It can be argued that for off-the-rack, mass produced garments, the process of finding a good fitting piece of clothing is more complicated for women than men. After all, it is easier to fit straight lines and angles than curves and women’s figures are more variable than men’s figures.
Some types of jeans for women can flatter some body shapes better than others. See recommendations for each body shape: hourglass body shape, pear shaped body, rectangle body shape, inverted triangle body shape, oval/ apple shaped body , diamond shaped body. Also see what the best types of jean are for each vertical body type (balanced, short legs and long torso, long legs and short torso) and for petite, tall and plus-size women.
Like the paint on an artist’s palette that shapes and colors canvas, the clothing we wear can ‘sculpt’ the shape of our body and evoke the look and statement that we want our outfit to convey. Jean washes, distressing and embellishments are elements on the design palette. These design elements along with the basic types of jeans for women described here, can be used too make any body shape look good in jeans.
Content: Types of Jeans for Women
Jeans can be cut to be tighter or looser in the hip and thigh, sit higher, mid-way or lower on your waist or hips and the leg shape of the jean can vary from hugging the shape of your leg to being a loose sheath. The leg shape of jeans can narrow toward the ankle, be straight or flare from a point on the leg. These variations along with elements such as jeans back pocket design, different types of denim washes and finishes and different shades of denim, determine the best types of jeans for women according to body type.
What are bootcut jeans? The bootcut jeans style is cut slimmer in the hips and thighs. This type of jean widens a little below the knee (to accommodate boots) and then flares a bit more at the hem.
Bootcut jeans are especially flattering on curvy women.
To create curves, petite women should opt for bootcut jeans over flared jeans because the slight flare of the bootcut style is more proportional for a small frame.
Bootcut jeans are a great choice for women with narrow hips to create curves. Narrow hips are characteristic of slim, rectangle body shapes and the inverted triangle body shape. It’s all about a balanced look. Wider flares will look out of proportion for narrow hips.
Flared type of jeans are similar to bootcut jeans in that they are fitted at the hips and thigh but there is a greater flare from the knee. The degree of this flare varies in this jean style so you can go for something subtle in a narrower flare that is slightly wider than a bootcut jean or a more dramatic look in a wide flare jean.
Flare denim dimensions can vary vertically as well as horizontally. Cropped jeans come in flared styles as well as straight and tapered leg styles. Crop flare denim can range from narrow cropped kick flare jeans to wide flare leg cropped jeans.
(There are no hard and fast rules or a standard definition stating what is bootcut and what is a ‘narrow flare jean’ and there is some overlap. Different brands will use flare or bootcut as a description for a jean with a narrow flare but the leg flare isn’t dramatic or very wide in either case.)
Flared leg jeans flatter curvy women with bigger bottoms as it balances proportions and creates an hourglass shape.
If you have very wide hips, avoid very wide flares as this will make your legs appear shorter.
Tall and lean women have the frame to pull off a range of widths in flared jeans – from narrow widths to bell bottoms.
Wide Leg and Trouser Jeans
Wide Leg Jeans
Unlike the bootcut style and flared jeans which are fitted through the thigh and flare out below the knee, wide-leg jeans are cut looser through the thigh and can widens as they go from the knee to the hem. The cut varies from a straighter cut to a more flared leg. These are a loose and comfortable jean that has great styling options.
Trouser jeans are usually a dressier wide leg jean. They often resemble non-denim pants in that they may lack many features of standard jeans such as a five pocket design or flat-felled seams with contrasting stitching. These jeans are sometimes made to resemble dressier pants by having slash pockets and finer details. However, the looks of trouser jeans can vary from a more typical jeans appearance to a more dress pant appearance depending on how uniform in color, how dark the fabric and whether there are more refined details on the pockets and waist. (Some brands will describe what are essentially wide-leg jeans which have typical features of jeans as trouser jeans)
Trouser jeans are a flattering jean fit for most body types. This is because the straight line created by the loose silhouette that falls from the hip to the foot streamlines and lengthens the figure. However, different body types can look better in some hem widths than others. (See specific info on wide leg/trouser jeans for these body types: petite, apple shape, diamond shape and pear shape)
These are three examples of trouser jeans which illustrate the variation in back pocket detail – slit pockets, standard back pockets and no back pockets. (The first jean’s back view has been lightened to better see the pocket detail – you can click on the picture and then click the photo again on the image page for a larger image)
- If you are petite, a trouser jean with a narrower hem won’t swallow your shorter frame.
- If you have a petite plus-size figure, a medium width hem flatters your figure best.
Straight and Tapered
A straight cut jean is cut straight from the hip and thigh to the hem. Sometimes the leg can have a slight taper. The fit is relaxed through the hip and thigh – somewhere between the more snug skinny jeans and the looser fitting boyfriend jean.
- Straight fit jeans are great for elongating your legs and for when you want an alternative to skinny jeans.
- For the apple shaped body type, straight leg jeans are a great alternative to skinny jeans or tapered jeans. (Skinny jeans and tapered jeans emphasize the large bust and/or wide shoulders of the top heavy apple figure.)
- For women with muscular thighs, straight leg jeans can have a “skinny” look and approximate the fit of cigarette jeans. The straight-leg jeans fit is tighter around muscular thighs and fit a bit looser around the calves.
Boyfriend style (looser fit)
Boyfriend jeans are cut straight in the hip and thigh and have a loose, baggy cut that sits low on the hips. Many brands label jeans as boyfriend style that aren’t quite as loosely cut. These jeans are more fitted in the hips than relaxed cut boyfriend jeans but still cut looser in the hips and legs than most straight or tapered jeans. (Strictly speaking, these can be described as slim boyfriend jeans)
- Those who have proportional figures and have a mid-range weight can wear the looser cut boyfriend jeans the easiest. If you have large hips/bottom and thighs the baggy fit may add unwanted bulk.
- If you are a very thin rectangle body shape or petite the volume of fabric will overwhelm your frame. For these figures, slim cut boyfriend jeans or girlfriend jeans are more flattering.
Girlfriend Jeans, Slim Boyfriend Jeans
Slim boyfriend style jeans and girlfriend jeans are a slimmed down version of the classic boyfriend jean. Still cut straight in the hips and thighs but not so baggy that they sit as low on the hip. From the pictures below, you can see that the slim fit boyfriend jeans are only slightly bulkier than the girlfriend jeans.
girlfriend jeans vs. Slim Fit boyfriend jeans
- For petite frames, slim cut boyfriend or girlfriend jeans won’t overwhelm a petite frame like the baggier standard boyfriend jean will.
- The slim boyfriend jean/ girlfriend jean are the best boyfriend styles for full bottomed, very curvy women (very curvy pear shaped and apple shaped body types) and plus-size body types. This closer fitting version of the baggier boyfriend jean won’t add unwanted bulk.
Tapered Style Jeans
Tapered Leg Jeans
Tapered jeans like straight-leg jeans have a relaxed fit through the hips but tapered-leg jeans gradually narrow towards the ankle. There is a great deal of artistic license when manufacturers categorize their jeans and tapered and mom-fit jeans have commonalities. So, what are tapered jeans?
Both jean styles have tapered legs but mom jeans are defined as high rise/high waist and general tapered jeans can also be mid-rise ( or lower). Classic mom jeans are defined as made from rigid, 100% cotton denim while modern mom jeans or jeans labeled as only tapered leg in the description can be made of denim with some stretch. Classic mom jeans have a looser fit in the zipper area but modern mom-fit jeans often are more fitted which further blurs distinction from jeans which brands would describe as ‘mom jeans’. For practical purposes it is sometimes a distinction without a difference. Even if the word ‘mom jean’ isn’t in the description for a pair of jeans – a high-waist, looser fit, tapered-leg jean is a ‘mom-fit’ jean by definition.
The following jeans all are described as having a tapered leg by the brand but each has variations in cut and style. Lee Relaxed Fit Side-Elastic Jeans have more volume in the hip, thigh and leg than the Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda Classic Tapered Jeans
The Diamond Gusset Stretch Denim Tapered Leg Jean is more fitted through the hip and thigh which gives it a fit between a relaxed tapered fit and a skinny fit.
- Like the mom jeans style, tapered jeans are difficult for some figures because the taper in the leg will make your legs look narrow and make your hips and bottom look wider.
- Jeans with a tapered leg are best suited for those with proportional hips.
- However, if you have are slender and have narrow hips (inverted triangle shape) the tapered leg will make your hips appear wider and balance your hip width with your top half.
Mom jeans typically are made of rigid denim, have tapered legs and are high-rise/high-waisted and loosely fitted in the zipper and crotch area which can make your bottom appear longer and flatter. The classic mom jeans from the 1980’s and early 1990’s was usually made from a solid color light wash blue denim and without finishing such as fading.
However, the revival of this jeans style can include modern design elements. You can find modern mom jeans that have the vintage look described above or ‘mom jeans’ with an updated look that have different washes and distressing and are more fitted. These jeans were described as ‘mom jeans’ in the title or description.
- Of all the types of jeans for women, mom jeans can be the most challenging for most figures. Those with figures that are slim or mid-range (average weight and proportional) the reboot of this 80’s/early 90’s style of jean can be another trend to play around with for a different look in their denim wardrobe.
- This can be challenging jean to style because the taper in the leg and the high waist and loose fit can emphasize a pear shape and elongate your backside. A go-to option that’s easier for most figures is the boyfriend jean – either the looser fit version or the slimmed down boyfriend jean / girlfriend jean.
The Skinny on the “Skinnies” jeggings, Skinny, cigarette and pencil jeans
types of skinny jeans
The advances in stretch denim fabrics have made skinny style jeans wearable for all figures and for many has been a favorite among the types of jeans for women.
Skinny Jeans, Pencil Jeans
Skinny jeans have a snug fit through the hip, thigh and all the way to the hem. The silhouette narrows from the hip to the ankle. Skinny jeans are usually made with denim that has a bit of stretch which makes them hug your figure all the more. This same jeans style can is also called a pencil jean.
- Skinny jeans are especially flattering for hourglass figures, petite women or any body type that has slim legs.
- For women who have a muscular, athletic figure, fit and toned legs can look great in a skinny jean or cigarette jean.
Cigarette jeans are essentially skinny jeans with a slightly wider leg opening. With skinny jeans, the silhouette narrows from the hip towards the ankle but cigarette jeans hug the hip and thigh and then are cut straighter from the knee to the hem.
Cigarette and skinny jean
- Slim legs or fit and toned legs can look great in a cigarette jean.
- A great alternative to skinny jeans, especially when wearing cigarette jeans with a longer inseam over a heel. The slightly wider leg opening allows the hem to cover much of your shoe – this will elongate your legs and is especially effective when the cigarette jeans are worn with heels.
Jeggings are leggings made from a light-weight stretchy fabric. These can be made of stretchy fabric made to look like denim or a light-weight denim with more stretch than skinny jeans. Jeggings are less structured than skinny jeans and have a skin-tight fit.
- Jeggings are great for all body types in that they are form-fitting. They can be great worn with a loose top that ends below the hip to hide any figure flaws or to be a bit more modest.
A little off the bottom
Cropped, capri and cuffed jeans
Cropped Jeans, Capri Jeans, Cuffed Jeans
Cropped and capri jeans are shorter than full length jeans. The only difference between cropped and capri jeans is where they end on the leg. There can be some overlap and where capri and cropped jeans fall on your leg depends on your leg length (short legs/long legs). Generally, capri jeans are considered shorter than cropped jeans
Capri vs Crop
Cropped jeans can end somewhere below mid-calf to the ankle. Jeans that end at the ankle are sometimes called ‘ankle jeans’. The silhouette can vary from figure hugging to a looser more relaxed fit to a flared or wide leg.
Capri jeans, the shorter of the two, generally fall around mid-calf or higher.
Cuffed and Rolled Hem Jeans
Cuffed jeans have the hem turned up to expose the underside of the denim material. Cuffed jeans can be bought pre-cuffed or the wearer simply turns up the hem on non-cuffed jeans. The width and length of the leg and the width of the cuff varies. Rolled hem jeans – just as the name implies – the hem is rolled multiple times instead of folded as in cuffed jeans. There are close fitting capri jeans that end at the knee and have a narrow cuff , wide leg jeans that skim the floor and have a wide cuff and all variations in between.
What is the rise on jeans? The measurement on jeans is the measurement from the waist band to the crotch seam. Just as definitions vary for the different types of jeans for women, so do the categorization of jeans rise. The rise measurement given on product pages for jeans is typically the front rise on jeans. Jeans that are a curvy fit usually have a longer rise in the back to accommodate curvier figures.
What is meant by low, mid or high rise can vary by brand. But the measurements fall within a general range. (Some brands just list the length of the rise and don’t categorize the jeans’ rise)
Another thing to consider is your body rise, the length from the leg-break/crotch to your natural waistline because this body measurement also varies from person to person. A person who has a short distance from leg-break to waist will fit a mid rise jean differently than a person with a longer such body measurement. The fit may be more like a high rise jean than the fit on the latter person.
**Keep in mind…
Where a jean will fall on your waistline can be influenced by different factors. How tight-fitting or relaxed the cut is, the length of your own unique body rise, whether you have a long torso or a short torso and the stretch of the denim will play into where jeans fall on your waist. And another thing - some rise measurements provided by brands are approximate. The variation is obvious in the pictures below. The rise measurements were provided by the retailers.
High-Rise/High-Waist & Super High-Rise/High-Waist
High-rise/high-waist fit is at or above the belly button and generally measures 9-10 inches. Super high-rise/high-waisted jeans (also called ultra high-rise) fit above the belly button and the front rise generally measures above10 inches.
- For those with a long torso and short legs, a high-rise jean will elongate your legs and make your torso appear more proportional.
- High-rise jeans lengthen your legs by elongating the line of the jeans- wear with pointy shoes or heels and have the hem skim the floor for extra elongation.
For mid-rise/mid-waist/medium rise, the fit is between the hip and the belly button. Generally measures 8 – 9 inches
- For women with a short body-rise / short torso, mid-rise, mid-waist or medium rise jeans may fit like high-rise jeans (high-rise jeans may fit too far above the natural waist).
- Mid-rise jeans that hit just below the belly button help control a tummy pooch/muffin top.
- A mid-rise jean where the waistband falls slightly above the widest part of your hips will make your hips appear slimmer.
For low-rise/low-waist, the fit is at or below the hip. Generally measures 7 – 8 inches
- For those with a short torso and longer legs, a low-rise jean will elongate your torso.
- For a slim rectangle body shape and a slender inverted triangle body shape – low-rise jeans that sit on the hip and have a wide waistband can make your narrow hips appear wider, thereby adding curves.
One more thing…
Jeans cut, style and finishes all contribute to the variety of looks available in jeans. This guide on the types of jeans for women, the articles on denim washes and treatments and how to look good in jeans can help you shop with confidence for your next pair of jeans. Now that you know the basic types of jeans for women you can pick the best style to suit your figure.