Fashion & Beauty

The New Shapes of Jeans

I WEAR jeans year-round, but come springtime, I feel the urge to update my selection, needed or not. So, over this past weekend I set out for Nordstrom to try on  a variety of brands in a range of prices and styles. My dressing-room haul included high-rise and mid-rise jeans with cropped, wide, straight and skinny legs from Levi’s, Kut From the Cloth, Good American, Paige, Joe’s Jeans, Mother, AG and Citizens of Humanity, as well as Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ). That last had just gotten raves in the Wall Street Journal from writer Curtis Sittenfeld.

As we’ve written previously and which bears repeating is this: The deciding factor in buying jeans is how good they make your rear end look. To achieve that, the bottom of the back pocket should hit right where you rear cheek and your thigh meet.

At the time we first wrote about what to consider when buying, low-rise styles were wildly popular and made up a large proportion of the offerings. Even though to most of us, wearing them meant constant worry they’d embarrassingly slip down over our bottoms. Today, high-rise jeans, often referred to as “mom” jeans, have replaced low-rise styles. Once ridiculed by Tina Fey in a 2003 Saturday Night Live sketch for their unflattering sky-high waists and roomy hips and thighs, millennials and celebrities have embraced the look. It’s hard to find a pair that doesn’t flaunt its high-rise fit. On its website, Levi’s offers almost 300 pairs of high-rise jeans (30 that are super high-rise); in the mid-rise section there are about 200. There are no low-rise options. And while we’re on the subject of the changing cut of jeans, here’s what may be welcome news to some: Skinnies are on their last legs; looser fits are in.

Most if not all the high-rise jeans I tried on fit me the same way as I remembered they did in the 1980s. My waist looked fine, but my thighs bulged out or at least looked as if they did compared to the rest of leg, which was slim from just above the knee to the ankle. The silhouette of a high waist with a flared or wide leg is a much more preferable one for me.

That said, every body is different. And so the advice about buying jeans remains the same —you’ve got to try, try and try again until you hit denim gold. We’ve got some suggestions to get you started.

—Janet Kelly


LEFT: Need Supply’s Pen Fit mid-rise, slightly cropped straight-leg jeans in non-stretch denim look invitingly easy to wear. $185, Need Supply. RIGHT: I was skeptical about the high rise on these Sheri Slim Jeans, but Not Your Daughter’s Jeans secret sauce (a criss-cross panel to flatten in the front and so-called lift construction that flatters your back side) made it work ($119, NYDJ). The ankle length is flattering and works with flats, heels or sneakers. (The label also offers a Curves 360 collection for sizes 00-28 that offers even more lift and shaping.)


LEFT: My fashion-savvy daughter-in-law gave a thumbs-up to the flared-leg, high-rise style of this Jodi Crop, if not its price. $235, AG Jeans. RIGHT: I prefer Agolde’s mid-rise straight-leg jeans, which sit just below the waist and have a forgiving, relaxed leg. $188, Net a Porter.


LEFT: Kut From the Cloth’s Catherine Slim Boyfriend Jeans (mid-rise) were a good fit on me, and I liked the rolled hem. They felt comfortable and hugged my rear. $89, Nordstrom. CENTER: The pair of Mother jeans that I bought last spring are by far my most flattering. I think the label’s high-waist Tomcat Roller Fray Jeans could make your legs look endless. $285, Nordstrom. RIGHT: My Paige skinny jeans are an old reliable in my closet. These mid-rise Verdugo Ankle Skinny Jeans are a newer, improved model that will hold their shape and keep your rear looking cheeky. $134.25, Nordstrom.

LEFT: Tuck in a navy silk blouse, and you dress up these marigold Shiloh High-Rise Wide-Leg Jeans . They sit high on the waist but then forgivingly fall to a wide leg. From popular Danish brand Ganni. $235, Moda Operandi. RIGHT: White jeans are my go-to summer pant, and Citizens of Humanity a go-to denim label. Made from stretch denim, cropped, wide-leg Eva jeans hit just above the ankle for a playful vibe. $210, Moda Operandi.


LEFT: With a tummy-slimming panel and sculpting fabric that lifts the seat and lengthens the legs, it’s hard to go wrong with Levi’s 314 Shaping Straight Jeans. Available in different washes. $69.50, Levi’s. RIGHT: Anthropologie now offers a plus-size clothing collection, including these Ultra High-Rise Cropped Wide-Leg Jeans. Fitted at the waist with a loosely tailored shape and side zipper, they look comfortable and chic, especially as shown with a print blouse and coral jacket.  $140.

LEFT: This Kick Crop Jean from Everlane sits high on the waist and slim through thigh and leg. It gets rave reviews on the Everlane site, and the price ($78) is right. RIGHT: A 100-year-0ld brand worn by generations of construction workers and coal miners, Dickies is newly cool. These Carpenter Jeans in non-stretch denim and plenty of pockets may become your new favorites. $69, Nordstrom.


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6 thoughts on “The New Shapes of Jeans

  1. janet kelly says:

    Next time …

  2. Dominique Rychlik says:

    I like both slim fitting but LONG Or the flare at bottom
    only but hugging curves. And also long to look good over boots. I like the Capri style to wear with flats or sandals .

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Have you found a brand/style you like? Agree, the cropped/Capri style works great with flats and sandals.

  3. Carol says:

    Great information! I need (want) new jeans a lot as I wear almost every day except hot days of summer. My husband volunteered to check to see how I looked from behind 🙂
    I just cannot get used to the big flared legs Don’t think flattering for me
    So many jeans… so little time

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Whenever I try on jeans, I have Jim check the rear view. Try those NYDJ. Lots of styles and choices. And not a bad price point.

      1. Nancy McKeon says:

        Janet, that’s what iPhones are for! turn your back to the mirror in the dressing room and click! it may take a few tries to get it right, but i’ve found that it works.

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