How to Find Your Jeans Size: A Step-by-Step Guide

Your Best Jeans Are Waiting For You

Woman trying on jeans in store dressing room
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Finding a pair of jeans that fits perfectly can feel like hitting the lottery. That's because wearing a great-fitting pair of jeans that conforms perfectly to your shape can boost your body confidence and make you feel like a million bucks. Unfortunately, perfect-fitting jeans can also be hard to come by, since sizing can vary from one denim designer to the next.

If you have ever been tempted to shop online for jeans deals, or found yourself staring down the racks of denim at your favorite retailer and wondering "what size jeans do I wear," we're here to help. You can use this easy, practical jeans measuring guide to find your perfect jean size and take the guesswork out of choosing jeans to try on in-store, or ordering jeans online.

Measure a Great-Fitting Pair of Jeans

If you already own a pair of perfect-fitting jeans (lucky you), you can use its measurements as a guide for other brands. Lay the jeans flat on a hard surface and using your tape measure, measure across the top of the waist. Make sure the jeans are zipped and buttoned and the button is not sagging down below the back part of the waist. When you get this number, double it for your jeans waist measurement. (Remember that this measurement varies depending on the rise.) Then measure the inseam, the distance from the crotch seam to the ankle hem. Next, measure the width of the thigh. Take this measurement two inches below the crotch seam and then double it for your thigh measurement.

The last measurement you need is the rise, or the distance from the crotch seam to the waist. Pull the waist tight when you take this measurement to get the most accurate number. Low-rise jeans generally measure seven or eight inches from crotch to waist, mid-rise is eight or nine inches, with high-rise jeans measuring nine or 10 inches.

When you shop for jeans you can use these numbers to compare against a size chart and be able to make an educated choice that will likely pinpoint just what size you need in that particular brand of jeans.

Identify Your Body's Best Rise

Before you shop for jeans, you will need to determine which rise of jeans you are most comfortable wearing — and which will make your body look its best.

The rise refers to how far up the jeans will sit on your waist. A lower-rise jean typically sits two or three inches below the belly button or sometimes even lower. A mid-rise jean usually fits right around or immediately beneath the navel and is the most commonly sold rise across all styles (skinny, bootcut, straight leg, and flares). Meanwhile, a high-rise jean, which has become a trendy cut for stylish women and is flattering to a curvier figure, sits at or slightly above the navel.

Experiment with the tape measure and compare jeans you already own to decide which type of rise is most flattering on you. If you're buying jeans to wear to the office, keep in mind that a medium-rise or higher pair is the most appropriate because it offers decent backside coverage when you're sitting, bending, and walking in front of colleagues (and your boss).

Check out our detailed guide to your body shape's best jeans rise.

Measure Your Waistline

The next step toward finding your perfect jeans size is to measure your waistline. Some jeans come sized in inches (such as 26, 27, 28), which refers to the waist measurement, while others are sized in numbers (2, 4, 6). Knowing your waist size will allow you to buy jeans from any brand, no matter what sizing system they use. Having your waistline measurement will also be helpful information to have on hand if you are choosing from European jeans brands, which requires you to estimate how their sizes compare to your most typical, U.S.-brand fit. This is a whole lot easier to do when you know your exact body measurements.

When you're measuring your waist, it's important to know what rise of jeans you will be shopping for (see above). For mid-rise jeans, for instance, the measurement should be taken right around your navel. For low rise jeans, you'll want to measure about two or three inches below that.

Start by taking a soft measuring tape and measuring around waistline at the point where you want your jeans to sit. To measure your natural waistline, measure at the natural crease. To find it, bend at the waist to your side. Remember not to pull the tape too tightly around your waist because you’ll want to get jeans with a comfortable fit. Jeans that fit your middle too tightly will not only be uncomfortable, but they're also more likely to result in the dreaded "muffin top" effect. 

Measure Your Inseam

The next area of your body you'll want to measure is your inseam. The inseam measurement relates to your leg length, or the distance between your crotch and your ankle. Inseams can vary from one brand to the next, which is why sometimes you’ll see jeans sized as “petite” and other times they will be sized as “tall.” Many mass market denim brands, including The Gap and Levi's, also offer jeans in standard waist sizes with varying length options (short, regular, and tall). This is especially true of men's jeans sizing.

Ask a friend to help you measure this area on your body. It is best to take this measurement while you're wearing lightweight, close-fitting clothing (such as snug-fitting leggings or shorts), to get the most accurate measurement.

Consult the Brand's Size Charts

Sizing for women's clothing, including jeans, can vary greatly among different brands. (This is an annoying fact of life). Whether you're trying on jeans in a store, browsing styles online, or shopping for jeans on your phone, ask or look to see if the jeans brand or retailer offers its own sizing chart. Some brands (and stores with their own brands) are known for vanity sizing, which means you'll take a smaller size in their jeans than usual. In others, particularly those that are youth-oriented, you might need to go up a size. But it's the fit that counts, not the size on the label. 

European sizing is different as well and varies in the U.K., France, and Italy, which makes buying jeans that much more difficult. It's best to avoid buying non-U.S. brands of jeans when you can't try them on in person, unless you already have a pair that fits like it was custom made for you.

A Few More Helpful Tips

  • Remember not to take any measurements over your regular clothes. Undergarments or lightweight clothing (such as leggings or snug shorts) provide the most accurate measurements.
  • Ask a friend to help you out with your measurements so you aren't struggling with the tape measure on your own.
  • When you are shopping at a new store that has its own brand of jeans, or when shopping for a new jeans brand, always give the store assistant your measurements. She should be able to direct you to the right jeans size.
  • Always check a sizing chart when you are shopping for jeans online.


Updated by Cathy Jacobs on August 6, 2018