The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

TBB's Denim Guide: Finding the Right Jeans for You (Part I)

A guide to finding the perfect jeans

Full disclosure: I work in a premium denim department at an upscale department store and help a lot of people hunt for the "perfect" pair of jeans. Sure, jeans are probably one of the most universal clothing articles in our closets, having stood the test of time in terms of practicality, versatility, and style. But there are still so many unanswered questions about denim, from finding the right fit to navigating the wide range of styles in every price range. If you've ever felt stumped by denim, fret no longer: Let me help turn those denim blues into denim dreams with my comprehensive guide to finding the perfect jeans—for you!
Finding the perfect jeans

How should they fit?
Premium denim runs by size 24-32 (occasionally 33); this is equivalent to a U.S. 0-12. One of the biggest mistakes denim shoppers make is buying their jeans too big! Always, always make sure that your denim is snug in the dressing room. It should not be uncomfortable enough that you can’t sit down or breathe, just a little snug around the waist that you may think you need to size up, but then feel if you do it will be too big, because that is the PERFECT fit!

Why is this? Because denim stretches! When you wear denim, your body heat will stretch it out, and that is why so often the jeans you thought fit you great at the store are too baggy now. Use this piece of advice to guide you to your dream jeans. Another rule you may like: You should be able to stick two to three fingers in the waistband.

Am I limited to one style because of my body shape?
There is no such rule that only certain body types can wear skinnies, or straight legs, boot cut, or flares. This is a myth! Oftentimes, people are only comfortable with one style, and that can be a tough cycle to break.

There are two keys to success in terms of finding the right jeans: Fit and comfort. Yes, "fit" is a given, but you must be comfortable in your jeans, because if you’re not, it shows.

Focus on a flattering wash and complimenting pocket placement in any style, and you will look fantastic. Example: Think your skinny legs can’t handle a boyfriend jean? Try a skinny slouchy fit for a less extreme look. Afraid of a bootcut with your curves? Don’t be! Try a baby bootcut in a dark wash denim that has no fading through the thighs.

Finding the perfect pair of jeans

(Above: Paige denim in ‘Skyline’ Bootcut (Michelle) & AG denim in ‘Nikki’ Relaxed Skinny Jeans, both available at

How much should I spend?
This is entirely a personal decision, but do remember that when you invest in quality, you get what you paid for. If you are lucky enough to hunt down a quality denim with a small defect that you know you can get fixed, then more power to you! However, if you buy denim that is mass produced from a fast fashion brand, be wary. Sure it may seem like a great deal, but will it hold up in your hectic life? If it’s a trendy patterned jean that you know you’ll be sick of come next spring, than by all means, drop $50 on them. But if it’s a traditional denim washed skinny, or boot cut, please think twice if it’s really worth it.

Another factor to consider is where you are buying your denim. When fit is the most important quality in a pair of jeans, this is really important. Do you want to buy denim from a brand whose main focus is designing jeans, or do you want to buy jeans from a retail clothing store that does it all? I suggest starting out at a department store where you can try on different brands, and even get assistance from a sales associate, but stick to one style at a time. If the full or sale price point is still too much, then write down the style, fit, and brand of the denim so that you can look for them when thrifting or scouring online sales.

Budget Babes, next week I am going to talk about premium denim, including why it’s so expensive, and a little background information on major brand names. If you have any denim questions or comments at all, let me know!

Images one & two via
I kind of have the opposite problem.. I buy way too many jeans. I still don't have any boyfriend pairs, though!
#1 College Freshgirl (Homepage) on 2013-09-05 11:15 (Reply)
I am tall and need to know what brands carry tall inseams of around 35 inches! Everything I try on is way too short.
#2 Adrienne on 2013-09-05 12:06 (Reply)
Hi Adrienne! Im tall too and I found Rock and Republic and Seven have very long inseams that are really long. And if you want more less expensive brands, Old Navy and Gap have the Tall option and they are really long too! Hope it helps because I know how frustrating that is!!
#2.1 Di on 2013-09-06 12:02 (Reply)
"Premium denim runs by size 24-32 (occasionally 33); this is equivalent to a U.S. 0-12. One of the biggest mistakes denim shoppers make is buying their jeans too big!"

If the average American woman is now a size, at least half of American women won't fit into your premium denim at all, much less have problems with them running large!
#3 Ariadne on 2013-09-05 14:18 (Reply)
I work at Levi's and everyday encounter people who insist that denim shrinks, especially in length. And we do our best, using the pair we're wearing as examples, to explain the natural wear-stretching, wash-shrinking cycle of jeans.
Unfortunately 90% of Levi's jeans for women are made to be tight in the thighs, and many of our older customers hate that. Luckily putting those women in a men's bootcut (527) or straight leg (505 or 514) often does the trick.
Does your department store sell Levi's? It's important to consider that the Levi's jeans in stores like Macys, Kohls, etc are made SPECIFICALLY for that store and will not be the same quality as a mainline or outlet. Outlet prices for Levi's range from $45 to $65 typically.

Lastly, sizes 24-32 are equivalent to US sizes 0-*14*.
#4 Sarah on 2013-09-05 18:07 (Reply)
love the tips you've put here and i've been really curious as to why premium denim costs so much. can't wait for your next installment to answer that question. i often seen nice jeans at discount stores like marshalls for a fraction of the cost, i presume they are the same quality and would be a good investment if i found the right fit, right? - asian hair care products delivered to your door!
#5 jessica-bessiaglobal (Homepage) on 2013-09-06 09:58 (Reply)
I am a size 16. This means I am sized out of a lot of jeans, including most premium denim. Most of my jeans are from mass market brands like Target and Kohl's and Lane Bryant, although I do have a floral pair of Not Your Daughter's Jeans that fit perfectly. What advice would you give me if I want to buy higher quality jeans? I'm also short, which doesn't help matters. And curvy. I loved IndiDenim but they went out of business, any other companies that will custom-make jeans at a reasonable price?
#6 Elisa on 2013-09-07 17:06 (Reply)
Great post! We love jeans too!

~ SVICA Jeans ~
“The Customizable Tuxedo Stripe Jean”
#7 SVICA Jeans (Homepage) on 2013-09-27 10:16 (Reply)
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