If there’s one item of clothing in all of our closets that’s the preeminent wardrobe staple, it’s without a doubt our jeans. We wear them on lazy Sundays to run errands and on nights out with our friends. But between the sometimes horrifying experience of trying them on—you’re certain they’re your size, but why don’t they fit?—and the continuous changing of trends—one day low-rise jeans are in, then wide-leg, and then acid wash the next—understanding how to choose jeans that are perfect for you can sometimes feel impossible.
Shopping for the perfect pair should be enjoyable, not frustrating. That’s why we’re breaking down the three key elements of denim—fit, rise, and wash—so shopping for denim can be a whole lot easier and a lot more fun.
1. The Fit
Every day, it seems like the fashion gods come up with some new jean creation: from shapeless mom jeans to jeggings (which are hardly jeans at all). But when it comes to how to choose jeans that work, there are only five fits you need to remember:
- Boyfriend Jeans: With a relaxed cut, boyfriend jeans are usually oversized and distressed. This style looks the best on apple and athletic shapes. Because these jeans are loose-fitting, you’re going to want to pair this style with something that accentuates your shape, like a bodysuit or a fitted button-down.
- Straight-Leg Jeans: No surprises here, these jeans have a straight leg. While pretty much any body type can pull off this style, hourglass, apple, and athletic shaped women look particularly great in straight-leg jeans. For the office, these jeans work best when paired with a tucked-in T-shirt, a kitten heel and a blazer. For the weekend, wear them with an oversized button-down, or a tucked-in turtleneck and slide-on sneakers.
- Bootcut Jeans: Consider bootcut the subtle wide-leg jean. As their name implies, they look great with boots. Bootcut jeans are a flattering fit for hourglass and pear shapes. Think of this fit as the more casual jean that pairs well with sweaters and T-shirts.
- Flare Jeans: There are many different takes on the flare jean, from the super wide-leg ones reminiscent of the 1970s to the slightly-flared ones you see today. Flares look great on pear and hourglass shapes, and are perfect for casual wear. Opt for an oversized bohemian top and heels, or pair them with a fitted shirt and slingback heels for a classic look. Whichever finishing touches you pick, remember, just say “no” to pants that drag.
- Skinny Jeans: Skinny jeans are slim and tapered at the ankle and look great on everyone—seriously. Pair them with sweaters or T-shirts and sneakers for casual days, and a blouse with flats for the office.
2. The Rise
Jean rises come and go in fashion just as quickly as hemlines and heel heights. That being said, it’s important to pick—and stick with—the rise that looks best on you:
- Low-Rise: While this ’90s-inspired style is great for showing off your hips, it’s crucial to pick a pair that fits you snugly. Even though many office dress codes allow jeans these days, reserve your low-rise jeans for social occasions.
- Mid-Rise: These work well on basically anyone and provide structure around the midsection. This rise is work-appropriate and goes well with just about any top.
- High-Rise: Packing just the right amount of a retro vibe, this rise looks great when paired with tucked-in tops. Calling all hourglass shapes: this is the perfect rise for you.
3. The Wash
While classic blue jeans remain, well, classic, the options for washes are endless. The wash you pick is based on your personal preference, so have fun and take home the style that speaks to you.
- Dark Wash: The most classic wash, you can wear dark denim anywhere, from the office to a night out.
- Light to Medium Wash: As the saying goes, the lighter the wash, the more casual the look. Keep this in mind when you’re shopping.
- Colored Denim: Jeans come in every color of the rainbow, so why not opt for red jeans? Colored denim works wonders in a color-blocked look, so don’t be afraid of vibrant pants.
No one enjoys jean shopping. No one. But, with a little patience and thoughtful choices, you’ll be glad that you took the time to find a pair that looks and feels great.