Shopping for Jeans? 8 Tips for Petite Women

How to Find a Flattering Fit

Short women face some special challenges when looking for jeans that fit and flatter them, both because of fitting issues and the availability of fewer jeans in stores and online that are sized especially for petites. Here are some factors for short women to consider when selecting jeans.

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Woman doing up jeans on bed
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Select jeans by your hip size, rather than your waist size. In some cases, the waist will then need to be altered. Whether you do it yourself or have your jeans professionally altered, it's relatively easy to take in the waist, but it's difficult to let out side seams on jeans because the seam allowance is usually scant.

Don't worry about the number of your jeans' size. It's more important to wear jeans that fit well than to try to squeeze into a smaller size. Because jeans sizes and cuts can vary quite a bit from one manufacturer to another, the size that fits you best in one brand won't necessarily be the size you'll take in another brand. Try on jeans in both the petite and regular department to find out which brands fit you best.

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Short women usually need jeans with a shorter length, which is measured at the inseam. Because there's no standard for inseam length in petite jeans, there's a lot of variation, all the way from 25" in some extra-short styles for petites to 32" in some 7 For All Mankind petite jeans. No wonder it's difficult for short women to find the perfect inseam length. If you find a style that fits and flatters you, but it's too long, hemming the jeans may be the best solution. To find the inseam length that's best for you, measure the inseam on jeans that you have already that are the right length.

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Rise is measured from the crotch seam on jeans. Although low-rise jeans continue in popularity, most short women will look better in jeans with a mid-rise or just-below-the waist rise. If even mid-rise jeans seem too low, you may want to try on jeans in a regular, rather than a petite size.

Wearing low-rise jeans, especially with a belt, makes short women's hips look bigger and their legs shorter. If you don't have a flat tummy, wearing low-rise jeans will emphasize the tummy that you might want to de-emphasize. If you decide to opt for low-rise jeans, select a style that comes up more in the back than in the front.

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With so many jeans styles on the market and more manufacturers offering petite jeans, it's becoming a little easier to find a style of jeans that flatter. For most short women, jeans with straight legs work best, but there are other cuts that may work too, depending on figure type. Skinny jeans, tapered jeans, wide-leg jeans, and bootcut jeans are options that may look right on some petites but not on everybody.

Avoid cuffs, pleats, bell-bottoms, high-rises, and pockets with flaps or embellishment on areas you prefer to de-emphasize. Also avoid rolling up jeans at the hem if you want a longer, leaner look.

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Brands That Carry Petite Sizes

There are a variety of denim brands on the market today that carry a petite line including:

  • 7 For All Mankind Petite Straight-Leg Jean
  • NYDJ Petite Alina Legging Fit Skinny Jeans​
  • Joe's Jeans Provocateur Japanese Denim Bootcut Jean
  • PAIGE Lou Lou Flared Jean
  • Hudson Jeans Petite Signature Boot Jean
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Blue denim, which was originally dyed with natural indigo, is what most people think of when they think of jeans. There are so many color choices in blue denim now, from very light to very dark blue. For short women, the darkest blue denim color will help short women look slimmer and taller.

Jeans in colors other than blue are also available. As with the blue hues, darker is better if you want to look longer and leaner. So although jeans in bright or pastel colors may be appealing, choosing a dark color, such as black or burgundy, will have the same effect as choosing a dark wash blue--a longer and leaner look for short women wearing jeans.​

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Although you can find pants with jeans styling in many fabrics, traditionally jeans are made of denim fabric, a sturdy type of cotton twill with a distinctive diagonal pattern to the weave that you can see on the back of the fabric. What's new with the fabric of denim jeans now is that there's such a variety of fabric treatments, which can affect the hand of the fabric. Jeans may feel soft or stiff, depending on the pre-washing and other treatments done during the manufacturing process. Many jeans manufacturers blend spandex or lycra with cotton for a bit of forgiving stretch.

Jeans of 100% cotton will shrink in hot water or a hot dryer if the fabric hasn't been washed already, so always check tags for washing instructions.

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Jeans' designers constantly look for ways to make their jeans more appealing, and the latest innovations include fabric blends, such as cotton/spandex for a touch of stretchiness, and engineered styling to help women look better in their jeans. With new jeans technology, many manufacturers strive to achieve desired effects such as slimming the tummy, shaping the hips, and lifting the derriere. The good news here is that you don't have to buy premium denim to take advantage of jeans technology because there are low-priced jeans that incorporate innovations designed to make women look better in their jeans.