How to Find the Right Jeans for Any Occasion: A Denim Guide

How to Find the Right Jeans for Any Occasion: A Denim Guide

by Robin Barrett Wilson January 07, 2017 0 Comments

If you haven’t heard, I love jeans!  Early in my career I worked for a denim company and learned so much about the industry.  I am fascinated by how the denim industry has changed over the years.  When I worked for Lee Jeans (remember them?), we had three types of washes.  Jeans were very basic.  Now we have premium jeans that can cost up to $500 a pair and I love them all!  I am first in line to purchase the newest “premium” jean constructed of imported Italian fabric, made in America and is a silhouette Gigi Hadid is wearing. 

gigi hadid in bombshell flare by parker smith

Just like Athleisurewear, denim has had its fads.  Over the years, companies have jumped into the denim space, adopting the latest silhouette just to find that they couldn’t keep up with the trend or quality.  There is an art to constructing the perfect pair of jeans and those who take the time to utilize quality fabric combined with impeccable construction usually stay in the game. 

My philosophy is that you should have at least 8-10 pairs in your closet (I have so many more).  You should have jeans designated for every event.  Jeans for dates, jeans for work, jeans for cleaning, jeans for outdoor activities, you get my point.  They are an essential in my wardrobe and just about every woman I have ever met. 

jeans at robin b


Typically, fit guides direct the reader to find jeans that fit your body type.  Pear shaped women should wear bootcut or a straight body shape is best in skinny, etc.  The one lesson I have learned since opening the store is that women aren’t really interested in what is “best for their shape”.  They want jeans they like, they are comfortable in and they look good in (preferably skinnier).  I have so many women visit the store and tell me they don’t like: high waisted, skinny, flares, holes, light, dark - you get the point.  The reasons are good ones that make sense for that person and I understand their point of view. 

Now, I could be the person who tells them, “Well, you have an hourglass figure so you should wear this style.” That would be when that woman turns on her heel and leaves the store.  Probably calling me a name as soon as the door shuts behind them (we’ve all been there).

All this said, here are my suggestions for finding the perfect pair of jeans for YOU, no matter what body shape you are!

Before we step into the guide, there is one bit of advice I think is key for anyone looking for jeans.  Bring or wear, the shoes you plan on wearing with your new jeans with you to the store.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying on an amazing pair of jeans and you only have the sneakers you wore to the gym with you. This can affect (in a negative way) how the jeans fall at the hem, as well as how they look on you.  Better to have the right shoes so you are confident with your new purchase when you leave the store. 

jean shapes and definitions


If you haven’t heard, jeans have been around since the 1800s.  The first shape was the straight jean.  This is a body that both men and women wear and has typically been a “go-to” for those who are not very fashion forward.  Today, we find straight jeans for women have become the standard for casual Friday and the choice for those who are a bit more fashion forward.  What was old has become new again.

Skinny jeans, which became popular in the 1950s and worn by iconic figures like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, are the fad again.  In our store, this is the style we sell the most and our customers have numerous pairs in various colors and lengths.

The flare (my personal favorite) became popular in the late 1960s and 1970s, although a bit wider at the bottom and more high-waisted than today’s version.  To me, the flare jean is just cool!  I have found it to be a shape that seems to be adopted quicker on the West Coast than here on the East.  Maybe it is because California weather is more mild (no massive snow banks), which lends to the ability to wear stilettos or wedges more often. 


occasion and jean checklist

I can hear the grumbling already!  It is true,  you can’t wear those distressed jeans to work.  It just doesn’t put you in the right light with all those executives watching you.  Remember, you have a dress code, even if no one else does.   For work and date nights, I would stick to something sleek and clean when it comes to washes.  It leaves a positive impression and you will feel confident giving that impromptu presentation or meeting someone new.   As for daily wear, I am all for expressing yourself.  I love the distressed boyfriend jeans, rolled up, with doc martins (if that is your look).  As they say, anything goes.  Just be sure they are comfortable and fit well.  Which leads me to the next section of our guide, finding the right fit for you. 


As I mentioned, most women decide which silhouette they prefer.  There are benefits to some of these fits that may not be so obvious.  The first, skinny jeans are meant to be worn at the ankle or a bit longer (not much).  This is great for those who are petite (under 5’ 3”).  No hemming!  Which is biggest complaint I hear in the store.  The good news, most brands cut their skinny jeans to the ankle or they are cropped. 

For taller women, there are plenty of options.  It is becoming common to find styles in 33 – 35” inseams.  Again, no hemming.  This all said, I always suggest to my customers, keep an open mind, as there will be a style or two that will probably need to be hemmed.  Just be sure to find a tailor that knows how to hem jeans (yes, there is a proper way) and bring those shoes with you.  You want to have that hem just right.    

Most modern denim is sized by waist size (26, 27).  It is important to note, not all sizes are created equal.  Take a size above and below your normal size when trying on jeans.  You will be surprised how differently each brand cuts their garments.   

Once you have the size and inseam decided upon, here are a few more questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you like a low-rise jean? Be sure the rise is less than 8 inches. 
  • Want a high-waisted look (very on trend for 2017)? Pick a rise that is 9-10+ inches. 
  • Concerned about bagging in the knees? Look for stretch or performance denim.  This is the best way to ensure those skinny jeans stay skinny. 

 robin in flare jeans


Remembering the silhouette, fit, and occasion are the three things to focus on when looking for your next pair of jeans.  The picture of me, above, is a typical work outfit.  The dark washed flares convey a professional look that is on-trend but very appropriate for my day of writing, working with customers in the store, or processing shipments of merchandise (or whatever the day brings).  Paired with a crisp white blouse and long cardigan, I am ready to take on the world (or at least the day).

I wish you lots of luck finding your next pair of jeans.  If you have a question about a style of jeans I love connecting with my customers and readers send me a note at  

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 Blog by Robin Barrett Wilson

For the past 25 years, Robin has devoted herself to almost every facet of the fashion industry.  Working from the ground up, she has worked for and with some of the most prominent names in the fashion industry (Victoria's Secret, Tory Burch, Chico's Brands, J. Crew - to name a few).  She started in store operations and progressed to buyer before switching to the other side and selling apparel for vendors. At the beginning of the tech craze, she went behind the scenes, consulting with retail companies on eCommerce, Omni-channel and Supply Chain. She’s even designed and developed her own products. It was in 2015, that Robin turned her dedication, expertise, and passion to a new venture: robin b. 

{pic of Gigi Hadid - courtesy capture showroom} 


Robin Barrett Wilson


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