Denim Mistakes You May Be Making (And How To Fix Them)

Denim Mistakes You May Be Making (And How To Fix Them)

It’s been six years since I wrote this post about some of the common denim mistakes women make that can make them look frumpy! This is consistently one of my most highly trafficked posts, so I thought it was time for an update!


jeans // blouse // sandals

Jeans are one of the most common wardrobe items in a woman’s closet, and these days there are soooo many styles and options available. It seems like it should be simple, but finding jeans that fit right and don’t make you look frumpy can be quite a challenge. If you’re worried that your jeans are making you look frumpy, this post is for you!

Frumpy Denim Mistakes Women Often Make

#1. Wearing jeans that are too big or too small.

Denim Mistakes Women Often Make: Wearing jeans that are too big or too small.

AG Mari size 28 (just right) // AG Mari size 29 (too big)

This is probably the biggest mistake women make with denim. If your jeans are too big, they will sag and look schlumpy. If your jeans are too small, they will create unsightly bulges that add visual weight.

Most women actually tend to wear their jeans too big. If you go into any department store and work with a seasoned sales associate, they will almost always encourage you to size down in your denim. This is because most women are worried they will be uncomfortable or look bad if their jeans are too tight… but most jeans stretch out some with wear, and even the high end brands give a little and mold to your body.

FIT TIP: If you’re unsure if a new pair of jeans is the right fit, wear them around the house for a couple hours before taking the tags off and see how they look after they have some time to stretch out a bit (or to see if they will stretch out.) Some jeans stretch out a whole size after the first hour of wear, and others never really stretch out, so the only way to find out is to wear them for a while.

In the pictures above, the difference is subtle, but the ones on the right are too loose in the thighs and through the knees; the ones on the left are the right size. It’s also important to note this is a slim straight leg style; it’s meant to fit close to the body. The ones on the right are also too long to wear with those shoes… more on that below!

As with any wardrobe item, but especially with jeans, it is super important to dress for your current size, not the size you want to be. Most women fluctuate some with their weight; I know I do. Many of us probably keep a couple of sizes in our closets, and that’s okay. Just make sure the ones that fit best at the present time are up front where they’re easy to see and grab.

#2. Ignoring the rear view.

Denim Mistakes Women Often Make: Ignoring the rear view.

MOTHER The Weekender Fray 

I used to hate my rear view in jeans, and I figured it was just my shape. Then I found the brands that work for me, and here I am posting tushy shots all over the internet. Haha! But really, different brands fit differently, and we all have different shapes, so you just have to try a bunch until you find the ones that work best for you.

I’ve heard women say, Who cares, I can’t see it. Well, that doesn’t mean no one else can!!! Let’s face it, people are seeing us from behind probably as much as they’re seeing us from the front, so be sure to check your rear view — particularly the pocket placement. Some sit high, some sit low, some are wide apart, some are close together… and depending on your shape, some will look better than others.

This is why I often show rear-view pictures in my Try-On Hauls. It’s not that I relish having those pictures circulating the Internet for all eternity, but it is so important to take all angles into consideration when purchasing jeans.

I always take pictures like the ones above when I’m determining which jeans to keep or return. The MOTHER Weekender fits my rear view perfectly. The pocket placement is just right, they’re the proper size, and the jeans just have a way of shaping and molding to the body in a way that is almost magical! You pay a premium for MOTHER denim, but in my experience, they fit and flatter like no other.

#3. Not tailoring your jeans.

Denim Mistakes Women Often Make: Not hemming to the proper length

Edwin Marli Wide Leg Jeans 

When jeans are dragging on the floor, it definitely detracts from the overall appearance and creates a sloppy look, especially as we get older. But then again, if jeans are too short, they will cut off the leg at an awkward spot and look frumpy, so you definitely need to find your sweet spot with length and then hem your jeans if necessary.

Currently, it’s on trend to wear wide leg jeans a little too long, but for those of us who like to keep our looks more polished, it’s important to choose the exact right length, even if “the look” is to be a little long. In the photos above, the jeans on the left are too long; the solution is to wear a higher heel (as I did in the photo on the right) or to hem the jeans.

I think even with the picture on the right, the jeans could be an inch shorter. I prefer them not to buckle on top of the shoe, but with current trends as they are, it’s probably okay.

With crop and ankle length jeans, this isn’t QUITE as much of an issue as it is with straight and bootcut styles, but it’s still something to consider. Even ankle length jeans can look awkward if they are too long or too short.

FIT TIP: In general, skinny jeans should come to the top of the ankle, straight-leg jeans to the mid-point of the ankle, and wide leg and flares to about a half-inch off the ground… although these traditional guidelines are evolving a bit at the moment.

I know, so many factors! But as they say, the devil is in the details (and I would add, so is good style!)

Here’s a little visual for you.

proper denim lengths

straight // flare // wide leg

It’s hard to find pictures online that are exactly what I want to show… don’t assume they are shown the way they should look on your favorite retailer websites! Often the models are verrrry tall, and they will be longer on us mere mortals, but those images above look about right to me.

#4. Wearing too much embellishment or too much distressing/whiskering.

Denim Mistakes Women Make: Wearing too much embellishment or too much distressing/whiskering.

left: MOTHER The Weekender Fray // right: outdated distressed skinny jeans

Wearing moderately distressed jeans can be a valid sartorial choice, depending on the fit and quality and what is trending, but wearing jeans with lots of embellishments, excessive rips and tears, dramatic whiskering on the hips, and faded spots in unfortunate areas can add to the frump factor and look like we’re trying too hard.

In the pictures above, the pair on the left has some subtle fading on the thighs and whiskering at the hip, and the raw hem is on trend. They fit well, and they’re good quality and on trend, with a great casual vibe.

The pair on the right is what I would consider “excessive rips and tears.” Even though they’re not terrible (I’ve seen a lot worse!), it’s just a little much, especially for current trends, and they don’t give off a polished appearance.

#5. Tucking jeans that are too wide into your boots.


These days, I’m not wearing skinny jeans in my knee boots much at all, but if you like this look, I recommend keeping a pair of legging jeans in your closet for this purpose. Cropped or ankle-length skinny jeans are ideal for this because they don’t require you to roll up the hems to fit inside your boots.

If you must roll your jeans to fit into boots, create one large cuff, and then pull your socks on over top to hold your pants in place and keep them from looking bulky in your boots.

Shop My Favorite Jeans

(updated 3/1/24)

How to Care for Denim

And while we’re talking about jeans, let’s discuss denim care tips. After all, if you invest in good quality denim, you want them to stay looking good for as long as possible.These are best practices, not saying I bother to do all of these… but I always wash my jeans on cold and hang to dry.

  • Don’t wash your jeans too often. If they don’t look or smell dirty, put them back in your closet.
  • Wash your jeans inside out in cold water and hang to dry to protect the wash as well as the elastin.
  • Add vinegar to the water before you wash them the first time to help lock the color in. (This is more for dark wash jeans, not as necessary for lighter washes.)
  • Fold rather than hang your jeans. Supposedly hanging can wear on them over time… (although I do hang mine.)


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *