How to find the right denim (and having the confidence to buy online)
Whether you prefer a ‘mom’ style, straight-leg, slim-fit or high-rise jean, we’ve put together your guide to finding the most flattering style from the best environmentally conscious brands. If you read our recent founders’ story article, you’ll already know that both Emma and I see our jeans as the most important piece in our wardrobe - or the ‘unicorn’ as we call them. They’re a wardrobe building block that makes getting dressed easy.
Hannah (L) wears: JBrand 1212 Runway Highrise Slim Straight jeans. Nagnata singlet. Emma (R) wears: JBrand 1219 Runway Highrise Flared Jeans. Paris Georgia Linen Shoulder Top.
Unfortunately, jeans are well-known for their negative environmental impact. In fact, 5678 litres of water is necessary to grow the half kilo of cotton needed to produce just one single pair of jeans, according to Sustainability in Denim. The good news? There are denim brands focused on reducing their environmental impact. And we’ve scoured the globe to bring you (in our opinion) some of the best: meet Boyish, Outland Denim, RE/Done, Viktoria and Woods, and J-Brand.
Why do I need a pair of jeans? If I had to pick just one reason: they’re convenient, versatile, and go with everything. (Yes, I know that was technically three). Pre-COVID, Emma and I used to travel often so jeans were always the first thing in our suitcases - a great staple for mixing and matching. Nowadays, we’re mixing up our days in sweats with our denim and a tee. The most important thing about jeans is they fit properly. So you can slip them on and instantly feel great. And when you feel great in them, you’ll want to wear them rather than leaving them hanging lonely in your wardrobe.
Myth: Go with what’s trending.
Busted. Trends aren’t made to be automatically followed - a rule to remember for all clothing. ‘Mom’ jeans (high-waisted rigid jeans) have been the ‘it’ jean for a while now, replacing the stretchy skinny leg that long reigned at number one.
Em wears: Jac+Jack white tee and Victoria and Woods Joplin Jeans.
If you don’t feel good in the ‘Mom’ jeans then forget about them. There will always be the ‘it’ style, but jeans are a staple and any cut, style, and wash is always going to look great if you feel great in them. Tip: for those skinny leg denim lovers…word on the street is they are on their way back up to the top! Jeans can be one of the hardest items to shop for, never mind trying to do it online. So a little education helps. Key things you need to consider are the style, fabrication, and the wash - and a good returns policy if you are shopping online.
Step 1: Style and fabrication.
Start here. Waistband: Mid to high waist tends to suit most body shapes and a bit of stretch can make them more comfortable. Then go here. The leg: the straight, skinny, wide leg, flare, crop, distressed, mom leg. It’s all personal preference but my tip is: work out your core jean before you buy a ‘trend’ piece.
Fleur wears: Bassike Boxy Gathered Top, Boyish Billy Jeans, The Row Leather Slingback Sandal.
Tip: Your core jean will be the hardest working denim in your wardrobe, and I recommend either the skinny or straight. (Being mindful that you can always alter the leg to suit you).
Fabrication wise, rigid jeans without stretch tend to wear better. The denim looks better with age and holes don’t appear in the corners of the pockets like they might with a stretchy jean. I do love rigid jeans with 1% or no elastane as they hold you in but there are most certainly days (and at least once a month!) when stretchy denim is called for.
Let’s talk about styling specifics. If you want to wear a t-shirt or singlet tucked in (or a hoodie) I recommend rigid mid or high waist jeans with a straight or ‘Mom’ style leg. For this look I love the Boyish Billy as I am wearing here (above) or the RE/DONE High Rise Vintage Levis. If you are wearing a shirt or chunky knit, go for a pair of stretch slim leg jeans, or straight leg with a heel. For this look, try J-Brand’s Alana Cropped Jean. Cream-colored jeans are also having a big moment. If you’re thinking of investing in some, I love Outland’s Siena or Viktoria and Woods Dylan Jean teamed with tonal colours for a 2020 vibe.
Tip: If you’re going tonal don’t shy away from pairing light and dark shades or different textures together.
Emma wears: JBrand 1219 Runway Highrise Flared Jeans.
Then there’s the flare. A returning trend on the rise but getting the colour and fit right is necessary. J-Brand’s 1219 Runway Flare, as seen on Em (above), will be the jean of spring/summer. But be careful if you are short; once you take them up, you might lose some of the flare. Try cropped flares instead.
Step 2: Wash and detailing
If you only had one pair of jeans, mid blue with a slight wash through is the best and most versatile. A wash through the thigh can make you look slimmer, especially with a slim leg style. A jean with no wash is better for a rigid wide leg style. Wondering why I haven’t mentioned black jeans yet? They are a great staple but not my personal go-to. When choosing black invest in a better quality brand, such as the new J-Brand Sophia Mid-Rise skinny Jean so the black doesn’t turn grey after a few washes. Black are great especially for work and to dress up – they also look great casually. But when it comes to wearing prints with black jeans, a print with black in it will look much better.
Rips. Let’s talk about them. Often met with the common comment, ‘Did you walk into a barbed wire fence?’ – my father-in-law enjoys that one! We’re split on rips. I love them and feel they give a rock star edge to my outfit. My go-to is the J-Brand Tate Boy Fit.
Emma wear vintage Levis. Essen Elevated Essential heals Second hand Chanel WOC
Emma, on the other hand, doesn’t own a single pair of ripped jeans. She is drawn to the straight leg and rigid ‘Mom’ style without rips or very subtle distressing for a more classic look, such as the Viktoria and Woods Joplin Jean or RE/Done Levis. Tip: You can cut the bottoms off for a raw hem look but keep the legs of the denim nice and clean, as Em has done here (above). Again, worry less about trends and focus on what you feel good in. Confidence radiates when you do – and you look even better.
Some things to remember when buying online.
- Different brands and different styles vary.
- The waistband is the most important part of the jeans when it comes to working out if they fit. The waistband won’t stretch or loosen up like the rest of the jeans will.
- Take the time to read each description. Note what size the model is and what size they are wearing, the rise and length, the fabric composition, zoom in to see the wash. Sometimes it may state that the specific styles run big or small. Take note. Also, if there is a video - watch it.
Note: When I buy a rigid jean with no stretch I am usually a 27 (AU Size 10) but if the jean has elastane I opt for the 26 (AUS Size 9). I go smaller in a high rise because of where the waistband sits. If it’s a lower rise on the hips then they might not do up!