The Pursuit of the Perfect Jeans

J Brand jeans and Zara jacket

UK personal style blog

 [Jeans: J Brand c/o Shopbop // Jacket and collar: Zara // peplum top: Topshop // Shoes: Rocket Dog // Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs c/o Shopbop // Sunglasses: Gucci]

 For the past couple of years, I’ve been constantly in pursuit of the perfect pair of jeans.

Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one on this particular quest. What is it about jeans that makes them so hard to shop for? I will never know. What I DO know, however, is that I HAD the perfect jeans. Oh yes I did. They were from Dorothy Perkins, of all places, they cost me about £20, and I must have worn them a few hundred times over the years they were in rotation in my wardrobe. Seriously, those jeans MORE than paid for themselves.

The problem with all of this wearing-of-the-jeans, though, is that eventually those jeans wore right out, and not in a charming, perfectly-worn-in kind of way either, but in an “if I wear these in public, people will probably hand me their spare change to buy some new clothes with” kind of way. So they had to be reluctantly retired, and the search for the New Perfect Jeans commenced: a search which has so far proved fruitless. Or jean-less, rather. And oh, there have been lots of jeans. But none of them have been PERFECT. There are two main reasons for this:

1. Sizing: GAH.

When it comes to dresses, skirts, tops, trousers – anything that isn’t a pair of jeans, basically – I can pretty reliably pick out my size and know it’ll fit – or will fit as well as anything ever fits, anyway. With jeans, though (I’ve already typed the word “jeans” so many times in this post that it’s become completely meaningless to me. jeansjeansjeans. Jeans.), I seem to be between sizes. My usual size, i.e. the one I wear in all of those other items of clothing, will generally give me a muffin top in jeans. And no one loves a muffin top, do they? The size up, however, will often be so large I’ll feel like I’m wearing harem pants, and if you’ve ever read The Fashion Police, you’ll know aaaaalll about my burning hatred of harem pants. GOD.

2. Being super-fussy: DOUBLE GAH.

So, yes, I’m fussy. Like, REALLY fussy. No, fussier than that. In order for a pair of jeans to be deemed Perfect Jeans, you see, they must fulfil a number of criteria. They must be:

a) The perfect length

Now, I know you can have jeans altered. I know this. I’ve even done it, plenty of times. But I never really like the way jeans look when they’ve been altered: I want them to fit perfectly, straight off the rack, and when you’re my height, that never, ever happens. The only time I can find jeans that are the right length are if they’re from a petite range, or designed to be cropped on “normal” people, and those kind of ranges tend to be really limited in terms of cut and colour. Like, any given brand will offer a kazillionty-one different washes and cuts on their regular length jeans, but only two in the petite range, and neither of those will fulfil my other requirements, which include…

b) Skinny, but not super-skinny

I LOVE skinny jeans. Love them. I know this isn’t a popular point of view, but I hope they never go out of style. Lately, though, I’ve been finding it almost impossible to find skinny jeans that aren’t super-skinny. I’m not sure if the problem is with the jeans or with my legs, but even jeans which are too big in the waist will normally fit like leggings on the calves, and I HATE that. I want drainpipe, not Saran wrap. And can I find it? Nope: no more than I can find…

c) The perfect mid-blue wash

I know lots of people love dark wash jeans, because they like the fact that they can be “dressed up”. Not me. For me, the beauty of jeans is that they’re casual. If I’m going somewhere “dressy”, I’m not going to be wearing jeans, and when I am wearing jeans, I want them to be that classic, mid-blue: not too dark, not too light, and absolutely no whiskering/distressing/deliberate creasing or ripping. Seriously, if I want to look like my jeans are falling apart, I’ll just keep wearing those ancient Dorothy Perkins ones, and forget all about the search for the Perfect Jeans, you know?

Which brings me – AT LAST, I hear you say – to the jeans in these photos. These jeans fulfil only two of my requirements: they’re the right shade, and the right cut, but as you can see from the photos, even although they were sold as “ankle” jeans, they’re still long enough that I have to tuck or roll them to avoid that “concertina” effect on the leg. (I HATE THAT.) What you CAN’T see from the photos, however (and for that, I would like to just take a brief moment to salute the peplum top, and it’s belly-hiding properties. I hope IT never goes out of style either, and if it does, I’m going to just keep wearing it anyway…) is that in the battle between muffin-top and harem-pant, I decided to err on the side of harem-pant (I KNOW!) and sized up. And the result of that is that as soon as I I start walking, these jeans start a-slidin’, and within a very short space of time, they’ll have inched their way down to the point where they not only look horrendous, but where I have to do this awkward kind of mincing walk, where I take a few steps then stop to pull the jeans up, then take a few steps and stop to pull the jeans up, and so on and so forth.

Yes, you’re right, I could wear a belt. I have thought of that, and sometimes that’s exactly what I do. On the day these photos were taken, though, I didn’t need to wear a belt, because I was wearing THIS instead:

perfect fit button

This, my friends, is a Perfect Fit Button. You may have seen the infomercial. If you haven’t, well, it’s basically an extra button which you pin onto the waistband of your too-big jeans to create… you guessed it!… the perfect fit.  Terry bought this one in the “As Seen On TV” store in Orlando (I promise I’m not making this up. Or, indeed, being paid to tell you about this.), and honestly? It kind of works. I mean, not perfectly.  There’s just no substitute for jeans that actually fit, obviously, but given that it’s been a long time  since I owned a pair of those, a few weeks ago  I “borrowed” this from Terry, and have been using it ever since to keep my jeans up.

So, last Sunday, we’d headed into Edinburgh to see the fireworks that mark the end of the Edinburgh Festival. I was wearing these jeans, held up by the Perfect Fit Button. We’d just arrived, and were walking along the street, when all of a sudden…

PING!

You’re thinking my Perfect Fit Button gave way, and my jeans fell to the floor, aren’t you?

Well, you are WRONG.

It was TERRY’S button that gave way. And it wasn’t even a Perfect Fit button, either: it was an actual, real-life button, which… clearly didn’t have a “perfect fit”, because one minute it was holding up Terry’s jeans, and then, all of a sudden? It wasn’t. (This makes it sound like Terry’s jeans were too small. They honestly weren’t, so we have no idea why the button popped off. My theory is that it did it purely to spite me.) We don’t have a lot of luck with jeans in our house, really.

Well, Terry looked at me and I looked at him. Then we both looked at the Perfect Fit button, sitting all snug and secure on the waistband of my jeans.

It was obvious what was going to have to happen. ONE of us was going to be spending the rest of the day walking around with our jeans falling down, and by “one of us” I mean “it was going to have to be me”. Because my jeans did at least still HAVE a button of their own, albeit one that wasn’t all that great at holding them in place. Well, it would’ve been just plain selfish for me to walk around with TWO buttons to my name while Terry didn’t even have ONE, so we stood there in the street, with passers-by looking on curiously as I grudgingly removed my Perfect Fit Button and handed it over to Terry.

And then I spent the rest of the day – and night, people, for we were there until late – looking like I was wearing harem pants, and doing a strange, shuffling walk, while stopping every few seconds to pull my jeans up.

After that, the search for the Perfect Jeans assumed a new urgency. I’ll let you know how I get on…

Amber

32 Comments

  • Catriona says:

    I also struggle with finding the perfect pair of jeans, so many gape at the back for me (big bum…) but a size down is too tight all over.

    Topshop ones seem to fit me best – their high-waisted ones are SO comfortable as there’s just the right amount of stretch. New Look and Dorothy Perkins don’t fit me at all, far too much gape at the back.

  • Nina says:

    Oh, I’ve never heard of that Wonder Button. Must inquire… I have the same trouble finding the perfect jeans. I can try 20 pairs and might not find a single one that looks good – from the front AND from the back, that is. And if I do find a perfect one, it won’t be long before some part of it gets a hole or is worn through.

  • Lizzabee says:

    I have the same problem with being petite (except I have it in dresses as well) and pants sliding down. It never occurred to me that I had any options besides wearing a belt. Most of my jeans have a little gap in the waist band to begin with. I know this means they don’t fit properly and I’m perfectly capable of taking in the waist but I never actually get around to it.

    Now, you’ve mentioned recently on Shoeperwoman that you get the wellies effect in knee high boots. Who, pray tell, are these jeans made for if they are that tight on your calves?!

    A note on the dark wash. I love dark wash jeans. It’s not that they’re “dressy” it’s that the darker color is more flattering on those of who are carrying around a but of excess, um, baggage, in our jeans. Anything paler than a mid-blue (and sometimes even that) makes my thighs look enormous.

  • Moni says:

    Oh, yes, been there many many times.
    My main problem with finding jeans that fit is that I have a very feminine shape: Small waist, wider hips, a butt and thighs. One wouldn’t think that’s extraordinary, but to the manufacturers of jeans the standard figure of women obviously is a mystery.
    Every time I find a pair of jeans that I can pull up past my thighs, it’s much too wide in the waist. But not only that. Many times I have tried on jeans that I had to struggle to get them closed in the front, but that left a wide gap in the back of my waist. WTH???!!! Who on earth is shaped like that??!
    Then along came the ads by Levi’s promoting the “Curve ID” with the perfect fit for three different shapes. I rejoiced and tried on the “bold curve”, which claimed to be the right jeans for me. Nope, they weren’t. The gap in the back was worse than with any other jeans I had tried on previously. I still wonder why…
    The most funny fact: What I’m wearing now, and will continue to do until I actually find THE PERFECT JEANS, are Levi’s 501. They are a bit tight around the thighs, but in the waist they fit WAY better than anything else. And they are MAN’s jeans. Think about it…

  • Katie says:

    Jeans are just so difficult, aren’t they? I always think I need to try ones that have a shorter leg length, but they end up looking daft, even if the cuffs sit slightly above the ground instead of under my heel. So I can either have jeans that look daft, or jeans with the cuffs worn into a hole. What a choice.

    Good luck with your quest! The perfect pair of jeans must be out there… somewhere…

  • Frida says:

    I do not understand WHY the search of a perfect pair of jeans has to be that hard… And WHY The perfect pair of jeans get so easily worn out, when you are lucky to actually find one you love. Nope, the perfect pair of jeans do not exist. I always feel awkward when wearing jeans: I always wear something long enough to cover my butt and my belly, they are ALWAYS too tight – or too worn, and they never fit right, they never stay up (yep that thing of pulling them up you did the whole night.. how could women-that-live-in-jeans stand that? And I actually am an european size 36 (which should be an UK 8?). Give me all the dresses and skirts in the world, with them I can go anywhere at anythime doing anything! I do not understand those who tell that jeans are comfy. They are not.

  • Jacquina says:

    My favourite pair of jeans were also Dorothy Perkins and they’re were beautiful! I think I wore through around 3 pairs of them and now they’re no where to be seen anymore.
    I’ve had designer jeans, New Look jeans, Tesco jeans and everything in between since then and now I’ve given up, if I can’t wear an outfit with leggings or normal trousers (or of course its a skirt or dress) then I usually won’t wear it. I have one pair of jeans for emergencies and even they’re too big for me now I’ve lost a bit of weight but not too big that I could get the next size down. Boo to jeans.

  • Ugh, I have ONE pair of jeans left and it’s on its last… legs… oh, clumsy wording. *sigh* Never mind. There was no pun intended. Anyway, I’ve tried on so many pairs and they’re all either too tight over my hips or too baggy around the waist. Somebody told me over the weekend that Gap do “curvy” jeans now for people in this predicament but… I just can’t bring myself to go in and try on yet another pair of jeans; it’s so crushingly frustrating.

  • Suzanne says:

    One of the worst things to shop for ever is jeans. I’ve held onto one pair that I’ve had for years and patched them up several times just for this reason.

    Good luck on your quest. I have a feeling you’ll need it.

    Bisous
    Suzanne
    http://bisous.typepad.com/bisous/

  • Louise says:

    I detest jeans shopping so much, I feel your pain. Add in the problemsof being 6ft too, total nightmare. Apparently in the 70a / 80a you could buy jeans in the ‘inbetween’ sizes like 9, 11 and 13.

    • Amber says:

      I have often found myself wishing brands would do that – I bet loads of women would love to have access to the “in-between” sizes!

      • cazroline says:

        I’ve been lucky enough to find these! And a dedicated jeans shop with an owner who sizes you by eye, it was AMAZING, I’ve given up looking for jeans anywhere else as I just end up frustrated.

  • Elise says:

    Haha I just wrote about this too, what is it with the fit of jeans that brings out the monster in us gals?! I have the opposite problem, I need Tall range jeans, which are even harder to track down, never mind getting the right fit – altho funnily enough I had the perfect pair from Dorothy Perkins a few years ago and totally wore them out, maybe we were jeans twins! :)

    • Amber says:

      It’s really frustrating – after I found mine there I’ve ordered quite a few pairs in the hope that they’ll be the same, but they seem to have changed the sizing and now they’re all far too long! River Island also did that: I used to swear by their jeans a few years ago – their “short” length was perfect for me, but then they decided to make the “short” leg the same as most other brand’s “regular” length. I will hate them forever for it.

  • Know what I hate about jeans? The fact that Levi’s 38/32 is not the same size as Sonoma 38/32. Levi’s 38/32 is perfect whereas Sonoma 38/32 makes me look like I’m expecting a flood.

  • By the way, I also hate intentionally distressed jeans. I saw a woman the other day that looked like she was ambushed by knife-wielding midgets.

  • Liz in Paris says:

    I’m a titch as well at 5’3″ and have curves (UK size 12). For me the nearest thing to jeans nirvana is the German brand Angels. Slim fit without being too skinny and higher waisted so they stay on/up with no muffin top. Some Macjeans are good too (also a German brand). I go to Germany every few months for work and sometimes slot in a jeans-buying session around the other meetings. I think Mac’s available on the UK Petite Affair site but I have no idea about Angels. Perhaps your German readers can advise where to get them online!

  • Stacey says:

    There is something about how my body is shaped that makes jeans shopping a horrendous chore. I haven’t figured out what it is exactly. I’m 5’7, not monstrously fat, I think I’m built pretty average. But every pair of jeans I try on just doesn’t seem to fit right. They either won’t go on (the horror!), or there’s the huge gap in the back. OR, the worst, they seem to fit until I need to start walking, then they start the slide downward.

    I oddly enough found my favorite pairs of jeans in one of those “discount” stores, where they’re name brand clothes but for 1/2 off what the actual stores will cost. Probably because they’re overstocks or have a designer flaw in them in some way. But I moved a few months ago and there’s no such store anywhere near me. There’s the actual stores that carry the brand in the mall, but apparently my body is designed to fit the defective jeans because the real jeans don’t fit me right! My jeans are starting to all wear out and pretty soon it’s going to be a desperate situation!

  • Erika says:

    The perfect pair of jeans have only showed up a few times for me. A long time ago from Old Navy, but then I never found another pair there since. And recently, I found some clearance jeans at Target and since they were so cheap, I bought them, and surprise surprise, they have replaced my formerly ‘perfect’ Old Navy jeans that had worn out. I am also somewhat on the shorter side, 5’4″ and it is hard to find some that actually fit length wise, but these Target, or rather Mossimo Supply jeans do! I have yet to see if the style is still available since they were on clearance…

  • Leigh says:

    Every time I find a pair of jeans that I love, the manufacturer discontinues them. It’s like a curse.

    My ideal jeans are similar to yours: mid-blue, not distressed, skinny jeans that aren’t too tight on the calves. Instead of jeans always being too long, though, I have the problem of them always gaping at the waist or giving me a muffin top. Never had the harem pants issue, though. I’ve found that mid-rise jeans don’t give me a muffin top, but it’s really, really hard to find skinny jeans that aren’t low-rise. Or in the juniors’ section. (Do y’all even have juniors’ sizing in the UK?) I just want non-mom jeans that can accomodate my hips.

    • Amber says:

      We have child/teen sizing, which I often resort to – it can be hard to find teens stuff that doesn’t LOOK like it’s made for teenagers, though! (And so often I’ve found what *appeared* to be the perfect pair of jeans in the kids section, only to discover that they have a teddy bear or something sewn onto the pockets!)

    • ClodyQ says:

      Have you tried any of the kirsten or jamie high waisted skinny jeans in topshop?I have had major issues finding jeans too but have recently discovered these,theyre not freakishly high waisted but just enough that you dont feel like your bum/tummy is falling out of them.Worth a try maybe? In the summer they also came in some pretty cute candy colours.

      • Amber says:

        I have, but Topshop jeans are much too long for me, unfortunately (unless they’re from the petite range, which is really limited in terms of colours) and the legs of those two are skinnier than I like. I’m also after a classic-mid blue rather than bright colours, and it seems the simplest colour is the most difficult to find!

        I do like Topshop’s Baxters, which aren’t super-skinny and fit OK in the waist, but for some reason they hardly ever seem to do them in a petite leg, and when they do it’s never in a mid-blue: grrrr!

  • Tracey says:

    I am so glad it’s not just me who has trouble finding the right jeans. Just because I’m tall, doesn’t make it any easier, I promise you.

  • Fi says:

    I feel for you with the petite selection – the Tall ranges are just as bad for poor choice. Though Topshop and Long Tall Sally have upped their game this year for choice of colours and cuts.

  • Oh, how I sympathize with you. Until Old Navy changed their sizing, I had the perfect jeans at the perfect price.
    I have a waist, hips, a butt, and athletic legs. I can get one, maybe 2, rarely 3, and NEVER all 4 of the above. I’m also at that strange leg length designers don’t think exists: my legs aren’t short enough for petite (they look like highwaters on me) but not long enough for regular length. That’s why I loved Old Navy up until recently: they were perfect! I also love it when wide legged jeans come into fashion: most wide leg jeans are just wide enough to give me a straight legged effect. “Straight” jeans, skinny jeans, and slim boot cuts all hug my legs all the way down or act like sausage casings. Boot cut at least don’t hug my calves, if they fit everything else. Flare leg make me look like a ’70s reject.
    I have been on the hunt for a pair of dark blue or medium blue jeans without whiskers, fading, rips, tears, distressing or and decoration since I shrank out of Levi’s and Old Navy changed their sizing. I’ve found them, but I’m not paying $200 for a farking pair of jeans. Huh-uh, not happening.
    Speaking of shrinking out of Levi’s, I wanna know who decreed that the average American woman is an American size 4 or larger and no one should design for people under that. I’ve shrunk out of more good jeans manufacturers than I fit into now. Seriously, most place that carry a 2 assume you’re a teenybopper without figure yet or you’re a petite all over (I’m 5’2, but can’t wear petite clothes, figure that one out.) I hafta get “designer” jeans (Lucky, Express, Joe’s) on eBay to even have a prayer at clothes that fit and don’t break the bank and meet my specs.

    • Amber says:

      With anything other than skinny jeans, I’m at that same awkward height, too: the petite ranges would be too short if I was wearing bootcuts or straight-legs, but the regular ranges would be much too long! With skinnies, though, I like them to hit at the ankle, so the petite ones will generally work – I just wish brands would offer more variety in them! I mean, I really like Topshop’s Baxter’s, but for some reason when they DO include them in the petite range, they’re always in some “high fashion” wash that I hate – gah!

  • Caitlin says:

    You know, it’s really nice to see that I’m not the only one who’s spent years trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. I always felt so silly spending so much time looking, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.

    My ideal jeans fit my not quite 5’4 frame without being long, are a darker wash, don’t make me look like I have no butt (which is very easy to do), don’t have whiskering, and make me feel fantastic. I wish I knew where to find them!

  • Amber, you are totally my favourite for “No, fussier than that.” Sorry (for you and many others it seems) about the previously-perfect Dorothy Perkins ones, and good luck in your ongoing quest. Jeans, sandals, and bras are among the toughest-to-fit items for me, way worse even than pants! Thank you for the Perfect Fit Button story – priceless.

  • Oh I totally agree with you Amber. Jeans are a bitch to shop for and like you I am in between sizes as my waist and thighs are different sizes which sucks big time.I do wish you the best of luck in your search.

    xoxo
    Ivy

  • Emily says:

    Amber, I too found your ‘The Pursuit of the Perfect Jeans’ story very appropriate. For years I had bought ill-fitting jeans in despair, unable to find ones that fitted my body shape. You are right in that they either fit your waist, and not your legs or visa-versa. I wonder who on earth they make jeans to fit as it seems so many people have the same trouble!

    About a year ago I tried on a pair of Bettina Liano jeans and I haven’t looked back since. Bettina Liano is an Australian designer (her denim range can be seen here http://www.bettinaliano.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=1_2) but her website says she ships internationally. They aren’t cheap, but on a cost-by-wear basis I have definitely gotten my money’s worth. Plus, in my opinion, the perfect pair of jeans are priceless and an investment!

    My friend and I tried the same pair on, and while we have quite different body shapes, they fitted us both perfectly. For me, the key to why these jeans fit so well is that a) they are made from really stretchy denim which means they just stretch over whichever body area is bigger, and b) they are slightly higher in the waist, so no muffin top, or butt-crack when bending down! To top it off, they are also amazingly comfortable and flattering. I have contemplated buying several pairs of these jeans while they are still being made, as I am quite sure I will never find a pair like them again!

  • My god do I feel your pain. I used to be able to buy any old jeans and somehow they’d work, now I just rotate my old favourites and hope no one will notice….

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