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 26 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 — 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.”
Those who want a straight-leg jean with a slim fit look might want to consider this SLVRLAKE pair, which comes recommended by luxury sock designer Elizabeth Reid. SLVRLAKE is a new brand that uses Italian open-weave denim (it supposedly helps create that perfect vintage-inspired wash and gives the jeans a soft yet sturdy feel). “They fit perfectly and don’t stretch,” says Reid. “They are timeless, soft, and exceptionally comfortable.” Her favorite way to style them is with socks and a pair of heels.
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.)
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.
Marian Cheng, co-founder of Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings, favors mid-rise and high-rise skinny jeans, her favorite being this pair from sustainable denim brand DL1961, for its soft material and curve-hugging potential.
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.”
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 petite women on a budget, Strategist writer Karen Iorio Adelson recommends Loft jeans. She points out the brand’s extensive petite options — and that, with their 26-and-a-half-inch inseam, these work well for the vertically challenged. “These jeans have become one of my favorite pairs over the past year. They hold their shape very well, which is great for me because I’ve definitely worn them a few too many times in between washes.”
“It’s hard to find wide-leg jeans that are also flattering on your butt, but these do the trick,” says Lee. She appreciates the leg-elongating high-rise of the jeans, and that they’re made from rigid denim. “It is my theory that non-stretch denim is a more flattering material because it’s substantial, and therefore doesn’t look like a legging,” Lee says. “The crop on these mean they’re perfect to wear with a pair of booties, or sneakers with socks.”
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 are just slim enough in the thigh area in comparison to the width of the leg opening, so 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.
The vintage denim enthusiasts we spoke to for this story mentioned that they scour vintage stores and flea markets pretty much exclusively for Levi’s. Sustainable fashion vlogger Jenny Wellbourn favors buying oversize, relaxed-fit Levis 515s, which she said you can score on Etsy or at shops like The Break. Model Gabrielle Bassett mentioned that you can shop some versions of her favorite Levi’s 501s among Urban Outfitters’ selection of vintage Urban Renewal pieces: “The mid- to high-waist cut and the straight leg with the 100 percent cotton denim are my favorite, especially in summer with a white tee or a pair of kitten heels.”
Jenni Lee, founder of luxury sock brand Comme Si, says that Re/Done’s repurposed Levi’s ankle crop is her “must-have everyday pair of jeans.” They’re the pair she packs in her carry-on when she travels, and the one she most often turns to when getting dressed. “I’ll start my day trying on different pairs of jeans but inevitably go for these,” Lee says. “They’re form-fitting in the right places, the high rise creates a lifting and flattering effect on the butt, and I like that the skinny leg silhouette is narrow, but not skin-tight, so it they don’t look like leggings.” Lee, who is five-foot-six told us that the cropped length of the jeans works well for her frame because it shows “a little ankle, but not so much that it makes me look shorter.”
Ripped and distressed jeans
If you prefer an artful rip or two, you could also try this Madewell pair, which come recommended by travel and food writer Kat Odell. “For years I used to drop hundreds of dollars on designer jeans, including some Rag & Bone and J Brand, but these are absolutely my No. 1’s now,” she says. They have a tiny bit of stretch, and hit just above the ankle, and she says they pair perfectly with low boots. “I basically live in them.”
Finding maternity jeans without the overly stretchy baby bump material — which, while effective, is sort of fugly — is tough for expecting mothers. Kat Braun finds the over-the-bump panels “too hot and itchy,” which is why she’s happy she stumbled upon Paige Verdugo’s jeans with subtle elasticized side paneling. “The side elastic stayed up and [they] were very comfy, plus the fit and sizing was truer to non-maternity jeans than other brands I tried.”
If you don’t mind that baby-bump stretch, many pregnant reviewers have deemed these, from Madewell, “the perfect maternity jeans.” Strategist writer Lauren Ro wore them while pregnant, and describes them as “pull-on skinnies with a trompe-l’oeil fly and an over-the-belly stretchy band that has enough room to expand as my stomach expands.” She notes that you can wear the band pulled over your belly in the final stages of pregnancy or folded over and tucked in when you don’t need it.
Bathen co-founder Hannah Zisman says that at five months pregnant, it’s been “surprisingly difficult to find a cool pair of maternity jeans that aren’t a skinny style.” After much research, she landed on this pair from H&M’s Conscious Collection, which she says look just like her regular jeans and have a stretchy ribbed band that will continue to accommodate her expanding belly. “Plus, they’re affordable, which is a win knowing I’ll only be wearing them for a limited time,” Zisman says.
Comfy, flattering plus-size jeans are hard to come by, too: Plus-size blogger Emily Bastedo could never find a pair that fit properly until she stumbled upon Wit & Wisdom. “Not only are they affordable, but also some of the most flattering jeans I’ve worn. With the stretch fabric, they are comfortable all day but never saggy.” She likes that they’re also lacking in any overt stretch paneling. “I am so grateful Wit & Wisdom has ‘hidden’ this feature. I have multiple pairs in all different washes and they still look brand-new.”
Plus-size style blogger Kristine Thompson of the blog Trendy Curvy considers Celebrity Pink the best-fitting, most budget-friendly plus-size denim on the market, with prices often at $30 and under. “They have a great blend of stretch and structure so they are the perfect everyday jean,” she says.
Thompson also likes NYDJ’s collection of plus-size denim, which she has called the most comfortable plus-size jeans she owns, due to their ample amount of stretch and the curve hugging material (you might need to size down on NYDJ’s denim). “They hold their stretch after a couple of washes,” she assures me, and come in a variety of styles and sizes, up to 28W.
There’s a certain class of denim heads who are serious about wearing raw denim exclusively, whether it’s A.P.C. originals or a more recent take that’s a little less rigid for women with curves. Lauren Levy tipped us off to one brand fitting these fabrics for a woman’s body: Imogene + Willie. “They do a really gorgeous high-rise that’s 100 percent cotton and a more traditional mid-rise that uses the same exact fabric the brand uses for their men’s raw denim.”
The Strategist is a site designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best notebook, black T-shirts, fashion-editor-approved jeans, toothbrush, and apartment décor. Note that all prices are subject to change.
If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.