Never tried *nice* jeans? It’s time. But, first, let me answer all your deepest questions

  1. Everyone needs a good pair of jeans.
  2. Once you try a good pair, it’s hard to go back.
  3.  There are dozens of brands of good jeans, and each brand has many styles and fits.
  4. Not every pair will fit you best. In fact, most won’t.

So, you’ve never shopped for good jeans. Or, maybe, you have but you were so lost and overwhelmed by the prospect you either gave up, or grabbed any old pair of, likely, expensive jeans and figured they’d fit.

Well, friends, it’s time for a brief lesson in jeans shopping, and the lessons start with the four points above. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already convinced of number 1, and I’m certain you’ll agree with number 2, after you’ve worn your first jeans. It’s time to focus on numbers 3 and 4. They’ll the motivation you’ll need to bring with you when you jeans-shop tomorrow.

all of your jeans shopping questions are answered here. read this before you shop

Where will you shop?

I almost always recommend that Nordstrom is your first (and only) stop. Their selection is impeccable. They have nearly every brand of high-quality jeans, their departments are always on-trend, their staff is knowledgeable, helpful and can be opinionated. Plus they offer free tailoring for items bought in the store (which, you’ll read below) is a huge benefit.

Sadly, not everyone can just jump in a car and drive to a nearby Nordstrom, so I’ve also found Anthropologie to have a nice selection of jeans as well as Bloomingdales. (Fashion Friday co-hostess Jo-Lynne says she prefers shopping at Bloomingdales over Nordstrom.) Many cities and towns have boutiques with good selections, so it’s really helpful to ask around. If you’re in Philadelphia, a friend recommends Charlie’s Jeans, if you’re in West Chester, PA, I’m a fan of Blink. Not sure where to shop in your town? Find the trendiest friend, ask on Facebook, or search Yelp for “best place to buy jeans in [your city name]” then look at the results and consider the boutiques before the mall-stores.

If you’re shopping at a boutique, call ahead an make an appointment. Explain to the sales associate that you’d like to spend some time trying on all different brands and styles because you’re looking for the best jeans for your body. If you’re at a good boutique, she’ll ask your size and if you’re looking for a particular cut (answer: no, you have no idea yet, you want to try all the options). When you get there, she’ll have jeans ready for you.

If you’re shopping at Nordstrom, there’s no need to call ahead to shop, but don’t forget that Nordstrom employs Personal Stylists whose entire job is helping you find the right clothes for you. These ladies (and gentlemen) know bodies, they know fits and comfort and brands. So, if you’re comfortable, call ahead and schedule an appointment. You will especially want to do this if you’re shopping alone. (Note that there is no charge to work with a personal stylist at Nordstrom. They do sell Personal Stylist Gift Cards on their website, but the gift cards are for your purchase.)

Bring a friend and your smartphone camera, and plan to make a new friend

The best advice I can offer is to bring a very good, very honest friend. My husband is an awesome, somewhat patient shopper so I can get away with bringing him (though, 9 times out of 10 he’ll wander into the men’s section and I’ll have to find him an hour later trying on jeans in his department.) If your husband/boyfriend/significant other/partner is patient and has a sense of style, you can definitely bring him. But he can’t be the type who just says “yeah. That looks good on you because it’s you.” You’ll need to make an honesty agreement with him first.

Otherwise, bring a trustworthy best friend. My sister is my go-to jeans-bestie because she knows all about good jeans and if it doesn’t look good, you better bet she’ll tell everyone in the store. (She’s worked years in retail, including at Anthropologie, so she knows a thing or two about jeans shopping.)

If you’ve run through all of your friends and can’t think of anyone to bring with you, do yourself a big favor and schedule an appointment. I promise promise promise you, you’ll need a second opinion because no matter how great the mirror angles are, you can’t ever get a good view of your own butt in jeans.

And be friendly in the fitting room. Usually, there’s more than one customer trying on jeans in the room. If something looks great, tell her! That’s, like, the best compliment ever. And chances are you’ll start discussing jeans and get a better idea of what you prefer.

Now, about the camera. Yes, it is totally acceptable to take pictures and to ask someone else to take pictures of you in the dressing room. Just don’t take a picture of anyone else! Any time you like a pair of jeans – and that means you like both the comfort and the style – have 4 pictures taken: front, side, back and the tags. You’ll need this later when you’re making your decisions about which pair is your favorite. You’ll also need this in 4 weeks when you decide you’re ready to purchase a second pair. And if your go-to-jeans-bestie isn’t able to shop with you, you can bet she’s totally waiting by her phone for you to send “what do you think?” pictures before your buy. Don’t insult her — send the pictures! (For what it’s worth, my husband and sister both expect pictures when they can’t meet me at the mall.)

What to wear

It’s kind of funny to consider what you’ll be wearing when you’re trying clothes, but it’s also important. Wear a top that you love and you’ll want to keep wearing with your new jeans. Alternatively, grab a top or two while in the store to try on with the jeans.

Wear comfortable pants. I really can’t stand going shopping when it’s going to be difficult to take my clothes on and off. It’s an intimidating job, so make it easier on yourself.

Wear thin socks. I know socks see like a no-brainer, but many stores have sample shoes to try on your clothes with at varying heel heights, so wearing thin socks is really helpful.

Finally, bring (or wear) the shoes you’re most likely to wear with your jeans. (I like wearing a low-pump shoe because it’s middle-range.) When it’s time to get your jeans altered, you’ll want to wear the right shoes, so that the jeans fit you at the right spot later. There are definitely several pairs of shoes and boots that I like to wear my jeans with, so wearing a mid-range heel makes your new jean length the most versatile.

Try on the jeans

The Try-On is a big step. It’s not just about trying on jeans. It’s about moving in them. If, in the fitting room, you like the initial fit and feel, step out of the tiny room and into an area where you can move around. Stand in front of a big mirror, move around, try on with different shoes. I like to walk up and down the aisle in the fitting room at Nordstrom but if I’m in a boutique, I’ll walk around the store. After walking, sit down. Sit in both a chair and on the floor. Check how the jeans move with you and how they adjust to your new position. These things really matter.

You want to do this for two prime reasons:

  1. You’ll feel the comfort of the seams. Different jeans have different placement of the seams, and they’re finished an sewn differently. As you move, the seams will shift. They need to be just as comfortable on you when you’re standing as when you’re sitting.
  2. Most jeans stretch. You probably already know that your jeans will shrink when you wash them and then, hopefully, stretch back to the right size after you’ve worn them for a bit. But they also have stretch in them (some more than others) so that just by trying them on, you’ll notice they move with your body. Make sure they don’t stretch too much as you move from standing to sitting. You don’t want them to be over-stretched when you stand back up again.

For some women and men, everything will be perfect about the fit, except for the waist. If that’s the case, you can have the waist taken in during alterations so don’t let that be a reason not to buy your favorite jeans.

Don’t worry about the length, if you’re a shorty like me

Most women’s jeans take into account  your waist and hips, but length is something of little importance to jeans designers. That’s why a size 27 jeans will fit a woman who is 5’2″ and a woman who is 5’10”. Jeans are created to fit women of nearly any height, because jeans can always be hemmed.

This is why I love buying my jeans at Nordstrom. As a shorty, I always need my jeans hemmed, and purchases made at Nordstrom include free tailoring. Once you’ve decided on your jeans, your sales associate will call a tailor who will meet you in your dressing room and fit the jeans (or any other purchase) to your size. (Bonus! If you buy at Hautelook or Nordstrom Rack with a Nordstrom credit card, you can bring your purchase to Nordstrom with your receipt and receive free tailoring up to a certain amount per month, depending on your card level. You can also get your purchases tailored at Nordstrom Rack, for a fee. Or at your regular tailor.) The free alterations on Nordstrom purchases are the number one reason I prefer shopping at Nordstrom.

Also, keep in mind the current jean styles. Some seasons you may want to roll your jeans, other seasons wearing your jeans in a capri style will be desired. You can definitely discuss this with our tailor. But make sure you explain that this is your first pair. Most likely, you’ll want to go with a traditional hem. Here are some great tips for jeans alterations. (Note that in this article, she recommends washing your jeans before getting them altered. If you have the time, this is a great idea. And you can bring your jeans and receipt back to the store for alterations later.) 

But they’re so expensive

True! After spending years buying less expensive jeans that looked okay in the morning, but hung off my hips by mid day, or frayed where I didn’t want them to, or itched in places it’s not cool to itch, I gave in and spent more money. I now have jeans that will last far longer than a season and they look good and keep looking good.

But. It is expensive to buy good jeans and you’re probably going to want more than one pair. Remember how I mentioned that you’ll want to take a picture of the tag when you’re in the dressing room? After selecting your favorite jeans (and it may be more than one pair), delete all the extra pictures, but hold on to the information about your favorite jeans. You’ll need the brand, name, and size.

Websites like Hautelook, Gilt Group and Rue La La offer discounts on brand jeans on a fairly regular basis. I keep an eye out for my favorite brands (AG, Page Denim and Lucky Brand) and, when the sites are hosting Flash Sales, I know the style name and size that works best for me so I can snatch up a second or third pair.


mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2015, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

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