I know that for a lot of women, finding a pair of flattering jeans is like winning the lottery. You find that pair, buy three or four back-ups, and put those babies on a lock-down tighter than casino security (and if you saw Ocean's 11, you know that's pretty hardcore). Why all the fuss? Because there are some many different variables involved in creating a pair of jeans that it's difficult to find a pair where everything suits you perfectly. I'm going to try to make that arduous, stressful process a little easier. Here's a breakdown of most of the elements of a pair of jeans:
Wash: You know that old maxim that black makes you look thinner and white makes you look wider? Well, apply that to denim. Bleached out, baby blue jeans reflect more light than dark blue jeans, and thus make your legs look wider. So while those distressed, faded jeans look adorable on the runway, they aren't the most flattering in real life unless your BMI is about 16. Stick to jeans that are medium blue or darker, as they'll make your legs look longer and thinner. The same thing applies to colored denim. A pair of dark grey jeans is more flattering than a pair of say, light purple jeans (I don't know why you'd own these, but still).
Rise: I'm just going to say it. Low-rise jeans are the devil. They suck. I hate them passionately. I know, low-rise jeans are 'sexier' than mid-rise or high-rise jeans, but tell me, is it really sexy to create muffin-tops where they don't need to be or to show everyone exactly what color your underwear is? No. Definitely not. Even on the skinniest of people, low-rise jeans cut right across the hip and make any fat that exists there spill over the top of your jeans. Mid-rise or high-rise jeans can create a smooth line from upper thigh to waist, and suck in/smooth out whatever issues may exist in that area. Looking comfortable (and not like you're worried about flashing the world) and muffin-top free trumps looking like Britney Spears circa 2001. End of story.
Cut: I cannot emphasize how important the cut of a jean is. This is make it or break it time. I'm going to start off with why skinny jeans are evil. Tapered cut jeans, like skinny jeans, follow the natural contours of your leg, which means that your ankles look skinny, and your thighs will look big in comparison to your tiny ankles. Wearing a pair of skinny jeans is like pointing a giant, flashing, red arrow straight at your thighs. Skinny jeans are misleading, because they will make you look anything but skinny (unless you are model tiny, in which case, wear whatever you want). For a more flattering look, go for jeans that have a similar width around the bottom opening as they do at the thigh. Jeans that are about the same width at thigh and ankle balance out the leg by making your thighs look smaller in comparison to your ankles. For most people, this means a boot cut, maybe a flare jean. If that doesn't sound 'trendy' enough for you, think about this. It's better to dress for your body than it is for trends. Don't wear a trend that looks bad on you, instead go for something for classic that looks really good on you. If you have to get in on the skinny jean thing, I'd try a straight leg instead. It's a bit more flattering, but still has the overall look of a skinny jean. Wide-leg jeans are also a great, on-trend cut that's actually flattering.
Pockets: Big pockets make your butt look smaller in comparison, and small pockets make your butt look bigger. Pockets placed closer together make your butt look skinnier, whereas wider placed pockets make your butt look wider. Do whatever works for your butt. I have wide hips and a medium sized booty (I feel awkward typing that) so I go for medium-sized pockets placed closer together/nearer the middle.
Detailing: Detailing in general is not good. I know, 205923 people just screamed at me, but let me explain. Whiskering at the hips draws attention to your hips, which makes your hips look wider (then again, if you have very narrow hips that might work for you). Extreme fading on the middle of the leg looks awkward and again, makes your legs look wider and shorter. Pocket details draw attention to your butt. If you want your jeans to make your look longer and leaner, go for a whisker-free, uniform wash or jeans that are slightly (very slightly) faded in the middle of the leg.
Fabric: This doesn't make that much of a difference in the overall look, but it's still important. Thicker fabrics hold you in more, and are less likely to show vpl, whereas thin fabrics tend to show all your imperfections instead of hiding them. As for stretch, I'd say always go for stretch jeans. They'll conform to your body more closely, and won't stretch out over time. Plus, jeans with spandex in them can act like Spanx (always a plus). Fabric-wise, I recommend J Brand. They don't get baggy, they suck you in in all the right places, they don't show cellulite or vpl. They are essentially perfection.
Dont's: Citizen of Humanity Dita Boot Cut, $250 at shopbop.com, Sass & Bide Stray Misfit Slim Tapered Jeans, $157 at shopbop.com. This is why light wash jeans are evil. These are skinny Shopbop models, and baby blue/light grey jeans are not flattering at all. Likewise, neither is the skinny jean cut. Obviously that girl is quite thin, and skinny jeans are not doing her justice. I don't even want to think about what me and my normal sized legs would look like in those. Plus, the odd detailing at the hip just draws attention to it and looks like a creepy scar. The jeans on the left are the perfect example of why intense fading the middle of the leg is a bad idea. It makes the model look shorter and squatter by dividing her legs in half, and the whiskering at the hips makes her hips look wider. So, light washes, intense fading, skinny cuts, and weird detailing/whiskers are all evil.
Do's: 7 For All Mankind Boot Cut Stretch Jeans, $165 at shopbop.com, J Brand Lightweight 14" Cigarette Leg Jean, $159 at shopbop.com. Much better, right? Look at the difference a dark, uniform wash with no detailing makes. The pair on the right has slight fading in the middle of the leg, but softer and in a darker wash it serves to contour the leg instead of make it look wider. And look at the cuts. These are similarly sized models, but boot cuts and straight leg cuts make their legs look significantly longer and leaner. So, go for dark, uniform washes in straight, boot, or wide-leg cuts with minimal detailing to make your legs look model-fantastic.
Citizens of Humanity jeans: shopbop.com
Sass & Bass jeans: shopbop.com
7 for all Mankind jeans: shopbop.com
J Brand jeans: shopbop.com