denim. “I had mine nipped in the waist to give them that perfect ‘I got these at a flea market in Berlin’ look,” she says.
“As someone who is muscular but curvy, I have a hard time finding pants that accommodate my big thighs and wide hips but still fit well in the waist,” says costume designer Lauren Boumaroun. “Aside from my vintage Lee ’mom’ jeans, my favorite pair of high-waisted jeans are Everlane high-rise skinny jeans. They started making a stretch version recently, but I found that the waist on those didn’t fit as well as the original’s. Still, they’re probably the only pair of stretch jeans I’ve seen that actually look like denim instead of leggings. They have enough give to move with my body a little bit but don’t stretch out too much.”
Rilka Noel, e-commerce planner at Kith, told us that her high-waisted jeans of choice are from Lee Riders, which can be purchased new at Walmart or vintage on Etsy. “My favorite pairs I’ve found were thrifted for $30. They fit perfectly because they have some stretch around the hips and booty,” she says. [Editor’s note: We’ve included links to both vintage pairs on Etsy and new pairs at Amazon.]
If you’re looking for a pair of rigid jeans that will eventually break-in and become perfectly vintage-looking, illustrator Pauline de Roussy de Sales says that Men’s Wranglers Classic Cowboy straight leg jeans will “do the trick.” The jeans have the same ‘70s deadstock denim look as former-Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchen’s beloved slim-cut Wranglers.
Those looking for a high-rise jean with a skinnier leg might consider this pair, which designer Mary Young says felt like “a match made in heaven” when she put them on. Of the fit, Young, who is on the petite side, says: “The high rise sits perfectly without any gapping at the back and comes in different inseams which is a huge blessing for me, who stands my tallest at 5’2.” And though they’re on the pricier side, Young swears they’re worth the splurge: “I’ve been wearing them nonstop for three years and they do not show it,” she says.
Another pair that might work well for petite women is these from AGOLDE. They come recommended by candy artist Robyn Blair Davidson, who says that she loves them because “they’re tight in all the right places and the high waist isn’t too too high, which is often a problem since I’m only 5’1”. They suck me in in all the right places, plus, they make my butt look good!” Blair also says they’re particularly easy to dress up or down.
“I’ve been wearing high-waisted pants since high school and they’re tricky things to shop for,” says writer Diana McCorry. “Every brand seems to fit differently and some are truly heinous, so once I find a decent fit, I tend to buy in bulk. My current favorites are Levi’s 720s. There’s enough stretch to avoid that nasty tummy compression, but enough shape to create a great silhouette when you stand up. They’re also totally affordable. I have them in three colors.” McCorry often feels she has to bargain between comfort in the rear and looseness at the waist. “I’d rather wear a belt than feel like I’m in the trash compactor from Star Wars all day,” she says. “The 720s are a little loose in the waist, but not quite enough to necessitate a belt, which is nice.”
“I won’t go out without high-waisted jeans now, and I live in them every day,” says Lorna Buford, founder of The Jeans Blog, “I never have to worry about muffin top or builder’s butt and I find they elongate my legs, too, so that’s a bonus.” Buford, who has been in the denim industry for the past 12 years, works from her home office and, as a consequence, is familiar with the pains that can come from sitting in high-waisted jeans. “I look for a [lighter-weight] denim with super-stretch, so it’s a lot like wearing leggings, and you feel supported by them instead of suffocated.” She recommends the Citizens of Humanity Rocket model. “They’re made with four-way stretch which is lightweight and moves with every part of you without stretching out.” Buford says thinner fabrics are comfortable for another important reason: “They don’t have so much bulky stitching and seams around the crotch.”
According to Buford, it’s worth investing in a premium pair of jeans with light, stretchy fabrics and a vintage wash. “I saw these the other day on Vanessa Hudgens and they’re made of 7FAM’s b(air) denim, which is made to feel like air on your skin, so I know they’re going to be comfortable.”
“Finding the right brand and style for your body is the key to comfort in almost anything, but especially with high-waisted jeans,” says Mankins. “If they’re very tight in the waist then there is no room for jeans to move up and down with you, especially if you need to do a lot of sitting. You have to be careful that they are cut fully enough for your figure in the back and ‘saddle’ curve so they don’t flatten out your butt; I think the key to high-waisted jeans that are comfortable is [that they’re not] skin-tight and [you’re] not stuffing yourself into a cut that’s made for someone else. I love Chimala jeans — they are cut big and made of beautiful, perfectly washed Japanese selvedge denim.”
Araks Yeramyan, founder of namesake lingerie line Araks, told us about this pair of black high-waisted jeans from Goldsign, whose legs. have a curved cut. “The fit and feel of these jeans is what I love,” she says. “They’re relaxed, but tapered at both the waist and the ankle, which gives them a feminine silhouette.” Yeramyan says the cotton is a “good weight,” meaning that the jeans hold their flattering shape even after many wears.
Despite favoring more lounge-like styles when it comes to working, author and lingerie expert Cora Harrington of The Lingerie Addict recommends Madewell High-Rise skinny jeans. “Your body changes as you get older (I’m in my mid-30s); places that were once firm grow softer. I feel contained and smoothed in these jeans, and the waist comes up high enough [so] I don’t get that annoying gapping at the back,” says Harrington, adding that the style fits her body type, which is an inverse triangle, with a 13-inch difference between her waist and her hips. “They hold up well through regular wash and wear, neither falling to pieces nor becoming entirely stretched out of shape. And they just look good. I feel stylish and put-together when I wear these, which matters a lot.”
Lifestyle blogger Ali Stone calls this pair of wide-legged jeans from NYDJ “super comfortable,” and the fit “so flattering.” The fit is versatile, too: Stone says that her mom tried the jeans, and was just as pleased with them. “They fit my Mom and I both perfectly and it’s the first pair of jeans we have ever shared,” says Stone. “They are truly built for a real woman’s body.”
When it comes to plus-size jeans, Christina Andrew, a size 14/16 model, recommends AYR’s deep indigo Onelove jeans. “The fit on these jeans is comfortable enough to enjoy a full range of activities and flattering enough to want to be photographed doing said activities. Simply put, I’d wear these on a plane.”
Samantha O’Brochta, a travel blogger and digital strategist, prefers a button-fly to a zipper. “As a curvy girl, some high-waisted jeans are barely high-waisted and don’t cinch in as much at the waist as they should in order to create a silhouette, but these do. Because these have a button-fly, there are no accidental zipper slips. I live for the black wash because they go with everything; they make your legs look long and sleek.”
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