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.