7 Rules for Shopping for Jeans

7 Rules for Shopping for Jeans

Thank goodness it was fall and not spring when I went to San Francisco.

If it had been spring then I might have been compelled to write: “How to Shop for a Woman’s Most Hated Garment: The Swimsuit Edition.” And then you’d be subjected to my stomach in a bathing suit instead of my butt in jeans.

But God was gracious and it was fall in San Francisco and nary a swimsuit in sight.

So I did the next most hated thing: I went shopping for jeans.

Ever since I was in Paris–and saw them everywhere–I’ve wanted to get a pair of trendy skinny jeans that would look great on me. It took time and effort, but I think I was successful.

While the rest of this article is about buying jeans in general, the skinny jean has some rules all its own.

First of all: Be prepared

These puppies are tight. You have to put them on like pantyhose.

When I did find a pair that I felt fit me, Nicole (my saleslady extraordinaire) told me in no uncertain terms that I’d have to go one size SMALLER.

I was shocked. And I balked.

Quickly a cadre of sales ladies gathered around  my backside assuring me that indeed these perfectly good-fitting pants were TOO BIG.

So down a size I went. I could hardly get on the pair I eventually bought, but now I see that Nicole was right. I’m glad I followed her advice.

These pants stretch out and as I was vehemently warned: You cannot re-shrink them in the washer or dryer.

In fact, attempting to shrink them in the dryer has the opposite effect since it degrades the Spandex.


Also, not every fashion looks good on every body. The strong taper of the skinny jean accentuates the butt. Wear with caution.

So, without further ado, here it is, my Seven Rules for Shopping for Jeans. 

RULE #1: Choose a store that has a large selection

Don’t waste your time shopping in stores that have a limited selection or don’t carry your size.

And unless you KNOW that a brand really fits you, like I know that Express Editor pants fit me like a glove, choose larger department stores that carry lots of different styles and labels.

I decided to do this piece when I realized I would be at Macy’s in Union Square because I figured that a 7-story Macy’s had to have one pair of trendy Skinny Jeans that would fit me.

RULE #2: You get what you pay for

A good pair of jeans is a wardrobe workhorse. Dressed up or down, jeans can take you everywhere from the PTA meeting to the annual Office Christmas Party (I’m wearing my new jeans to the Office Party this year).

We all have to live within a budget, but jeans are so fundamentally important to a good wardrobe–and carry such a huge potential for a low Cost per Wear Ratio–that they are worth spending a little extra to get a good-fitting pair.

Katherine Finney at The Budget Fashionista explains Cost per Wear Ratio like this:

“Total cost of the item/ estimated number of days you’ll wear it = the cost per wear

For example, if you spend $500 on a great winter coat, wear it for about 100-150 per year over the next five years, it’ll cost you about $.67 to a $1.00 every time you wear the coat. The more you wear the coat, the lower the cost per wear. On the other hand, the trendy top you bought for $20 at your local OldNavy, that you wear only three times before throwing it out, costs you around $6.50 everytime you wear it, making it almost SIX times as expensive as the coat.”

Rule #3: Enlist Help

Take a trustworthy friend shopping with you (Return the favor by going shopping with her in the future) and enlist the aid of a knowledgeable salesclerk.

Shopping for jeans correctly can be a physical test of endurance because , and I’m not kidding, you are going to try on LOTS and LOTS of them.

It’s exhausting enough pulling pants on and off without having the additional stress of having to re-dress to go back out to the sales floor searching for more jeans to try on.

Start the shopping session by discussing what you are looking for with the salesclerk and your friend so that everyone is clear.

Collect some jeans to try out,  and then park yourself in the dressing room and have your trustworthy friend and your knowledgeable salesclerk do all of your running for you.

On my shopping adventure I didn’t have a friend with me, but I had Nicole:

Nicole is a Denim Specialist who has worked for Macy’s for seven years. She knows her jeans. Undauntingly patient, Nicole joined my crusade and helped me try on 20 Pairs of Jeans until I found the perfect pair.

Rule #4: Jeans are all about the butt.

The purpose of jeans is to make your butt look good.


If they don’t make your butt look good then DO NOT BUY THEM.

I can hear you say from way over here,  ”What if the jeans I try on do not flatter my butt?”

Then you need to remember the most important rule of them all:

Rule #5: It’s not you; it’s them

One reason women have such a hard time shopping for clothes is because we’re so conditioned to believe that our bodies are flawed. When we try on clothes and they don’t fit right we automatically blame ourselves.

This is wrong-thinking.

Because a pair of pants doesn’t fit you doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. Take them off and try on another pair until you find a pair that fits you. That’s all there is to it.

Do NOT emotionally engage with every damn piece of clothing you try on.  

I tried on one pair of jeans that were simply too tight. They were so tight that I set off the anti-theft alarm trying to pull them up.

This was embarrassing.

The pants were too small which doesn’t mean that I’m too big.

Rule #6: Plan to try on 20 Pairs of Jeans before you find one pair that fits

Back in my frumpy-dumpy days, I had all the wrong-thinking I’ve been talking about.

I would go into a store, pick out however many articles of clothing that were allowed in the dressing room. I would try on those things and pick the best fitting from the lot.

Because I didn’t understand that bad fit wasn’t about ME, and because I didn’t enlist help from a friend or the salesclerks, I would get tired and discouraged quickly and settle.

What I ended up with was a hodge-podge of ill-fitting clothes.  And I hated shopping because it was so unrewarding.

Those days are over.

Now I go shopping with the clear intention that I’m going to try on lots of clothes and that MOST of them won’t fit me and/or I won’t like them.

That’s okay.

How can I know if I don’t try them on?

So with that in mind, here I am trying on  19 Pairs of Jeans: (yes, I said I tried on 20, but I’m saving #20 for last)

Rule #7: Don’t Settle

Do not walk out of the store with anything less than perfect. This is hard to do especially after you’ve invested a whole lot of time and effort trying on 20 Pairs of Jeans.

I know you feel that you wasted time trying on that many clothes and leaving with nothing, but you can’t buy yourself back the time by settling.

If you don’t find something you like, do yourself a favor and walk away. It’s okay. Better luck next time.

Some additional tips:

To make the sheer physical ordeal of trying on clothes easier, remember to wear yoga pants and slip-on shoes. (you can see I didn’t follow this bit of advice, but I let Nicole do ALL the running around so I only had to undress once.)

Take a pair of shoes that have the height heel you are planning to wear with the jeans. (this was easy because just before shopping for the jeans I bought the shoes. hehe)

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