A Guide To Buying Denim – My Favorite Styles

Inspired by this denim buying guide from Anna at The Anna Edit, I want to share my own version of a denim buying guide and my denim favorites. I’ve also got a request to film my denim collection, so that is in my to-do list for sure! But for now, I hope that this blog post will help some of you out on your denim journey!

First, jot down keywords and any denim-related concerns. Just like any brainstorming process, good ideas start within – start from what YOU want and like first. This will help to narrow down your list and filter out any unwanted things in your denim search. Then ask yourself these questions before you start shopping:

  1. BUDGET: How much money are you willing to spend on a pair of denim? To me, I’d rather spend $240 on a pair of denim that I’ll get more cost per wear out of four pairs of $60 denim. My expensive denim is more precious because I’ve spent more money on them (hope that makes sense!)
  2. STYLE: Do you have a style preference? Have you seen them on somebody on the internet? Any pictures for reference? Style icons? Do you know the brand? Style name? Wash color? What other features or qualities that they have?
  3. COMFORT: Do you care about the comfort level or not much? Are you looking for jeans that look great to go out with or lounge around all day? How about jeans that feel as good as they look?
  4. DENIM PREFERENCE & YOUR CURRENT NEED: What is your lifestyle? Active? Office-dressy? Does it work for your current needs? What is your wardrobe lacking, denim-wise? Are you looking to upgrade your jeans or you’ve just not found any good ones yet?

Know that there are a lot of options out there, and you will find something that works for YOU as long as you put in an effort to look. Be patient!

Everlane cheeky straight jeans in washed black, regular length, size 24 – size down!

MY DENIM BUYING GUIDE

  1. STYLE: The fit will determine how you look and feel.
    • Slim: Slim fit jeans should hug the thighs, knees, calves while slightly tapered around the ankles. They are flattering, modern, and crisp. Guys should go for slim, not skinny!
    • Skinny: Skinny jeans are universally flattering on all body types. Everyone should at least have a pair of black skinny jeans as they’re easy to tuck inside boots and look good with any types of tops!
    • Relaxed, loose, and oversized: All this just means the jeans fit loosely all throughout, and there’s a fine line between ill-fitting vs. a good relaxed, loose, oversized fit!
    • Boyfriend: Looser fit at the waist and legs with a drop-crotch. This fit flatters athletic body type. They look my legs look super short, so I tend to stay away from these!
    • Sizing: petite, regular, or tall, plus size or curvy, maternity
    • Other fits: legging, girlfriend, mom, dad, 90s or vintage, wedgie, cigarette,
  2. LEGS:
    • Cropped vs. ankled: Properly cropped jeans should hit just at the ankle otherwise they will make you look super short.
    • Straight leg: pretty trendy these recent years! But they truly flatter lots of body types! My two most favorites are straight leg jeans, surprise surprise!
    • Flared, wide-leg vs. bootcut: This generally means the legs’ opening is
    • Kick crop: cropped length with a slight flared, usually a raw hem
  3. RISE:
    • low-rise: fit lower on the waist about 2”
    • mid-rise: fit just right below the waist, the most universally flattering classic rise, and tummy-friendly
    • high-rise: fit at the waist, covering the belly button – the most figure-hugging and giving an illusion of longer legs
  4. HEM FINISH:
    • Raw or cut-off hem: simply cut by a pair of scissors
    • Stepped hem: ripped distressed hem that looks like someone has stepped on them! 🙂
    • Regular vs. original & cuffed hem (read #9 on tailoring)
    • Stitching: Same thread stitching that matches the color of the jeans or classic golden yellow which I’d prefer more on jeans.
  5. FABRIC:
    • non-stretch: 100% cotton, higher cotton content means better quality denim
    • elastane percentage for stretch: I’d say 5% is max because it is the reason why your jeans will bag out and lose its shape over time.
    • sculpting technology
  6. WEIGHT:
    • Light: loosely woven, stretch out the most
    • Medium
    • Heavy
  7. WASH:
    • Classic medium: blue inky jeans
    • Vintage: This is something you’d find at a thrift store if you’re lucky. A pair of vintage wash denim has the slightly faded look at the seams, softer, effortless and well-loved look. It’s a pre-distressed look that lots of brands do these days, so they’re not too hard to find!
    • Dark: darky inky wash with slight variegated shading on the thighs and knees
    • Raw/selvage: Untreated dry original virgin denim that is often rigid and rough to the touch. Raw jeans take forever to break in but once they do, they’re unique to the owner.
    • Black and white: black dyed or bleached white denim
    • Acid-washed
  8. CLOSURE:
    • zipper: Clean lay but easily broken, especially on low-quality jeans.
    • button fly: widely used before the zipper was invented. I personally prefer buttons over zipper just cause!
  9. TRY ON AS MANY PAIRS AS POSSIBLE:
    • The sit test: try sitting up and down, make sure you can comfortably do so otherwise size up!
    • The 3 finger test: try sliding 3 fingers through the waistband because that’s the indication that the waist is not too tight nor too loose on you.
    • Waistband: Fit starts at the waist, and you should be able to wear your denim without the help of a belt.
    • experiment with new styles: don’t be afraid to pick out other styles available in the stores while you’re at it. Be open-minded because you’ll never know!
  10. TAILORING: A good tailor can be able to tell and fit YOU in your jeans properly and comfortably. You might learn something or be surprised as to how good fitting jeans can make you look and feel.
    • take in at the waist, fix a broken zipper, taper the legs, and patch up a hole
    • hem your jeans: regular hem (cheaper, the hem is cut off, folded and sewn with flatter hem with obvious sign of being altered) vs. original hem (my preferred method, costs more but this will keep the original fading/ripped/textured hem)
    • cuffing: some jeans are made with longe leg length with decorated inseam stitching so that you could cuff them. I’d prefer to only fold the hem up once or twice to avoid excess fabric hanging. Your tailor can be able to put in a few stitches on the side seams to keep the cuff stay put permanently, too. You can certainly DIY this at home as well!
GRLFRND Karolina High Waist in Sixpence – size 25

THE ICONIC LEVI’S 501: The straight-cut medium-rise 501s have a long history. They were popular among the gold rush miners in the 1800’s. They’re 9-oz blue high-quality sturdy denim with the iconic two-horse patch, rivets, a cinched waist, brace buttons (aka button fly created before the invention of the zipper), and a single back pocket with Levi’s signature “Arcuate” stitching” – read more here and here

POPULAR DENIM BRANDS: (* denotes my personal favorite brand – it’s either a good place to start with consistent quality and lots of options!)

  • Everlane*
  • Topshop*
  • Madewell*
  • Weekday
  • ASOS Design
  • Zara
  • American Eagle
  • & Other Stories
  • Levi’s
  • Gap
  • Old Navy
  • Urban Outfitters: BDG, Urban Renewal
  • Reformation
  • Jcrew
  • Aritiza: Denim Forum, Wilfred Free, Sunday Best
  • Agolde*
  • GRLFRND*
  • RE/DONE – rework vintage Levi’s – $200+
  • J Brand
  • Citizen of Humanity
  • AG Adriano Goldschmied
  • Paige
  • Frame
  • Current/Elliot
  • Acne
  • Toteme
  • Ksubi
  • A.P.C
  • Anine Bing
  • Lemaire

RETAILERS THAT CARRY THESE JEANS:

AGOLDE Riley in Zephyr – size 24 (size down!)

Now that I have tried bought many but loved a few, I know exactly what MY favorite denim is: high-waisted, non-stretch 100% cotton, light or medium wash, medium weight denim with minimal rips and button fly. I am 5ft5 and wear 25 jeans with a 30” inseam.

With my measurements and all denim infor I needed to know, I can easily filter my denim search at any retailers online. I’d prefer trying on a few styles of jeans in store unless there is a specific trend of denim that I am after. For example, these criss-cross Agolde pairs that I have seen all over the place on Instagram, but I won’t be purchasing them because they are trendy.

My Favorite Styles of Denim (I’m 5ft5, wear 25 in jeans, and have slightly thicker thighs, flatter butt, and hip bone):

1. AGOLDE Riley High Rise Straight Crop in Zephyr

These are my most worn pair of denim this year for sure! Found them early this summer at the Aritzia store in Bellevue Square, WA! They didn’t have my size 25, so I just grabbed these in 24 and a few other styles nearby without any high hope. I love them right at the moment when I put my legs in. Is that weird? They were definitely a bit tight and difficult to sit in until now, but I love the fit and the wash so much!

2. GRLFRND Karolina High Rise Skinny in Sixpence

These GRLFRND Karolina in Sixpence are THE MOST EXPENSIVE PAIR OF DENIM that I have to date. They’re about $250, eek! but they are the definition of good quality denim. Even though they’re claimed as skinny, they are actually not! I love the raw hem which make it easier to roll them up once or twice depending on what boots I wear with. The denim fabric is really thick yet stretchy, and they’ve stretched out a little bit but still very comfortable on. I wish I got these in 24, really!

I later bought another Karolina pair at REVOLVE in Bay Blue on final sale for $170, and they weren’t the same. The fabric is not as thick, and they’re quite tight on. The light wash and ripping definitely make them summer pair!

Bay Blues

3. EVERLANE Cheeky Straight in Regular Length

These high rise cheeky straight are my most favorite denim fit on me at Everlane. I love them more than the high rise skinny because they are just a lot more comfortable on. They come in Ankle, Regular, and Tall length and 7 different color washes. I have two pairs: Washed Black and Bone. I got both in size 24 instead of 25, my normal size.

4. High Rise Skinny Jeans – my favorites!

Everyone should have at least a pair of black skinny jeans in their wardrobe. Then consider a white pair, gray pair, and a colored pair if you fancy!

I love TOPSHOP JONI jeans for years and years! They are almost identical to the Easy jeans at American Apparel, anyone remembers? Super comfortable, stretchy, and versatile. For the price, I think they are great high street version. I usually throw them in the wash with my normal clothes and ruined a few, but with minimal washing frequency in cold water, they will last you a long time.

EVERLANE SKINNY is great quality for the price as well. I have a full blog post reviewing them, here.

Everlane high rise skinny – size 25 in Mid blue
Topshop Joni – size 25 in Black

Up at this point, I’ve become weirdly picky when it comes to buying anything clothing-related and even with shoes. I can go on and recommend you get all of the denim that I have, but to be honest with you, the journey to the most perfect pair of denim is really PERSONAL. It’s taken me years of shopping to get to this point where I know what I like and look good on me!

Don’t just spend your hard-earn money on something your favorite blogger recommends. Sometimes even in photos, I can clearly tell that the jeans are very ill-fitting on them, but they won’t keep talking about how good they are. Kinda annoying, but yeah! I hope this post is helpful to some of you! Definitely comment below with any questions you have! I’ve tried to include as much information as I can, hence the super long post, but it will always be here for you go back and read on later! Thanks for reading!

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READ OTHER SHOPPING GUIDES:

My Ultimate Goodwill Outlet Thrift Guide

20 Wardrobe Essentials Everyone Should Own

50 Practical & Easy Ways to Live a Low Waste Lifestyle

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An Trieu

Currently based in Seattle, Style & Senses is my digital life and style journal of all things that inspire my senses and beyond. Hope you stay inspired, as always! - An Trieu.

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