With all the focus on boobs and bras here, this week I want to focus on the bottom half of the hourglass figure, in particular an article of clothing that gives me almost as much grief as the top half—jeans!
Yes, readers, I not only have a substantial bust with a small waist, but also fairly substantial hips and butt with that same skinny waist. You’d think this wouldn’t be so hard to fit. After all, my waist size is pretty “normal,” falling somewhere between 4 and 8 or 26-30 depending on the brand and how intense their vanity sizing is.
But having an hourglass figure makes finding well-fitting jeans shockingly difficult! So often, when you hold up a pair of jeans, you’ll see that there is very little curve to the shape. Rather, they’re almost straight up and down. When I was in high school, I took to buying jeans from the men’s half of The Gap because they had higher waists and more curve built into the hips than the ultra-low rise and super straight-waisted pants of the women’s collection.
This straightness results in pants that have a too-tight butt (and calves!—but more about that later) and a gapping waist that sinks down in the back and leaves my—ahem—crack nearly exposed.
Almost 10 years ago, I thought I’d finally found a saving grace in Express’s “curvy” fit, but they’ve since discontinued that style. So frustrating! I thought I’d found a suitable replacement for those with Levi’s relatively recent “Curve ID” series, but that was a disappointment too.
The Curve ID jeans fall into four categories based on your measurements: Slight, Demi, Bold, and Supreme Curve. I fall firmly into the Supreme category, but I went to a Levi’s store two months ago and they did not carry a single Supreme. I didn’t even know they offered Supreme until I went to the website! At the time, I tried on every Bold Curve pair they had—and not a single one fit. The waists were all gapping, the butts completely flattened me out, and even the calves of their skinny and straight-leg offerings were too tight. The calves!!! There were literally some pairs that fit over my thighs, but then wouldn’t go on all the way below my knee.
How dare Levi use the word “curve” when the jeans don’t even fit the curve of a calf, much less a set of hips and a rear! It really made me angry. Additionally, while there are eight different styles and at least 23 distinct pairs available in Slight, Demi, and Bold, there are only three styles (straight, skinny, and boot cut) and nine pairs total for Supreme girls. And only one of those is mid-rise—the rest are all low-rise, the least flattering rise for a curvy girl in my opinion.
So now that I’ve given up on Express and Levi, where does that leave a girl who just wants some decent, well-fitting jeans? Well one surprising success I had on the same trip as the ill-fated Levi’s attempt was The Gap. I know I complained about them above, but these days they offer great variety. You must try everything on, though. I bought three pairs, all in different sizes, including bright blue “legging” jeans in 8, “long & lean” flairs in 4, and charcoal grey skinny jeans (which are not online) in 28. Additionally, don’t trust the listed rise. Those blue leggings were supposed to be low-rise, but turned out to be squarely mid-rise on me (score!). I also tried a pair of high-rise trouser jeans, for which I’ve been searching for a couple years, and they were barely any higher than the mid-rise Long & Lean ones. Gap does offer a curvy line, but they were so boring and basic that I didn’t try any.
Another solution I’ve found is jeans made from material other than traditional denim. I recently wandered into a store here in New York called Barami and found the perfect pair of red skinnies. They’re actually made of thick, stretchy twill, so they have a lot more give than real denim.
Here are my tips for buying jeans:
1. Consider a tailor: If the jeans are perfect except for a little gapping in the waist, or they’re just a touch too long, you can always have a tailor take in the waist or shorten the hem. These are cheap, easy fixes.
2. Fabric: If you’re curvy like me, look for jeans with a high spandex to cotton ratio. The stretchier they are, the more forgiving they’ll be of the rounder bits of your legs (like your butt and calves). Or look for jeans made of twill-like fabric instead of traditional denim.
3. Future care: I never put my jeans in the dryer, but denim naturally stretches a lot, so this means I need to go with a size that’s just a bit tight. If you’re going to use the dryer, you might want to buy a size just a bit loose. Jeans washed in hot water and dried on the hottest setting can shorten up to a quarter inch in all directions, and all natural fibers washed this way will continue to shrink a little bit every time you wash them.
4. No rules! I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules when it comes to jeans. Some skinnies make me look like a pair of short sausages, and some make me look tall and svelte. Some flairs balance out my boobs and some make me look extra heavy. I do recommend trying to balance the volume (i.e. skinny pants with a looser top and baggier pants paired with a smaller shirt), but even I break that rule all the time.
5. Try, try, try! Unless it’s a brand you’re reaaaaaally familiar with, I do not recommend buying pants online or from a catalog. If you follow the “no rules” rule, then you must try them on! One brand can vary greatly from style to style, and one style will definitely vary from brand to brand.
Thanks for the suggestions! And I agree – it really takes time to just keep trying different styles on. I have an old pair of GAP curvy flares that are fitting well right now, and I have also had good luck with Loft curvy jeans. But you’re right – “curvy” jeans that don’t have room for calves are ridiculous, and I expected more from Levis who seemed to be making such an effort to fit “everyone”.
I love the gap long and lean ones.
I’ve had some success with Levi’s Supreme curve. Although, I really, really wish they’d carry more mid-rises (they didn’t have any when I bought my pair!).
Have you tried PZI? They’re next on my hit list for jeans and I’ve heard some pretty good things about them. I’m hoping to try them on in person on my next trip to the states.
My current pair of jeans were a lucky find at C&A, which just started carrying 3 mid-rise styles (everything else is super low rise, ugh!). I need to get it taken in slight in the back but otherwise they’re a decent fit. I wish they’d actually come up a bit higher (I have a long torso) but it’s not that bad.
I’ve never tried PZI, but I just looked at their website and it looks pretty promising. I’ve never heard of C&A. I have a long torso too, so sometimes low-rise pants are almost as low as my underwearâ€”NOT acceptable! And “high-rise” pants are still usually a couple inches below my belly button.
I’m still holding onto my old favorites from Expressâ€”a couple pairs of which I’ve repaired multiple times. They’re definitely not going to last much longer. So, so, so sad that they don’t carry curvy fit anymore.
Yes, that’s exactly the same issue for me! It’s quite annoying because pants that are supposed to be high-rise then curve in towards where they’d expect to be the raise but is actually my hip area so the cut is off too. 🙁 Mid-rise seem to be the best at the moment but it would be nice to find some high-rise ones that actually came up high enough.
C&A is a chain store in Europe and Brasil. I don’t *think* that they have any in the states right now. But I wouldn’t stress about that too much. They’re just a pair that are managing to get me through the moment until I get to try PZI on in person. 😉
I have an older pair of Levi Curvy Bootcuts that I adore. It helps that I’ve gained soem weight (and post-baby I gain faster in my stomach than before) and while they’re still big, at least they’re super flattering everywhere else!
I had trouble with the Bold Curves too, they would hardly cover my thighs and were odd in the waist.
I had luck with Gap’s Essential Jeans until they redid their styles, and now I have no luck. Long and Lean is a laugh a minute on me.
Oh, and for pants, The Limited’s Lexie pants are awesome. I haven’t tried their jeans yet though.
My favorite jeans are CJ by Cookie Johnson – they’re the best fitting jeans for a curvy body that I’ve found. A bit spendy, but nothing beats a great pair of jeans!
American Eagle has really nice jeggings, mine have lasted ages. And I actually scored another awesome pair of jeggings at Target last summer. They come up a bit higher so no love handles showing. It’s a bit of a dance to get into them though because the zipper is fake, ha ha.
For the most part, though, I just wear leggings–and even then it’s hard for me to find leggings that are stretchy enough to work on my body, so I’ve taken to wearing shapewear leggings as nothing else has a high enough Lycra/spandex content. The issue is that I have big hips for my size, but absolutely NO butt whatsoever. So I need to find jeans that fit my hips, but then after one wear they are baggy on my butt, so I find myself throwing them in the dryer over and over and they never get small enough on the butt. Hence–jeggings and leggings for me. It’s not that big of a deal for me but I do sometimes wonder if there are any companies that take into account WHERE the curves are, because even within the category of curvy there are loads of different body types!
Isn’t shopping for pants that fit a joy? I have the problem that if the waist fits, the thighs have enough room to carry toddlers. Discovering the concept of buying a size up but in petite cut was amazing.
Thanks for the article and the jeans brands suggestions. I have all but given up on buying jeans – lack of curvy fit that fits, and every pair I try are very tight in the butt/thighs – new style? I”m too modest for that! and am currently wearing some hand me downs a size too large that are too long, too big in the waist, but roomy in the butt/thighs. I have hourglass figure, small waist, rounded butt that sticks out a little which is way too much for most jeans/pants, thighs and have a horrible time finding jeans or pants. Anything in my size is too tight in the butt and huge in the waist. Would love to hear others’ suggestions on pants brands too. I tried Levis curvy fit once and the sizes ran small and was very low rise for my long torso.
I just looked at PZI jeans and this is what my butt/thighs look like in most jeans–yours too?
I don’t want jeans that hug my butt/thighs like that and it’s impossible to find jeans that fit properly instead of sizing up to get enough room to not have it hug my hips/thighs that much. I want to flatter my curves but not show them off that much.
This style doesn’t look as form-fitting:
I’m not sure if it’s as conservative as you’d like, though.
Eddie Baurer’s curvy fit has been great (I have had luck with classic in the past but I like curvy better), I usually get bootcut since it balances me out a bit better, but I’ve heard good things about their trouser fit as well.
I saw a tip somewhere to sew a few inches of elastic in the back of your jeans– it’ll tighten it just enough to stop the waist gapping.
I think I’m quite similar to you. I usually wear 26-27″ in stretchy jeans, but has a 39″ hip with a lot of butt. Levi’s was bad on me too. The modern cut was showing half my behind and all of them flattened me a lot while still gaping.
For me PZI jeans have been the solution. They are fabolous. Fits my waist, hips and butt, as they have room for both of the later, and also takes thighs into the calculation. They are really high in the back and doesn’t gape at all! I can wear them without a belt. I tend to wear small 4:s though, but I really hope that they start to make smaller sizes too.
I love, love love PZI jeans! With a 27-28 inch waist and 43 inch hips, they are literally the only jeans that I can fit into and the only brand of jeans I own. The Levi’s Curve ID jeans were also a disappointment. The store near me does not carry the supreme curve, and the bold curve was not curvy enough.
I’ve found the fit of PZI jeans extremely consistent from one pair to the next. I own seven pairs of jeans from them and three pairs of shorts. Once I found my size (through trial and error, their size chart is not very accurate) I have been able order any pair that I like from them in my size and it fits. Now that I know what size I wear in PZI jeans, I haven’t had to send anything back.
Dressing the bottom half of an hourglass figure is hard though! I struggle not just with jeans but also with skirts and dresses being too tight in the hips/rear or too loose in the waist. I have to have most of my skirts taken in at the waist.
I wouldn’t mind doing a guest post on PZI jeans.
I stopped wearing pants at all roughly eight years ago, and part of the problem is that I’m petite and curvyâ€”small waist and big hips! I wear skirts at all times and couldn’t be happier. Though I had a marvellous tailor who could take things up and in for me (this before I began teaching myself to sew), it was becoming prohibitively expensive.
Jeans…ugh. They were the WORST! I know that wearing skirts only is a big leap for many women, and therefore feel a lot of compassion for those of you with a figure similar to mine trying to find pants, to say nothing of jeans. (My sister is thin as a rail and tall to boot, and never had trouble…lol)
Okay, it just felt good to rant though I’ve not even tried a pair of pants on in a decade. 😉
Hi! I am stoked to try the dart suggestion from your other post. Im hoping I can pull it off. As a suggestion for curvy inexpensive pants.. Target. I think it’s fit four. They fit fairly well for us little in the middle but she got much back ladies. 😉
Here’s my follow up. I altered three pairs of jeans tonight as you showed in the next post. They fit fantastically now!! Thank you! I also took a pair of baggy linen pants in on the inseam from one leg through to the other. Which fixed the waistband somehow. 😀
OMG thank you for writing this! Lately, I have been having trouble with jeans when I never have before. I am at first glance quite petite and skinny, but my hips are really starting to develop now that I am in my 20s, so it seems. The problem is usually they are tight in the hips and loose elsewhere, or fine in the hips and excruciatingly tight around the knees/calves. Your tips have answered a few questions for me such as why my jeans seem to fit tighter even though there has been no weight gain (drying them in the highest setting) and questions about fits
I have been endlessly frustrated with jeans shopping… It’s a dis-heartening, exhausting endeavor, one where I probably burn more calories doing the “too-small-jeans” dance than I do in a regular workout. However, today I walked into Buckle, was immediately aided by a very nice employee who took great care to help me find THE. PERFECT. PAIR. Angels were singing, and I did a happy-dance. I tried on at least 10 pairs in that store to find them, but the nice woman was very patient and REALLY knew the brands they had. I ended up getting a pair of the Natsuki-style Silvers that cinch PERFECTLY at the waist (NO GAP. AT ALL. THIS NEVER HAPPENS.) Of course, they were 82 dollars… But, they do free alterations on all their jeans… So… Totally worth it. But I’ll have to buy everything else second-hand or not at all for the rest of the year. 🙂
These were just boot-cut jeans, though… Any cheap recommendations for skinny jeans that won’t make a tree-stump-legged girl look like a redwood so she can wear her super-awesome boots this winter?
I don’t wear pants, but I have a problem with skirts because my waist is a size 8 and my hips are a size 16. They’ve always been 15 inches apart and I’ve been trying to lose a lot of weight but the ratio doesn’t change so I was wondering if you have any advice about what size I should buy.
Hi, Anon. Have you seen this post from SweetNothingsNYC? http://sweetnothingsnyc.com/2012/08/29/clothing-your-curves-suggestions-for-fuller-bums-part-1/#more-1912
As far as skirts go, I have the best luck with anything high-waisted, including pencil and full skirts. It’s soooooo much more flattering on me than literally anything else. My waist looks tiny and my rear looks hot. For pencil skirts in particular, unless it’s cut for curves, the fabric must be stretchy. High-waisted bottoms also don’t work as well on petite ladies or women with short torsos.
I would also recommend very full circle skirts. That’s a bit of a younger and less professional look, but I think it’s a really pretty style for curvier ladies, as your hips help the skirt flare out further without the aid of a petticoat or crinoline.
I generally avoid A-line skirts. Since they’re usually not wide enough, they tend to hug my hips and butt too much and end up losing the triangle shape and ending up more like a sphere on top of a rectangle. BLAH.
Dresses are also a good choice, because you can always cinch in the waist with a belt.
As far as specific sizing goes, I’d say fit your waist and look for styles and fabrics that will skim over your hips without pulling. Skirts can also be one of the easiest things to make yourself, requiring as little as three pieces of fabric. Come to think of it, that’d be a great upcoming column…
I have a 10 inch difference between my hips and waist, a curvy bum, large thighs – and am petite to boot, but this summer I discovered Reitmans and purchased the most well fitting jeans I’ve ever owned and I’d like to recommend them.
They carry all sorts of styles in the comfort fit – legging, boot cut, skinny, straight, and the secret is that they don’t use a zipper and button. Instead they actually take the care to cut them to a women’s figure and add a mid/high rise with a wide (almost control tummy top) stretchy band at the top to hold your pants in place. I work with young children and I totally approve them for constant bending, squatting, kneeling, etc. They were on sale for about $35 when I found them and I bought 3 pairs and I’m finally content again with being the difficult-to-fit hourglass shape.