Denim — like white button-downs, black T-shirts, and a just-right crewneck sweatshirt — is one of those deceptively simple outfit staples that can be overwhelming to shop for. To find out what new and old-faithful denim is actually worth buying, we asked 31 stylish women of all shapes and sizes to tell us about the jeans that suits their body, wears well, and has range (so you could wear them as easily with a pair of heels as with as you could with a white tee).
We sorted them according to fit and style for easy reference — including straight-leg, skinny, and cropped — though some items may occupy multiple categories. And if you’re looking for white jeans, we went and found the very best versions of those, too.
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.”
Celebrity makeup artist Kelsey Deenihan wears black jeans almost every day, and this pair from NYDJ is her go-to. “They’re SO comfortable and even better, flattering, for ladies like myself who have that booty,” she says of the jeans, which are available in sizes 00–28 and feature “Curves 360” denim, a material that molds and shapes the body. “They have the perfect amount of stretch — they hardly feel like denim,” says Deenihan. “I don’t like feeling too constricted, especially with all my travel and work, so these are great. Also, love me a brand that celebrates women with curves.”
If you prefer 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.)
“I love the classic high-waist American Apparel jean,” says photographer Ysa Pérez. “I’m quite short and don’t do the midriff thing — but I love being able to tuck sweaters and shirts in the jeans.” Pérez, who has had her pair since 2015, calls the material “really durable,” and says the price point is part of the appeal. “They don’t break the bank…it’s a pretty reasonable price for some good quality jeans,” she says. With their vintage-inspired cut, the jeans have a flattering straight leg that tapers at the ankle, making them ideal for wearing with boots this fall.
Stoney Clover Lane co-founder Kendall Glazer told us she had a difficult time finding the right pair of jeans until she landed on these. “I’m short and like to have my ankles showing in jeans, don’t want them too skinny or tight, and obviously want them to be flattering,” she says. “When I finally discovered the Mother The Tomcat jeans in The Confession it was the best day. Pre-COVID, I would wear them to brunch, to work, and out at night. Now they’re my go-to when it’s time for a break from sweatpants.”
Dancer and consultant Eva Alt calls these “the PERFECT jeans. They’re like the pair you always hope to find at a vintage store, just without the work.” Former Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens is a fan of these, too. “The fit is heavily inspired by 501s, of which I have many pairs,” she wrote. “Like vintage jeans, they also have no stretchiness; they are sturdy yet soft.”
If you prefer something with a menswear-inspired fit, try a pair of Carhartt straight-leg jeans, which photographer and visual artist Rachel Cabitt owns and loves. “I’ve always found that men’s pants usually fit me better than women’s,” she says. “Sometimes I think the tailoring of women’s fashion is a bit overdone, while men’s fashion is more practical, which I tend to look for in pants.” Cabitt picked up her pair a little over two years ago, and says they’re holding up well — and are especially practical for colder days. “The denim is really soft, almost corduroy like, and is really cozy for when the cold weather comes in (seeing as they’re work pants),” she says. She wears them both for work (“So many pockets to lose your lens cap in while still making your butt look good”) and leisure (“I pair them with a band tee and my black ankle boots for going out”).
A hit for decades, the skinny jean is still a versatile style to have in your jean repertoire. Vogue veteran Plum Sykes likes hers high-waisted and from Madewell for that “American casual beach chic with French Left Bank” look. She says they’re extremely versatile, since they’re “very, very high-waisted, very flattering, and much cheaper than J Brand.”
“I’m curvy, five-foot-three, have a small waist and tummy, and an abundant booty and thick thighs,” says actress and real-estate broker Tonya Canady. Before finding this pair of jeans from Measure & Made, Canady says she would have to take plus-sized jeans to the tailor to have the waist gap taken in. With these, the gap isn’t a problem: “The company’s measurement system meant I could pick pants according to my exact specifications,” she says. “I’ve finally found jeans and pants that hug every curve of my body.” The measurement system — which they call FITLOGIC — allows you to take a quiz to determine which of the brand’s pants will fit you best, depending on your curves and the areas where you tend to gain and lose weight.
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.”
Lorna Burford, who has worked in the denim industry for over a decade and founded the Jeans Blog, lives in these Citizens of Humanity skinnies. “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.” They’re made with four-way stretch to move with you and flatter the body: “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.”
YouTuber and self-described “denim collector” Emma Chamberlain owns some 50 pairs of vintage Levi’s — because “each one is so unique” — but these classic 501s are her favorite, so much so that she included them on her list of things she can’t live without. “Nothing fits me or hugs my body better than 501s.”
Cropped and petite jeans
Los Angeles label Re/Done also sells repurposed Levis (which have won over New York fashion-editor-at-large Amy Larocca, and make an appearance further down this list), but Of a Kind founder Erica Cerulo says their newly released label jeans are just as good. “I discovered — after trying on approximately 17 pairs from their vintage line — that I like the jeans the brand makes from scratch even more.” She’s committed to their high-rise ankle crop, because “the fit and rise are just right for me (no waistband-gaps or super-tight calves), the frayed edge is chill, and they don’t expose too much ankle.”
Two people recommended this cropped pair from L.A.-based brand AGOLDE, which makes ethically sourced denim. Tyger Tyger copywriter Leah Sookoo calls out the “flattering, lengthening, slimming, beautifying fit” as something of a holy grail find for her petite, curvy frame, and Wiley Body co-founder Vanessa Wade is equally obsessed. “With the 11.5” rise they accentuate my butt like no other.”
Michelle Wang, a product manager at Ssense, likes the elongating effect of the crop on these “classic, simple, and chic blue jeans” from Citizens of Humanity. “It is a light washed pale indigo color, which I personally love layering with coats in winter to add a bit of freshness. In warmer weather, the style could look great with just a basic T-shirt.”
For something in a slightly brighter wash, painter, textile artist, and style blogger Mia Ghogho recommends these American Apparel jeans. The price point and quality are right, and she absolutely loves the cut: “They give me the perfect triangular silhouette I love.” She pairs them ankle or calf boots, but they would work with sneakers or sandals in spring, too.
“My favorite cut of jean that can be easily styled normcore or non-normcore, are high-rise jeans with a solid straight leg or mom fit,” says stylist Lindsey Shores. She’s worn this pair of high-waisted mom jeans from Zara sister brand Bershka on repeat lately, and at just $36, they’re also very budget-friendly.