Here's What the Fashion Industry Gets Wrong About Plus-Size Denim – M & S
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Here's What the Fashion Industry Gets Wrong About Plus-Size Denim

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Ask any woman what her wardrobe staples are, and more likely than not, jeans will top her list. Denim has seen its style star rise from rugged farm-wear to date-night material to even an occasional red carpet surprise. It’s ubiquitous on everyone from babies to octogenarians. But why then is it still so challenging to find the perfect pair of jeans for women who wear sizes 14 and above?

It’s not that plus-size jeans don’t exist—as the owner of more than 80 pairs, I can attest to that. The problem is it isn’t all good.

Sizing issues aside—I own anywhere from a size 16 to 20, due to brand sizing inconsistency—finding quality options that don’t get shredded by our affectionate thighs, sag after one wear because they’re packed with too much stretch, or properly fit our figure so we’re not forced to do the pants pull-up shuffle every few steps feels practically impossible at times.

But there is good news: More and more brands are expanding their denim ranges. This past month alone, Target just launched its first completely inclusive line called Universal Thread (sizes 00 to 26W), while Madewell began offering specific styles up to a size 20 (with plans for additional options later this year). And though it’s exciting to see brands waking up to the fact that approximately 67% of U.S. women wear a size 14 or above and account for over a $20 billion market that’s just waiting to be tapped, navigating the landscape can still be tricky.

This inspired us to turn to some of our on favorite experts—i.e. influencers (myself included) who know the market all too well—to give us the scoop on the best plus jeans, where to find them, and what they wish plus denim brands did differently. It seems no one's truly perfected denim just yet, but read on for proof that the industry is moving (even if slowly) in the right direction. Then shop our favorite styles.

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

For the range of options, I would have to say Simply Be, with Torrid coming at a close second for fit and wear. I was also pleasantly surprised by Good American denim. They fit me like a glove and wear amazingly!

How do you feel about the state of plus-size jeans in general?

I think we are finally getting to a place of understanding fit and getting a variety of options to play in. Now I just want to see these brands innovate and push beyond the basics.

What do you wish plus size denim designers/brands did differently?

Right now in plus, we have a plethora of ripped and deconstructed options but not enough of the fashion element. And with how hard denim will be trending for the spring, I want a head-to-toe denim option.

What jean trend or style can you not find in your size?

Finding the new cropped wide-leg options? That has to be one of the most difficult to find in plus.

Available in sizes 14W to 28W.
Available in sizes 8 to 28.
Available in sizes 16 to 20.
Available in sizes 23 to 35.
Available in sizes 14 to 26.
Available in sizes 18 to 28, 14 to 24 petite.
Available in sizes 2 to 26.
Available in sizes 10 to 30.
Available in sizes 14 to 24.
Available in sizes 12 to 24.
Available in sizes 14 to 28.

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

There are a few I have on current rotation. I love the fit of NYDJ (make sure you size down) and Rebel Wilson x Angels (true to size). Those brands are a little pricier but are totally worth it. I’m also a big fan of Eloquii; it has everything from classic cuts to quirky, trendy designs—I can’t wait to try their new Peach lift jeans.

Where do you buy jeans?

It’s rare to find my size in store, so I’m stuck shopping online. But through a lot of trial and error, I’ve been able to figure out exactly which brands work best for me. Tip: Make sure you know your waist/hip measurements and utilize the brand’s size chart to assure a better fit.

How do you feel about the state of plus size jeans in general?

I can remember how horrific my options were when I was a teen; how I’d smush myself into the absolute largest size I could find (13), even though I felt awful and looked even bigger than I was due to the jeans being too tight. Now I sometimes feel spoilt for choice in terms of options but still lacking when it comes to high-end quality.  

What do you wish plus size denim designers/brands did differently?

I wish they would make different denim fits; one for those with rounder middles and slimmer hips, one for those with cinched waists and large hips/butt, and one for those who have a waist and hip measurement that’s similar. I know it would take more time, effort, and money on the brand’s end, but being able to find jeans that feel like are actually made for your figure would be worth paying a bit more for.   

What jean trend or style can you not find in your size?

Working in fashion, I see those fashion It girls walking around in these thicker jeans that hit at the perfect cropped spot above their ankle. Possessing short stems, I cannot find a style that actually stops at the right spot!   

Which straight-size denim brand do you wish would expand their size range?

Zara. I can really only shop its shoes and bags, but I would throw fistfuls of dollars at the brand if I could get its It girl–approved jeans in my size.

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

Right now it's Lane Bryant. Its Super Stretch denim is amazingly good! My waist is 10 inches smaller than my hips, so finding a pair of jeans that fit has been a struggle. I found most plus-size skinny jeans to be basically "jeggings" and of poor quality. Lane Bryant Super Stretch jeans completely changed my mind. Not only did they fit perfectly and hug my curves, they retained their shape after several washes. I also want to give an honorable mention to Eloquii, especially the wide-leg denim trouser jeans. I wear them religiously.

What size do you typically wear, or, what size range do you have in your closet right now that fits you?

I'm a 22 in jeans. Depending on the brand I have size 20 and 22 pieces in my closet. I have a pair of ASOS Curve jeans in a size 20 that are huge!

How do you feel about the state of plus-size jeans in general?

I think the quality and construction of plus-size jeans have improved tremendously. I feel like brands are listening to plus consumers and making jeans that we want to wear. I like that Target's upcoming brand Universal Thread offers plus-size jeans in various washes, styles, and lengths.

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

Universal Standard and ASOS for more fashion-forward cuts. Lane Bryant for a classic skinny jean fit.

How do you feel about the state of plus-size jeans in general?

There are not enough fashion-forward styles in the midrange price point—so quality pairs tend to either err on the safe side, style-wise, or have a luxury denim price point without having a physical presence in stores to try them on. I'm willing to invest in a pricier pair if I know they are worth it.

What do you wish plus-size denim designers/brands did differently?

There need to be more places that carry plus denim in-store and more sizing consistency across styles.

What jean trend or style can you not find in your size?

There are no pairs of this season's truly deconstructed jeans available in plus. I'm also having a terrible time finding a good pair of wide-leg distressed crops.

What straight-size denim brand do you wish would expand their size range?

I'd love BLANKNYC in plus. I always see styles I love, but it currently stops at size 31 (12) in women's denim. #plussizeplease!

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

I’m completely smitten over Fashion Nova jeans for a few reasons. Being an apple shape means anything that sits around the largest part of my belly can be pretty uncomfortable. Fashion Nova Jeans are ultra high-waisted AND stretchy, which is a winning combination for me. I also really love the price and how many options I have.

Where do you buy jeans?

I typically buy my jeans online, since in-store options are hard to come by. Rarely, if ever, I’m able to pick up a pair that really works for me in store, but I have found luck at Forever 21.

How do you feel about the state of plus size jeans in general?

I’m on the fence with how I feel about plus-size jeans. While I love the jeans that I currently own, trying to find the perfect pair that worked for me was exhausting. Being an apple-shaped tall person on the market for some jeans is not an easy task!

What do you wish plus size denim designers/brands did differently?

I wish plus-size denim designers would take into consideration the differences in plus-size bodies. For instance, we need better quality jeans overall since our thighs rub and create friction that’ll wear down the jeans faster. Studying the plus-size body, or even listening to the plus-size audience and our needs, could drastically improve the market overall.

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

My favorite jeans of all time are 3x1 from their collab with Glamour magazine's Lauren Chan. They only made one style in extended sizes (so far), but they're by far the best, most durable, most comfortable jeans I've ever worn. They're not as stretchy as most plus-size denim, and the shape is incredible. They're super expensive, but I already bought a backup pair because I dread the day something happens to the ones I've been wearing. My other favorites are NYDJ, Levi's, and Good American.

How do you feel about the state of plus-size jeans in general?

I think there are TONS of options, actually, but do wish there were more premium and fashion denim along the lines of 3x1, Frame, etc. I also wish I could find classic Levi's 501s in my size! ASOS has some similar cuts/styles, but the fit is always off for me.

What do you wish plus-size denim designers/brands did differently?

This isn't going to be a popular opinion, but I like denim to look and fit like DENIM, not like leggings. Most plus-size denim has SO MUCH elastane/spandex and loses its shape or stretches out within a single wear. It's a deal-breaker for me.

What straight-size denim brand do you wish would expand their size range?

3x1, Frame, grlfrnd

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

Good American! The brand's jeans are cut for my body and incredible quality.

Where do you buy jeans?

I'm also a huge fan of Torrid jeans (three-button jegging, primarily), but Good American plus seems to be online only. I also like RWN by Rawan, but they're online as well.

How do you feel about the state of plus size jeans in general?

Getting better every day! We've finally gone beyond the typical bootcut/skinny/straight, and we're starting to see more trends (e.g., step hem, pearl embellished, corset detailing, etc). As someone who lives and swears by denim, it's so exciting to have more fashion-forward styles.

What do you wish plus-size denim designers/brands did differently?

Offered body-type fit notes. I would love to know, when buying jeans online, who they had in mind for the style. Hourglass? Pear? Apple? It would clue me into the fit, and I'd be able to order something that is more likely to fit me perfectly.

What jean trend or style can you not find in your size?

A really good wide-leg that doesn't look like a flare.

What straight-size denim brand do you wish would expand their size range?

All of them! Any company that isn't catering to plus size is just missing out on huge business and a huge demographic.

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

I happen to really love Slink Jeans and pretty much live in them. The denim is ultra soft and moves very nicely. Plus, the fit is incredibly flattering in all of its styles and colors. I've never found a pair of jeans I've loved more!

What size do you typically wear, or what size range do you have in your closet right now that fits you?

I find it a bit comically frustrating that I don’t have a standard size. Most brands measure very differently from each other, leaving me to always pull three sizes when trying on jeans. However, I typically I run from a 14 to an 18 depending on the brand and how much stretch there is and how high the waistline is.

How do you feel about the state of plus-size jeans in general?

My biggest question is why do so many plus-size brands insist on designing 90% of their jeans with massive rips on the widest parts of the thighs? This goes for pants and shorts, alike. It is extremely unflattering on most women and quite inappropriate for most occasions other than heading to the beach. It makes finding a classic, sophisticated, comfortable and trendy pair of jeans for my wide-set bottom almost impossible.

What do you wish plus-size denim designers/brands did differently?

In my experience, plus-size jeans tend to be either too thin or they are too long. Just because someone is a size 18 doesn’t mean they are very tall. Also rear pocket placement is key. Everyone likes for their tushie to appear lifted a bit, no? I feel that the plus-size denim design community needs to take into consideration that a size 14 in most cases is shaped much differently than a straight size 2. Design based on a curvier body that is not boxy rather than sizing up from the straight sizes.

What's your favorite denim brand and why?

Universal Standard makes my favorite pair of jeans. I'm fairly short and a size 26. A lot of brands' jeans pool around my feet if they fit properly around my hips, but Universal Standard jeans are mostly true to size. They're supportive, have modern cuts, and I love some of the finishes, too. Torrid is a close second! It makes the most comfortable jeans, hands down.

Where do you buy jeans?

Online. I think trying on jeans is one of those shared awful experiences that kind of defines growing up plus size. There are few other garments that make it more clear whether or not a company believes that your body type should exist. I don't think I'm the only person who would rather do literally anything else other than try on jeans. I'd rather experience that frustration in private.

How do you feel about the state of plus-size jeans in general?

There are a few great lines out there, but they are few and far between. I feel like plus-size fashion has come really far, especially compared to where it was when I was younger, but the jeans haven't really caught up, in my opinion.

What do you wish plus size denim designers/brands did differently?

Bring up the waists! I have a long torso and most plus-size jeans have a fly that hits right in the center of my belly. It's super uncomfortable, doesn't highlight my figure, and makes choosing a top really awkward. Higher-waisted anything looks amazing and is almost always very comfortable. Give us true high-rise plus-size jeans. I would wear them literally every day.

What straight-size denim brand do you wish would expand their size range? 

I wish Good American carried larger sizes because their jeans are cute. Inclusivity does not stop at a size 24—there's plenty of us out here in the 24+ range who would love to buy your jeans, y'all.



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