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Shopping for the perfect pair of jeans can be as challenging as shopping for a swimsuit or lingerie—if not more. With so many different cuts, washes, rises, and ways of measuring, finding the right jeans is like solving a Rubix cube.
For those who are petite—or 5-foot-4 and under— the search can be extra difficult. Most jeans are modeled on taller figures, so online shopping becomes a guessing game of squinting at the screen and trying to imagine how much longer those jeans will look on you. Sure, you can always take a pair to a tailor for hemming, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have them arrive perfectly as they are?
According to Stitch Fix Stylist Jessica Smith, you don’t just have to rely on eyeballing it. Rather, we should all be shopping by inseam (AKA the actual length of the pants). With the right length, you can wear just about any cut or color. “For petite wearers, it’s all in the length—leaning into proportion and scale to select an inseam that creates balance to your go-to jeans,” says Smith.
Chi Li, founder of the retail site Petite Dressing, and Josiane Konaté, founder of Petite and Bold, agree that hunting for jeans is no easy feat—but with their tips and tricks, you can find your denim soulmate.
Read on for some of the best jeans for petite figures in all shapes and washes and the experts’ styling advice.
Best Overall: Levi's Ribcage Straight Ankle Jeans
There’s a reason why Levi’s has been the leader in denim for over 100 years. Over the decades, they have been able to evolve and adapt to modern trends while weaving in their classic heritage. I love Levi’s because I know I can find 100 percent cotton blends (I try to avoid stretch as much as possible), and I adore the iconic pocket logo that is just enough embellishment for my tush.
Today, Levi’s offers jeans in every style as well as offering a range of prices from budget to more pricer options with their premium line. They also offer a range of inseams which is key for the petite. For me, every jean search starts at Levi’s. This pick is especially perfect thanks to the ankle-length design and shorter inseam which means no rolling is necessary.
Material: 99% cotton, 1% elastane | Size Range: 23-32 waist | Inseam: 27 or 29 inches | Care: Wash once every 10 wears at most; machine wash and dry inside-out with like colors
Best Budget: Gap Petite Sky High Rise Vintage Slim Jeans
There must be something in San Francisco's water because Gap is another iconic jean brand born from the Bay. Compared to Levi’s, they sell slightly cheaper options while still offering the same range of styles. Offering petite sizes, Gap tailors to tinier frames. Yet just because the jeans are affordable doesn’t mean they offer less in quality. With their initiative to become more sustainable, they use a certain percentage of recycled cotton in their denim, so you can feel better about investing in a new pair.
Material: 87% cotton, 7% recycled cotton, 5% recycled polyester, 1% elastane | Size Range: 24-30 petite | Inseam: 24.5 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best High-Waisted: Everlane The Way-High Jean
There are high-waisted jeans and then there are high-waisted jeans. With a 12⅛ inch rise, these are Everlane’s highest pair and will make you equally elated when you try them on. The straight leg has a 27.5-inch inseam so it’s not too long, not too short. Made from a blend of 98 percent organic cotton and 2 percent elastane, they have that sturdy denim feel to reel you in with just the right amount of stretch so you know, you can sit and eat. Li swears by high-waisted jeans to elongate her legs and these will do just the trick.
Material: 98% cotton, 2% elastane | Size Range: 24-35 | Inseam: 27.5 or 29.5 inches | Care: Machine wash cold, inside-out; tumble dry low
Best Cropped: DL1961 Bridget Boot High Rise Instasculpt Crop
The word “cropped jeans” may elicit memories of overly faded capris that hit your legs at the worst spots. Rest assured today’s denim isn’t that of the early 2000s. According to Smith, a cropped leg can look very modern this season.
“If you are looking to highlight this season’s cropped straight-leg denim trend, choose a shorter inseam and higher rise to create the illusion of a longer silhouette. Find a pair that hits above your ankle bone for a trendy twist,” says Smith.
Case in point: DL1961 Bridget Boot. This high-rise crop looks chic and sophisticated with just a smidge of fraying at the end. Made with the brand’s high-retention elastane technology, the style smooths, lifts, and conforms to your body without losing shape. It comes in three shades, black, medium, and light wash, so you can slip it on for any occasion and mood.
Material: 93% cotton, 6% polyester, 1% Lycra | Size Range: 23-35 | Inseam: 26 inches | Care: Machine wash cold; dry flat
Best Low-Rise: Silver Jeans Tuesday Low Rise Slim Bootcut Jeans
Low rise jeans may be one of the most divided denim trends, but like with all fashion trends, there is a time and place for the below belly button style. Whether you are the first to embrace the return of the low rise or have always been a loyal fan, Silver’s Tuesday Low Rise Slim Bootcut Jeans should fill your fashion craving. The solid indigo color and minimal details feel like a modern take on the iconic early 2000s style. The brand implements front-to-back proportions and a slightly contoured waistband to give the illusion of curves and prevent gaping. The bootcut also balances out the silhouette and comes in a 31-inch inseam.
Material: 93% cotton, 5% polyester, 2% elastane | Size Range: 24-34 | Inseam: 31, 33, or 35 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Stretchy: Madewell Petite 9-Inch Mid-Rise Roadtripper Supersoft Jeans
Everyone needs a good pair of black skinny jeans, and this style from Madewell offers that denim look with extra softness that could fool you into thinking you are wearing leggings. Made from the brand’s Roadtripper Supersoft denim, the pair is lightweight, stretchy, and breathable, so you can dance all night without feeling weighed down. Madewell offers this style in petite, so you don’t have to worry about rolling the ankles.
Material: 93% cotton, 5% polyester, 2% elastane | Size Range: 23-28 petite | Inseam: 26 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Skinny: Madewell Petite 9-Inch Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans
While the internet may still debate if skinny jeans are in or out, the truth is that they are a classic style that will forever be essential when tucking into boots. Smith recommends going for a shorter inseam in this type to create a longer silhouette—nothing is worse than having extra fabric bunched up at the ankles. Woven with Tencel lyocell, these skinnies have enough stretch, so they aren’t cutting off your circulation. Reviewers say they still hold up to whatever sitting, bending, and walking your day has in store.
Material: 92% cotton, 6% polyester, 2% elastane | Size Range: 23-32 petite | Inseam: 26 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Flared: Mother The Weekender Fray
Being on the shorter side doesn’t mean you have to avoid the extra fabric that comes in the form of a flared fit. Flared jeans can make you appear taller, especially when you pair them with heeled boots or clogs.
“One misconception that I'd like to see being of the past is that petite women can't wear wide or flare jeans. This is not true,” says Konaté. “They add height and look very classic and put together on us. Of course, it all comes to balancing the volume with a more fitted or shorter top.”
For a modern take on the flare that feels more 2021 than the 1970s, consider Mother’s Weekender. The 31-inch inseam means it will be long enough to wear with high heels without dragging on the ground. Made in Los Angeles from 94 percent cotton, it has just enough stretch to get you through the day. The washes range from solid to subtle fading and whisking for all kinds of aesthetics.
Material: 92% cotton, 6% polyester, 2% elastane | Size Range: 23-34 | Inseam: 31 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Wide Leg: AYR The Must
Just like flare jeans, wide-leg jeans can look sharp and elongating when they are well fitted. We adore The Must, a whimsical pair from AYR. The pretty light wash and soft fabric are made for squatting down at a picnic in the park or biking on a vacation getaway. The pair hits at the ankle, making them perfect for showing off your fall boots. Whatever season you are in, these jeans are simply a must.
Material: 94% cotton, 4% polyester, 2% elastane | Size Range: 23-32 | Inseam: 26.5 inches | Care: Machine wash cold, inside out, with like colors; line dry
Best Vintage-Inspired: Paige Jeans Leenah Petite - Angelle Destructed
The brand calls these '90s inspired—we think they look more like they look in the 70s. Regardless, these jeans look like they were a treasure dug up from a thrift store. The wide-leg, L-shaped pockets, and single deconstructed knee are all the details building up the nostalgia. Unlike a real thrift store find, these are guaranteed to be tailored towards the petite. But no worries. Though these will be new, the brand has infused them with softness for that lived-in feel.
Material: 98% cotton, 2% elastane | Size Range: 24-32 | Inseam: 30 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Straight: Frame Le High Straight Jeans in Film Noir
Wider than skinny jeans but slimmer than bootcut or flare, you can’t go wrong with the timeless straight-leg shape. And Frame's Le High style is ideal for petite figures with its slimmer fit and 27-inch inseam. Take it from the buyers themselves—this is Frame's best-selling style. The cotton/modal/polyester/elastane blend is made to last as well as offers the perfect amount of give and comfort.
Material: 76% cotton, 15% modal, 6% polyester, 3% elastane | Size Range: 23-34 | Inseam: 27 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Mom Jeans: Levi's Wedgie Straight Leg
As a petite woman myself (I’m 5-foot-3-and-a-half on a good day), I know the struggle of finding a pair of mom jeans that are comfy but not too overwhelming for my figure. I usually have good luck with Levi’s, though, so when I tried the Levi Wedgie Straight Leg jeans, I knew I had to buy them. They have that vintage, not-too-tight vibe. But as the name suggests, the fit lifts and accentuates the booty, which I think everyone wants in a good pair of mom jeans. Best of all, they come in a 26-inch inseam option, making them the perfect full-length pair of jeans for my height. And with only 1 percent elastane, these jeans barely stretch. No saggy butts here.
Material: 99% cotton, 1% elastane | Size Range: 23-32 | Inseam: 26 or 28 inches | Care: Machine wash and dry inside-out with like colors
Best Distressed: Agolde Riley High Rise Straight Crop Jeans
When it comes to wearing distressed denim, the key is finding the right amount of details that won’t be too overpowering for the petite frame. The Riley High Rise Straight Crop strikes the right balance with simple slashes at the knees that can naturally expand with wear and tear. Add in the high rise, straight leg, and cropped hem, and you really can’t go wrong with these, whether you pair them with sneakers, boots, or sandals. Made from 100 percent cotton, these jeans won’t leave you sagging. Konaté names Agolde as one of her favorite jean brands and we see why.
Material: 100% organic cotton | Size Range: 23-34 | Inseam: 25.25 inches | Care: Machine wash cold
Best Bootcut: Levi's 725 High Rise Bootcut Jeans
“Bootcut styles are back and we’re here for it! This silhouette is a must for any petite frame, especially in a light-medium wash,” says Smith. “Remember, the correct inseam is most important on flare and bootcut denim, as having them hemmed will lose their shape.”
Smith recommends an inseam between 28-30 inches for bootcut style, and these Levi's have you covered, all the way down to 25 inches. This style lengthens legs with its high rise, slim fit, and solid colors. Leave it to Levi’s to master the bootcut.
Material: 60% cotton, 22% viscose, 16% polyester, 2% elastane | Size Range: 23-33 | Inseam: 26, 28, 30, 32, or 34 inches | Care: Machine wash and dry inside-out with like colors
Best Curvy: Everlane The Curvy ’90s Cheeky Jean
There’s a reason why shopping for jeans is such a puzzle. It’s not just about how tall you are, but it’s also about your hip to waist ratio. Thankfully, the geniuses at Everlane have crafted The Curvy ’90s Cheeky Jean with an increased hip-to-waist ratio to improve the waist gap. Choose between a 26.5 or a 28.5-inch inseam for the ideal length. Made from 100 percent organic cotton and in factories using sustainable practices, the pair is an investment you can feel good about owning.
Material: 100% organic cotton | Size Range: 23-33 | Inseam: 26.5 or 28.5 inches | Care: Machine wash cold, inside-out; tumble dry low
Best Boyfriend: NYDJ Relaxed Piper Ankle Jeans
Boyfriend jeans can be tricky. By definition, they have a looser fit. But when you don’t have a ton of height to play with, it’s easy to start drowning in something baggy.
“Looser fitted jeans are trending, but for petites, anything too baggy or too loose is not flattering,” says Konaté. “Boyfriend jeans can work, but you need to go with a slim version of these.”
That’s why NYDJ Relaxed Piper Ankle Jeans struck our eyes. Not only do they come in petite sizing but the style itself is streamlined and slim, while still maintaining that laidback look. Oversized front pockets add utility-chicness. And we can’t get over the dip-dyed portion at the end of the hem that adds a unique detail.
Material: 100% organic cotton | Size Range: 00-18 petite | Inseam: 25 inches | Care: Machine wash cold, inside-out; tumble dry low
Best Maternity: Gap Maternity True Waistband Full Panel Cheeky Straight Jeans
You probably don’t want to spend a ton on maternity jeans, given that they will only be needed for a few months. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to look stylish. Gap has got you covered with a variety of maternity styles at affordable prices. The brand's True Waistband Full Panel Cheeky Straight Jeans offers a choice of short, regular, or long inseams, so you don’t have to roll up your hems. Now is not the time for unnecessary bending and kneeling.
Material: 94% cotton, 5% recycled cotton, 1% elastane | Size Range: 26-33 | Inseam: 30 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best White: Mother The Dazzler Ankle Fray
Contrary to popular belief, white jeans aren’t limited to wear only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Of course, they go with any beachy outfit in the summer, from nautical stripes to a breezy button-down. But they can also shine in the winter with a cream sweater as part of an all-white ensemble.
This white pair from Mother Jeans will serve you all season long. The straight leg and slight fray nod to the vacation vibe. Yet the 27.5 inseam and straight leg are ideal for wearing with boots for all your winter wonderland adventures. A small graphic above the back pocket adds a cheeky touch.
Material: 98% cotton, 2% elastane | Size Range: 23-34 | Inseam: 27.5 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Printed: BDG High & Wide Jean - Cow Print
Giddy up, because cow print is back! This printed pair from BDG looks more artistic than trendy with its artfully placed splotches and rust-brown color. With a 27.5-inch inseam and a wide leg, they should hit you at just the ankle. One of the perks of wearing printed jeans is that they practically complete your entire outfit—you just have to find a simple top and jacket to tie up the loose ends. Pair these with a simple white sweater or T-shirt and a great pair of boots. Doja Cat would approve.
Material: 100% cotton | Size Range: 24-34 | Inseam: 27.5 inches | Care: Machine wash
Best Embroidered: Driftwood High-Rise Jackie Jeans
If you want jeans with a little more pizazz than those basic blues but don’t want to commit to an all-over print, embroidery is a happy medium. Driftwood weaves embroidery in almost all of their pairs, and we find the High Rise Jackie extra becoming for petite figures. The slim fit and 28-inch inseam won’t overwhelm you. This design has the perfect amount of embroidery to spice your outfit up without completely stealing the show.
Material: 93% cotton, 2% spandex, 5% polyester | Size Range: 24-34 | Inseam: 28 inches | Care: Machine wash cold
Best Color: Express Super High Waisted Purple Modern Straight Jeans
Li lists Express as one of her favorite jean brands, saying she has found them to have the most denim options for petites at a reasonable price range. We adore these straight jeans in one of the trendiest colors, lilac. The pastel shade is just the right amount of color to add a pop to your outfit without having to find a whole new set of pieces to match it to. Coming in regular, short, and long sizes, these jeans come in three different inseams for the perfect fit. Reviewers rave that the jeans are true to size and comfy.
Material: Cotton/polyester/spandex | Size Range: 2-18 | Inseam: 27.5, 30.5, or 32.5 inches | Care: Machine wash
What to Look for in Petite Jeans
When shopping for jeans, you’ll often see two numbers used to describe the size—the inseam is that second number. While the first is the waist, the inseam is the measurement from the base of your zipper to the bottom of your leg opening, says Smith.
The right inseam length depends not only on your height and the type of shoes you'll be wearing but also on the cut of the jeans themselves.
“For skinny jeans, go with your natural ankle inseam as you don’t want it to bunch up, which typically for petites is 24 to 26 inches,” says Li. “For straight leg, you can go slightly longer—25 to 27 inches—as the leg opening is bigger. For flare jeans and wide-leg jeans, wearing longer inseam—26 to 30 inches—with heels can maximize your leg length.”
The rise of your jeans, or where they hit on your torso, is just as important as the inseam for petite figures, says Smith. So let's first break down what each rise means. A low-rise typically sits 2 inches below the navel. Mid-rise will sit at the navel. And high-rise hit above the navel.
While choosing a rise ultimately comes down to what you feel comfortable and confident in, Smith points out there are different pros and cons to each rise.
“When it comes to jeans, low-rise tends to make hips look wider and legs look shorter. This is not always the friendliest fit for petite women. On the other hand, mid-rise jeans are generally a go-to for petite women. This rise keeps the body proportionate and creates a slimming silhouette,” says Smith. “If you’re looking to elongate your legs, high-waisted denim is your choice. The higher rise lengthens your waistline and provides definition and balance to your ensemble.”
Playing with washes or the shade of your jeans can give your outfit an entirely different vibe. Black and dark wash denim tend to look more professional and dressy, making them a great contender for the office or a night out.
Light and medium wash denim are versatile and easily go from running errands to a weekend brunch. White jeans are a summer staple and colored and patterned jeans make a fun, bold statement.
“Dark wash denim is the perfect in-between colorway and flattering on an array of figures. Light or medium wash denim is known to be the most seasonless of the bunch and a staple amongst denim fanatics,” says Smith. “The most versatile denim wash award goes to our favorite black wash. Why? It’s best for elongating legs and goes from casual to cocktail hour in a snap.”
What Does Petite Mean in Jeans?
If you are petite, you’ve probably noticed that certain brands offer petite jean styles. But what exactly is the difference between regular and petite jeans? Is one simply shorter than the other? The answer is not so simple.
“Petite takes into account proportion and fit to tailor pieces to women 5-foot-4 and under, regardless of their size. When thinking about petite jeans, it is all in the details. Fit considerations like knee placement and shorter length accommodate these smaller frames,” says Smith. “Traditional hemlines and inseams are often too long, so petite size jeans offer a shorter, often more custom fit. When thinking about petite size jeans or pants, height and inseam continue to reign supreme when distinguishing between petite and regular sizes.”
What Is The Difference Between Short And Petite Jeans?
Think short and petite jeans are interchangeable? Think again! “The main difference between short and petite jeans is the rise and cut,” says Smith. “For petite jeans, fit considerations and adjustments are made to the entire garment. These include adjusting the placement of the knee and adjusting the rise or inseam for an optimal fit. For short jeans, the inseam is simply shorter in length.”
Can Petites Wear High-Waisted Jeans?
Both Li and Konaté swear buy high-rise jeans as their go-to rise, mentioning how the higher waist makes them look taller and elongates their legs. The key to not getting gobbled up by the extra fabric is to find the right proportion—what might be an ideal rise on a tall figure may be too high on a petite figure. Konaté also gives this extra tip: “When you wear a pair of high rise jeans, make sure to tuck in your top because it creates a balance in your silhouette as well as giving the appearance of being taller,” says Konaté.
How Do You Measure Yourself for Buying Jeans Online?
These days, trying on clothes before you buy them is less and less common. Here’s Smith’s guide to measuring yourself for online jean shopping. First thing’s first; find a tape measure and friend to help you get accurate measurements. If you don’t have someone nearby, no need to worry. A mirror will be a perfect replacement.
Step 1: Measure your waist and hips.
To measure your waist, use your fingers to find the top of your hip bone and wrap the tape measure around. Make sure the tape measure is level with your belly button and you are not holding your breath. Trust us, you will appreciate a better fit in the end. Have your friend write down this measurement. Now it is time to measure your hips. Locate the widest part of your hips. Start on one side and wrap around your rear to the other side. Make sure the tape measure is laying flat. Record this measurement.
Step 2: Measure your inseam.
It’s time to measure from the bottom of the zipper to the base of your leg. If you have a favorite pair of pants with the perfect inseam, you can measure these as well to hone in on the inseam you prefer.
Step 3: Take a peek at the brand’s online size chart.
Did you know this even existed? Using the measurements you recorded, compare them to the online guide. Pay close attention to the correlation to size and best fit for this particular brand.
Step 4: Read customer reviews and use the model as a guide.
The fit and size reviews will be your secret weapon. See what others have to say about the style or brand—does it run big? Too small? True to size? Compare the jeans size and inseam to the model to look for clues on how it would fit you. Save time returning the jeans by spending time researching the jeans.
Why Trust Byrdie?
At 5-foot-3 herself, Emily Cieslak knows the struggle of finding jeans that aren’t too long or loose. This has led her to try on countless brands and styles all the while building an eye for what styles will best complement her petite figure. Working as a stylist in her free time, Cieslak knows how to apply this expertise to other body types and aesthetics as well.