The great jeans search

I’m sure every girl out these will know where I’m coming from with this post. We love our jeans and, as we move into autumn and winter, will be living in them more and more. But shopping for them can be a nightmare. You know what size you are in one shop, but when you try that on in another shop, you can’t even get your big toe in. Talk about soul destroying.

For me, the problem is my calves. They’re out of proportion with my waist. So, when I try on jeans that would fit my waist, I can’t even get them over my calves. And when I size up to accommodate the chunky legs, the jeans often hang off my waist. Argh!

Oddly enough, I don’t have much trouble with skinny jeans, as they tend to have a lot of stretch, so will work with legs of any shape and size. But I’m looking for something different – a wider-legged, boyfriend-type style, something a bit cooler and more Nineties. But I really don’t want them shredded to pieces, or overly embellished, because i don’t want them to be one-season wonders.

So I decided to conduct a high-street experiment. Which shop could cater for my denim needs…?

Miss Selfridge

I’m quite into Miss Selfridge at the moment. Its little lacy tops and dresses and cute jumpers are right up my street (confession: I bought this embroidered jumper!), but I generally think of it a shop for younger, skinnier girls.

I tried on the Faye jeans, which are described as a high-rise, straight leg crop style, and cost £38. They were the only non-skinnies in the store. These are a size 12.



If I was looking for a skinny jean, these would pretty much be perfect, but, as I said, I’m not. And, on my chunky calves, these don’t look like a straight leg at all. I love the frayed edge, though.


Often considered the Holy Grail of jeans, Topshop’s range is extensive. However, I’ve never been one of the many thousands of girls buying them. Topshop jeans just aren’t made for girls my shape – they’re made for girls with skinny legs. But I decided to forget about past experiences for the sake of this experiment and try on a couple of styles to see whether any of them worked for me.

First up, the Hayden loose fit boyfriend in a 30 waist, which costs £42. Surely if any Topshop would suit my chunky calves, these would be the ones?



Hmm, no! The legs, which should be loose, gripped my calves like skinnies, and the waist and thighs were massive. I also really don’t want all those rips. Starting to think my theory about me and Topshop might hold true…

But I soldiered on and tried the Lucas slim boyfriend, also £42 and in a 30 waist…



Err, no, basically a skinny, and still too big on the waist. I can confirm, Topshop jeans are not for me!


Now, back in the days when the only jeans it was acceptable to wear were bootcut (cast your minds back to the early noughties, ladies), I loved Oasis jeans. They were my go-to, even though they were pretty expensive in those days.

The only style in the store that wasn’t a variation on a skinny was the Hollie (which is called a girlfriend jean online, but a slim boyfriend in store. Pretty sure they’re the same thing!). They’re £45 and I tried a size 12.


Hmm, more skinnies r us, and quite snug around the waist (bit of a tyre in that yellow jumper!). Also…


Too low-waisted – no one needs their knickers peeking out of the back of their jeans!


Onto another teen favourite of mine, and one I’ve been enjoying the resurgence of recently – Warehouse. The printed dresses and pyjama-style blouses are rocking, but do the jeans meet my high expectations?

I tried on The Boy Cut in a size 12, which is £49, but currently on sale for £10 less than that.


And hoorah, the first pair of jeans I’ve put on during the whole experiment that don’t cling to my calves! So it does exist.

img_4513The fit at the waist is pretty good, too, and they felt really comfy. The one drawback? I’m not sure if the loose leg combined with a dark wash looks a little bit mumsy. But the jury’s out, and I might come back in favour of these jeans.


Practically denim’s spiritual home, I was expecting good things from Gap – especially as it’s perhaps a more grown-up shop than the Topshops of the world, so it might provide a more ‘sensible’ jean.

First up was the Original Vintage Straight jean, currently £38.47 to buy online. The jeans I currently own, mostly from Asos, are generally a 28 or 29 inch waist, but so far in this experiment I’ve needed a 30 inch waist, so that’s what I started with.


Turns out, I don’t need a 30 waist in Gap! Though I did love the loose legs on these. So I sized down to a 28…


That’s more like it. But, erm, what’s with the short leg length, Gap? These are not a cropped style, and I don’t normally struggle to find jeans that are long enough (long body, short legs!). Nevertheless, I do like these. They’re 100% cotton, so will soften up nicely and have that great retro Levi’s look.

Next up, the Original Wide Leg Crops, which are on sale at £21.99.


Another hooray for a non-skinny leg! Once again, they’re short, but at least these are described as crops. However, a bit gapey at the back…


But I’m generally impressed with Gap’s jeans so far. It wasn’t all sweetness and light, though. Check out the MC Hammer drop-crotch on these Original Boyfriends


No thank you!

New Look

It might not be the height of quality, but I’ve always been a fan of New Look. After all, I can’t resist a bargain. And, in my opinion, there is no better shop on the high street for party heels. It’s also one of those shops that tends to be more generous with its sizing.

However, I picked up its Straight jeans in a size 12, which cost £29.99…


And here they are hanging on a peg, because I could not get them on to save my life! Perhaps it was a one-off, so I tried another style, the High Rise (I’m not entirely sure which version these are on the website – I can’t find a match for the ones I tried on in the shop), again in a size 12…


I did at least manage to get these on, though they sure were snug!


A common problem for me is that, as skinnier styles get stuck on my calves, the crotch ends up sitting really low. Which is exactly what’s happened here. Not a good look! And a disappointing result from New Look.


This is one of those shops I often walk into, enticed by the window display, and then walk swiftly back out of, put off by the very teenage clientele and streetwear-style clothing. However, I’d heard good things about its denim, so I soldiered on. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of styles on offer – so many of the shops I’ve looked in offer nothing but skinnies, so this was great.

First up, the Straight fit in a size 12, which is £25.99.


Not too bad – no calf clinging, which is a start! However…


Too big on the waist. Same old, same old!

Next up, the Wide Ankle style, again in a size 12. They’re £45.99 (and called a Hip style online, but in the store they were labelled Wide Ankle!) Inconsistency between shop labels and online seems to be a trend! I felt fairly excited about these, as the style is so wide-legged, there was no way they’d be stuck to my calves!


As it turns out, they were just massive all over! But a great style – I’d just need a size down, which they didn’t have in the store at the time. Watch this space…

Finally, although it slightly departs from the brief, I thought I’d try on the Cigarette style, which is just £19.99.


I actually loved them and thought they were really flattering. So, overall, Bershka was a surprise hit.


One of the best shops for basics, so perhaps it would follow that its jeans are some of the best. They’re certainly bargainous. When I went in store, there was a sale on, with some pairs as little as £4.90!

I tried the Slim Boyfriend Fit, which is £34.90, in a 30 waist.



They actually looked more like a far-too-big skinny style. I like the grey colour, though – I haven’t encountered many grey pairs in my search, it’s all about blue right now.

Then, I couldn’t resist trying on the Smart Shape style, simply because they were in the sale. These were a crazy £4.90 in store, though are selling for £24.90 online, and in a 29 waist.



They fit great. One more pair of stretchy skinnies can’t hurt, right?

Urban Outfitters

Another store a bit like Bershka, I tend to find UO a bit too young and cool for me. I’ve tried on its jeans in the past and liked them, though, so I thought I’d give them another go. Having ruled out Mom styles by now (if nothing else, this experiment has taught me that these are made only for the skinny of leg, no matter what shop you’re in), I plumped for the wide-leg, slightly cropped Flood style, which is £50, in a 29 waist.


I love the wide legs, but I do think that, combined with the cropped length, they make my body look long and my legs look very short and dumpy. However…


They fit my waist perfectly, and I thought they were very flattering on the rear. Perhaps with heels they’d be perfect.


As a final port of call on my research mission, I called into Liberty’s denim section to look at some designer styles. I’ve had MiH Jeans in the past and loved them, so I wondered if they’d prove superior again.

I tried the Jeanne style in a 29 waist, which is a whopping £245. They look epic on the model on the website, perhaps even good enough to justify that price tag. On me?




A fairly good fit, but no more special than anything else I’d tried and liked.

Next up, Rag & Bone’s Langley boyfriends, which are £190, again in a 29 waist.


A fairly slim fit in the legs, but not too grabby.


Too big on the waist, though. Sorry designers, I’m not sold.

Other shops

In the name of extensive research, I visited several other shops on the high street: H&M, Marks & Spencer, Zara, River Island and Monki. In these shops, I either couldn’t find anything I wanted to try on, (due to rips, embellishment, a proliferation of skinny styles) or simply couldn’t face trying to squeeze myself into jeans I knew wouldn’t fit me. Who wants to have to go up three sizes just to get a pair of jeans on?


Though jeans shopping tends to be a bit of an arduous mission for me, I’ve actually really enjoyed this experiment. I’ve learnt, on one hand, to broaden my horizons, and look in shops I wouldn’t normally bother with (Bershka, Gap and Urban Outfitters were particular favourites), but on the other hand to trust my instincts (Topshop jeans and me will never be friends. But I still love it dearly). Some shops I thought would be winners turned out to, erm, not be (New Look, I’m looking at you). I’ve also learnt that it’s always best to look in store. There are different styles on offer, better bargains, and you just can’t gauge how something is going to look on you from how it looks on the model.

The winners

So, I’ve bought three new pair of jeans that I’m really pleased with and, away from the dark and dingy confines of the changing rooms, may I present the winners…


The Bershka Hip style in a size smaller than the one I tried on in the shop, which I feel is a pretty perfect fit. I love the wide leg, and the mix of two shades of denim (you can just see the lighter shade on the back leg!). I think a little heel balances out the cropped length nicely.


Gap’s Original Vintage Straight in a 29 waist – the middle ground between the two sizes I tried on in store, which I think is just right. I love the 100 per cent cotton style, and a turn up makes the most of the slightly cropped length. I’ll wear them with ankle boots, too.


The Uniqlo Smart Shape – exactly the ones I tried on in store. Well, who can resist a £4.90 price tag? The material’s a little different to your standard 100 per cent cotton jean (they’re 78 per cent cotton, 15 per cent Lyocell, 5 per cent polyester, 2 per cent Spandex) so feel more like leggings. Perfect dressed down weekend jeans.

So that’s the end of my jeans journey (for now!) but I’d love to hear about yours. Where do you rely on for jeans and what are your biggest denim bugbears?

Bethan x




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