How to: Easily Find the Right Denim Sizing for You

by Jaime on November 11, 2009

Sizing is, at the very least, an art. Sizing for denim, however… well, Christ, that’s just something that few can actually do correctly. So, tag this in your bookmarks, kids. Consider this your crash course in figuring out how to size yourself right.

Image: DisneyMike

For starters you need some measuring tape, a pen and paper, and you’ve got to get down to your skivvies. If you’ve got a problem with either of these things (or don’t own either of these things, go to two websites: (which used to be and Bare Necessities… and here’s why:

With, they will give you a downloadable, free tape measure for you to use ASAP. Yes, you can always go down to your local craft store and pick one up… they’re not expensive. But, who doesn’t love free, right?

And, why Bare Necessities? Well, if you don’t have underwear… we should remedy that issue as soon as possible.

First, pull out your tape measure (actually, I suppose you should first get down into said underwear, but those are details that I’ve already mentioned, so just go with it…) and stretch it out. Odds are, yours goes about as far as mine does: approximately 60”.

Start with your neck. Measure around the mid-section around your neck, and mark down the number in inches.

Next: your bust. Since you’re measuring with your bra on, measure around the widest part of your bust, and mark that down.

For your arms: most places don’t actually specify arm circumference, but it’s best to have the notation for future records… it can be useful for getting fitted for your wedding dress or anything specifically tailored for you (an expense I’d HIGHLY recommend if you’ve got the cash.) At the widest part of your upper arm, measure around, and write down that number as well.

Repeat this for your waist (and, make sure… I mean, REALLY make sure… that you are measuring your actual waist, which is the most tapered part of your midsection, usually about an inch and a half above your bellybutton), and mark down this number. This will be a crucial number in your denim sizing, so keep it in mind.

Next, measure your hips at the hip bone, as well as the broadest part of your hip/butt area. This will also be pretty important very soon.

And lastly, measure from the inside of your ankle up to your crotch. This is your inseam (and yes, this is a big one to know!) and write this one down too.

Alright! Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get you some jeans!

To be honest, these measurements are technically all you really need but sometimes, the best way to find a pair of jeans that fits you well is to go and try them on. If you’re like me, you’ve done that a lot. Head out to a department store, preferably a Bloomingdales, Nordstrom (hey, Nordstrom Rack works really well, too!) or some place that is equally well stocked in denim, and go try on a couple of different pairs.

Start with going for the waist size that you measured (ie, if you have a waist of 28, try on a pair of 28 jeans). Please take into account that this is NOT a fail-proof method of finding your right size. For example, my actual waist is 23.5”. Can I get my ass into a pair of 24s? Um… only in Current/Elliott jeans, and those really don’t count. But, 25s and 26s, depending on the amount of stretch, fit me great. Why? Because I have 32” hips. Like everything else, it’s trial and error.

When buying online, know what brands fit you in what way… and this is where it really helps to head out to a store to test out styles and cuts of your favorite brands. Inseam is really only important if you’re tall; any short girl can get her jeans hemmed up with the original hem intact (though I’d recommend, under normal circumstances, not to remove more than 3-4″ off the inseam, depending on the style and wash), but be careful. A large part of the style can be lost if you have to remove the hem to lengthen the jean just so it’ll fit you correctly.

But, most importantly: buy what you like! If it’s comfortable, if it makes you feel sexy… that’s what’s really important. And remember: I am always, ALWAYS willing to lend a helping hand. That’s what denim debutantes do.


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