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Tim Gunn’s Most Flattering Jeans for Every Body

womaninjeans_400Do your jeans fit as well as they could? Here’s the style that works best on curvy women, and which style tends to be universally slimming. Plus, the most versatile wash of jeans. From Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible.

Will it surprise you to know that I’m a fan of low-rise jeans? I am, and for a very particular reason. In 2007, I hosted a Liz Claiborne Denim Bus Tour across the nation, and I had a blast. Our purpose was to put before women everywhere a newly engineered series of jeans designs. And in my 4,500-mile experience, we found at least one pair of flattering jeans for every single woman. But it wasn’t easy. The bus contained a communal space with mirrors and two private dressing rooms. We would begin our events outside the bus, usually at a tented location in the parking lot of a shopping mall, and present models of varying sizes—real-world sizes, mind you—in the various styles of denim. Then we worked one-on-one with women who stood in line, sometimes for hours, to have a style recommended for them and be fitted. When presented with a woman whose hips were appreciably wider than her waist (a frequent and not at all objectionable condition), I would always suggest a low-rise style. The response I received was universal: “No!”

“Why the objection?” I would ask.

“Just b-b-b-because . . . I can’t!” the woman would invariably stammer.

But I had come around to the wisdom of the low-rise jean, and here’s why: if you try to fit your slimmer waist, then the jeans won’t fit your hips. If you try to fit your hips, then there will be too much fabric around your waist, the consequence being that you’ll look sloppy. If we concentrate on fitting your hips only, which is what a low-rise jean is designed to do, then the jean will fit you perfectly.

I always added that I had no intention of letting anyone expose a muffin top or, worse, back cleavage; her top should cover the waistband of the jeans. Accordingly, she and I would be the only two people who would know that the jeans were low-rise. Everyone else would simply exclaim, “How fabulous you look in those jeans! Where did you get them?”

In my experience fitting women for jeans, the most flattering shape for the leg is usually one that falls straight from the widest part of the hip, with no flare and no taper. Owing to when I grew up, I associate bell-bottoms with hippies, so I generally advise against them unless you are, in fact, a hippie. Hipsters these days tend to wear skinny jeans exclusively. If you have the figure for a skinny jean, by all means do it! Regrettably, there are a lot of men and women walking around in skinny jeans that look like jeggings. And as far as I’m concerned, there is no place in this world for a jegging.

Straight-leg jeans tend to be the most slimming. Boot cut really seems to me like a euphemism for “wide leg,” because a straight-leg jean can accommodate a boot just as well. And, of course, with a skinny jean you just put the boot on over the jeans.


When it comes to the wash of the jean, I’ve noticed that acid is back. I’m not a fan of that, or of destroyed or artificially distressed jeans. It seems like fashion victimhood to buy pre-ripped or frayed jeans. If you want that worn-in look, you can go to a vintage store and find jeans someone else has beaten up! Generally speaking, the darker the wash, the more versatile it will be in your wardrobe, because the darker it is, the more appropriate it is for nighttime. Of course, jeans are still not appropriate for the Oscars. I’m talking to you, John Travolta! Can you believe he wore jeans (paired with a tuxedo jacket) to the 2010 Oscars? I couldn’t. He would have been better off in a white leisure suit.


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