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We’ve all established one: that single denim brand that just gets us. It hides our fat where we need it, makes our butt look just right, and most importantly confirms that yes, in fact, we truly are a size 26 waist. Moving out of our denim comfort zone to shop for a pair of jeans from another brand can be a terrifying thing. How do we come to terms with the fact that our waist has jumped two sizes?

Is it normal that this higher rise feels less sexy?
These pockets make my hips look big.
I’m just going to go down a couple sizes and lose the weight.

Through the experience I’ve had in picking vintage jeans for Denim Refinery, the one revelation that I come to again and again is how subjective a sizing system really is. A brand from today dictates that I’m a size 26, but a pair of Levi’s from the ‘70s says I’m actually a size 29. How is this possible? In the older days of manufacturing, jeans were sized according to the literal waist measurement. However, as the world became a savvier place, brands came to realize that making women feel good directly led to more sales. Thus, vanity sizing was created. The denim brands of today have mastered our confidence levels by slapping on a size smaller than what we thought ourselves to be. So why limit ourselves to one brand of jeans because of a fear we’re enslaved to? Exploring new fits and cuts for our bodies is something that’s meant to be enjoyed, not avoided.

One practical way in becoming comfortable with shopping for denim is ignoring the size. Eyeball a pair of jeans that you think looks about right (with practice, this should become easier), and hold the waist around your own neck. If end to end matches, it’s perfect. If there’s a little bit of overlap, it’s too big. If both ends don’t come together, it’s too small. The circumference of your neck is an accurate assessment of half your waist. Your waist is the smallest part of your torso. As you shop, keep in mind where you’ll want that pair to sit, as your waist and hips are a different measurement. Shocking as most people think this to be, it’s extremely useful and a great tool to begin stepping out of your denim comfort zone.

Secondly, remember that your jeans will always stretch from anywhere to half a size to a full size bigger. Leave room for just that when trying a pair on. It’ll eliminate the possibility of you buying a pair four sizes too small because you’re positive “they’ll stretch out.”

Your waist size is only a number, and it’s time we stop letting a tag define who we are. Keeping our options open should never be stunted by our insecurities.

Now, go find those jeans!

Image via Madewell Musings


  1. My mom taught me to size jeans by wrapping the waist around my neck! I do find that each pair fits differently and accentuates your body differently, so I’m always trying them on. I try not to focus on size because I’ve noticed that different brands and materials will fit differently. Instead, I focus on how I look in them and how they make me feel.

    1. That’s the perfect mentality to go about it. Keeping it in mind that brands have their own method of sizing totally puts things into perspective. So glad you make the way you feel a priority!

  2. I wish the vanity sizing was also applied to wedding dresses! Bridal gown sizing is, for some reason, something like twice the normal “street size” of other women’s clothing. What is that?!

  3. Does anyone have any brands they love? I find jeans are the hardest thing to shop for. They all fit and accentuate different areas. I’m always searching for ideas.

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