Denim Shopping Tips for Petites (Guest Post from Jaime of Denim Debutante)


It’s no secret I love denim, so when Erin offered to e-introduce me to Jaime of Denim Debutante, I was excited to pick her denim-guru brain. I couldn’t help myself and eagerly asked Jaime if she had any denim suggestions for my particular shopping needs, and she gave the most thoughtful and thorough answer, that I thought, “wow, this girl is good!” She was kind enough to whip up some jean shopping tips for us, and I hope you’ll check out her blog which is chock full of helpful reviews and tips. Curious about what she suggested for someone like me? I’ve shared her tips down below:

A lot of you probably don’t know who I am because, let’s face it: shopping for jeans sucks. But I can change that for you! My name is Jaime Palmucci, and I started, a denim blog featuring tips, tricks, advice and a little bit of humor to help you find your perfect pair of baby blues.

After being introduced to Kelly by Erin over at Shop Happens, she and I devised a plan: to rid the girl world of ill-fitting indigo entirely. So, here I am!

Listen, I totally get the ick factor when it comes to jean shopping. I’ve been there. Denim Debutante was created after my experiences working for a fashion retailer. It was there that I first felt the huge void in “real” information about brands (other denim sites heavily focused on identifying celebrities’ jeans and, while we do that on the celeb denim site, the main site has stayed true to my original mission) and decided to use my unique gift and get women (and men) into better denim that not only fit their bodies, but their personal lives and wallets as well.

I might be a bit taller (a little over 5’4) and not as petite (thanks, late blooming curves!), but fashion is a cruel mistress who still likes to mock me too every now and again. Denim has become easier over time, but even I fight the fear each time I get a new pair in my hands. How do I work my way through it?

There is no magic spell, nor is there a one size fits all fix (because OSFA doesn’t exist. Seriously.), but these tips will give you the upper hand when you’re ready to take the leap.

  • Know what your measurements are. Yes, all of them. If you don’t already have a measuring tape, you can find one to print and tape together (but they’re less than a dollar at craft stores, and you ought to own one anyways) – then take down your measurements. If you’re not sure which numbers are important – or where on your body you should be measuring – that’s okay! Check out my post about buying jeans in the right size for the details. Try to take these measurements every six months or so to help you understand how fits changes with your figure. Plus, it sets you up to be totally prepared for our next tip!
  • Have a sizing “baseline” to go from. Whether you know how certain brands work for you or you’re flying blind, it’s easy to find a sizing “control” brand for future purchases. Of course, the best start is also one of the more tedious: trial and error. Head to a store near you (one with a decent brand/style selection) and just grab everything that might fit you. Mark down how the brand/size/style fits for each and, after you’ve finished, select the top three pairs. Those are your base for future shopping!

Bonus note: since denim isn’t subject to universal sizing regulation, your best bet is to find other brands that fit like your favorites. Read reviews, search for pictures and check out the denim sizing guide for comparable brands.

  • Don’t gauge your purchase (or your worth) on what your waistband says. Big or small, vanity sizing runs rampant in the denim industry. In my closet alone, I have pairs that range from a 23 to a 27 (but beware: sometimes the smaller number is the bigger pair!) and brands can even range wildly within themselves. Remember that your worth is not defined by any number, especially not the size of your jeans.
  • Shop to your strengths. I have denim envy just like everyone else. My biggest? Low cut jeans. On a petite figure, they’re perfect; with my curves, however, they look borderline pornographic. A little bit of jealousy is fine, but don’t take it (or that high-waist trouser cut!) to the dressing room.
  • Fight the urge to settle. A great pair of jeans should fit you, not the other way around. We live during a time in fashion when options are plenty and style can fit the wearer. So, if you’ve gone through an entire boutique’s worth of denim and haven’t found the pair, keep in mind that IT’S NOT YOU. Your body is perfect and there is a pair that’s meant for you. So take it easy, have a glass of wine and treat yourself, because nothing is worth beating yourself up over.

Before I leave you to your shopping, here are a few things that have helped me personally when it comes to shopping for jeans, particularly when I feel overwhelmed by the sea of too big! too long! too wrong! pairs out there.

First, when all else fails, go small. Some of my favorite styles (like MiH Paris Cropped, my favorite Current/Elliott boyfriend jeans or my current all-time favorite jeans!) required no hemming at all thanks to their cropped style. Plus, certain brands – specifically European lines like Acne Jeans and Diesel as well as Australian brand Ksubi – run much smaller than their American counterparts.

Second, it’s totally okay to avoid some of the trendier styles, especially since the hot-right-now printed denim trend will make a petite figure look childlike. Start with the basics, like a straight leg or slim flare, and look for traits that will flatter your figure, like well-placed pockets, a higher knee break and a darker wash with fading at the thigh.

And finally, a good tailor can make almost anything work… as long as you’re realistic. You cannot expect to have the silhouette unchanged after alterations, particularly if you take off 3” or more in length. But if you start with a higher knee break, however, you’ll be able to keep the illusion of longer legs even after the hem.

Stay positive; there is a pair of jeans out there for you, and you’ll find them. I promise!

So, of course I had to ask Jaime what brands she would suggest for me. If you’re similarly sized to myself, you might find her answers helpful:

  • Avoid Current/Elliott (it will make you look smaller, specifically because of the oversized and lower pockets) and Paige (sizing has changed and now not only does the brand run large, but it also is meant for more straight or pear-shaped figures.) <– my fears have been confirmed…my beloved Paige jeans have changed their fits. =(
  • Try a 24 in DL1961. I really like the Kate Slim Straight and the Grace Cropped. The Angel, a shorter style, is too high of a rise.
  • When all else fails, go foreign. Brands like Acne, Nudie Jeans, Diesel, Evisu and others run about a full size small. I’m also a big fan of the Australian brand Ksubi (the super skinny would need to be hemmed, but it’s a great look and would absolutely fit you in a 24).
  • If you ever decide that money isn’t an issue, my dream brand would totally work for you. Hysteric Glamour is a Japanese brand that runs about two sizes small. I recommend this style, but the price point is HIGH.

A big “thank you!” to Jaime for not only for putting together this post, but also for playing personal stylist!

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Jessy

    This are great tips! I’d disagree with the Current/Elliott comment. I own two pairs and the pockets are average sized and don’t sit low at all! It’s good to know that Acne & Nudies run small as I’ve always been into those brands.. just never tried them because I thought they’d be true to size. Thank you to the both of you for putting together this post!

    1.  Thanks Jessy! Did you notice your Current/Elliott’s run big? I picked up a pair from a sample sale site in size 23 and I was swimming in them! I could have used at least a size 22, maybe even size 21!

      1. says: Jessy

        The pairs I own run TTS, but I did end up purchasing & returning a size 23 white pair that I was swimming in. I find that you really need to size down with white apparel, but the pair I purchased was a “relaxed” fit pair, which the website failed to disclose.

          1. says: Jessy

            The pair I tried on was skinny too. It was relaxed as in the crotch-al area was relaxed (although it looked like a normal pair of skinny jeans on the model).  The retailer failed to mention that it was a more relaxed/slouchy fit. No one suggested sizing down twice… false advertising!

  2. says: Beautyjunky1

    Agree about Hysteric Glamour!! They make awesome clothes in general.  Also, DEFINITELY shop foreign as Americans are all fat.  I have a 24 inch waist, and I distinctly recall NOT being able to fit into the largest size jean at one shop in Tokyo O___O  So embarrassing!

    1.  Good to know about Hysteric Glamour! I had never heard of them before Jaime suggested them to me. Wow…24 inch waist and you were too big? That’s crazy! That would probably make me a large (23 inch waist), which is also crazy. =P

  3. says: Le-Ann

    overall, I like the post.  However, is she using the word petite to mean slender?  Because she mentions her curves a couple of times.  I’m petite at 5 ft, but at 110, I definitely have curves, too!

    1.  Good point Le-Ann! Jaime and I were chatting jeans so much, she probably had someone like me on the brain when she was writing a few of those points. Regardless, I think she did a great job. =)

  4. says: Angie

    what a great guest post! jaime has so much knowledge and i’m glad she shared. i have weird legs so finding flattering jeans is extra hard but i’m super impatient and still don’t have anything that perfectly fits. the plight of everyone, eh?

  5. I read Erin’s post about fit and her spiel about inseam lengths not mattering as much for us petites.  For a straight leg, it probably doesn’t matter that much (though the knee break can be off), flares?  Heck yeah.

  6. says: deelirium

    If inseam and price are your main problem, Delia’s has a great selection going down to (I think) 26″ inseam. It’s my go-to store for jeans. Too bad they’re not in a lot of states.

  7. says: alice

    This was great!  I am so clueless about buying jeans – I usually head to the Gap, try on everything, find that nothing fits right and leave.  It’s so useful to have a list of brands to investigate, so thanks!

  8. says: Bonhomie

    I stumbled upon the Denim Debutante site about a month ago and I really appreciate their focus on fit. Some of the reviews will definitely tell you if a brand or perhaps a certain style runs small or not. Regarding the recommendation to stay away from Current/Elliott…I just can’t. I’ve managed to find some styles that totally work for me and I am absolutely in love with the soft and amazingly comfortable fabric. Yes, some of the back pockets may run a little long intentionally, but if the cut and style of the jeans fit perfectly snug, the longer pockets look kinda cute. I normally wear a 25 in Paige and AG, but wear a 24 in C/E.  However, this is just my personal experience. I realize that C/E may not work on another petite lady…you just gotta experiment.  Thanks for the informative article!

  9. says: sandra

    I have recently bought a few pairs of denim leggings and absolutely love the fit. I am LOVING the AG “The Tight” legging (Revolve Clothing and Shopbop), the AG Super Skinny Fit Legging, and Current/Elliott Pull Up Legging (Yoox).  Other pairs I’d love to try are the AG Super Skinny Ankle Leggings (they have a 28″ inseam!) and the AG Ballad Slim Boot Cut. I have also found some J Brand skinnys that work for me…I think the cigarette style.

  10. says: Japanmom

    I finally found petite jeans, in several colors, at Christopher and Banks.  I bought khaki jeans, and purple jeans and pink.  This store even has petite XL.  There is another related store, called CJBanks, where you can buy women’s sizes, and some of them are also in petite.  Check out their web site.  It was the first time I had ever found petite XL.  So I nearly bought a whole wardrobe.  They had cute shirts and sweaters and jackets that match the colored jeans.  you can coordinate your whole wardrobe.  Watch for their sales.  If you get a friendship card, they will phone you when they are having a sale, like last week, when everything in the store was 40% off.  I have found Christopher and Banks stores at lots of malls, in many different states:  ND, Minn, UT.  Check it out. 

    I can’t imagine why the designers think that when you are fatter, you are also taller.  I’m so tired of sleeves and legs being too long.  I could fill a whole room with all the cuffs I have cut off and re-hemmed myself, to make clothes fit me.  I was really pleased to find petite XL and larger.  Somebody finally paid attention to us.

  11. says: Nanhrvatska

    Hi I just bought of Hysteric Glamour jeans , and a large price but the color is great the length is perfect since I am a petit 5’7 girl, and the best part of the jeans is that they have music notes on them which are different than many I see. Normally I wear a 24 or 25 but I bought these jeans in a medium and they seemed to fit, or so the sales girl told me. Does anyone have experience with these jeans? will they shrink if I dry them? I find it difficult to believe that I am a medium (sorry I know that this sounds weird but again the price was high and I want to make sure I get my moneys worth). Around the hips they fit, but they are kind of loose at the knee, and are not as tight as I think they are supposed to be, so does anyone know If they would shrink, or should I take my chance and return them while I can? Or alterations…

    1.  Normally, high end denim stretches with wear, and I always hear that you should buy them snug to start with, so they stretch to a better fit. I don’t have experience with Hysteric Glamour specifically, but if I were you I’d give the size small a try before committing to washing or tailoring this pair you have.

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