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The Ultimate Guide to Skinny Jeans

September 30, 2018

By:

Erin Schrader

It’s a topic I feel strongly about these days – how to know and style jeans that fit well. We all know that denim can be one of our most frustrating purchases. Will they be too tight? Too long? What if they aren’t stretchy enough? Is breaking the bank for an expensive pair of denim worth it? Will they look good on my booty? What happens when you were them once and then they stretch out like crazy? And the list goes on.

I’ve never been a jean snob nor really gave much thought to length, comfort, and overall fit as I have always been more concerned about two things – price and price. It wasn’t until the past couple of years or so when I started to find myself frustrated on how to actually wear the jeans I owned. Most of which were way too long, baggy in the places you didn’t want them to be baggy and the only thing I wanted to wear were tall boots to cover the awkward “do I roll these up? do I roll them under? do I go naked and just forget about jeans altogether??!” And don’t even get me started on the option of getting them shortened or hemmed. Oh hail no, ain’t nobody got time for that. Because hemming hasn’t been an ideal option for me, I’ve had to really look at what makes up a great pair of jeans for me and my body type.

As I have gotten a little older, wiser and comfortable with what I feel and look good in, I’ve discovered some tips that have helped me buy the best jeans that fit perfectly, that I know how to style every time and that still fit within my budget. Today we’re going to unravel all of those things and turn your denim drama into denim delight. If you have followed me for any length of time, you have heard me talk [and talk] about how strongly I feel about American Eagle JeansWe will get into why below, but first things first, right now you can take 25% off your AE Purchase at AE.com w/code HECKYES [valid now thru 10/1]! 
Let’s start with the most important in my opinion – size and fit. It makes sense that you first must know your size before dialing in your perfect pair of jeans. When shopping online for jeans especially from a retailer you haven’t tried before, I’d always recommend starting with two or three sizes [your regular size, one larger and one smaller]. Once you can dial in your exact size for a brand of denim that you are going to be purchasing regularly, it will take much of the guesswork out immediately. Thankfully, American Eagle often offers free shipping and returns on jeans to ensure you get the perfect fit. American Eagle jeans hold their shape, don’t stretch out, are super comfortable and I love that they come in a variety of lengths [more on this in a minute]. So many readers have purchased these and swear by them as well. I find their jeans to run true to size the majority of the time, but do recommend sizing up if you go between sizes. There are a few styles of skinny jeans to choose from – jeggings or skinny. Here is the difference – jeggings are going to fit tighter all the way down the leg to the ankle while skinny jeans are tighter in the thigh area but have a little more room from the knee through the ankle. Last thing on fit and we will move on – rise. When purchasing skinny jeans you will options: high rise [above the belly button], mid-rise [right at or a little below the belly button] and low rise [below belly button]. I personally prefer high rise because it keeps everything in and comfortable.

Additionally, start paying attention to the inseam when shopping for jeans. This has been the MOST helpful thing to me in the denim department over the past couple of years. I especially love American Eagle jeans for this reason. They offer x-short, short, regular, long, and x-long on nearly every style of denim that they offer. This literally means that there is a length for everybody [without having to hem anything]! By knowing your inseam, it is going to take the guesswork completely out of how you have to style them every time you go to wear them [which will save you much time and headache]. Your inseam is going to be different from mine, even though we may be the same height. It all has to do with the length of your legs and believe me, owning jeans that are way out of whack lengthwise will deter you from ever wearing them or feeling confident and comfortable in when you do wear them. Here is how you can figure out your preferred inseam:

1. Get out your favorite pair of jeans that you own lengthwise and lay them out flat. If you don’t own a pair of jeans that you feel hit you in the perfect spot [I’d recommend right above the ankle when talking about skinny jeans] fold them up to the preferred spot.

2. Measure from the bottom of the crotch seam down to the ankle seam.

3. This number is your preferred inseam!

When shopping online, you should be able to locate the inseam on the website. At American Eagle you can find the inseams by clicking on the size chart right above where you would select your size. To help you out, just note that their inseams run as follows: X-Short [25 inches], Short [27 inches], Regular [29 inches], Long [31 inches] and X-Long [33 inches]. Start checking this number every time you are buying jeans to know if these will be a good option for you or not.
Things to think about when it comes to inseam and length when it comes to skinny jeans – you will most likely want to own jeans with different inseams. Currently, my favorite length of jeans are those with an inseam of 26-27 which hit above the ankle [for reference I am 5’4 and have average length legs – short in AE is my preferred length]. I have found these to be the easiest pairs of jeans for me to wear as I can easily wear them with flats, heels, wedges, athletic shoes and ankle booties. While I love a rolled up look, I love not having to touch a thing even more. Because of this, I try to locate jeans that have ankle jeans in the title or that come in “short”.  Here’s a great example of different ways that ankle jeans can be worn.
Here’s a difference to show you – as you can see from above, no touching of the denim was needed when purchasing in my preferred inseam length. Now I’ll show you what it looks like if I were to disregard inseam and purchase in regular length.

And that my friends, is what we’re trying to avoid. Fortunately, not all hope is lost if this happens to you. There are ways to polish up the look or at least make you feel like you don’t have a cat hugging your ankle all day. So what do you do if you already own jeans that are a little too long yet you don’t want to have them shortened by a seamstress? Easy! You have two options – either cuff them up or roll them under. Two years ago I rolled everything under. These days I gravitate towards rolling them up if need be. This is going to be a personal preference – if you prefer a cleaner look I would suggest folding under. When doing this try to keep the height right around your ankle bone as that is typically the most flattering point for your jeans to hit. Also, be sure to of course make sure they are lined up evenly. I typically sit on the ground and put both legs out flat next to each other to compare the length and make sure they are even. Here’s an example of jeans that I rolled under to keep a cleaner look.

If you would like a little edgier look or the inside of your jeans have a seam worth showing off [this is something you should be mindful of when deciding between rolling up or folding under]. When deciding what you want your jeans to look like cuffed up, you have a couple of options – you can either keep to smaller rolls or folds [when doing this I typically roll twice] or do just one large cuff. Boyfriend or straight leg jeans are definitely more conducive to smaller cuffs while skinny jeans can typically look great with one larger cuff. Here are some examples of what I mean – the first photo will show one larger cuff while the second photo shows two smaller cuffs. 
One thing to note when cuffing – one large cuff can make your legs appear shorter. If you are trying to elongate the legs, I would stick with smaller cuffs.

Here are a few tips for selecting your style and fit based on your body shape:

+ Regardless of your shape, the stretchier the denim typically the more flattering. These are my favorite pair of denim that have a nice stretch but don’t stretch out.
+ Pockets flatter your booty. The larger they are, typically the more flattering they can be.
+ If you have shorter legs, try flared legs as they can elongate your legs – especially when paired with heels. Another popular style for petite people to wear is cropped jeans.
+ If you are curvy, gravitate more towards a high rise jean. If you are more straight and narrow, stick to a mid or low rise jean. You may also want to consider looking for a more straight leg jean the curvier you are.
Moving on – denim wash. This will also be a personal preference, however, I would recommend darker washes for figure-flattering purposes. Lighter washes typically look a little edgier to me while darker washes have a more classic refined look. I would recommend having medium to dark washes for the majority of your jeans [I think you will find these are most versatile], one or two pair of a light wash jean, one or two pair of black denim as it’s a staple all winter long and one or two pairs of white jeans that will last all spring and summer long. One thing you may want to avoid is an overly blue denim wash. The bluer the wash the harder it is to pair with tops. At least that’s been my discovery.
Phew – there we have it friends. Any questions drop them below in the comments or ask em’ over on my Facebook page. I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have! Cheers to our legs [and booties] lookin’ good ladies! Remember to check out American Eagle for all of your denim needs. I don’t think you will be disappointed! Don’t forget to use code HECKYES to take 25% off your purchase at AE.com, through 10/1!
For your pinning pleasure —

Disclosure: Thank you to American Eagle for partnering on today’s post.

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  1. Laura says:

    I love America Eagle jeans! I shopped there for 20 years and they have been current with classic styles that fit every body shape. I have 4 pairs of their jeans and always ask for gift cards for Christmas for them. They do hold their shape and I’ve worn both cuffed and incuffed style depending on my shoe choice. And they are priced for REAL people!! And run awesome sales regularly.

  2. Paula says:

    I bought two pairs of AE jeans, based on your suggestion a month or so back. I love them. Never thought of buying jeans there ( based on my age) but love the fit. Thanks for the tip.

  3. I’ve gotten away from AE jeans because I envisioned them as a more junior’s fit. I love seeing that it’s a good rise and a great fit. And YAY on the length! I’m in the opposite end of the boat: I don’t necessarily want to wear every pant as a crop or capri, but if it doesn’t come in lengths, it’s a “where’s the flood” look for me. Super pumped to hear about the free shipping/returns on jeans. Love trying on things in my own home. Thanks, Erin!

    • Lisa Stoelb says:

      You will love them. I have the same problem you have and always resorted to tall boots so nobody could see the floods. I purchase the X-Long and have to cuff them slightly. I do have one pair of just longs that I just bought. They hit me just at the ankle so I can’t wait to wear with booties when the weather cools down. For reference – I am about 5’9” or 5’10” with really long legs.

  4. Allison says:

    Looking forward to trying these jeans. Do you find them TTS? I’m debating between a 2 or a 4.

    • erin says:

      Yes, TTS! I wear a 2 here, 26 at some other retailers. Hope that helps a bit and hope you LOVE them!! xo

  5. Denise says:

    Hmmmm . . . gave up on AE a long time ago because I could not find a pair that fit and did not leave a big gap at the waist in the back (I’ve had a J Lo butt since before she was born). Should I go back and try?

    • erin says:

      Hi Denise! I might suggest trying a lower/mid rise jegging! The stretch in the jeggings really conforms to your shape, and a lower rise will help with the gap issue! We truly LOVE AE denim, so I think it might be worth a try. They’re the only brand I wear!! -Claire

  6. Sherry says:

    Hello. How do you deal with the smell of AE jeans? I’ve put in the freezer. I’ve washed multiple times and they still stink like formaldehyde.

    • Steph Dekker says:

      Yikes! I haven’t had that issue with AE Jeggings, but I have had it before with other denim. Unfortunately I don’t have any tips on that but I know exactly what you’re talking about. So weird!

  7. Debbie says:

    Love the shirt. Looks different on their site. Is your picture more the color. Love the color you have but there’s looked different.

    • erin says:

      The lighting in our photo makes it appear a bit different, but it’s the Orange color on the AE website! I would say their site is true to color!

  8. Kathy says:

    Thank you for posting about American eagle jeans.. I went in skeptical (because of my age and I hate shopping for jeans) I now own 4 awesome
    pairs!! Any general tips on what tips go well with jeggings for someone over 40.???
    Thanks!

  9. Patricia says:

    Thank you so much for your fashion insightfulness! ????????

  10. Lauren says:

    Like another comment, based on my age (40) and inseam/height(6ft), I struggled w the right jean. Love my AE jeans, thanks you! BUT is anyone else struggling w the smell of jeans?! No matter what store I’ve bought or ordered, if it has stretch to them…they wreak! I am so embrrassed. Even after a wash…any thoughts?!

    • Steph Dekker says:

      Oh no! I’ve never had this with AE, but have with other brands! So weird when that happens!

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