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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Jansen

A Comprehensive Guide to Jeans - Best Looks After Unilateral Mastectomy

Remember when we finally got used to the idea of the boot cut jean, only for them to be tossed aside when the “new” skinny jeans came strutting back down the runway? Then came leggings, which were also hard to get used to wearing again. I don't know about you, but I had worn them in the 90's when my body was young and hot...only to be forced to wear them again when I was trying hard to hide my “older lady belly roll.”

Truth be told, jean styles have always left me feeling “Meh.” This is because my body has never been appropriate for whatever style happened to be in fashion.....

Move over my uni friends! I have brilliant news for anyone who has been stuck in a jeans conundrum, ALL STYLES are in fashion this Fall/Winter 2020-2021!

“That's great Melissa,” I hear you say “but.... How do I find a pair when there are so many different types?” Double the problems of going shopping for jeans when most stores won't let you try things on due to covid 19. Do you dare be brave enough to buy your jeans online?

Good question! Can I use this as a good excuse for the reason I haven't posted a new article for several weeks? I have done some extensive research to demystify the differences in names of styles, cuts, color washes, waist heights, leg lengths, and material blends. I also have a few examples what styles work best for your, post-unilateral-mastectomy body type, and how to master the “double denim” look.

*For the sake of simplicity, I have listed all the photographed jean makes (and cotton content) at the bottom of this article.*

Without further ado, let's get on with it!

Styles & Cuts

Let's talk about the six main cuts and styles that jeans come in. Since most people are now buying clothing online, it's good to know what different companies are calling their styles. Some of these may vary slightly to keep you on your toes (or just super confused so you feel even more intimidated when tying to find something that fits)!

Skinny Jeans

These jeans are self explanatory. We have all been wearing them for several years now. Skinny jeans are not soon to go out of style (especially during boot season) but they are about to be slowly replaced in your closet regardless of how much you love the way they hug you. The fact that we have all gotten used to them means the time has come for the powers-that-be to slowly stop selling them, forcing you to endure another round of anxiety induced jean shopping ahead.

On the spectrum of the Skinny jean we have Jeggings and Slim Jeans.

The difference between Skinny and Jeggings is usually the content of spandex (jeggings have a higher amount) and the front usually have fake pockets.

Slim Jeans are slightly looser in the ankle but are still tight fitting in the leg area. They may also have more cotton ratio in the fabric content.

Straight Leg Jeans

The best way to know if your jeans are strait leg is to fold the leg from the ankle to the knee. If there is no variation in the cut (it doesn't taper) it is considered a “straight leg.” Most variations of a straight leg jean will be the length and color variations (see below).

Boyfriend Jeans

Typically “boyfriend jeans” are all about the look. The name came about to describe jeans that look like you threw on a pair of

your “boyfriend's” jeans (after some mad romp in his disgustingly, filthy apartment where your clothes got lost...etc....etc...I guess?).

Yes, the name of this jean style is extremely sexist leading some companies to currently refer to them as “Boyfriend/Girlfriend” jeans. I have no idea what this implies for all the married folks of the world and what apparently doesn't belong in their wardrobe anymore.....but lets move on...

Basically the look of a 'boyfriend/girlfriend' jean is a distressed, loose fitting jean that usually has a worn look to them. These styles typically have a button fly instead of a zipper and the bottoms are usually rolled up at the ankle.

Another two variations of this style would be the Mom jean and the Paper Bag jean. Both are also a loose fitting jean but vary in the waist and the leg. Both of these jeans taper in at the ankle slightly and the waist of the “Mom” goes to the belly button, and the paper bag...well, it's a paper bag top.

Boot Cut and Flares

Boot Cut jeans and Flares have the same concept with the Flare Jean being a more pronounced design. The Boot Cut design originally began as a way to accommodate a boot. This cut is straight or regular fit from hip to knee and with a small flare at the bottom to allow for a boot to easily slip under it.

A Flare Jean also has a flare at the bottom, but, goes in at the knee before the flare comes out in a more pronounced fashion. This style originates from the 1960's as a modified and more modern version of the boot cut.

Wide Leg

Wide leg jeans are pretty self explanatory as the entire leg will go down and will drape completely away from the leg so that nothing beyond the bottom of the butt or the thigh hits any skin. Some versions of this style can almost look like a pair of tailored trousers instead of jeans.

Another variation of the Wide Leg would be the Sailor Cut. This cut will usually have buttons instead of a zipper or can sometimes have an elastic waist instead of a zip or buttons.

Waist Height/Rise:

Now that we know all the different styles and cuts jeans come in, it's time to figure out that the difference is in the waist height also known as the "rise." To be able to buy a jean that suits your body type we need to think about your height, weight and body type because all these things need to be considered to find the right style for you to feel good in.

Photographed below are the following waist variations that can come with different styles listed above. I have shown a photo so that you can see where they sit or “hit” at the top of the waistband but keep in mind all torsos are different. The measurements are in inches from the crotch (top of the leg seam) to the waistband and can slightly vary depending on the maker. Some people consider Low rise to hit at hip level, mid rise to be anything above the hip but an inch below the belly button, regular to hit just under the belly button, and high rise to be from the belly button and higher. In the photos I have my fingers on my hips to allow you a visual of where they hit on my torso.

Low Rise (7-8 inch) - Mid Rise (8-9 inch) – Regular (9-10 inch) - High Waist (11-12) – Paper Bag & Rib Cage (12 - 14)

Materials and Washes:

Real Quality Denim is made with 100% cotton and is stiff due to the large amount of threads spun into the weave. Denim is weaved in a “twill” pattern in a diaganol weave, instead of the usual up-and-down pattern. Real quality denim is usually heavier and can be cut and sewn without a serger due to the thickness in material. These are all ways to tell if a pair of jeans are worth a big price tag. Also, real quality denim jeans do not need to be washed. If fact, some denim buffs think of it as a crime! Instead, they should be spot cleaned and put into your freezer every 6 months. If you insist on washing the real quality denim DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE DRYER – Instead, wash in cold water and air dry.

Mixed Materials are usually used in most of today's jeans. This gives jeans the stretch that the older jeans lacked. However, keeping an eye on the amount of spandex in your jeans is a way of knowing how high of a quality the jeans will be. Too much spandex, polyester and elastic is a tell-tale sign of whether the jeans will withstand continuous washing and drying and retain their shape. Yes, I'm talking about saggy butts and baggie knees!

Below are photos of the different variety of Washes that jeans come in. Good quality denim is made by indigo dying with real indigo instead of a synthetic form of dye. There are several different types of dipping and washing depending on the desired look. Black and colored jeans are dyed by a different method called sulfur dying. Again, because of the different ways in which denim is dyed means washing jeans can make the color change. Keep an eye on labels to know if you need to worry about the dye bleeding out of the jeans.

Other Things to Note Regarding Quality and How to Find the Perfect Jeans

If you are like me, you are probably pretty clueless as to which brand best suits your body. This is why I recommend going to your local charity store. Its the best way to find out the most flattering look, style and make suits your body – as well as getting you a bang-for-your-buck. The following are tips when looking for jeans (and to tell the difference between a cheap vs. expensive pair).

Look for 100% Cotton or at least 98% cotton in the material content. This will ensure that the jeans continue to wash well and retain their shape.

More expensive jeans have a zipper that starts lower, near the crotch area. This is a sure way to avoid the dreaded camel toe. I hope I don't need to explain this further... (The other day my friend said she had never heard that expression before!)

One important detail in understanding the difference between a better quality vs. cheaper jean are found in the seams. Here are some things to ask yourself during an inspection. Are the stitches tight together (quality) or further apart (cheaper)? Do the seams go in a strait line with care (quality) or are they carelessly curved in places (cheaper)? Is there any part of the seam that has careless overlap in thread (cheap)?

A good pocket will make your bum pop! It's always most flattering if the bottom of the pocket falls at the crease of your bum cheek.

Distressing can be fun to wear but remember, this can actually date your jeans (and you). I always steer away from too much distressing because sometimes it can just look messy – and even age you if done too much.

When trying on a pair of jeans, it is always good to do some squats in the changing room. This is a sure way to know if they are going to gape in the back of the waist and/or be too tight in the thighs.

Tips for Different Body Types

Pear/Large Hips: Rise – Mid and higher; Styles – strait cut, flare, wide, boot cut, mom jeans; Other Tips – look for larger pockets.

Apple/Large Tummy: Rise – mid to lower (except jeggings); Styles – jeggings, slim, straight; OtherTips – jeggings can be bought with a high waist because the elastic content is higher which helps to suck in your belly and not irritate your waist. Anything with an interesting fly detail can also be worn with a high waist (like sailor pants with big buttons or jeans made with colored materials.

Broad Shouldered: Rise – mid and lower; Styles – wide leg, boyfriend and mom jeans; Other Tips – lighter washes look best.

Hourglass: Rise – Mid and higher; Styles – skinny, boot cut, flair, wide leg; Other Tips – look for larger pockets.

Thin: Rise - Mid and higher; Styles – slim, strait, boot cut, boyfriend, mom jeans; Other Tips – stay away from skinny and wide leg jeans.

Tall: Rise – all are flattering; Styles – loose fit, boyfriend, mom; Other Tips – most jeans look flattering on a tall person, however, do not shop at standard stores, the jeans will be made for a standard size. Instead, shop only at retailers who specialize in jeans.

Short/Vertically Challenged: Rise – high; Styles– skinny, boot cut, boyfriend; Other Tips – make sure the jeans hit at the ankle.

How I Style My Favorite Jeans:

Look #1 with Jeggings

Now that I have made you totally paranoid about the difference between good quality vs cheaper made jeans, I am going to confess that a few of my favorite jeans are from Walmart. They just tend to fit my body well. I like to wear these with a bodysuit so that there is no ugly bunching if I want to tuck in a top. A note on why this bodysuit works well for someone with a unilateral mastectomy is that the deep V in this top really tricks the eye to believe there is balance in your chest area. The fact is, eyes skim over this type of top because they expect to see cleavage (even if it isn't there). If you are an apple shape you can STILL TUCK IN A TOP and use this look. Wearing a belt will make your waist defined and then I suggest a cardigan over the top so that it hides and disguises the full width of your waist. Because jeggings usually are extra long I like to cuff mine at the bottom and wear them with flats. In the winter I plan on wearing these jeans with boots and a baggy sweater.

Look #2 with Paper Bag Jeans

These paper bag jeans are also from Walmart. For my hourglass body I really like the look of a higher rise jean because I can divert the eyes from my chest and make people focus more on my waist. To juggle the look of the black belt and the red booties I have chosen a scarf to tie in the two colors. Scarves are not only great from winter but also can be used many ways to get the focus off your unilateral mastectomy body. I like the look of short boots with these type of pants because they tend to elevate the look of the distressing in the jeans.

Look #3 with Colored Denim Skirt and Jean Jacket

As I mentioned above, the best way to shop for denim is the thrift stores. Everything I am wearing (besides my necklace) is thrifted. Both the belt and jeans are leather. A word about this jacket, I bought it last year and I have since lost over 30 pounds....Needless to say, now it is too big for me. I was about to put it in the “return to the thrift store” pile when I realized one of the top looks this year happens to be belted oversized jackets! Well, it works a treat! The unusually large collar drapes well across my unilateral mastectomy chest, the large buttons give a good focal point as well as the pockets. I think I will be wearing this jacket a lot this winter and I highly recommend you try this large, belted jacket look.

Look #4 with Double Denim and Chambray

The look of double denim is self explanatory. So of you will be oblivious to the fact that this is a look that has been highly in fashion for the last year, but most people are scared to attempt it. It is actually easier than people think, you just have to go for it! The secret to double denim (or triple like in this photo) is to vary the colors but make sure the lighter wash is on top and darker is lower. This will balance out your body and again give you a great looking waist (especially if you wear a belt). Again, everything in this photo is either second hand or thrifted. These ribcage jeans are what I am talking about when looking for quality jeans. These jeans are from a European brand and are over $200.00 new! And yes, these are stiff, 100% denim and I will not be washing them! I think the double denim look is a great way to hide your unilateral mastectomy and wearing a baggy top with several dangly necklaces really tricks the eye.

Look #5 with Wide Leg Jeans

I love wide leg jeans! The key to wearing them is a good heel. I can't really walk much in stilettos anymore but it doesn't matter because a wide leg jean looks better with a good wedge – so I'm in luck and so are you! I used to be scared of shorter sweaters, so I made a point of wearing this to show how a shorter sweater can actually hide your unilateral mastectomy. Because side tucking is a 'thing' we can utilize this to emphasize asymmetry. I usually tuck on my breast side but I think either way can work.

Hope all these tips and tricks help you find the right pair of jeans for your body type and allow you to rethink a good denim look!

list of jeans in photographs:

Rise photos:(14inch rise – BDG, Sailor Pants, 100% cotton; 14inch rise – Tinseltown, Paper Bag Jeans, 99% cotton 1% spandex; 13.5inch rise – Marsala, 100% cotton; 11inch rise – BDG, High Rise Flare, 83% cotton 16% poly 1% spandex; 10.5inch rise – Lee, Relaxed fit, straight leg, 60% cotton 21% rayon 17% poly 2% spandex; 10inch rise – Lucky Brand, Hayden Skinny, 82% cotton 17% poly 1% spandex; 9.5inch rise – Gloria Vanderbilt, The Perfect Fit with Lock Stitch Control, 98% cotton 2% spandex; 8.5inch rise – Lila Ryan, Jeggings, 71% cotton 21% poly 2% spandex; 8inch rise – Seven 7, Trouser Flares, 98% cotton 2% spandex)

Leg Photos:(Wide Leg – BDG, Sailor Pants, 100% cotton; Boyfriend – 21 Men, 98% cotton 2% spandex; Flares – BDG, High Rise Flare, 83% cotton 16% poly, 1% spandex; Boot Cut – Gloria Vanderbilt, The Perfect Fit with Lock Stitch Control, 98% cotton 2% spandex; Strait Leg – Woolrich, 93% cotton 6% poly 1% elast; Slim Fit – Not Your Daughter's Jeans, 70% cotton 13% poly 10% lyocell 7% elast; Skinny Jeans Rockstar Super Skinny, 87% cotton 9% elastic 4% spandex)

Styling Photos:#1 - Time and True (Walmart Brand), High Rise Jeggings, 66% cotton 32% poly 2% spandex -body suit from Forever 21, belt from Prada, shoes from H&M; #2 – Tinseltown, Paper Bag Jeans, 99% cotton 1% spandex – cardigan from Old Navy, belt from Prada, vintage scarf (Italian) thrifted, boots from Style & Co; #3 – Jean skirt from Lee Jeans, 98% cotton 2% spandex - jean jacket from Filmore, 100% cotton - belt thrifted, leather riding boots (Brazilian) Toby, necklace necklace; #4 – jean jacket, Forever 21, 100% cotton – chambray top, Merona (Target Brand) 100% cotton – ribcage jeans, Marsala 100% cotton – belt from Nine West, leopard print slides from Halogen ( Nordstrom Brand) , necklaces second hand; #5 – Time and True (Walmart Brand) 68% cotton 23% poly 8% rayon, 1% spandex – sweater from Forever 21, wedge heals from A New Day (Target Brand), belt thrifted, necklace second hand.

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