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Being a tall woman has its perks — always being able to reach the top shelf and seeing over the tops of people’s heads at concerts, for starters — but all good things come at a price. In this case, that price is struggling to find jeans that are long enough for your legs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average height of women over the age of 20 is 63.5 inches, or just under 5 feet, 4 inches. While anything above that is technically considered above average, the struggle for full-length jeans intensifies as you approach and surpass 5 feet, 9 inches.
The lack of quality jeans for taller women on the market is not lost on denim atelier Benjamin Talley Smith. “I do think it’s a tough jean to find. [It's] probably an underserved customer base because it feels like we do traditional inseams, then petite, then we do tall, unfortunately,” he told Shop TODAY.
Beth Esponnette, co-founder of custom-fit made-to-order jean company Unspun, fields similar sentiments from taller customers. “What I’ve heard [customers] say in the past is that they’ve learned to love the cropped style. They’re used to being a little too tall for their pants, so that’s kind of the concession they have to make,” she said.
The cropped style works especially well during the spring and summer months, but sometimes — like when winter comes around — a full-length jean is needed. To guide your search in proper fitting jeans for tall women, we asked Esponnette and Smith for their advice on what to look for.
How has women's sizing evolved over time?
The women's clothing sizes we're currently familiar with initially stemmed from a survey of 15,000 women back in the 1940s to determine a standardized system for the time. While the system has changed and numbers have fluctuated since then, the foundation is nonetheless skewed. “These weren’t a random sampling that was representative of everybody. It was 15,000 white women and they wore corsets at the time, so it was a very particular kind of shape that they were built around,” explained Esponnette.
When it comes to inseams, lengths have changed with trending styles over time that have led us to our current standard of 28 to 30 inches. For example, back in the ‘90s when stacked hems and baggier jeans were trending, Smith said inseams were much longer. That lasted until 2010 or 2011 when trends started to shift toward having the ankle peek out at the bottom of your jeans, thus beginning the rise of the 28-inch inseam. Now, however, as more trends from the ‘90s make their return, he predicted jeans will shift back to the longer form.
How to shop for jeans for tall women
Shopping for jeans for tall women comes down to one important feature: inseams. Longer inseams indicate that the jean was designed with a taller height in mind, which ensures that the placement of the knee, calf or leg is appropriate for your height, explained Smith. Typical inseams are around 28 inches for an ankle jean or 30 inches for a regular jean so if you’re taller, you’ll probably want to look for something around 32 or 34 inches, he advised.
If you don’t know what your inseam is, it's easy to measure it yourself at home. Smith recommends taking a measuring tape and, starting at the groin area, measuring all the way down to your ankle. The resulting number is your inseam length for a standard full-length jean.
Once you’ve got your inseam measured and you’re ready to start shopping for jeans, you might be wondering what style to look for. In this case, Smith and Esponnette both like wide flare and bootcut silhouettes.
“I think that people are leaning into a bit more fun as things open up more in the pandemic; people want to take their mind off of it and there’s a lot more color, a lot more prints, and in general the silhouettes are becoming really fun, too," Esponnette said. "So my choice would be a flare leg, particularly a wide flare because...going back to the ‘90s, people want a little bit more space for movement and having a more relaxed style."
Smith's final piece of advice for shopping for the perfect pair of jeans? Don't forget that they take on a life of their own over time. No, he doesn't mean that they're going to get up and walk away (though that's quite a scene to envision). "I’ve had such a great life in jeans because they’re like a living, breathing thing. They’re all different and they all change based on water and shrinkage and chemicals and air," he shared. "It changes, varies, shrinks up a little bit or lengthens as you wear it."
Where to shop for jeans for tall women
"Levi's always the go-to," Smith said. "If you think about jeans in life in general, they were sort of the quintessential starting brand."
Whether you're looking for a classic skinny or something with a more relaxed fit but is still slimming, the brand offers styles for every aesthetic.
Smith likes Target's in-house brand Universal Thread. Not only are they a budget-friendly option, but they offer jeans with up to 32-inch inseams and extended sizes.
Smith suggested Madewell as another option for tall jeans. They offer options in petite, standard, tall and plus sizes.
Smith commended the extended range of sizes available from Good American. Offerings include sizes 00 to 24 and a variety of styles from classic ripped jeans to trendy split hem pairs like these.
Smith called Los Angeles-based SLVRLAKE a "premium, great brand." While these jeans are definitely on the pricier side, it's something to consider if you're willing to invest.
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