Discover more from Jane on Jeans
Plain, Good Jeans
Plus, the 101 on rises, with special guest Michèle Ouellet Benson.
Let’s talk about rises. Understanding a jean’s rise – the measurement from the center crotch seam to the top of the waistband – can be really helpful when shopping for jeans.
Most companies choose to name only the general “height” of a rise – low, mid, high – because rise measurements vary from size to size (smaller size, smaller rise); this adjustment is called grading. Take the Reformation jeans that model Michèle Ouellet Benson is wearing in today’s Jean of the Week (scroll to read): The website wisely bullet-points the rise (11 3/4”) with the size (27). “Rises grade 1/4” inch per size,” denim expert and Ref’s design consultant Benjamin Talley Smith explained to me. “Most point on [jeans] grade every size.” (So a size 28 in Michèle’s jeans would have a 12” rise, and so on). But it isn’t as simple as that…
I recently purchased The Frankie Shop’s Boli wide leg (above), which has a hysterically long rise – 13 3/4” on size 26. Honestly, it was too much and I returned the Boli, but not before photographing it to make a point: That longer rises don’t necessarily mean higher waists, since zipper lengths vary and crotches can be dropped. Boli has a 6” zipper and a 6” drop from the center crotch seam to the bottom of the zipper’s J-shaped enclosure, often called the “J stitch” (the waistband makes up the rest of the rise at 1 3/4”). It’s long, but I wouldn’t call it a high-rise because it doesn’t sit that high around my waist (or the model’s here). Can you start to get why rises are tricky? The low/mid/high way we talk about them – and thus, shop for them – can’t be pinned to standard measurements.
I typically find that a rise measuring around 10”-11” looks and feels best on me (not too high, not too dropped). However, if you’ve been reading this letter you know that Mother’s high-waisted Spinner Skimps remain a fave (11 1/2” on size 25 and on sale right now in white). For those who are new here – and there are a number of you, Welcome! – I’m a size 25 in most jeans, and I am not a model or representation of all body types. So, with this and the basics about how rises work fresh in our minds, let’s get on with some JEANS…
Lauren Sherman, who writes Puck’s must-read, insider-fashion newsletter Line Sheet, was the first to request a review of Jeanerica, the Stockholm-based company founded by H&M/Acne veterans Lena Patriksson and Jonas Clason. “I’m interested in learning more if you care to cover it,” Lauren wrote. Without hesitation, I ordered four pairs: the Gaia, which I’m wearing here, the Classic, The Boy, and The Trevi, which is a stretchy flare that’s not me, but worth a look.
Jeanerica calls itself “a European denim house,” which is vague, though I’d say their jeans are distinctly different from the standards coming out of Los Angeles and Asia. Maybe because Jeanerica doesn’t aspire to imitate vintage the way so many U.S. and Japanese brands do – they’re not softsoftsoft; the washes aren’t wear-specific, but more uniform-all-over. The stitching is clean, the back tab is blank, and the fits all nod to archetypal silhouettes. In a sense, they’re plain. In a good way. All 4 styles I purchased fit me true in a 25. My favorite, the Gaia, is a rigid (100% cotton) straight leg that’s cropped on most, but not on me. Fine. Its rise, 9 1/2”, is shorter than what I usually wear and too low for tucking, so I pair it with a longer camp shirt. Cute.
I feel these Toteme jeans are a good option for those who still love skinnies and want to try something new. Everything above the knee fits and feels like a skinny… until the leg opening goes straight. The rise is high (11” on a size 25), and the button fly makes the fit more flattering. NOTE: Sometimes zippers on high rises create a “mom pooch,” which is when a.) you’ve had babies, plus b.) a fly’s stiff zipper is so long it has to curve outwards to accommodate any bending at the hips or waist.
See how the space between the buttons allows the fly to collapse on itself, keeping the whole thing looking less poochy? It’s very 501, actually. (P.S. I’m generally cool with my own post-baby mom pooch, I just prefer jeans that don’t enhance it.)
If you want to finish the hem and crop these frayed Totemes, I won’t judge. In fact, for the ankle-revealing, skinny-loving types, I recommend doing so. They’ll look great with a Chelsea boot and get you through winter.
Off-topic but re Toteme: I bought this dress for a recent holiday in Sardinia and, honestly, it’s perfect – it has the strength of a muscle tee and the breeziness of a long, romantic skirt, plus the washability of jersey. Hard to count how many compliments I get when I wear it. Even I’ll admit, a girl can’t live in jeans alone.
Jean of the Week: Michèle Ouellet Benson
Michèle Ouellet Benson, the Los Angeles-based model and winemaker, packed exactly one jean for a recent, month-long trip through Europe. The lucky pair: Reformation’s Val in the Colorado wash. “They’re great,” she told me over DM when she got back. “I’m actually wearing them right now lol.”
Michèle, who has modeled for such denim-centric brands as J.Crew, Madewell, and Ayr, and worked closely with their designers, stylists, and tailors on set for years and years, knows a good jean when she’s in it. The Val, a 90s-era straight leg, comes in 3 washes and has an 11 3/4” rise on a size 27, making it both slouchy and good for tucking. I’ve heard the Val is selling really well. The Ref site says customers recommend sizing down for a more fitted look. Sometimes, that’s all you need to know.
Like many of us, I’ve been shocked and saddened by the devastating wildfires in Maui. The office of the Governor of Hawaii is directing people to the Hawaii Community Foundation “Maui Strong Fund” – a donation there would be money well spent.
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