The average woman’s size in America is a 12/14. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a statistics class, but I’m pretty sure that indicates that around half of the female population is above that mark. So it only makes sense that with every denim post that I’ve written, I’ve gotten hundreds of emails and comments requesting tips on how to find great jeans for those in plus sizes.
Sadly enough, most denim designers blatantly ignore any semblance of fashion in plus sizes. The pocket placement is typically wrong, the styles are insultingly dated, the material is often cheap.
So I set out on a two month research journey with the help of four fabulous volunteers. We visited half a dozen stores and used my own denim stash, tried on every pair of jeans in every store, and photographed them all. I spent approximately 30 hours gathering, analyzing, and summarizing our findings.
We discovered that it may take some digging and a lot of dressing room action, but there are a few good pairs to be found. My hope is that this project will help many women feel great relief that their problem may be their jeans, not their body.
Here’s a sample of our results, with more details to follow:
Subject A is a size 18. She is petite, and expressed to me that “If I found jeans that fit, I was thankful for that and bought them. I never even looked at the back, because I didn’t really think I had earned a good-looking butt.” I am happy to say that she now feels differently:
Subject B is a size 24/26. She shared with me that she struggles to find jeans that look right because she carries a lot of “junk in the trunk.” By finding the right fit, we visually shrank her booty by at least three sizes:
Subject C is a size 12/14 who thought she was a 16. Her problem area is her belly, and so she would size up to fit it, and her tiny legs and butt would completely disappear. By finding the right kind of jeans, we rediscovered and flaunted her adorable legs and butt, without making her stomach uncomfortable:
(I realize that not everyone likes prominent stitching on the pockets. We will discuss that later in the post.)
Subject D is a size 16/18. She struggled to find jeans that fit her correctly, as they all had too much room in areas where she didn’t need extra room. She could pull handfuls of extra fabric in the crotch, but would find her jeans uncomfortable in other areas. She, too, found choices for comfortable, properly fit jeans:
The following are the points that we discovered. Although every body is different, you should be able to use these guidelines to find the perfect jean for you.
1. Pocket Placement.
This is easily the biggest issue with all jeans, and the problem is only magnified in the plus-sized jean world. It is critical to the health of all jeans.
Here are the keys to proper pocket placement:
a. Proportionally sized pockets
b. Correctly Placed Pockets – covering the bottom curvature of the butt
c. Width between pockets – minimize as much as possible.
Proportionally sized pockets are a must – if you have a larger butt, you need larger pockets achieve butt balance. If you have a smaller butt, you need smaller pockets to prevent butt flattening.
Basically, you want the pocket to properly cover your butt, but not overcover your butt.
Your pockets should come down an inch or two PAST the bottom curvature of your butt to prevent Long Butt, cover to the sides of your butt to prevent Elbow Butt, and have as little room as possible between the pockets to prevent Wide Butt.
The left pair in this photo doesn’t cover enough of the sides or middle,
the left pair in this photo doesn’t cover enough of the top or bottom,
and the left pair in this photo is just all-around too small.
As already stated, pockets should never end before the bottom curvature of your butt.
If they do, they will make your butt look wider, longer, bigger, and older.
(Also, try to find pockets that are completely vertical, not curving out to the sides, which also creates Elbow Butt.)
Although you need to check your full-butt visual (which is hard to do without a camera or a trusted friend), checking from the side can also help:
And finally, minimize the width between your pockets to have the smallest, most streamlined butt footprint (buttprint?)
The exception to this rule is if you have a very small butt. A wide pocket, even paired with non-centered stitching, can assist in making your butt look more curvy.
So let’s talk about stitching.
On my last post, I got questioned many times about the use of stitching on pockets. Many people feel that stitching is a young look, or a cheap look, or a trend they simply don’t prefer.
(In fairness, there were many more people who loved the stitching.)
The popularity of stitching varies with geographical location, and it is completely a matter of taste.
If you don’t like stitching, don’t do it.
I’m not here to push a fashion choice or to share what is “on trend” – my goal is to show the most flattering fits, and stitching can be very flattering. It can break up space, add visual interest, and actually minimize butts.
However, excessive fading and distressing combined with pocket stitching can be too much. Don’t buy jeans that make you look like you’ve been through a garbage disposal and back out the other side.
Pocket flaps were something that several of my models were skeptical of, simply because they were afraid that they would add bulk.
The pocket flap does not add bulk, but when done correctly, offers proper and nice curves.
Look for flaps that have a modern, pointed flap, and never, ever, EVER have a flap without a pocket.
2. Leg Width.
Many people assume that the bigger the leg opening, the smaller the body will appear. This is definitely not the case. Although I hardly ever recommend a stick-to-your-ankle skinny jean for anyone, a narrower leg tends to slim, where a bulky leg can weigh you down and shorten your legs.
Also, it should be noted that the term “Skinny Jean” has come encompass a vast range of leg opening widths, from a jegging that clings to every curve and dimple, to what used to be called a straight cut or barely boot.
I adore the Barely Boot version of Skinny, so even though in stores it’s called a skinny, for the purposes of differentiation, we’re going to refer to it as a Barely Boot.
Subject D shows the typical Bootcut/Flare as compared to a Barely Boot,
And Subject A shows the narrowing effect of the Barely Boot as compared to the Trouser Jean.
(Forgive the ridiculous length on the trouser. We were so exhausted by the time we got to that store that we didn’t even bother hiking it up. But trust me: narrower is better, whether your jeans have a Princess-Wedding-Length Train or not.)
(Extra Note: Be willing to get jeans hemmed. Lengths are rarely perfect off the rack, it usually costs $10 or less, and it is totally worth it to get great jeans.)
If you carry your weight almost entirely in your stomach, and therefore always find your jeans ridiculously too large on your butt and your legs, go for an all out Skinny Jean – because skinny jeans tend to have a stretchier waist, allowing you to size down to fit your legs.
Note: The unattractive upside-down triangle effect that skinny jeans can sometimes create is caused by hip width, not stomach width. Skinny jeans minimize stomachs, but maximize hips. See this post for more illustrations.
3. Fabric Color and Fading
As a rule, darker jeans are almost always more flattering.
They minimize, streamline, and cover over a multitude of cellulite.
However, this is just a rule. If a light pair happens to look really good, go with it.
Also, don’t be afraid of color. I personally was very frightened by it for a long time, but have recently come around. And my models agreed: color was fun, surprisingly flattering, and added a lot of character to their outfits.
(I’m still scared of prints, though. Check back with me next year.)
Fading is a tricky art, because it can either be slimming OR widening. As a rule, when in the front, you want it to leave some darkness on each side of your leg, thereby adding contour.
In the back, avoid the below-the-pocket fade, unless it is very subtle.
Jeans should be fitted but not clinging. I use the back of the thigh and the butt to determine all good fits.
Don’t have a saggy butt, but definitely don’t have The Upside-Down Heart Crack Cling.
Make sure that your thighs are fitted to the point that the denim wrinkles finely and horizontally, but are not so tight that your leg is squishing out from between the wrinkles.
And finally, I urge you to find an honest friend to shop with you. Because you literally cannot see all of your own butt. Trust me: I almost broke my ankle trying to see mine last week.
If you can’t find an honest friend to shop with, then take cell phone pictures of your butt and text or email them to an honest friend. If you can’t find an honest friend to accept your butt texts, then feel free to email your butt to me (graspingforobjectivity at gmail dot com) – I get several butts a day in my inbox and don’t mind adding yours to the stack.
Remember: you can’t see all of your own butt, and if you buy based on what you can see, you’ll end up with something like this:
The right jeans can be a miracle for your body. So take notes, find a friend, and go shopping to discover a better butt!
Appendix: Frequently Asked Questions.
Where can I find the jeans pictured in this post?
I do not recommend buying jeans online without first trying them on, but for reference, here were the jeans that looked best on some or all of the models:
- Code Denim Skinny (Barely Boot) Dark Washes – Available through Vault Denim, Normally $80, sale price of $19.95 (These have unfortunately been discontinued since the writing of this post, but some are still around.)
- Silver Suki Surplus, Available at Maurices, $90; Amazon, $95; Torrid, $95
- Emerson Edwards with pocket Dark Washes, Available through Vault Denim, Normally $92, sale price of $27.50
- Torrid Isabella Bootleg (also referred to as Source of Wisdom Slim Boot), Available at Torrid, $58.50; Amazon, $58.50
- Emerson Edwards Colored Jeans Available through Vault Denim, Normally $92, Sale price of $27.50
- Torrid Sophia Skinny, Available at Torrid, $58.50; Amazon, $58.50
- Miss Chic and LA Idol Jeans, Available through Vault Denim, $50 – 70
Surely the before and after photos aren’t the same model. Some of their shirts are even different!
All photo pairings are of the same woman, even if the shirt colors aren’t the same. Because of the time commitment needed, we conducted our research over several weeks.
I noticed that you are a Vault Denim rep. Did you just write this post to sell jeans?
Nope. I was a blogger first, and have been writing posts about how to find great jeans for years. I became affiliated with Vault last year because I needed easier access to great denim to help people that wanted my consultation – and their prices are up to half off retail prices (Updated To Note: I am no longer affiliated with Vault Denim.) I often recommend other brands (as can be seen in this post), and I give away almost all of my referrals to other reps across the country because I highly discourage buying without trying on, and unfortunately, not everyone lives in Alabama.
My goal is to help women achieve better looking butts and better self-images in the process, whatever that takes.
I am a total jerk and left a comment saying cruel things about your models, but now my comment isn’t showing up. What happened to it?
The purpose of this post is to help plus-sized women find great jeans. My models were brave, enduring, open, and infinitely helpful in helping me understand their needs. Feel free to disagree with my conclusions or even mock me if you feel the need, but please do not insult my models. Any degrading comments will be deleted.
Why do you show so many butt views and so few front views?
For one, butts have always been my specialty. Also, I focus more on the rear views of jeans because we all tend to focus on the front of pants because that’s what we can easily see. My assumption is that you know what to look for in the front, therefore, I tend to guide on the areas to which most may not pay as careful attention.
I’m your friend and I’m Plus-Sized. Why didn’t you ask me to be a model?
I didn’t ask anyone – I only took volunteers. It would only be completely awkward to walk up to you and say, “Hey – you’re plus sized!! Can I photograph your butt a few thousand times?”
How do you feel about Gap and Old Navy Jeans?
You can read my thoughts here.
What did you do while your models were trying on jeans?
Stooped to photograph their butts so much that my legs ached for days, ran back and forth getting new sizes and styles, and allowed them to pile their discarded jeans upon my lap so that I could make copious notes about each pair.
How can I get a private denim fitting with you?
Come to Birmingham, Alabama. But email first – I don’t prefer stalkers.
What if I’m not Plus-Sized? And/Or where can I find your other posts?
If you’re afraid you might have Long Butt, click here.
If you’re over 50 years old, click here.
If you want more specific tips and tricks to pick out the perfect jeans, click here.
If you are wearing Gap or Old Navy jeans, click here.
If you want a list of every post I’ve ever written about denim, click here.
You didn’t answer my question. Now what?
Leave it below in the comments! If you ask a question, I will answer within a few days.