Petite jeans are truly difficult to shop for. Just when you’ve found a pair with the right rise, shade, and waist-to-hip ratio, you realize you need to trim the length a half-foot. Or perhaps the fit is perfect, but the style swamps you. “Fashion keeps moving, and so do our preferences,” says Lwany Calderon, who runs a fashion newsletter for petite women. “These days, it’s all about low-rise jeans with a looser fit, and sometimes even a bit of fabric bunching at the ankle. While this might not seem like the best for us petites, I say we roll with the changes.” While your best bet is to shop by inseam length, that’s not possible with all retailers. “Shopping for petite and plus-size jeans can still be quite a task, but I hope we will keep seeing more brands allowing shoppers to select an inseam size,” says Natalie Craig, a petite plus-size content creator and blogger.
To help you navigate the best petite offerings in 2023, we asked stylists, fashion editors, a denim expert, plus 12 more stylish women — artists, content creators, models and bloggers, all five-foot-three or shorter — about the denim that fits them just right. You’ll notice that while there are plenty of cropped and short options here, there are also some that aren’t petite-specific, but the women we spoke to say they still fit petite frames. To make your search even easier, we sorted them according to fit and style for easy reference — straight-leg, skinny, flare and bootcut, wide-leg, distressed, and plus-size.
If you’re shopping for petite jeans online, a straight leg is worth considering. For one, it’s more often possible to filter by inseam sizes with this cut. Four of the petite people we spoke to like this pair from TikTok-favored brand Agolde. Amy Serrano, who’s a content creator, “adores this pair” and says the brand “makes those jeans that just ooze ‘cool girl’!” She adds that the high-waisted, straight-leg style “definitely levels up my fits even if I’m just pairing them with a T-shirt.” While they’re meant to be cropped, Serrano, who’s five feet, says that they “hit right at my ankle and are the perfect length for a full-length jean.” Jessica Turk, another petite content creator, is equally obsessed, calling them her “dream pair of straight jeans,” and Jenny Wang, five-foot-two founder of the shop Petite Studio NYC loves that the fit isn’t a traditional slim jeans look, “but has some room at the thigh area, makes the jeans more modern.” She also loves that they “come in a ton of colors and washes, which offers a lot of variety.”
Charlotte Bickley, who’s five-foot-three and Daily Front Row Editor-at-Large and fashion content creator is also a fan of Agolde, but opted for the Cooper style, as she’s planning to lean into the cargo pant trend this fall.
We’ve featured the Levi’s Wedgie many times (numerous Strategist editors own them). Calderon says it’s a style she just keeps going back to, adding: “Since I’m five-two, I went for the 28-inch inseam to get that modern ankle-covering look I’m into.” Turk is also a fan, particularly because they’re made from 99 percent cotton. “They are super-soft, but are non-stretch, so they really hold their shape,” she says. Their 26-inch inseam is the “perfect length” for her, and she reckons they’re a great option for anyone nervous to step out of their comfort zone.
For a pair of Levi’s with an even higher waist, Serrano recommends the Ribcage Straight Ankle jeans. “This pair gives me legs for days because of the ultrahigh waist. It hugs what it needs to hug and the rest of the leg is a nice relaxed straight fit,” she says. Serrano opts for darker washes because they “truly feel versatile to dress up or down.”
These Abercrombie ultra-high-rise jeans came recommended by two of the people we spoke to. “They’re perfect for my curvy body and are available in a short length and even extra-short,” says content creator Lizbeth Hernandez. The style is also one of Serrano’s favorites, and she also highlights the convenient extra-short inseam option. She likes that the fit “hugs every part of my butt perfectly” and notes that they’re so comfortable, she wore them while doing “a round of high kicks with the Radio City Rockettes.”
Andrea Ventura, petite model coach and founder of Standing Tall podcast prefers the lower waisted relaxed fit, explaining that “they’re long enough that you get the cool ’90s-girl vibes, but not too long that they will get dirty touching the floor.” And, where once these styles were limited in stock, you can now browse dozens of colourways from classic denim washes to black, grey, white and brown — even oaty beige, light pink, and blue pinstripes.
Rain Delisle — owner of Indigo Proof, a denim restoration shop in Portland — rates Imogene and Willie jeans as a solid choice for petite women, because the waistbands are on the tighter side. She says this works well for super-high-rise cuts, “because it really holds the jeans up.” I+W are famous, according to Delisle, for “that nip in the waist, with a straight or wider leg.”
Delisle is particularly fond of the Sophie Weston style, in a true vintage wash. “They also have perfected large back pockets that look amazing on,” she adds, enthusing that you can even fit a wallet or phone in them. She also owns (and recommends) the Elizabeths, with a caveat that she refers to them as her ‘standing jeans’, as that “they can get a little on the tight side when sitting and eating.”
Wide-leg jeans are a style some shorter people avoid. But some of the women we spoke to felt the right wide-leg cut makes them look taller. If you’re keen to try this out for yourself, Turk recommends going for a super-high-waisted wide-leg jean, because “the waistline elongates your legs and makes you look taller,” she explains. “The bottom of the pants adds some width to my petite frame and creates an expanding illusion.” Turk’s favorite pair from H&M have long been sold out (with little hope of restock) but as long as you opt for something tight and high-waisted on the top, that seamlessly transitions to a wider leg on the bottom — like these high-rise wide-leg jeans, also from H&M — you should see the same effect.
Another person firmly in camp wide-leg is Kristian Spraggins, a curly-hair content creator who’s five-foot-three. She likes Zara for jeans, and styles a pair like these with heels for a more put-together look. She notes that since “they make you look taller than you are, you don’t really have to wear heels all the time — you could wear sneakers and still look really tall.”
If you’re worried about the last pair being too long, petite and curvy style blogger Alyssa Marie recommends going for a cropped pair of wide-leg jeans, for example, Zara’s high-waisted, cropped Z1975s.
Taking things a step further, artist, writer and five-foot-two denim devotee Jo Rosenthal mostly looks for a baggy, straight leg cut with a low waist. She says she’s particularly in love with RE/DONE and Quality Mending’s offerings, adding “I’m pretty sure almost all my jeans are from one of those two places.” Though once she’d opt for petite cuts, these days, she prefers to shop for regular-fit jeans and improvise. “I just cut them with scissors or wear them and let them drag on the floor because — who cares?” she says. RE/DONE’s Loose Long jeans are perfect for that anarchic attitude, particularly because they’re designed to puddle at the hem anyway.
Ventura is also a big fan of this Levi’s throwback style. “They are the perfect “baggy” length — so not too long they touch the floor but long enough that you get that cool ’90s vibe.” She also comments that they sit about an inch below her belly button, making them “incredibly comfortable to wear.” She chooses them for everything from model castings to hanging out with her family, styling with “a monochrome crop top or bodysuit, casual sneakers, and gold jewelry.”
Flare and bootcut
When styling petite clients, Ann Caruso — fashion stylist, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar alum, and content creator — suggests steering clear of big pockets, bagginess, or other details if the goal is to create length. Instead, she advises that pairing a slight flare with a high waist can “elongate the figure making you seem longer and taller than you really are.” She recently bought these Veronica Beard high-rise flares for a petite client, and reports that the fit worked so well that “she looked like she was all legs!” She advises to pair them with a comfy heel “and you’re good to go.”
For a subtle flare, Wang likes Mother’s Insider jean. She says this is her “all-time favorite” pair. The length is more of a full-length flare on her five-foot-two frame, rather than cropped. She likes the jean’s soft and stretchy material but notes that it is thicker. “It’s probably too hot for summertime, but great for spring, fall, or winter,” she says.
[Editor’s note: This specific pair of jeans is sold out, but the frayed-hem version is in stock for $205.]
Bickley trusts L’Agence, AGOLDE and SLVRLAKE above all other brands when it comes to denim shopping. “I know when I order them the length and fit is great, and I don’t even need to go to a tailor,” she explains. Her all-time favorite are these ever-so-slightly flared, cropped jeans, which give the illusion of elongated legs through an absentee waistband. She “adores” them and appreciates that she can wear them in the daytime with ballet flats and a white tee, or dress them up with pumps and a blazer.
Next on Bickley’s list are these L’Agence jeans, which come with a stylish raw hem in a subtle straight leg-meets-bootcut shape. She loves that these would hold up in a ’70s-style outfit, adding “all you’ll need is a good pair of brown mid-heel boots and a good baby-doll top with cute hoops.” L’Agence offers complimentary tailoring when you order from their site via Hemster, meaning you can get the exact fit you’re looking for, at no extra cost.
Few people we spoke to currently favor skinny jeans — perhaps a symptom of the style’s waning appeal. But Natalie Craig, a petite-plus influencer, recommends Universal Standard and comments that the brand has “incredible” options for petite and plus-size people. “Its plus-size and petite jeans are still some of the most comfortable and curve-loving jeans I have ever worn,” she adds. For skinny jeans, she likes the Seine High Rise in a distressed blue wash. You can pick from an impressive size range, with petite, regular or tall inseams in size 00 to 40. Their stretchiness is designed with resilience in mind and they’ve got actual, deep pockets (yes, even in the front) that are big enough to fit your phone in. Just make sure to size down for this style to get a close-fitting skinny effect that’ll last you wash after wash.
According to Delisle, if your priority is jeans that will stand the test of time, don’t opt for cuts that rely heavily on stretchy fabrics, even for skinny jeans. “The more the cut relies on stretch potential, the faster the jeans will break down and stretch out completely,” she explains. So, she says to go for minimum 98 percent cotton if you can, and remember that seam details and patterning go a long way for a great fit that doesn’t stretch out within the first day of wear.
She loves York-based brand Judi Rosen for this reason, who she says is making “some of the best women’s jeans today.” She loves many of the label’s cuts, but is particularly into the skinny-straight GBU “with seams that hug the body beautifully.” She loves the “quality stretch denim that’ll give you the ‘Judi Butt,’” the quirky seam details, and the back pocket shape. “100 percent my next denim purchase for fall,” she confirms.
Lastly, Delisle suggests these, by Everlane for “great, basic no-frills jeans — and possibly the only jean you won’t need to get hemmed!” Be prepared, these are true skinny jeans in the 2003 sense of the word (the type that cling to the ankle even if you’re petite). They come in both 26 ¾ and 28 ¾ inseams, and are available in a curvy fit. “The Cheeky is probably their most popular style, and that is great on petites,” she adds.
Hernandez loves these “super soft and comfy” relaxed fit jeans, created by five-foot-three founder of Djerf Avenue, Matilda Djerf. A washed-out blue shade with vintage-effect creases and dark yellow seams, Hernandez considers them to be the perfect comfy baggy jean “that actually fits my petite frame great.” She also likes that they’re “sustainably and consciously made”, plus they’re 100 percent cotton. The style has been reworked since it first launched to include a longer crotch.
As a denim tailor, Deslile usually prefers a more wear-and-tear approach to denim, but appreciates these petite, 100 percent cotton women’s boyfriend-cut jeans by Chimala, with cropped lengths — perfect for petites — and “a very vintage slouchy feel.” The tapered cut comes with a higher level of distressing and fade on the thighs, if that’s your vibe.
“It can be so hard to find denim that is both plus size and petite,” explains Tinsaye Berhanu, a five-foot-two petite-plus fashion influencer. But she says can often rely on Talbots, “which has a few great options including a classic straight cut that I really like.” They’re available with four different inseam lengths, and because of the 28.5-inch inseam on the petite fit, she says they’re the perfect go-to pair of jeans for fall.
Craig often feels she’s missing out on certain trends as someone shopping for petite-plus options. “However, Lane Bryant always has the latest styles and classic staples that fit me perfectly,” she enthuses “from overalls to wide-leg jeans and every other style in between.” She loves these statement paneled jeans, which come in regular, petite, short, and long inseams, from size 12 to 38/40, and styles them with a simple crop top with jeans and a pair of sneakers.
Another go-to for Craig, thanks to its inclusive sizing, is Good American. “I can always count on finding a variety of styles, and feel comfortable recommending them to women who ask me where I shop,” she explains. These dropped-crotch, distressed ’90s jeans are available in sizes 00-28 Plus and are specifically designed for those who are five-foot-four and under. Don’t worry about that 30 inch inseam — it’s intentional, to create a small amount of bagginess at the angle. But if they’re feeling a little too long, they’re narrow enough at the hem to cuff once without too much fabric overwhelm.
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