The Case for Skinny Jeans

Why skinny jeans are your most flattering fashion choice

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 72 Comments

Ok Stylers, listen up. I’ve been spruiking the skinny/slim leg jean here at SY HQ for many years now.

And each time they do, I get questioned on it.

Shouldn’t I be balancing out my hips? I’ll get asked.

NO. Who wants to take away from the narrowest part of your anatomy, your calves and ankles?

I can’t find any to fit, I’ll get told.

Keep looking and trying, I say.

But don’t just take my word for it … read this email from Styling You reader Chrissie Feary (she is very ok with me sharing as she says it’s for educational purposes 😉 )

Hi Nikki,

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and am a big fan. But there was one area of style that I just could not agree on – the skinny jean. I’d read what you wrote about not being afraid of the skinny or slim-leg jean, and think “pfft! Skinny jeans with my legs? NOBODY needs to see that!”.

I have a curvy butt (which I love) and chunky thighs (not so much love, as acceptance) and I always assumed that skinny jeans would highlight my thighs and draw attention to them.

That is until I was shopping for maternity clothes, and found myself facing a rack of skinny leg maternity jeans in varying shades. In desperation, I asked the shop assistant “do you have any maternity jeans that aren’t skinny jeans?”. Apparently they used to, but those are now only available online. Sigh!

But then she said to me, “Don’t be put off by the word skinny, you should try them on!”

Me? In skinny jeans? I was having horrific flashbacks to teenage years of trying on pants that would fit my waist, if only I could get them up over my damn chunky thighs!

But I took her (and your!) advice, and tried on the stupid skinny jeans – admittedly partly to prove that they were simply no good for me.

Well, it’s lucky I wasn’t wearing a hat, because I would have had to eat it. They looked good! Far from drawing attention to my thighs, the fitted fabric makes them look slimmer, and instead draws the eye to my calves, which are the best part of my legs. These jeans even make my feet look smaller, which I love!

Even more surprising was how comfortable they are. I’ve already been up and down off the floor in them, playing with the cat, and I think I could quite easily live in these babies for the rest of the pregnancy. Hell, I’m already planning to purchase some non-maternity ones once the baby is here! It’s like I don’t even know who I am anymore!

So I thought that I would contact you to let you know that you were very, very right, and I was oh so wrong. Never again will I judge clothing without trying it on – although it’s going to take me a while to work up the courage for jeggings, Baby steps 😉

Thank you for all the inspiration and encouragement you offer to women like me to take risks and wear things that make them feel great.

Best wishes,

Chrissie (reformed skinny jean-hater)

Ahh, Chrissie your new-found skinny jean evangelism is music to this girl’s ear.

The Case for Skinny Jeans

From left: Target jeans $39 | Jag jeans $99.95 @ Birdsnest | Jeanswest jeans $69.99 | Trenery jeans $99 | City Chic jeans $89.95

What to remember

1. While we should indeed embrace the skinny/slim leg jean, no matter what our shape or size, the clincher is all in what we wear with it. It’s that which determines whether the jeans will work for us.

2. If, like me, you like to cover your front and back bottoms, then I suggest you do so and go for top that hits slightly above – or at – your mid thigh.

3. If, unlike me, you have a front and back bottom to die for, then show them off in your skinnies. Do not let me, or anyone else, stop you.

4. Don’t be afraid to cuff your skinnies. It’s a hot trans-seasonal look.

5. Never ever buy jeans that are loose fitting (except for boyfriend jeans, of course). They will give and be saggy and baggy within an hour of stepping out of the change room. A great tip: do some lunges down the corridor of the change room area. The warmth of your body will stretch those jeans in no time. If you can get two fingers inside the waistband then they are going to be too big for you. Try a size down.

How to wear skinny jeans

  • Skinny jeans; floaty top or over-sized shirt (it’s about the balance)
  • Skinny jeans; ankle boots, ballet flats, or loafers (try these shoe styles with a wider leg jean and you’ll feel like you have clown feet)
  • Skinny jeans; long tank, draped cardi and scarf (it’s all about creating the illusion of length)
  • Skinny jeans; long tank, cropped blazer, statement necklace and pointy pumps (your next evening out is sorted)

Styling inspiration

Visit the Styling You Denim board on Pinterest.

Visit the Styling You Coloured Jeans board on Pinterest

Ok, give it to me. Are you a skinny jeans convert? Or do you think I’ve gone crazy?


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Comments 72

  1. Hello
    I really want to wear skinny jeans/pants. I even went out, tried probably 50-60 pairs and models, bought about 5 but no matter what i do, the look horrible on me. I am 130lbs and 5’6 and I have bow legs….skinny jeans/pants make me look like a soccer player!! I have tried the slim ones, a little loose from the knee down…in winter they look ok because I have slouchy boots that cover half of my lower legs and they draw attention…but ballerinas and sandals are out of the question. In sommer I have to wear large linen pants so I can look normal. I need some help..
    P.S.- please do not tell me to cuff them because they look even more horrible…

  2. I’ve NEVER had the courage to try skinny jeans….until I took your advice and invested in NYDJ. I had no idea I could look good – and yes I think I actually look GOOD!!!!! lol – in them!!!! Being curvier I’ve always thought I needed bootcut. But I’ve embraced the skinny with vigour. I am a convert thanks to you.

  3. I do not like skinny jeans. It makes my butt look bigger than when I wear boot beg jeans. And it is the most uncomfortable thing, ever. I have three pairs in the closet that I haven’t touched for months. For the more curvy ladies, its like calling out your butt. The real skinny girls can get away with it. Some of my very skinny coworkers wear them all the time, but even then, I notice they still look bigger. But they are so skinny, looking a bit bigger didn’t hurt them. I am only a size 1, and I HATE them. Not flattering whatsoever. If you wear big, long top I guess it covers up, but then why? It is more flattering to wear a long fitted top with boot cut jeans. With summer coming up, no way would I torture myself in skinny jeans.

    1. Each to their own … in my opinion skinny jeans do not have to equal torture and bootleg jeans do not suit flat shoes. They look fine with heels but I don’t want to wear heels every day to work that style.

  4. Actually, the “curvy” version looks fairly shocking next to the others. I really think skinny jeans aren’t for everyone.

    1. In the photo, it’s showing the jeans only … it’s what you wear with the jeans that makes them work on all sizes … and having less fabric flapping around your legs is always more flattering on any size.

  5. I have just bought the most comfortable and flattering skinnies at David Laurence (Lawrence?) They’re the new European stretch denim that’s in a lot of shops right now … like Witchery… where I also bought a pair. oops. But the point is, this fabric that’s apparently sweeping the nation is a girl’s best friend… super light, holds you in just enough, and moves like jeggings while still being actual pants. Which is more dignified. No one will ever convince me that leggings are a suitable substitute for pants. The David Laurence version are high enough waisted that I’ll never worry about bending over in public or eating too much curry and spilling over the top. Was that TMI? I bet savvy shoppers want to know! x Catherine at The Spring Shop & Blog

  6. Finally went with blue skinny jeans from Target and a chartreuse top, plus scarf and a necklace I bought in Vanuatu. What have you done to me? You’ve made me stylish! Whoda thunk it???

  7. I bought my first skinny jeans two days ago, not because I wanted to try them but because I wanted coloured jeans and they don’t seem to come in any other style. I bought them in bright pink and red from Rockmans, and teamed the pink ones with a Basque tank from Myer in the same colour and a see-through floaty white top patterned with butterflies I bought in Ireland last year. I got lots of compliments but no one specifically commented on the cut of the jeans – most commented on the colour. I found it a bit confronting wearing the style as its a much leaner silhouette than I usually wear – felt a bit revealing! I’ll persevere but reverted to my usual straight leg style today.

  8. I’ve just started embracing the skinny jean & I love them. I am going to order a pair from Trenery but have just bought a pair of the (don’t laugh) Crossroads slim leg. These are very good if you have a tummy to hide & for $50 I thought I’d give them a go.

  9. I never wore pants and hated buying jeans… Until I started buying from Target. They have surprise finds and my favorite pair if pants a girlfriend asked if I bought them from Country Road or Sportscraft!

  10. I totally agree with the following points:

    1) Never say never when it comes to clothing and fashion. Try, try, try. I never saw myself as a skinny jeans person too. I’m glad the saleslady at Jeanswest cajoled me into trying them on! I went home with three LOL and one in deep pink! Nigel Stanislaus would be proud LOL

    2) Definitely get a size smaller. The same awesome Jeanswest lady said, and I quote, “If you don’t feel like you’re killing yourself to squeeze into these in the changing room, you’re a size too big!” And too right she is, I’m glad I trusted her.

    I haven’t tried cuffing yet, thanks for reminding me about that Nikki, now that the cooler season seems to have arrived here in the north, I can try that soon!

    In conclusion, this ex-tomboy has this to say: Skinnies can really make you feel fab and sexy, polished and haute all at once. Goodness, I do sound like a convert don’t I!

  11. Help!!!! I’m 5ft 2 and found skinny jeans simply make me look shorter. What can I do (other than wearing heels, which isn’t always practical) that can make my legs not look like they have been cut off at the ankles?

  12. Until a couple of years ago I was a skinny jeans hater, convinced they would look awful on me. Yes, even with a slim figure. You see I had no bum whatsoever back then so I felt because the pants would be fitted everywhere else it would highlight my lack of derriere, and well, the fact it looked like I had pooped myself. Until a similar story like the one above, only this was post having my babies and finding that all my jeans were just far too big, even with a belt. There wasn’t much besides from the skinny jean option, I think there was one “baggy” fit and one “bootcut” option that was a hideous colour. I just wanted a dark jean dammit! And one that didn’t have a friggen high rise. So I tried on a pair of skinny’s and I haven’t looked back. They really are just the best thing ever invented and they look fabulous on everyone.
    You know, except that teenager who let’s herself hang out of them. But hey, I have committed many a fashion crime as a teenager so I just snigger to myself and know that they will be laughing in a couple of years too.

    1. I love this story Miss Pink – I think at the crux of it is that you do have to invest time in finding the right pair for you. You didn’t have any choice but to do that so you found what you needed.

  13. I converted to skinny jeans & jeggings 2 years ago and will NEVER GO BACK! I actually threw out all my previously loved bootlegs (previously thought as an hourglass they were the only way to go) – I now feel like an absolute frump in them. Still have a couple of straight leg styles, but should probably throw them too as they sit unloved at the bottom of the jeans pile. Love teaming skinnies up with a long top & one of my coloured casual Seed jackets, or a great waterfall cardigan. Great in flats, heels or boots.

    1. Where, Janet? I’m a fellow apple from Redlands and I’d loooove to pick up a couple of pairs of skinny jeans but haven’t found the right ones yet (I’m also short as well as short waisted, aaaargh!).

  14. I have seen the light Nikki! After years of denial I now have 5 pairs of skinny jeans and they DO slim the legs. I find though that I average trying on 10 pairs to find the perfect ones. You really need to commit to making time to shop and using your change room time. It was worth it for all the new outfit combinations AND being able to wear those loafers I couldn’t match with anything before. I feels great to get a fresh new look.

    I’ve even gone completely mad and bought a pair of graphic pants. I always get compliments when I wear them. Never say never.
    Thanks for all your advice.

    1. Oh I do approve of your method for getting out of a state of denial! And I do agree … you need to have patience and persistence in finding the pair of jeans that works for you. Well done with the graphic pants too. Impressed!

  15. I have 26 pairs of skinny jeans, it is all I wear. I am over 50 too. My daughter thinks she has big thighs and refuses to even try them on. I have convinced one friend who is now a convert but she can’t get my daughter to try either. I love my Nobody ones except for the transfer of dye from them. I have washed them and rinsed in vinegar but it still comes off all over my hands and furniture. Any suggestions? They weren’t cheap either.

    My other faves are from Target last year, they don’t have front pockets, just pretend but they have a fly and back pockets and belt loops. They are definitely denim, not jeggings. Don’t know if they are around this year. They’re called super skinnies.

    I have 3 pairs of Dorothy Perkins Eden jeggings, super comfy and stretchy. I also have coloured skinnies from asos and JayJays. Jay Jays do half sizes like 9,11 etc.

    I am now going to check out the Mavi jeans on line thanks to the posters. I think I have a bit of a problem. I’ve got the bottoms worked out, I need tops that cover the fat menopausal midriff. I found swingy type t shirts for summer, anything straight and I feel like spongebob squarepants.

  16. Love Mavi skinnies – they do a 32 and 34 inch leg as well for taller ladies like me!! The ‘Alexa’ ones are great!

  17. I love skinnies. Favourite at the moment are Topshop ‘Leigh’ skinnies – super skinny but super comfortable. I even managed to travel all they way from England to Australia in them…I’m happy to report they passed the in-flight bloating and not-so-delightful cankle swelling test with ease 🙂 And I still looked presentable enough to go out for breakfast in the city when I arrived…well my jeans/jacket combo disguised my ‘I haven’t slept a wink in the past 2 days’ skin perfectly!

  18. I am in the older age bracket and I wear skinny jeans. We travel o/seas quite a bit and they are perfect with the dreaded “tourist sneakers”, cute with ballet flats and then at night I pop on a heel and they are perfect for dining out. Teamed with a lovely thigh length sequinned t/shirt or 3/4 length caftan top they are a staple for packing in my suitcase and I couldn’t live without them.

    1. That’s another big plus for me – no more buying jeans in different lengths to wear with flats and heels! Admittedly wearing heels hurts my back right now, but post-pregnancy I’m looking forward to trying them with some chic pumps.

  19. Love my skinnies and have learnt to definitely buy them on the tighter side. Mavi always seem to get it right, tho love my target and C.R ones too!! Go the skinnies!!! ….xx

  20. Recently found my perfect fit for skinnies at Lee. They’re called Super Skinny Riders and I get them in a mid-rise which is actually almost high waisted on my short torso. Any height challenged ladies I highly recommend giving Lee a go, as they accommodate different leg lengths, as I know Levis do too. However Levis don’t have the fabulous stretch the Lees have.
    Nicky, you mentioned boyfriend jeans in this post. This is where I really struggle! I really like the “off-duty model” look achieved with a cuffed version of these teamed with a heel, but fear my short frame just couldn’t pull it off. Also worried that the only area of my body I like to detract from – my little pouch would be highlighted in this style. Any tips?

    1. Tess, I’m not your girl when it comes to boyfriend style. They do not suit me at all as I like to float tops over my hips and front bottom. If I did this with boyfriends, it would be all out of proportion. You need to be able to streamline the top of your outfit if your bottom part has more volume. I love the look of this look but it’s not for me.

  21. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this but recently I found myself in Katies of all places and tried on a pair of their ultimate slim jeans. To my surprise they fit perfectly, cover my mummy tummy and are super comfy. I never thought I’d find a pair of skinny jeans that fit me properly, let alone from Katies! I am now a skinny jean convert too!

  22. Nope you are right,I have quite a few pairs of skinny jeans in my wardrobe and love them they are comfy and do suit my body shape and judging by your lovely reader Chrissie they suit most body types,I have a differnet shape than her ,flat butt,little tummy,no waist and skinny legs,well one is fat from swelling,and yes they are a much loved item in my wardrobe,I am yet to find a boyfriend style that suits me and I’m glad cuffing is on trend as I have a cobalt pair that are that style.
    I find I can wear a top a bit shorter than mid thigh, as sometime unless the colours really are matching it looks stupid,why is that Nikki ? but never ever would I tuck in a top or wear a cropped top unless it had a singlet under.I thought a couple of years ago I was getting too old for skinny jeans but after visiting Jeans West and trying on a lot of jeans the salesgirl agreed that that style was the most flattering fit for me I will never doubt myself again, it is how you wear them that is the secret to them looking stylish.

  23. Perfecto! I definitely am a skinny jean lover. My ample booty and thighs love Jeans West Curve Embracer Super Skinny’s. They feel like leggings and are super flattering.

  24. I must admit I wasn’t a fan of the skinny jean either but have learned to embrace them and now actually love them! I have even bought some ballet flats to go with them, something I thought I never do, and have been getting so many compliments on how I look lately. And yes – all thanks to Nikki’s advice

  25. I have to say, I’ve tried to embrace the skinny jean, but I can’t. Besides being a *ahem* larger-scaled person, I am also blessed with the Extremely Muscular Calves. I end up with a bit of a Popeye’s forearms thing going on, and it kind of defeats the whole purpose of the “skinny” aspect. I do like a slimmer-legged bootcut or straight leg jean, though.

    1. Look for a slim style, Madonna. On some of us (me included) these styles will look like skinny styles if that makes sense. I also go with styles that have a lot of stretch. Hence my love for NYDJs.

  26. Like Chrissie, I started wearing skinnies when I was pregnant and I’m now a convert. I love the Trenery ones you posted – they look like they might be on the long side too which is great for me! Jeans and a blazer is definitely my go-to smart casual look and I love the way it can go from day to night.

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