Jeans Fit Guide – Identifying Fit Issues

jeansfitguideI can’t believe I’m writing this post today – and putting so many pictures of ill fitting jeans on me out into cyberspace. My goal with this is to help show you how to identify some fit issues in jeans, and then later this month hopefully we can address those issues with alterations to patterns (and maybe even some existing jeans – I have one pair I’m going to try) so that you can hopefully find a pair that fits your unique body like a glove.

I also want to say upfront, that thanks to our media and culture I have my own body image hangups (as I’m sure you do too) and it’s kind of scary to put these out there, even though I know my size puts me on the smaller end of the size spectrum. I’m not as small as I was before kids, and things aren’t in the same places. And I think we all have some of those hangups. What I want to do here is to emphasize that we can all have clothes that fit OUR bodies, our beautiful bodies that have carried us through our lives and (if you’ve given birth) made whole other human beings and deserve all the respect and adoration those things bring. And I want to say that I know we as women are SO MUCH MORE than the bodies the world sees us in. But also, I think finding/making clothes that fit is one of the highest forms of respect I can show myself and my body.

So (deep breath) here I am in a bunch of  store bought jeans, each pair with fit issues that I’ll point out and like I said, issues I plan to address when I sew up my own jeans.

I’m starting with a few pairs I own. This is probably my favorite new pair, as the issues they have are fairly minor. Excuse the mug shot face; this was the last of 13 pairs I tried on for the camera.


These were my favorite jeans pre-baby. Now they are too tight through the hips, thighs and waist. But I can still button them! But remember, just because you CAN wear a pair of jeans doesn’t mean you SHOULD.


This is a pair of $2 jeans I got at the thrift store, and for $2 I think they’re pretty good. The pockets could be a little lower, and the seat is a little too tight, but otherwise this is a decent pair.


Coming in at slightly more expensive at $15 is this pair of H&M jeans I bought out of desperation. I can’t wear anything tucked into them and I have to wear a belt or constantly hike them up due to the too large waistband, but in a pinch and with a long shirt…


This pair I picked up not realizing the size recently, and they’re too big. Everywhere except the hips. I guess you could say I’m pear shaped because they fit there. But the thighs are a little loose and the waistband is waaaaay too big. I’m going to try altering these later this month and we’ll see if they can be salvaged.


Okay, onto the jeans from the store I tried on. First up a pair of Levi’s “Flatters and Flaunts” skinnys. These have an interesting two part yoke and nice pocket detailing, and I actually did like how they fit in the waist and most of the seat, but as you can see from the rear view we’ve got a rise not shaped for my booty and that is leading to wrinkling issues.


This is another pair that has me convinced that I need to photograph every pair of jeans before I buy them and pull the tags. From the front and even from what I could see of the side/rear in the mirror I liked these Calvin Kleins. But notice how the pockets being set wide makes my rear look wider and flatter? Yeah, couldn’t see that in the mirror.


On the other hand these Guess jeans were all wrong from the moment I stepped into them. The rise is too low for me, those pockets are unflattering and these are just generally bad.


Funny thing – these Guess jeans are the exact same size as the pair above, but made with a denim with a higher spandex content. Which leads to them being huuuuuge in the waist.


On to another pair – these are Inc “Curvy” Bootcut jeans. The Curvy part should help a lot with fit, right?

Wrong. Apparently I’m only curvy through the hip, not the thigh and what’s up with those super big pockets anyway? Plus why would the rise on a “curvy” jean not be longer? These were just bad.


Same rise problem with these Inc jeans – compounded by a too-large waistband and now a too narrow seat.


These Tommy Hilfiger jeans came the closest to being purchased and kept, but alas, the waist issue is still there.  The thigh wrinkling, however, is minimal, and so it looks like the seat is the right size.

And this is where I decided it was time to sew my own. Because if I can get a hip/seat that fits, the waist doesn’t, and if I get a waist that fits the hip doesn’t, and neither of those things is an easy alteration.


Another pair illustrating my point – the seat on these Two by Vince Camuto jeans actually fits. But the waist and the too loose thighs just make them look sad overall.


Now, I know I’m showing wrinkles below the seat on just about every pair of these jeans. And really, there should be a wrinkle below the rear when your jeans fit properly. Just not lots of them. And here’s how you can begin to tell the difference between the types of wrinkles.


It helps to look at whether the wrinkles are going into your body (something is too tight) or folding out (something is too loose). Also look at the shape of the wrinkles. Smile shaped ones often indicate a length issue somewhere – rise too short or even thigh too long. Wrinkles that point at a certain area are pointing at the area that needs more room.

Okay, hope this identification of jeans issues helps. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is one, then figuring out what it is. Later this month I’ll be covering how I altered a pattern to address my own fit issues on display here. But if you’re impatient, this tutorial is a start.

Want to see all the jeans posts we’ve done? Click on any picture to go to the post.

jeansfitguide-430x700 jeans sew a straight line-26 rub off pattern
make your muslin tips-sew-jeans jeans sew along cutting out sew a straight line
pockets flat felled seams sew a straight line jeans topstitching zipper fly side inseams jeans sew along sew a straight line
belt loops rivets and hemming jeans sew a straight line jeanschart-web

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  1. says

    Thanks for sharing! I now have the urge to go home and put on jeans, just to see whether they DO fit (as I believe them to) or whether there are problems I could fix!

  2. says

    Wow, seriously just schooled me in the fit of jeans and how I had no idea what to look for when buying a pair. I mean, you put on jeans and you know they don’t fit. Too tight or too loose, that’s about as far as I get in putting my finger on an issue. Maybe I’ll recognize the length is too short or long (oh how many times i’ve just folded them like I’m in first grade). But I really didn’t know much more and reading this post is a real eye-opener to why so many of my jeans just aren’t *right*. I agree melly, I’m tired of making due with simply OK jeans and ready to make my own. Granted I’m 30 months pregnant but I’m soaking in all of the knowledge and hoping I can make myself some jeans that boost my confidence after the baby comes. It’s those months right afterwards where your self esteem seems to be at it’s lowest when it comes to body issues and I want those months to feel GOOD. I want to go out and not cringe at finding an outfit. I’m in, let’s do this.


  3. says

    Amazing post. This is so informative and helpful, not just for jeans but pants fitting in general. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Kristie says

    Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait to see the rest of this series, as I have the hardest time finding pants that fit properly! You now make me want to take a camera/tripod to the store and take pictures when I am shopping! Thanks for all the tips.

  5. Christy Dixon says

    Thank you so much for this! Even just a place to start! My jeans are always so baggy in the crotch and legs if they fit in the waist. I try to get the stretch jeans but then the waist stretches out after an hour or so and I spend the day pulling them up! I have dreams of sewing them so they’ll fit properly but I’m scared to start. I don’t know why. I can’t make the problem any worse! I can’t wait for more on this topic! ! Thank you!

  6. says

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this info!! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for later today that links to your post:

    My hips and ample rear end are my areas that are hard to fit. By the time the jeans are big enough for the buttage, they’re too loose in the waist. I much prefer a denim that has no stretch to it. Stretch denim always looks good at the beginning, but give it a few hours and they’re all sad and saggy.


  7. Sue says

    Thank you so much for taking on this project. I know that RTW rarely fits properly and jeans/pants/trousers are
    the hardest.

  8. Laura J. says

    And people WONDER why we’re always in yoga pants! I mean, seriously, jean companies, get it together! Who on earth are you sewing for???

  9. Joy says

    Fabulous demonstration, thank you for your bravery! Of course, wearing a larger size than you, I am now a bit discouraged… If you can’t find a pair of decent-fitting jeans, what hope do the rest of us have! I am looking forward to your suggestions on how to improve an existing pair of jeans. I am forever looking at the ones I own and thinking I should rip out a few seams, but I am always afraid I’ll improve one area while causing unintended and unfortunate consequences elsewhere.

  10. says

    Thank you! Tackling jean alterations is so out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. This post is super helpful- even if I just want to buy in store. I’m really looking forward to following these posts!

  11. says

    Ha! You just made me try on all my jeans. LOL. None of them fit, since I still haven’t lost the last five pounds after baby #4. Maybe I need to make a pair instead of waiting to lose more weight. :)

  12. says

    I love how you broke this down! I think I can safely say that all of us have had these problems, but couldn’t really identify (as well as you did) what they were!
    You are awesome.

  13. says

    Huh. I had no idea why some of my jeans weren’t right – no one talks about this! Being pear shaped, I usually just find something that fits the rear and thighs, and then add a belt to the too big waist. The only jeans I’ve ever felt good in have been jeggings, so I guess that doesn’t count.
    Also, I want to take you jeans shopping now. maybe you can develop an app that will identify fit issues through pics so it’s like you’re there. it would make millions :)

  14. Amanda Bailey says

    Awesome, TY!

    Just wondering if you have any tips to handle a pulling across the Knee when someone sits down. All pants seem to do this to me any newer than 8 years ago. I was going to adjust pattern larger around knee area in width to give more room for the fabric to still breathe around the knee but wasn’t sure that’s the right direction to go.


  15. says

    WOW just looking at this brings back bad memories of trying on jeans! I haven’t worn a pair in over.. 4 years? I just gave up. But now I’m inspired to follow along and learn how to sew my own!

  16. Mags says

    This is a brilliant tutorial and I can’t wait for the alteration info! My problem is I’m apple-shaped: big sticky-out tum, smaller hips, and bird legs. Trousers fitting on the waist flap at the hips. In stretchy trousers I look like a lollipop. You’re way to young to remember ‘loons’, but they hung from just beneath the bum and were ideal for my shape (though I didn’t have this shape in 1973!) as they give a straight up and down profile. Thanks, Melly!

  17. says

    This post is awesome!! Good on your or having so much confidence – you look really pretty in loads of the shots, even if the jeans don’t fit that well. Jeans are such a pain to find.

  18. says

    This is such a fantastic post! It’s first time I’ve visited your site – I was pointed to you by Named Patterns after I enquired about fitting advice for their Jamie jeans pattern. I’m so happy I found you! I can totally relate to this post! Since having children my body has changed a lot and I don’t feel comfortable in any of my store bought jeans anymore. My only logical conclusion is to try to make my own. I laugh when I look at my current jeans collection – such a variety of styles and fit, yet none of them really feel like me. It would be such a dream to find a well fitting style! I look forward to following your progress with your jeans!

  19. Joan says

    Thank you; thank you for all your hard work in putting this together. I myself dislike trying on pants and sometimes after the first wash, they shrink and no longer fit like in the store.

    I love the Dockers for Women. These are no longer made and cannot find another item to replace this brand. I’m like you–don’t like T I G H T especially on my tummy and back. (I’m not “21” anymore; have not for several decades, but my grandchildren enjoy me this way.) I may need to begin sewing my own pant.

    Since you illustrated ALL the BAD areas, are you printing information on how to remedy these?

    I’m so happy to receive your newsletter. Happy Spring.

  20. says

    Wow, this is a FANTASTIC post, Melissa! First of all, you made me tear up at the beginning when you started talking about our beautiful bodies deserving respect after carrying us through our lives and producing other human beings. Yes and Amen, sister! Also, I just love the way you break down the fit issues in most major jean brands. I’m going to run upstairs and try on all my jeans!

  21. says

    Thank you so much for sharing all your thoughts and photos. The biggest problem I see with all of these jeans is that the back inseam needs to be let out. Luckily, by making your own, you can deal with these issues. Good luck.

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