How To Buy Jeans Online: Your Definitive Guide To Getting The Right Size And Avoiding Returns

When it comes to jeans, one size definitely does not fit all.

Aida wearing blue jeans and black sunglasses

by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

Buying jeans online is rather like doing your tax return - hair-raisingly stressful during, but immensely satisfying after. That is, of course, if the outcome is successful. The reason it so often isn’t is because jeans are the one item of clothing that really need to fit perfectly. So where do you even start? We went straight to the source, asking denim brands and aficionados for their tips on how to buy jeans online. Don’t shop before you read...

First Of All, Don’t Get Fixated On The Size

Rachael Proud, Raey’s creative director, says don't rigidly stick to one size. ‘It’s important with all sizing, denim or otherwise, not to get caught up in the size on the label. I have clothes anywhere from a size 10 to a size 5XL; I just buy what I feel is a good fit of that item on me. I wear one style of Raey jeans in a 32 waist because I like them to be baggy on me and it works so please don’t get caught up in sizing - it’s so misleading!’

You Won’t Be Able To Buy The Same Size Of Jeans In Every Shop

According to the experts at Re/Done, every pair of jeans, even within one brand, is going to fit differently. ‘Whether it be from brand to brand or style to style, every pair of jeans will fit differently due to manufacturing, fabrication, and shape. The only way to really understand how a pair of jeans will fit without trying them on is by taking measurements of one’s natural waist, hip, inseam, and preferred rise to compare to that of the product. With those measurements, customers can choose the size that corresponds to having a loose or snug fit, high waist or low waist, crop leg or long leg, etc.

We also recommend paying attention to fabrication. If a piece is made from 100% cotton, it will have a more rigid texture. If a piece has other components than cotton, it will have some stretch and more leniency with size.’ Look out for brands who go above and beyond when it comes to fit across different sizes. Wrangler’s Body Bespoke range ensures that important elements of the jeans, including the yoke and the back pocket, are altered according to the size.

Don’t Forget About Stretch

Corinna Joseph, Browns’s junior fashion buyer, says it’s important to remember about stretch. ‘Most mainstream brands account for a little stretch post the initial wear,’ she says. What this means is that if a pair of jeans feels a little big when you first try them on, that’s only likely to increase as you start wearing and washing them. This is different to stretch-denim, which is where the cotton is blended with some stretch content (like elastane) so that the jeans mold easily to your body. And while there’s nothing wrong with this, Joseph says it’s important to remember that stretch-denim shouldn’t be your default because you’re worried about sizing. ‘A little bit of rigidity gives the cut some structure and often means that the denim lasts for longer.’

Look Carefully At What Size The Model Is Wearing

Molly Haylor, Grazia’s style director, says pay attention to what size the model is wearing. ‘Keep an eye on the height of the model to make sure you don’t end up with jeans that are too short or drag,’ she says.

Get Creative When It Comes To Figuring Out A Brand’s Fit

Lillian Sesiguzel, Grazia’s social media and video producer, recommends taking a look at the brand’s social media feed before buying a pair of jeans. ‘On Good American’s website, you can choose the model to best represent your own body shape. In an ideal world this would be a feature on most reatil websites, but unfortunately it isn’t. What I tend to do is scan a brand’s Instagram, or look through their tagged images, to see how their jeans fit on someone who looks like me body-wise.’

Find A Great Local Tailor

You’re probably used to getting dresses taken up or jackets repaired at your local dry cleaner, but you might not think about lavishing such care on a pair of jeans. Grazia’s fashion news and features director, Laura Jordan, says finding a reliable tailor will solve all sorts of wardrobe problems. ‘At 5’1” with a tiny waist but a substantial bottom, I have never found a pair of jeans that were ready to wear straight off the rack. So, my top tip for buying denim (or honestly, most things) is to find a great local tailor. I go to a brilliant, Savile Row-trained whizz called Dharm at Hampstead Atelier. He is a magician. It’s not expensive but makes the world of difference.’

Experiment With A New Fit

Looser styles have been key for working from home, but with re-emergence on the horizon, it might be time for something a little more structured. ‘During lockdown, I was living in the E.L.V. Denim boyfriend jeans. They are the exact pair you need for feeling good while WFH, but for 2021, I am looking forward to wearing the contrast straight-leg out out!’ says E.L.V. Denim’s founder, Anna Foster. Raey’s Find jeans is also causing a lot of excitement at HQ. ‘It’s like the jean you see on a friend - high-rise, but not too high, straight-leg with the slightest flare at the hem – and you ask her where she bought it and she says, ‘They were my mum’s from the ‘70s, she got them in a flea market in Paris’, except this time your friend says, ‘They are from Raey and they are called Find!’’


SHOP: The Best Jeans To Buy Online

H&M, Straight Regular Jeans, £49.991 of 7

H&M, Straight Regular Jeans, £49.99

Raey, Find Straight-Leg Jeans, £1402 of 7

Raey, Find Straight-Leg Jeans, £140

Re/Done, '90s High-Rise Slim-Fit Straight-Leg Jeans, £2503 of 7

Re/Done, '90s High-Rise Slim-Fit Straight-Leg Jeans, £250

E.L.V. Denim, Dark Blue Match Boyfriend Jeans, £2854 of 7

E.L.V. Denim, Dark Blue Match Boyfriend Jeans, £285

Arket, Barrel-Leg Jeans, £695 of 7

Arket, Barrel-Leg Jeans, £69

Isabel Marant u00c9toile, Corsysr Boyfriend Jeans, £1956 of 7

Isabel Marant Étoile, Corsysr Boyfriend Jeans, £195

Wrangler, Worldwide Jeans In Under Water, £807 of 7

Wrangler, Worldwide Jeans In Under Water, £80

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us