How to Find Your Jean Size

Finding Your Perfect Jean Size - A Step-by-step Guide

Woman trying on jeans in store dressing room
Use our handy guide to find your perfect jeans size. Holger Winkler/Getty Images

Finding a pair of jeans that fit 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 varies so greatly from one denim designer to the next. If you've 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.

1. Your Waist Size in Jeans: Measure Your Natural Waistline

The first step toward finding your perfect jeans size is to measure your natural waistline. Some jeans come sized in inches (such as 26, 27, 28), which refers to your 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 shopping from European jeans brands, when you'll have to estimate how their sizes compare to your most typical, US-brand fit. This is a whole lot easier to do, when you know your exact body measurements.

Start by taking a soft measuring tape and measuring around your natural waistline.

(To find the natural crease, bend at the waist to your side.) Remember not to pull the tape too tightly around your middle, as 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 more likely to result in the dreaded "muffin top" effect.

2. 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.

If you already own a pair of perfect-fitting jeans (lucky you), lay them flat on a hard surface and, using your tape measure, measure the distance from the crotch seam to the ankle hem. If you don’t own a pair of perfect-fitting jeans to measure this, 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 even shorts, to get the most accurate measurement.

3. Determine Your Body's Best Rise

The next important thing to keep in mind when shopping for jeans is what type of rise you are most comfortable with. The rise refers to how far up the jeans will sit on your waist.

Do you prefer a lower rise jean? These jeans typically sit 2-3 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 type of jean across all styles (skinny, bootcut, flares, etc). Meanwhile, a high rise jean (which has become a trendy cut for fashionable women, and is very flattering to a curvier figure) will sit at or a few inches above the belly button. Experiment with the tape measure to determine what type of rise you like best. If you're buying jeans to wear to the office, do keep in mind that medium-rise or higher pair is the most appropriate, as it offers decent backside coverage when you'll be be sitting, bending and walking in front of colleagues (and your boss).

4. Consult the Brand's Size Charts

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 retailer offers their own sizing chart, as these can vary greatly among different brands.

Stores such as Ann Taylor and Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, are known for "vanity sizing", which tends to run smaller than other retailers. Meanwhile, you may find you have to go up a size in jeans at youth-oriented shops like Forever 21 and H&M, whose jeans sizes tend to run a bit small. European sizing is different as well and varies in the UK, France, Italy and the rest of Europe.

A Few More Helpful Tips:

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

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Updated by Cathy Jacobs on October 2, 2017