It’s easy to match denim trends from different eras (see: 70s flare bottoms, 80s acid wash, early 2000s low rise). Right now we’re in the midst of a high-waisted craze, with styles that hit well above the hip and appeal to a large segment of the denim-wearing population. It’s not really a trend, however, since the look has been around for decades. Some of the first Levi’s designed for women in the 1940s had very high waists, which made the jeans practical and easy to slip into a shirt when working in a factory.
The style stuck for its flattering shape. “High-waisted jeans are actually a fashion gift because they’re usually fitted at the waist and hips, but have a slight flare, so they flatter all body types,” says Abby Arad, stylist and founder of Your stylist says. To find your perfect pair(s), we consulted Arad and researched the market thoroughly on the best high-waisted jeans to consider for your denim wardrobe.
Best high waisted jeans overall
Levi’s: A classic that sets the standard
The best affordable high waisted jeans
Zara: chic, wide silhouette
Best high waisted jeans for tummy control
Good American: “Tummy tech” and a contoured waistband
Best high waisted jeans for curvy women
Universal standard: size included and excellent washes
Best high waisted jeans for petite women
Madewell: multiple inseams, so there’s no need for sewing.
Best High Rise Skinny Jeans
DL1961: Sculpting and reshaping the body
Best High Rise Bootcut Jeans
7 For All Mankind: Flattering Flared Hem
The best of the rest
Good American: designed for curves and large sizes
Alice and Olivia: a flattering flared shape
Mother: cropped for a chic look
Agolde: well-made dark denim
Levi’s: comfortable skinny style
Frame: relaxed boyfriend fit
Agency: Denim Distressed It’s Super Soft
What to look for with the best high waisted jeans:
- Style: Not all high waisted jeans are created equal. In fact, if they’re cut too tight at the waist, they can be downright uncomfortable. When buying a pair, Arad has this advice: “Go for the highest size that is comfortable. For shorter frames, wearing a high waisted style with a heel and having the hem fall further than your natural ankle line will also help elongate your legs.
- Tissue: While “stretch” jeans may seem a little dated, the truth is that you want a fabric that offers a bit of comfort. Arad says to look for at least one to two percent spandex in the fabric, especially if you sit at a desk all day or spend time driving, when your body is bent at the waist. “Also, high-end brands spend more time perfecting the ‘hand’ of their denim, i.e. the feel of the fabric, so more expensive jeans can be softer and more comfortable” , she says.
- Sizes: High-waisted jeans call for getting the right size. “I tell my clients that it’s the role of the clothes to adapt to the person, and not the other way around”, explains Arad. “So don’t twist yourself around to fit into a size jean you think you should wear but don’t fit.”
Which style of high waisted jeans is the best?
If you shop online, buy a few different styles and brands to see what works on your body. Ask a friend’s opinion if you’re unsure how the jeans look from all angles, if you want an objective point of view. Ultimately, though, Arad says it’s up to you: if you like jeans and they feel good, this is the “right” pair.
How much should I spend on high waisted jeans?
“I really believe that people should wear the jeans that they find most comfortable and flattering for their body,” says Arad. A pair is worth your money if it fits you well, and you know you’ll wear it again and again. “That being said, I would cap this style at $300, with most high-end brands going for around $250,” says Arad.