What to look for when you’re buying jeans
It’s another denim try-on today, this time I’m working with John Lewis & Partners, looking at their And/Or range which is good because last time I did this, I found the jeans that have been my go-to pair for the last two years. When I asked in the reader survey which looks were most relevant to your lifestyle, smart casual (jeans with a blazer) and relaxed casual (jeans with trainers) scored 82% and 77% respectively so I’m going to feature denim quite regularly this year. Of course jeans are an important part of almost everyone’s wardrobe but finding good ones is hard work so before I start I’m going to run through what to look for when you’re buying jeans .
Denim trends 2020
The high fashion look for jeans this year is the barrel shape which is difficult to wear if you have hips – although more flattering flares appeared on the catwalks too. The easy for everyone trend that has settled is the straight-leg and classic styles remain as the skinny or the bootcut.
I have two pairs of jeans that I wear a lot. The first are skinnies paired with a big jumper and boots for relaxed casual. The others are cropped straight legs that I wear with ankle boots and a blouse or neater fit cashmere jumper for smart casual. It’s taken me years to work out what suits me and so here are what I believe to be the most important pointers.
What to look for when you’re buying jeans – top tips
- First of all consider your body shape, skinny jeans don’t work for everyone and if you have hips, you’ll probably find that straight are the best balance between fit and trend.
- Think about the heft of the fabric – I like my jeans to have weight so I look for a thicker denim with just enough stretch to help them recover their shape after wear.
- Decide on the wash that works best with the rest of your wardrobe. I prefer a darker denim because it works well with the navy and bright colours that I have, paler denim however trendy just jars.
- What about the finish? I don’t like rips or frayed patches but I do hunt for slight shading down the length of the femur because it slims my thighs.
- Don’t forget to check your rear view – pocket placement makes a big difference. I know that big behinds are sought after these days but I prefer to minimise mine so I look for rear pockets that start at the point where the cheek and the thigh meet. I also like them to be quite big and wide set.
- Look at the yoke too (the panel of fabric between the waistband and the pockets) to check that it’s cut in a soft V shape. This enables it to sit flat against the back before the buttocks rise out which again makes the rear view less ample – see below (And/Or jeans – all have a good yoke placement)
- Don’t forget that good denim with a low elastane content will give with wear. If in doubt size down so that after a few wears you have jeans that mould to your contours perfectly.
- Lastly think about length, for me jeans that are cropped to an inch above my ankle bones are the most flattering – and they work with most shoes, boots and trainers. I prefer not to roll them and so I have them altered by a dressmaker or dry cleaner.
And/Or jeans from John Lewis & Partners
What’s new for 2020?
The core of John Lewis & Partners’ jeans collection sits under the And/Or umbrella. The in-house design team works with LA based denim expert Caroline Calvin to develop each style, making sure that the cuts are flattering and the washes are of the moment. Before bringing this season’s collection to market, they invested heavily at the back end to improve sustainability. All of the jeans this year are made from a blend of:
- Organic cotton – avoiding the release of harmful chemicals as the cotton is grown
- Recycled polyester – diverting bottles and other plastics from landfill
- Lycra – not in itself supergreen but a small amount is used to ensure that jeans recover their shape after wearing which means they last far longer
Once the jeans have been produced, they’re measured using Jeanologia software which gives them an environmental impact rating. It scores each pair according to the quantity of water, electricity and chemicals used to make them. Most of the And/Or range are low impact although some with extra finishing such as fading score as medium and you can find each pair’s rating on a swing tag.
It made sense to do a try-on and put the range to the test. I must just point out though that jeans look best when modelled by a column figure with boyish hips. Putting them on a size 12 body like mine which can only be said to have childbearing hips (thank goodness given that my boys were all 9lbs plus) isn’t showing them to their best advantage… but it’s real. And just for kicks I’m going to do that soul crushing exercise of including the model shot first and then showing you the jeans on me.
Skinny jeans (also available in khaki or black)
To recap, skinny jeans are no longer on trend but in this generation of user driven imagery, women have refused to let them go and so they’ve been declared a classic. They look best on women with long legs and slim thighs, neither of which I have however I still wear them and these are good. I love dark denim washes like this but if they don’t have subtle shading they can make your thighs appear to be even more generous. You can just about see the shading on the front of these, it isn’t extreme, just enough to balance your contours.
The denim is mid-weight so it feels substantial. It’s a blend of 89% organic cotton, 9% recycled polyester and 2% elastane which means they shouldn’t go baggy. I was sent a 28 inch to try although I’d usually wear a 29 and I’d say they’re true to size. The Jeanologia sustainability rating categorises them as low impact.
The jumper is from JL&P too, picking up on the trend for homespun knits. It’s supersoft but it does have 30% alpaca wool in the blend so if you have very sensitive skin you might find it itchy. Rosie’s back in this shot as you can see, I’m not sure what she’s thinking though.
Skinny jeans (also available in khaki or black); chunky roll neck jumper
Straight leg jeans 1
Sierra jeans (also available in grey)
The Sierra jeans are one of the new styles for SS20. As you can see they’re cropped with a raw hem which makes them great for summer, they came up shorter on me than the model and in my view they’re cut too high for wearing with ankle boots. They’re a close fit through the thigh, straightening below the knee so that they sit away from the calf which is flattering. I can imagine wearing these a lot in summer with t-shirts, the dark denim is a great alternative to the ubiquitous pale summer washes and they’d work well with flats.
They’re the same composition as the last pair and they have a Low Impact sustainability rating. I’m wearing a 28 inch waist and they’re true to size.
The denim shirt is also from And/Or, wearing double denim like this is a key look for SS20. I requested a size 10 because I could see it was a very loose fit and there’s still too much fabric in the body for my liking but if you like something less skimming than I do, it’s great quality.
Sierra jeans (also available in grey); Denim shirt
Straight leg jeans 2
Silverlake jeans (also available in black)
Now these Silverlake jeans have been one of my two go-to pairs for the last three years. I discovered them when countless readers got in touch to say how brilliant they were. They’ve always received five star reviews online and so I was horrified when they were discontinued last autumn. However the customer has won and they’re back for SS20.
Why do I love them so much? I just find they fit me really well and the shading at the front of the thigh works magic. I’ve found the pair that I already have to be generous and they then stretched too so they’re now more of a boyfriend jean on me than a straight leg. I requested a sample size 28 inch to try this time and they fit well. As with my others, I’d have them cropped to an inch above the ankle bone because that’s where my breakpoint lies but I still rate them as the most flattering jeans I’ve ever tried.
In terms of fabric, they’re slightly different to the others – they have an extra 0.5% elastane and they’re classed as medium impact sustainability wise because of the extra fading. However mine are still going strong after 3 years of almost constant wear so the longevity should balance that out.
The blouse by the way is from Jigsaw at JL&P, it’s my favourite style of blouse and the colours are particularly good for wearing with denim.
Silverlake jeans (also available in black); floral blouse
Straight leg jeans 3
Catalina jeans (also available in ecru)
These jeans are new to the collection this season and they sit in the heritage camp because they’re made from a stiffer denim with only 1% elastane. They have slight distressing on the back pockets which is something I don’t particularly like but it’s a personal thing. I was sent a 30″ waist to try and as they have less stretch, I think you perhaps do need to size up slightly on these. Because of the stiffer denim and slight tapering, they work better than others with a roll at the hem, even so, I didn’t feel they did me any favours. I think you need a straighter figure to pull these off. They score as low impact on the Jeanologia environmental rating.
The soft velour sweatshirt is also from JL&P, it’s an easy piece to relax in at the weekends and I was pleased to see that it is velour at the back too – these pieces so often have a plain back.
Catalina jeans (also available in ecru); relaxed velour sweatshirt
Bootcut jeans (also available in black)
And the last pair I decided to try were the mini-bootcuts, purely because a few of you said they were hard to find after my last denim post. I haven’t worn bootcut jeans for a long time but these are quite unusual. They don’t have the usual 5 pocket denim styling or a stitched seam down the outside of the leg. The weave is very smooth with a slight sheen, the end result is that they feel smarter than denim and if you’re someone who’s looking for a bootcut to wear for work, they’d be a good choice.
I was sent a size 30″ waist and they’re a bit big, I’d go for a 28 if was ordering them myself. They’re the same composition as the other jeans with 2% elastane and they have a low impact Jeanologia rating.
Bootcut jeans (also available in black); floral blouse
I find that doing a try-on like this and taking quick shots as you go along is a really good way to see yourself objectively when you’re buying jeans. Looking through these photos, I still think the Silverlakes are still my favourites but I really like the Sierra jeans too. They both have the slight width at the hem that balances my hips, the bootcut would do the same but I prefer to wear them cropped so straight legs are a better solution for my body.
What to look for when you’re buying jeans – still not sure?
If you still can’t work out which ones will suit you best, there are free styling appointments with no obligation to buy at John Lewis & Partners. They’re called ‘The Perfect Pair Of Jeans‘ and the styling team will assess your shape and help you to find the fit, wash and rise that is right for you. That’s probably a good thing because they stock over 500 styles of jeans in store (interestingly Levi’s 721 To The Nine are JL&Ps bestsellers). In addition to their own ranges and Levi’s they stock high street retailers along with designer brands such as Paige and J Brand.
A £30 giftcard for you
There’s a reward offer on at JL&P at the moment – if you spend over £200 across fashion and beauty before 4th March you’ll be able to claim a £30 gift card to spend when the summer drops arrive between 4th May and 1st June. You need to be a MyJohnLewis member but you can join after making your purchase. All of the details are here if you’d like to know more.
So I hope that’s helped on the topic of what to look for when you’re buying jeans. It’s crazy that finding a good pair can be so difficult but it’s worth the search because they pull your whole wardrobe together. I’m heading off to London tomorrow so I probably won’t manage a post on Friday but I do just want to say thank you for all of your amazing comments and emails over the weekend – some of the things you said brought tears to my eyes. I will get back to you and I really do appreciate it.
Disclosure: ‘What to look for when you’re buying jeans’ was commissioned by John Lewis & partners but I had full control of the content.
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