straight talk

The jeans that work for many body types...

Cool, classic and iconic…straight leg jeans are poised for a comeback.

In recent months I’ve seen perhaps half a dozen articles declaring that skinny jeans are “over” and offering replacements which swing the pendulum far in the other direction: wide legs, fancy sweatpants, 70’s revival flares. Yet skinnies still seem to factor heavily in denim offerings, and (I assume) are still selling well. I’m going to hazard a guess why that would be: they are versatile. Wear them with flats, with heels, tucked into boots.

Some have never really warmed up to skinny jeans, for a variety of reasons, yet bootcuts and flares –while often flattering–can be so limiting, as hem lengths are specific to heel height.

The middle way is gaining ground. Straight leg jeans have been quietly sneaking back into the Fashion Denim market. While they often suffered from a bad rap in recent years (see “mom jeans“), straight leg jeans can be the best of both worlds: providing a more balanced silhouette for those of us with some curves, yet accommodating a range of shoe styles and heel heights. Wear them with flats (as long as they’re not dragging on the ground) or with heels. Roll up to wear with ankle boots, and provided they’re not too baggy in the leg, they can be tucked into knee boots too.

You’ll see straight leg jeans marketed under various names such as “slim boy (or boyfriend) jeans,” “slouchy skinny jeans,” “cigarette leg jeans” and “stovepipes.” To avoid a frumpy effect, look for styles that have a narrow but straight cut (not tapered or pegged) and fit reasonably snugly (not tight) through the hips and thighs while maintaining a straight line from knee to hem. Even some styles marketed as “boyfriend” (such as these by Eileen Fisher) have a more fitted cut that will flatter a variety of body types. Also good news, many of these styles have a higher rise.

I have a couple of pair of these “Alina” jeans from NYDJ, which are sold as “skinnies” but really are more of a narrow straight leg jean.

Are there straight leg jeans in your denim wardrobe? How do you wear them?


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  1. November 5, 2014 / 4:48 am

    You are bang on right! In my view, skinnies are not over but they have some stiff competition. I have been loving my Paige “Hidden Hills Straight” since last spring. Wore my skinnies more in the summer because i love them with flat sandals…but come boot and shoe weather I’m back in my straight leg jeans. They fall so wonderfully over a boot or a loafer. And are just more comfortable around the middle.

  2. November 5, 2014 / 5:10 am

    Skinnies are definitely not over – I saw them everywhere in NYC, and almost no flares or boot-cuts yet. I do like a simple straight cut any day. xox

  3. November 5, 2014 / 5:27 am

    I love my skinny jeans…but it does get frustrating how many different names are out there. I also love the cigarette pants. I find them to be very slimming for this curvy gal. I personally do not think the skinny is done.

  4. Ellen
    November 5, 2014 / 5:41 am

    Having just returned 2 weeks ago from London and Paris: In London, the jeans could best be characterized as jeggings, they all looked uncomfortably tight, and such a fit was worn by virtually everyone regardless of age or size. If you noticed someone wearing anything looser, they generally turned out to be from another country. In Paris, the pants were quite slim, but not nearly as tight as the Londoners, what i would call skinny boyfriend. I have yet to see, in any country, the flares that the fashion mags keep telling me look fresh, anywhere but in a photo. And in Paris, as opposed to London, I saw many fashionable people on the street wearing skinny black ankle pants, a la Hepburn. Defintely a refreshing alternative.

  5. Sally
    November 5, 2014 / 5:51 am

    I always disliked the style of the ’70’s when “bell bottom” jeans were the style. They were resurrected in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s under different names, but I still disliked them. I have always worn straight leg jeans as I am a bit more curvy and felt that the tapered (skinny) look accentuated the pear shape! I hope the straight legs make a strong come back as I will stock up for the future when “fashion” changes again!

  6. Emily
    November 5, 2014 / 6:16 am

    I am semi- tall with long thin legs, and many straight-leg (and more flared) jeans have only a 30″ or 31″ inseam. I need a 33″ in anything but the tightest-leg skinny jeans. Thin ankles look ridiculous sticking out from pants that are too short. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to cut costs, and shaving an inch or so off of the legs adds up to real savings for them, but means no new jeans or pants for me. And the few styles still available in “tall” are too long in the rise.

    • une femme
      November 5, 2014 / 6:23 am

      Emily, I’ve noticed that Paige denim has longer inseams in their straight leg styles. Might be worth checking out.

  7. Shybiker
    November 5, 2014 / 6:21 am

    I’m going to be honest here — there are so many names for women’s jeans and I don’t know what they all mean. I’ve tried to study them and just got confused. Looking at examples, I can say what I like but I can’t find the terminology to identify them.

  8. Kathryn
    November 5, 2014 / 6:28 am

    Thank you. I sincerely hope you are correct about the return of straight leg jeans. There is nothing more elegant than a slim (but not skinny), well-cut pair of straight-leg or cigarette jeans. I agree that they are generally more flattering to most bodies than skinny jeans, although the latter are probably still the best option for tucking into boots. There are some great examples of cigarette jeans in Ines de la Fressange’s Parisian Chic, if anyone cares to investigate further..

  9. Rita
    November 5, 2014 / 6:35 am

    I’m with Shybiker on the names issue. I guess they have to make us think we’re actually getting something new & different when really, it’s the same old reliables. I look for mostly straight leg styles with a higher rise, they’re the most comfortable. Over the years, I’ve seen wide-leg and bell bottoms introduced numerous time, but they never stay around very long. Most people can’t wear them. And if you travel & therefore use public restrooms, the wide legs will drag on the floor when you use the toilet. Yuck!

  10. gingerR
    November 5, 2014 / 7:14 am

    It’s nice to see photos of Marilyn Monroe. She was a normal-sized gal.

    • wanderlust
      November 5, 2014 / 7:26 am

      I wear my Rag and Bone Dre (skinny boyfriend) jeans ALL the time. I have 2 pairs in different washes. The are super comfortable and look great with sandals, chucks, loafers and rolled up with ankle boots. But I would never tuck them into boots – my skinnies are perfect for that (and also look better with a wider top – also being seen a lot these days. With the skinny boyfirend the trapeze style top doesn’t look great.)

  11. KPL
    November 5, 2014 / 7:26 am

    I pretty much wear AG Stilt, which is a cigarette leg. Skinny, but not skin tight. I don’t like straight, boot leg or any other style on me as much.

  12. November 5, 2014 / 7:47 am

    Skinnies are just so well suited for my rainy climate, pairing efficiently with boots for a neat, dry effect. I do have a pair of straight, Japanese-denim jeans that I wear cuffed with flats — the cuff doesn’t work well with boots. With my short waist, short height overall, I find I have to be really careful about proportion with a straight jean, ’cause like wanderlust, I find they don’t work as well with a wider top. . . .

  13. Nicole
    November 5, 2014 / 8:32 am

    I love how enduring the straight leg jeans are. And don’t these two icons look like they wore exactly what they wanted, exactly how they wanted to? When I was in high school (70’s) the straight leg Levi corduroys were big. They were my favorite. They stretched to fit your shape, were warm and became so soft after many washings. (I remember my deep rust colored pair.) And I remember, as mentioned here, my tall best friend had the toughest time finding ones that were long enough. I do still have some of the jeans and hope to fit into them again soon. 😮 I am not overly concerned about the leg style as you can still find all of them and wear what fits the style (shoe, boot, etc.) you want to wear. I do hope the low-low rise becomes extinct! It’s so funny to see a pair of jeans with a 2″ zipper (yet not so amusing/comfortable to wear!).

  14. November 5, 2014 / 8:44 am

    I like the Lee Easy Fit skinny jeans. The material is lighter than a regular denim and very, very stretchy. They’re great for travel.

  15. Lisa
    November 5, 2014 / 10:39 am

    Buy what you love and feels right on you…regardless of which way the pendulum swings. Personally, I like variety and keep several styles on hand (mostly Eileen Fisher and J. Crew).

  16. Catbird Farm
    November 5, 2014 / 1:56 pm

    Speaking to @Ellen’s comment above about seeing mainly slim-cut trousers in Paris (who can we trust if not Les Parisiennes?), I’ve found that if one were to study photos of Inès de la Fressange or Emmanuelle Alt (which I might have done a time or three) you’ll see that both of them rarely vary the cut of their trousers (jeans or not) – they are usually slim-fitting and hit around the ankle (Alt tends to wear hers tighter than DLF’s). Every now and then DLF rocks a boot cut too. What has struck me is that their slim trousers never look dated – in fact, their whole outfits rarely look dated. DLF is always in flats (bless her) and wow, does she have her “uniform” nailed: jacket or structured cardigan, button-down shirt or basic tee, signature slim trousers, classic belt, classic flats. And other than her crazy heels, Alt’s uniform is based on the same elements as DLF’s. This from two women who have the entire world of fashion at their disposal and the bodies to wear anything.

    Although I confess to having nearly every cut of Seven jeans in my closet from skinny to flare, the ones I really wear every day are the skinnies and – drum roll please – my trusty old Levi 501s (so comfy!) that I’ve never abandoned since my high school days in the seventies. 🙂 For non-jeans, being 5’10” and fairly slender with very long legs, I stick with the same silhouette as DLF. I think finding a uniform look that suits your body and then building a wardrobe of quality pieces around that is really the best way to go, and when in doubt, ask “would DLF or Alt wear this?” Well, that’s what I ask at any rate.

  17. Jill Ann
    November 5, 2014 / 4:08 pm

    As I am moderately tall, and have a tummy but slim butt and thighs, I’m a fan of skinnies. I do appreciate a higher rise (see aforementioned tummy issue). I did buy some straight leg jeans on sale at Talbots last spring but haven’t worn them yet. I like that the skinny/straight legs work with different shoes, and also don’t drag on the bathroom floor! ;-)1

  18. Duchesse
    November 5, 2014 / 4:20 pm

    I’m in straights-to-slim (but not skinny) most of the time; usually NYJD and Talbot’s. The ankle length works best for me and also doesn’t drag in Montréal’s snowy streets.

    Jill Ann, I hope you like yours. Well-cut and durable, and good price, especially when on sale.

    • Jill Ann
      November 6, 2014 / 4:20 pm

      Thanks Duchesse, they seem to be a nice quality denim and fit well. Where I live we don’t wear jeans from May to October (or November). They are too hot! So I’m looking forward to wheeling out my jeans, boots, and jackets this month as it’s ***finally*** cooler. Not quite sweater weather yet though!

  19. November 5, 2014 / 7:13 pm

    I have one pair of jeans that are in-between a straight leg and a skinny…or as Goldilocks would say, “Just perfect!” I have never found any other ones that fit me as well as those. When they finally give out I’m going to cry.


  20. Anna
    November 5, 2014 / 9:40 pm

    I wear only straight leg jeans [Yoga Jeans from Second Clothing] which have 34″ inseams that seem more like 35″. I sometimes have to roll them up (inside a la Garance Dore) when wearing flats. Like Emily, I am tall, so despair of most brands with short inseams.

  21. November 6, 2014 / 4:47 am

    The more choice for everyone, the better is how I look at it. I’d love to wear skinnies and flares but they just don’t suit me. I do love the straight leg though and I think they look best for me, with pretty flats or low heels and perhaps wedges.

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