Shopping for jeans is one activity that could drive even the most level-headed of women to – for the lack of a better word – flip. Trawling the shops to try on denim – one of the most notoriously tricky things to wear – can be demoralising. I don’t care what size or shape you are, finding jeans that actually fit properly can be almost impossible, not to mention incredibly frustrating. I’ve often found myself wrestling with a pair of jeans in a tiny changing room, which claim to be my size but don’t, in fact, go past my knees. I’ve also spent too much money on jeans that, in the first 10 seconds after I try them on for the first time, look and, more importantly, feel fantastic. In a euphoric rush, I’ve bought them, only to get them home, wear them for half a day and find that they’ve gone baggy around the bum, tight around the waist and loose around the knees. It’s not ideal.
With that in mind, the prospect of buying jeans online is potentially very appealing. No more trekking from one sweaty changing room to another, leaving the fate of our self-esteem in the hands (or legs, rather) of unyielding denim. There is, however, the issue of size – with so many variations across denim brands, how can you possibly ensure that you order correctly first time and therefore avoid the interminable post-office queue? I spoke to some of the industry’s denim know-it-alls to find out…
Narrow down your options
“Finding jeans feels difficult because it can be complicated and time-consuming, as the marketplace is saturated with denim brands and their selection is quite similar,” says Maurizio Donadi, AG’s creative director at large. It’s true that, wherever you’re looking, after a while every pair of jeans starts to look the same, so the key lies in identifying exactly what you want, as Jessica Lawrence, MiH’s director of brand and design, explains: “The options can be overwhelming until you make a couple of key decisions. Jeans are generally categorised online by silhouette and by rise, so that is where you have to focus your first decision. If you have a sense of what leg shape and length you want, and whether you want a low or high rise, you can edit down immediately then let yourself be drawn by the wash and vibe of the jeans.” Most brands now categorise their jeans, ensuring you can quickly identify cut, wash and fit – GAP, Topshop and MiH are particularly good at this.
I always recommend checking how much stretch the denim has, as that has a huge impact on how a jean fits and feels – 100 per cent cotton means the denim won’t stretch at all
Use the jeans you already own to buy the next pair
While there are often variations on a cut, it’s a good idea to stick to what you know when you're shopping online. For example, if you’ve been wearing high-waisted jeans all winter, look for a similarly high cut on new-season jeans, even if the leg is slightly different. “If you have a favourite pair of jeans where you love the rise, or how long they are, you can compare the measurements with the jeans you’re looking to buy online. Although measurements might vary depending on how stretchy the denim is, it will give you a sense of where the jeans might sit on your waist or where they will hit on your leg," says Lawrence.
don't ignore the SIZE GUIDEs
It sounds obvious but as well as the regular size guides on brands' websites, check to see if there are size calculators, like on Zara and ASOS. They ask for your measurements, height and weight to determine which size would be best for you to buy, and while they might not be spot on, they can be a good indicator. It's also a good idea to make sure you see the jeans on a model – even if you have completely different proportions, seeing the jeans on an actual person will give a much better idea of how they fit on a body.
work out the stretch
Often, it’s hard to know what constitutes the right fit for you, until you actually try on a well-fitting pair of jeans. It’s difficult to isolate exactly why one pair of jeans fits you better than another, particularly if they claim to be the same size. Jessica Lawrence has some helpful advice when it comes to this: “I always recommend checking how much stretch the denim has, as that has a huge impact on how a jean fits and feels: 100 per cent cotton means the denim won’t stretch at all; two per cent elastane will give you a comfortable stretch but still hold; and a mix of polyester (around four per cent) and elastane (one to two per cent) gives you stretch that won’t bag out.”
USE THE TECHNOLOGY ON OFFER
With demand higher than ever, more and more brands are introducing different initiatives and technologies to help customers shop online more easily and successfully. Levi’s, for example, has a virtual stylist, which appears in the form of a pop-up chat window that asks if you need any help finding the right fit or size. According to Claudia Roggenkamp, vice president of digital at Levi’s, customers who engage with this tool are much more likely to find and buy a pair of jeans than those who don’t.
Meanwhile, Lindex launched Pants Solution just last year, which aims to make jeans shopping easier by giving each style a name. The idea is that you find the fit you like most, remember the name and then, even if there's a new wash or design, you know exactly which fit to buy. Similarly, for spring, M&S has named three existing styles of its jeans Lily, Ivy and Sienna – three of the most popular girls' names in 2018 – so that customers can shop for denim more easily.
LOOK FOR FREE RETURNS
Nobody can promise you that you won’t, at some point, have to endure a bit of trial and error when shopping online for jeans but, on the plus side, at least you can try them on in the comfort of your own home. "Buying online allows you to be in the comfort of your own home to try on different styles and play around with styling them with your own wardrobe," explains Jenna Habayeb, CMO at 7 For All Mankind, which offers free returns across Europe. While most brands do have free returns options, it's worth checking the delivery and returns policy on websites to avoid any hidden costs.
Though it’s a good idea to order multiple styles if you’re unsure, this can obviously be expensive, even if you are looking to return the majority. Topshop and ASOS offer a try-before-you-buy service, which allows you to order what you want, try it all on at home and only pay for what you keep. Plus, returns are free.