How to find your dream jeans

It took 73.5 try-ons (one pair made it only halfway up her thighs), but Good Housekeeping contributor Lisa Marsh discovered some real winners. Here, she shares success secrets — and smart insider info.

I have a love/hate relationship with jeans. There have been good times: when I discovered slouchy-cool Calvin Klein “boyfriend” jeans in college…when I found a pair of Gap bootcuts in the late nineties that finally put “sexy jeans” in my closet and in my life…and, more recently, when dark denim became the uniform I wore as a work-from-home mom who did not want to be seen in mom jeans.

But oh, the bad times. I am a woman of a certain size (14, to be exact), and I once endured a denim dry spell that lasted several years. Imagine, a wardrobe with absolutely no jeans! I felt deprived most mornings when I couldn’t pull on a trusty pair — but when the stores were only stocking low-riders with three-inch-long zippers, steering clear was just a no-brainer.

So when Good Housekeeping asked me to undertake a try-on-a-thon, I didn’t know whether to cheer, cry, or run screaming. Let me explain the challenges of finding jeans that fit my curves. I’m as picky as the next gal: I want jeans that are cute and comfortable — and they’ve got to make my butt look good! I feel lucky to be living in the age of J.Lo and Kim Kardashian: If you’ve got a big booty, it’s OK to flaunt it. Mine has not (yet) surrendered to gravity, thanks to my always taking the stairs, so why not show it off? My legs are relatively long and slim, but my pesky belly and saddlebags cause problems.


Style-wise, I don’t want anything too trendy. Please, spare me the sandblasting or whiskering and the pockets that are too big, too teeny, or too bedazzled. But as we all know, finding something basic that fits isn’t always so easy. (I recently struck out at Gap, my former fave resource.)

So with GH’s guidance, I sucked up my pride, sucked in my tummy, and submitted to squeezing into about 74 pairs. My goal: that elusive “perfect fit.” Here’s my denim diary.

Dressing room drama

Trying on is exhausting! My adventure started at the GH offices, working through a huge stack of jeans. By the 12th pair, my hands were tinted blue from the dye rubbing off, I’d snagged two nails on the zippers, and I was breathless from tugging on and off the jeans and the boots needed to evaluate their lengths.

Next, I hit a mega-mall with both designer-jean boutiques and big-box stores, where I wrestled on 50 more pairs.

What I learned

1. Labels can be quite useless: Of course jean names like “the Amanda” tell you nothing, but even silhouette descriptions sent my search right off the rails. I thought I should go with “curvy” cuts (because, ahem, I am curvy), but “slim” and even “skinny” often wound up fitting best.

2. Dark denim is your best friend: It makes you look 10 pounds leaner, plus it’s polished enough to wear to work or on date night. Ditto trouser jeans — another winner. A big thank-you to the genius who came up with those!

3. Pocket placement is serious business: It’s a myth that big pockets in back always fool the eye and make your butt look smaller. Trust me: If the jumbo pockets are set too high or too low…disaster!

4. Definitely shop at your favorite “dress store”: Retailers that specialize in clothing grown-up women for daily life are a great resource. This is how I found my winning pair: Coldwater Creek’s trouser jeans. I am beyond smitten with how slim and chic they look and how comfy they feel. I bought more than one pair, and if I could, I’d wear them every day. Hey, after all my past denim travails, maybe I’ll do exactly that.

After 70+ pairs, my shopping secrets:

  • My long-standing belief that Levi’s just made jeans for slim-hipped cowboys was wrong: I discovered that their Perfect Waist jeans fit my curves incredibly well. I’m a convert!
  • Supposedly, flap pockets in the back make your behind look ginormous, but one pair of jeans from Lee totally disproved that. I loved the rear view.
  • 7 For All Mankind jeans dealt my ego a knockout punch. Pricey denim is sold by waist size (starting at 24!), and the jeans run very small. The largest size made, a 32, didn’t even get over my hips. Ouch!
  • A little stretch in jeans is comfy, but too much encourages you to squeeze into too small a size, showcasing every cellulite dimple and your muffin top.
  • Mom JEANS? Those are the very last thing I want to be wearing, but I loved some of the styles by Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (or NYDJ). The crisscross stitching inside, left, may look weird, but it flattens the tummy and gives the booty a lift.

More from Good Housekeeping:

Fit Back into Your Skinny Jeans in 4 Easy Steps

The Best Jeans for Your Body Type

12 Painless Ways to Cut 100 Calories (And See Real Results)