Don't pay attention to size when shopping for jeans: It's strange advice from the denim expert at Bella Boutique. But Sarah Engelbrecht has spent nearly three years helping women find the perfect jeans, and she knows that size is just a number.
"There are so many factors that influence fit. Some jeans stretch; others don't. Every style and brand is different," Engelbrecht says.
She and other Bella associates look at a customer's body type to figure out what brands might fit best and make suggestions that require lots of trips to the dressing room.
"Trying on jeans is a major deal," says Regina Santarelli, owner of Bella Boutique. "Don't come when you're not ready to try on 10 pairs. We tell the truth about how the jeans look and help select the best fit. Our job is to make people feel good about themselves. It's not about making a sale; it's about finding the right style that makes you feel good."
What looks good on you will depend on your body type. For example, skinny jeans generally work better on leaner people. But Santarelli suggests avoiding jeans that are so trendy they aren't wearable beyond the season.
"Super skinny will come and go, but good old boot cut is a solid style that's been around for years. It's not going anywhere," she says. "A slim fit with a boot cut is good for just about everyone. Baggy jeans do nothing for your figure like a slimmer fit could."
Santarelli says the trick in finding the right jeans is identifying problem body parts and then learning how to camouflage them.
Big bottoms can get a break with James Jeans, whose back pockets have tucks designed to make your butt look its best. Wide hips are flattered by Joe's Jeans in the honey fit designed for curvy women.
Petite women should buy sizes made for them instead of altering longer lengths. Engelbrecht explains that the knee break and the pocket position in regular jeans will be misplaced on a petite frame and hemming jeans can cut off the boot cut or flare. Instead she suggests shorter women select petite-sized jeans for the best fit.
Women who have struggled with low-rise jeans that go too low will be happy to hear that manufacturers have found a solution to this 'fashion don't.'
"Ill-fitting jeans are no longer acceptable. The low back end that exposes everything when you bend over is gone. It's over. Now jeans are being made to correct that," Santarelli says.
The side profile of the newly designed jeans shows they're still low in the front - lower than the belly button - but they come up higher in the back for better coverage.
The top three lines at Bella are James, Joe's and Seven for All Mankind. Prices range between $142 and $154. Santarelli says people are willing to spend money on high-end jeans because it's an investment in quality.
"If you find the right pair," she says, "you can wear them for years."
Bella Boutique's Web site offers the following fit guide:
Honey - curvy figures
Muse - mid-rise
Socialite - boot cut mid-rise
Provocateur - petite
Cigarette - skinny fit with lower rise
Tom - 5-pocket straight leg
James - mid-rise boot cut
Hector - classic high-rise below the belly button
For more information, check out the designers' Web sites:
Story published Friday, January 9, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 1 )