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How NOT to fall into the Mom Jeans pit
(and find the PERFECT pair of jeans)

mom jeansNow, I know most of you cool broads know to avoid so-called “mom jeans” like the plague, but apparently a few gals out there didn’t get the memo. So…I put together a comprehensive guide regarding how to find the “perfect” pair of jeans. Although the perfect pair will be different for everyone, there are some universal truths with respect to how you go about finding them.

The term “mom jeans” was coined by this hilarious Saturday Night Live skit. As the video so clearly demonstrates, “mom jeans” are typically high-waisted, tapered at the legs and may even have pleats in the front (it pains me just to type this). They are not flattering on anyone and common side effects are usually moderate to severe and can include the dreaded camel’s toe, flattened ass, and erectile dysfunction (you won’t suffer this one, but the man in your life may).

There’s absolutely no reason why every woman (yes, even those who’ve had kids and are older than 29) can’t look cool in a rockin’ pair of jeans. There are so many brands, styles, cuts and washes to choose from…the perfect jean in out there…you just have to put in the work.

I guarantee that if you take heed of the following tips and trade secrets, you will find the perfect pair (you can thank me later – I accept cash and booze). But first, make sure you go shopping when you feel like trying on 3,000 pairs. If you’re not feeling it – go home – and try again another day. Patience is a virtue here. I like to go jeans shopping when I feel thin, or hungry, or at the very least, when I haven’t eaten a huge breakfast and am NOT about to start my period (friends don’t let friends retain water and go shopping for jeans).


    A lot of jeans have spandex or some other synthetic material to give their jeans stretch. This can be good and often gives the jeans more comfort and a better fit. However, too much stretch can make the jeans fit like leggings. As a result, they may accentuate every little bulge and make your thighs look like stuffed sausages. Some washes (usually the darker ones) require more synthetic material to hold the dye, and thus, have more stretch…so check the labels and try different washes to see which looks best on you. I personally find that 1% stretch contours my body best and gives me a sexy, snug fit.

    Also, jeans with stretch will (surprise!) stretch and often times fit much differently by the end of the day. Take that into account when you’re trying them on (the sales associate can give you brand specific info. on fit). Sometimes you’ll just need to wash your jeans after ever wear to get them back to the size they were when you started.


    Nobody looks good in tapered jeans. I repeat..NOBODY. Only very thin women with straight hips look good in skinny, straight-leg jeans. My experience has been that the boot-cut style is the most universally flattering fit, except maybe for shorter women (below 5’4”) in which case a straighter cut might be more flattering because flare can accentuate short legs (though I’ve seen some pretty petite women look awesome in a slight boot cut, so make sure you try both).

    Boot cut jeans balance out your hips and elongate your leg, making them good for a wide range of body types but specifically those with full thighs or an ample bottom. Now, I’ve seen boot cut jeans with 17” wide to 22” wide flare, so again, the key is to try them on and see what looks best on you.

    One other style that can make a great addition to your jeans wardrobe is the trouser-fit or wide-leg jean. These are incredibly hot right now, flatter most body types, and can be dressed up or down.


    Don’t only try on jeans of a particular size (either because you think that’s the size you are or that’s the size you want to be). Sizes vary wildly by brand and cut (I have two pairs of Lucky’s (different cuts) that are two sizes apart). Try several sizes.

    Also, if you feel like you’re in between sizes, or the jeans are just a smidge too big or small…try on another pair (or two, if available) in the same size. When the denim is cut in the sewing facility, it is stacked many layers high. The weight of all that fabric puts pressure on the layers on the bottom causing them to stretch. When the denim is cut stretched, it can result in a less generous cut for those layers. So, jeans of the same size may vary slightly in fit.


    Jeans look the coolest when they’re worn long. They should fall to the floor (or just about) when you have shoes on. This is an extremely common mistake. If the jeans are too long, don’t hem them!! Cut them off, wash them, and let them fray naturally (you’ll look so cowgirl chic). If the jeans are more dressy (i.e. trouser fit or dark wash) and you absolutely must hem them…use sandpaper to distress the new hems so they match the original ones. Otherwise, they’ll look those back-to-school jeans our moms use to buy us (I can’t be the only one!)

    Because you’ll want to wear your jeans with shoes with heels and shoes without, you’ll probably end up with different jeans of different lengths for this reason. You might want to bring shoes of different heights with you when you go shopping.


    Low rise jeans tend to be the most flattering. Now, I don’t mean…gotta-shave-your-pubic-hair low, but they should sit a few fingers below your belly button. A lower waistline will create the illusion of a smaller bottom, whereas high-waisted jeans make your butt look like it starts even higher than it does.

    With low rise jeans, you need to make sure the waist fits and isn’t too tight or you’ll be a victim of the dreaded muffin top. I found a great pair of jeans that I loved, my ass looked great and they were nice and long… but the waist band was too tight and I spilled over…so I had to leave them at the store. Even thin women can suffer muffin top…so get jeans that fit.


    Don’t get too fancy with weird washes or lots of rhinestones ala Real Housewives of Orange County. Funky washes are more trendy and probably won’t stand the test of time. Also, there’s a fine line between looking stylin’ and looking like you’re trying too hard. Cool broads are not hoochie mamas.

    Also, pay attention to pocket size, shape and placement as this can make or break how good your butt will look in a pair of jeans. I find that back pockets that are long enough to cup under the curve of my bottom give me great shape and lift whereas pockets that are small, sit up too high, or far apart are NOT flattering (of course, this will vary person to person, but once you figure out what looks best on you, you will almost be able to tell how the jeans will fit just by looking at them).

    If you have a hard time discerning the best style for your body, you might want to try an online service like TrueJeans (see the link on my right sidebar) which will select the best-fitting jeans for you based on your body measurements.


    A good pair of jeans can be expensive and I still sometimes get sticker shock. But I wear jeans every day…so if they fit right, they’re a good investment. And if I get stuck with a pair of expensive jeans that for whatever reason aren’t working for me, I sell them on eBay.

Getting that butt ready

    If you aren’t already…you need to incorporate squats into your workout routine. Jeff O’Connell of Men’s Fitness Magazine says that “the squat is the single most effective exercise there is, period.” The squat is considered a compound exercise which means it works more than one muscle group. “In this case, it works every major muscle in your upper leg, up to and including your quadriceps (front of the thigh) and hamstrings (back of the thigh) and gluteal muscles (fanny). Use lots of weight to build leans body tissue. The more lean body tissue you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you burn on a regular basis.”

    So squat, ladies. Squat, squat, squat.

My faves

For me, I’ve found that Lucky Brand Jeans and Hudsons flatter my figure the best. But even Gap’s Long and Lean and a few of their Curvy styles work for me and are less expensive…making them perfect for everyday jeans.

My “going out jeans” tend to be a little lower in the rise (since I don’t expect to be picking Legos up off the floor) with a more expensive wash or styling. I wear these jeans when I want to look extra cute. If I need to sit down, I just make sure I’m sitting against a wall (so as not to offer crack to any unsuspecting tourists). I prefer wearing boyshorts with my jeans (click here for my post on the “perfect” pair of underwear), but for the lowest rise I’ll go commando. My husband loves it.

A couple of final suggestions…

1. If you see a pair of jeans on someone and they look great, and that person has a similar body type as you…tell her she looks great, and ask her if she minds telling you where she got them.

2. Try on everything. You never know what’ll look good on you but the effort is worth it. Because there’s nothing quite like the feeling when you find that perfect pair of jeans…it’s priceless!


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Tags: style

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Eva K // Mar 6, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Great article with a lot of tips! This is really thorough…not just the bits and pieces that I’ve read elsewhere.

    I also like to customize my jeans…sometimes for fun…sometimes for necessity. There are few good tips on this link:

    Thanks for the post. Make me want to skip a meal and go shopping! -E

  • 2 beanball // Mar 6, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Awesome post! Lots of stuff in there I had never thought about. I have a pair of Paige premium denim jeans which I highly recommend. Low rise (but not too low) and designed for normal-shaped women.

  • 3 On finding your personal style // Mar 17, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    […] hit on one so far…mom jeans (a.k.a. standard issue for women who’ve just plum quit trying). Click here to read my post on how to avoid falling into the mom jeans […]

  • 4 thong vs. commando // Mar 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    […] best way to get a great-looking backside? The squat. As discussed in an earlier post, the squat is the single most effective exercise there is. Click here for a comprehensive article […]

  • 5 Lila Mae // Apr 21, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I definately agree on the whole rise thing. I always find that lowrise are much more flattering, and way more forgiving than a higher rise. The waistband bit is also crucial, esspecially with the lowrise because thats where you have the most potential for muffin top (I call it the Mushroom effect, but muffin sounds cuter)

    Very very helpful, and really well put together. This is my firs time visiting and i have to tell you that i absolutely love your writing style, very real life.

  • 6 tilly // Apr 22, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Love, Love the article! ….as a 5 11′ gal, one of my life’s passion is to avoid mommy jeans/pants at all cost :) lol…

  • 7 chrrris // May 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    so what about moms? i have a friend who wears “mom” jeans… she looks OK, but they still look like “mom jeans”. She claims to have a “high waist” ( I don’t buy it, I measured), but I think the real reason is that she has bad stretchmarks… low-rise jeans would leave all that exposed… So then what?

  • 8 thatcoolbroad // May 7, 2008 at 8:05 pm


    it’s my opinion that jeans with a lower rise will elongate the sillouette of gals with high waists or no waists at all. I don’t, however, advocate letting the belly hang out (unless you really want to and you have a rock hard tummy). Nice and long tanks and tees are easy to find these days (I get mine at Old Navy) and so are cute tops like this. This generous cut is all the rage now and will keep the belly covered.


  • 9 Lori // May 16, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for the advice! I fell into the pit several years ago and I am fervently clawing my way out! I found that the ‘mom jean’ is only the first symptom – usually everything else in the closet is headed toward grandma-ville as well.

  • 10 Andrea // Mar 2, 2009 at 11:19 am

    wait, i think theres a big difference between tapered jeans and mom jeans. i wear tapered jeans *that are not mom jeans, and they look good on me and i am not stick thin

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