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Over the years, so many of you told me how much you love Madewell denim. The size range, the fit, the stretch, the style. And every couple of years I think maybe I should try Madewell. I do a big Madewell denim haul, buy half a dozen pairs, and end up returning them all.
But this season, with the new denim trends, I wouldn't be ordering skinny and/or stretchy like I have in the past. So I decided to try Madewell out again. After writing my post about the top three spring denim trends I was itching for some faded denim that was full-length, and either a straight or relaxed/balloon/barrel silhouette.
What is Madewell?
Madewell was originally a Massachusetts-based company that created workwear (think Carhartt). J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler acquired the Madewell trademark in 2004. Drexler had the dream of creating the next Levi's and in 2006 started Madewell to make that dream a reality.
While J. Crew has a strong brick-and-mortar presence, Madewell has always focused on internet-based shopping with far fewer stores. They use the purpose of the original Madewell as inspiration for their collection of apparel. You will find chore jackets, bandanas, coveralls, and plenty of denim, but all with a feminine spin and a nod to current trends.
Madewell is great for on-trend denim done well. They get the right washes, the right hem lengths, the right amount of distressing. They're also great for classic fits and washes you can rock for many stylish years. They also have a nice size range with most of their clothing up to size 24 with petite, tall, and taller offerings so I feel better featuring denim I know the majority of the Wardrobe Oxygen audience can also wear.
What Size I Wear in Other Denim Brands
I am 5'3″ and usually a size 14 in jeans. For brands that sell by waist size, I am a 32 or 33 depending on the brand. I do best with petite sizing for my rise, but occasionally find petite jeans too short for me, even with flat shoes.
Some of my favorite fitting jeans are Talbots Slim Ankle in 12 regular or 14 petite (depends on wash and what shoes I'm wearing), Universal Standard Seine High-Rise Skinny in 10 (petite fits perfectly in rise but is too short at the hem so I get the 27″ regular which is still a better fit than most retailers), Chico's Girlfriend Ankle Jeans in 2 petite, and Everlane Authentic Stretch High-Rise Skinny Button Fly in 32 ankle.
These Are a Few of My Favorite Jeans:
To be honest, I haven't worn a lot of denim this past year beyond my Universal Standard jeans and a pair of now-discontinued straight leg Sculptex jeans from Athleta in 14 petite seen in this blog post (please bring them back Athleta, I'd buy them in every color). I know my body has changed over this past year and decided to err on the side of too big than too small for this Madewell denim haul review.
What Denim I Ordered from Madewell
While I love my Athleta Sculpex jeans (seriously Athleta, please bring these back), I was looking for something a bit more rigid/heavyweight and had a longer inseam. A high-rise, not tight, full-length jean in a faded wash, preferably with some distressing.
When researching my spring 2021 denim trends post, I saw the Madewell Balloon Jean and crushed on the silhouette. I was seeing a linen v-neck or graphic tee knotted at the high waistband of the jeans, a pair of gold hoops, my white Birkenstocks as my leaving the house look, and I could glam it up with a jacket or blazer or more jewelry or dressier shoes.
And I was attracted to the vintage feel of The Perfect Vintage Jean. It looked great on all the Madewell models and came in some great washes and distressing.
What Sizes I Ordered From Madewell for this Denim Haul
I am a 32 or 33 for most denim brands and Madewell is known for running roomy so 32 would likely be my best size with the brand. However, size 32 was sold out in the washes/styles I was interested in every time Madewell had some promo or I got inspired by a look on Instagram to place an order.
If I wanted skinny jeans or dark jeans from Madewell, there were plenty of 32s, but for the relaxed and faded styles, they were out. I decided to just order 33 and 31 and if something was almost awesome, I could exchange it when 32 was back in stock.
Madewell Denim Haul: Sizes 31-33 on a size 14 body
I had some size 33 jeans that were so comically big, photographs in them wouldn't be helpful. The same held true for some of the size 31 jeans that I couldn't even get over my knees. Below I share one pair I couldn't close and one pair that was too large, just for comparison. What I photographed for this Madewell denim haul review:
The Jeans I Ordered from Madewell:
We shot all of these on the same day, actually the same hour. The t-shirt is the Universal Standard Tee Rex in XS. The shoes are the Birkenstock Arizona.
Madewell Perfect Vintage Jeans Review
The Madewell Perfect Vintage jeans get rave reviews for fit, quality, and style. Online they looked like just what I wanted – a straight, not skinny fit, high rise, full-length leg, and cool faded washes and distressing options.
A Reminder that It's Not You, It's the Clothes
When I tried on these jeans the first time I was so frustrated… but also ashamed. It seemed like the entire internet thought these jeans were the shizz and they looked like doo-doo on me. Wow has my body changed that much since a year ago? I don't weigh myself but my clothes still fit… but most have stretch or are a relaxed fit… oh damn did I let myself go?
I started blaming myself for these jeans looking bad on me. I've spent years preaching on this blog about it not being our bodies, but the clothes that are the problems, and a cardboard box of denim could have me forget it all I learned and shared in an instant.
My body didn't change during this hour-long photo shoot, other than getting sweaty from running up and down the stairs yanking on jeans. To have two pairs of 31 petites fit differently enough to look like different styles or brands and to have the 31 regular of the same exact style not even be able to be zipped up… that is a problem.
And with that, let's proceed with the Madewell Perfect Vintage Jean review!
The Petite Perfect Vintage Jean, size 31 Petite, Coffey Wash: Worn-In Edition
These are the Petite Perfect Vintage Jean in Coffey Wash: Worn-in Edition, size 31 petite. These were the best fitting jeans of the entire lot. They're snugger in the legs than I want, but I know I'm expecting a lot with my wide calves and solid thighs. I mean, NYDJ Marilyns look like skinny jeans on me.
But these jeans do nothing for my ass, and while the hips are snug the waist is loose. A 32 would be shimmying down all day long. And I have never been a fan of the cut-off edge, just personal taste.
I returned these jeans. The fit was wrong for me, but the quality of denim was good and the details like wash and distressing were well done and not cheesy.
I'd wear them with a striped sweater and cognac leather flats or a swingy colorful tank and brown sandals.
The Petite Curvy Perfect Vintage Jean, size 31 Petite, Fiore Wash
This is the Petite Curvy Perfect Vintage Jean, Fiore Wash, size 31 petite. I don't usually choose a curvy fit because while I have curves in my bum and belly, I am otherwise straight up and down. However, this is rigid denim, it's a brand I hadn't tried in a bit, I thought it made sense to try.
I found this pair of curvy jeans to have more room in the hips, thighs, and legs and fit more like how I wanted a pair of spring trend denim to fit. They also fit my bum better than the non-curvy version of the Perfect Vintage jeans.
However, I am experiencing the same thing I find with all Madewell denim – too much fabric at the crotch. I feel like I was wearing some Duluth Ballroom jeans for men. If I hike them up, they just slide back down leaving me with a phantom denim penis.
The Petite Curvy Perfect Vintage Jean, size 33 Petite, Fitzgerald Wash
This is The Petite Curvy Vintage Jean in size 33 petite, Fitzgerald wash. While petite, these were way too long in the rise; this one photo shows how much length there is from zipper to crotch seam.
Also, these came cuffed twice, and ironed/pressed cuffs while not cuffed on the site. If I uncuffed these petite (they weren't sewn in place), they would be way too long.
I was 5'3″ at size 6, I was 5'3″ at size 16, and both times I needed petite to fit in rise. These jeans don't fit like a petite fit, even with a high rise. If these didn't have all the labels match, I'd swear these were mislabeled and actually a different style of jean in 33 regular.
The Perfect Vintage Jean, size 31 Regular, Calabria Wash: Ripped Edition
I struggled just to get these over my calves, and couldn't pull them over my thighs and butt to get anywhere near zipping them. Of course, these had the wash and the distressing I liked the most.
As mentioned before, I ordered other 31s that were even smaller than these jeans, yet other pairs in this post buttoned closed easily and comfortably. If the jeans you ordered feel surprisingly large or small, it's the jeans, not you, that are the problem.
The Perfect Vintage Jean, size 33 Regular, Calabria Wash: Ripped Edition
This is the Perfect Vintage Jeans, Calabria Wash: Ripped Edition, size 33 regular. Dammit, these are pretty close to what I want, but clearly not the right size or fit.
I think a 32 petite would work, but I still think even in that size there were be too much fabric in the crotch and the jeans would slide down.
Looking at this photo, I think the issue is that while the jeans taper in at the rear, they don't in front and since it's not fitted at the waist it drags down and balloons at the crotch.
But if you're not my shape and think this looks right for you, I think these jeans look pretty badass. I'd wear them with a lavender or spring green cashmere sweater or cashmere tee and these Birkenstocks and then this necklace or this necklace or a Breton tee or sweater and these sneakers and this necklace.
Madewell Balloon Jean Review
As I mentioned above, I saw the balloon jean and fell hard for the weird silhouette. I liked the fitted waist, the large legs (which I knew with my legs wouldn't look so extreme), and the tapered bottom that wouldn't swallow my sneakers or sandals.
This is one style where I was actually able to score a size 32. I first ordered 33, but then ordered 32 and 31. The 31 was so snug I couldn't shimmy them up beyond my knees so I chose not to photograph them.
Petite Balloon Jeans, size 32 Petite, Hewes Wash
These are the Madewell Petite Balloon Jeans, Hewes Wash in size 32 petite. These jeans made me realize finally that it's not me, it's the jeans that are the problem. These jeans technically fit, but all the little details are what make them a wrong choice for me.
I wasn't a fan of the length; I think I would have actually preferred a regular for inseam/length and then maybe take to the tailor to shorten a touch so it was longer than petite. If you look at the models on the site, the jeans are a hair longer on them and I think for this silhouette, that bit of extra length is necessary.
But again, the whole waist/rise thing is a problem with me and Madewell. There's just too much fabric in the front and I don't think any amount of tailoring would make these right. I did learn that I like this silhouette, but would probably like it better if more distressed/vintage looking.
Balloon Jeans, size 33 Regular, Datewood Wash
These are the Balloon Jeans, Datewood Wash, in size 33 regular. This wash didn't come in petite, and wasn't available in 32, so I went with a 33 regular.
While I like the length better on the regular, it's clear the size 33 is just too big in the waist, the rise, and everything from button to crotch. I really wish these were a true petite and tapered a bit at the top, because I'd like to break these in and get them all worn and comfy.
I still like the balloon jean silhouette, but realize I need to try a different denim retailer. Problem is, a lot of trendy jean styles are only available in smaller sizes, or if they have extended sizing, do not have petite. But I this denim review has inspired me to go on a search to find them!
Madewell Demi-Boot Jean Review
I tried the Dadjean, the Classic Straight Jean, and the Tomboy Straight Jean as well as the styles above. They were all too large or too small to photograph. But I also ordered the Demi-Boot Jean in 31 and 32 and while the 31 hardly fit over my knee, the 32 did fit.
While the Demi-Boot Jean from Madewell comes in a variety of washes and lengths, there were few faded washes that came in petite, and all of them were on sale and had limited sizes. Therefore, there is only one review of the Madewell Demi-Boot Jean.
Slim Demi-Boot Jeans, Size 32 Regular, Denis Wash
These are the Slim Demi-Boot Jeans, Denis Wash in size 32 Regular. They aren't exactly cropped (they have a 27″ inseam), but aren't supposed to be a full-length jean. While this not cropped/not full length/not ankle length is on trend, I knew it wouldn't work for me and hoped that the regular length would end up giving me a length I'd prefer.
Nope, these just ended up looking hella awkward in every single way. the length is off, the fit is off, and yet again I have a phantom penis with Madewell's rise.
I shared that the bootcut jean is back and I think it won't be a passing trend, but I'm not ready to return to bootcut, unless they're some perfectly weathered, great fitting vintage bootcuts. This try-on confirmed that for me. I support you wearing bootcuts, but I won't be rocking them this spring or summer.
But Alison, These Jeans are Just Not Flattering on You!
At this point, I'd like to discuss the term flattering, because I have a feeling a few of you are thinking that these jeans are just not flattering on me. I should stick to a certain silhouette or wash or fabric makeup not shown in this haul.
These jeans don't make me look taller, or thinner, to have longer legs or a whittled waistline. They don't make my butt look like a peach or an onion or any other food. But that is not my goal with these jeans, and I think a pair of jeans like this look damn good when styled properly.
Stylish and flattering are not interchangeable, and flattering is focusing on achieving a patriarchal ideal and is about appearing slimmer. That being said, there's nothing wrong with wanting to have clothing make your body appear in the way you desire.
That's what's so cool about fashion, it can really transform you. But do know not all people want their clothes to be “flattering” for their bodies and that goal isn't a requirement to look stylish.
You may also like: What's the Difference Between Not Giving a Sh*t and Having No F*cks Left to Give?
My Thoughts on Madewell Denim
Madewell denim is well made, with high-quality fabric and fastenings. The price makes sense if you place a pair of jeans from a budget-friendly brand next to a pair of Madewells. I found wash and distressing consistent from size to size, and in general, the denim looked like designer right out of the box.
That being said, this is some hardcore vanity sizing and inconsistent sizing. Even wearing a pair of size 10 Universal Standard jeans over my size 14 ass doesn't feel as ridiculous as being able to slip a pair of non-stretch Madewell size 33 jeans over my ass and belly without unbuttoning.
One pair of size 31 jeans were so tight I couldn't get them up my thighs, but then another pair of 31 jeans were loose in the waist. Some 33 jeans I could slip on over my curves without unzipping, and others were just one size too large.
Just as I experienced with Madewell stretchy skinny jeans in the past, I think Madewell is just too long in the rise for me. And I love a high-rise jean. I wear high-rise jeans from all sorts of retailers and recommend them for accommodating curves without sliding down mid-day, but these don't taper up; if they fit in the hips they are gaping at the waist.
I have accepted the fact that Madewell denim is not designed for my body. And that doesn't mean Madewell is bad or I am bad. If all brands fit the same, a lot of bodies would be left out. I think how I love Nike shoes, but they aren't shaped like my feet; I do better with Brooks or Adidas. Knowing what doesn't work is empowering, and it simplifies future purchases.
I know many of you love Madewell, and while I will still purchase sweaters and other apparel from them, unless they come out with a new fit or line of denim, this will be my last Madewell denim haul on Wardrobe Oxygen.
But let the comment field be a resource for those interested in Madewell denim. Do you love Madewell jeans? What style do you like and how is the sizing? What tips do you offer for shopping Madewell jeans, and where have you found size-inclusive trendy jeans in washes and cuts as seen in this review?
Late to seeing this post as I followed a link from your Chico’s denim post, but wow was this a great and satisfying read! In addition to the rise and phantom penis issue, I find Madewell to have very strange low back pocket placement. I’ve tried several styles and they’re all terrible – the top of the pocket hits at the bottom of my ass cheek. And that’s before diaper butt. Now I’m wondering if it’s all connected to the wrong rise that you discuss in the front. Either way, I’ve moved on.
Pre-pandemic I started buying SLINK jeans and found them to be the pairs I still reach for. Zero muffin top or waist discomfort, which has always been my issue (5’7 apple shape size 16/18). They have some high rises, but they’re not terrible, and many of my pairs are mid-rise and around 58% cotton, which you’d think would lead to more stretching out and greater wear, but they hold their shape beautifully and are still in good condition 3-4+ years later. Size range is mostly mid-range to plus (10-24) and I don’t think there are petites. If you’re interested in seeing if they work for you, I highly recommend purchasing from Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack and not the brand website which used to be horrible to navigate (maybe it’s since improved) with a truly outdated/difficult returns process (you need permission first??). Good luck, and thanks for this post – even a whole year later.
rebecca swenson says
thank you for this! I just recently tried Madewell jeans for the first time and ordered a bunch of different styles. I had to size way up and way down based on the style because it was so inconsistent. I ended up keeping 3 pairs of jeans (mom jean, cargo joggers, and slim boyfriend) and they are all different sizes. As to to the fit, I tried like 8 different styles I was starting to blame myself and COVID weight but now I feel better about saying those jeans just weren’t for me. Also really digging the comment on what’s “flattering”. My husband hates all the jeans I’m keeping because he is so used to seeing me in only skinny jeans. I like jeans and am going to wear them without hesitation. Thank you for being real and showing us what real women look like and documenting the struggle to find the right jeans for OUR SPECIFIC BODIES.
This article is amazing – thank you for all your work, your honesty and most of all for showing your vulnerability! You are wonderful and you are right!
I especially love seeing these photos of pants on you because I also have very full thighs (as in: actually curve outwards at the front). I now buy a size up even from my hip (which needs a size or two up from my waist…) just to avoid that awful squeezy-sausage look that haunted my teens! (This is also why I, for one, am very wary at the return of the bootcut!)
The phantom penis comment was spot-on! For you, it seems it has to do with length of rise. I habe an absurdly long rise (thank god for high-waist Jeans, they fit me like a regular rise!), but I get the same crotch bulge. For me, it’s because designers plan around more front room, ie a bulging belly, whereas I carry all my weight in thighs and butt. Maybe this is something to think about for other readers as well.
As an older woman I want to say that this comment “ flattering is focusing on achieving a patriarchal ideal and is about appearing slimmer.” blew my mind Wow, wow, wow!!!! You said it ALL! I follow a couple of bloggers who have a readership of ( mostly) 55+. The fixation on’flattering’ is mind boggling. Maybe it’s our generation that feels we have to be flattering to the men folk’s eyes? I don’t know but I sure am happy to see younger women challenging the archetype of the female who dresses for the pleasure of others and not herself. One women wrote ‘My husband doesn’t approve of me wearing jeans’ or ‘ I starting wearing X and my husband is complimenting me so much now’ I thought lady, your husband is a jerk if he only compliments you on what pleases HIM….what about before? No compliments??
Background here: I am 65+, just retired health care professional, grandmother, married for 45 years. If my husband wants to compliment me that’s fine and he’s offered up a few helpful critiques when asked but he doesn’t get to veto my choices nor do I his. If I feel good and comfortable wearing a garment and it’s appropriate to the occasion that’s all that counts. I wore a full length black jersey dress with kitten heel, red pointy toed ankle boots and red black and gold pashmina to a wedding last year ( pre pandemic) I loved the look, boho, edgy, suitable for the occasion,I felt great and upon final mirror inspection I felt that I looked pretty darn good too. That’s all that matters to me.
You are fantastic to try on all these jeans and point out the pros and cons and are gracious enough to comment how they might work on another body along with ideas on how to style them.
This is also one of the only fashion blogs I read where the comments are really helpful as well.
…and ‘phantom penis’ best critique ever of a pair of jeans! All of us under 5’3”’s have been there. My son (was 12 at the time)once commented” Mom, in those jeans you look like you have a big penis” and his brother chimed in “ Yeah with an erection!” Never wore those again!!! The rise was ridiculous, I stick with mid rise for my short waist.. hate having the waist band under my boobs.
Joy Anzalone says
You put in a lot of work with this post. You ordered so many fits and sizes. You tried them all on. You got all of the pictures taken. RESPECT. I really appreciate your honest review and your ability to work through why a cut isn’t right for you. Some people are unable to make the observations you do. Your facial expressions in some of the shots had me giggling. I always appreciate how real you are. Thank you for this very thorough post. The balloon jeans have caught my eye too and I’m considering your experience as I think about them. After I read your post about spring jeans, I came across a pair at Banana Republic that checked many of the boxes. They are available in sizes up to 35 and have petite, regular and tall sizes. I ordered them and find the to be a fun addition to my closet. I’ve included a link. https://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=668447002&cid=1137957&pcid=5030&vid=1&nav=meganav%3AWomen%3AWomen%27s%20Clothing%3ADenim&grid=pds_41_126_1#pdp-page-content
Alison Gary says
OMG I saw these jeans and wanted them, but they didn’t have my size. I will be stalking them!
“phantom penis” (you) = “polterwang” (fuggirls)
Your facial expressions and “phantom denim penis” made my day! No wonder you have so many fans!!! [plus the honesty about the jeans you’re reviewing….]
I think I’ve commented on Madewell jeans at least a few times before on this blog as a Madewell fan. Still even as a fan, not every pair of Madewell jeans has fit me well either and I’ve returned a few pairs. The last time I bought Madewell jeans was in 2019 and I’m still wearing all the jeans I’ve kept from that year and 2018 and maybe even 2017. I usually buy a mid-rise vs high-rise, and they are typically skinny or slim styles, though I have tried straight and stovepipe as well. I can’t compare the jeans you’ve tried in this recent batch, as most of them are not styles or washes I’m personally into. Style-wise, I’m more risk-averse to wearing super light washes and ripped jeans. I totally get your experience here — absolutely, not every brand works for everyone and even within those brands, not every style or cut works for every fan of those brands. I have definitely gone through some phases myself. I had a Gap-only jeans phase that went for several years (early aughts), and then Old Navy seemed better for some years (and still does, except for its horrible durability), and most recently, Madewell has worked for me. I also love that all 3 brands have offered short or petite inseams. However, I could see Madewell suddenly stopping working for me, esp. with the wide leg and balloon jeans styles that I’m not as into. I’ve tried Everlane and I actually have had that issue with their crotch drop (denim penis) more than with Madewell — also exacerbated by the heavier and thicker denim fabric (ostensibly better quality! so I was disappointed that it didn’t work for me). I loved the Universal Standard Seine you recommended, so I may try more of theirs later when I need new jeans again.
Anyway, you’ve really demonstrated that one should always just listen to one’s own perspective of what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t be pressured by others’ good opinions of that same brand, etc.
Agreed – I’ve ordered the same exact jeans (double checked the fabric components even) and found the fit to be inconsistent. The pair that fits the best just had the zipper break (purchased in Dec 2018, so almost 4 years old now). Brought them into the store and was told they only expect their denim to last 12 months.
Thanks for validating the inconsistency I was perceiving. I don’t have time to order multiple pairs of the same size and style every time I need jeans, much less if the store won’t stand behind the quality for more than 12 months.
Ok I guess that’s not ‘all’ after all lol, because I’d like to recommend the brand SeaSalt (Cornwall) for petite & curvy jeans. They’re a bit more ‘mumsy’ (for want of a better word) so their styles are often cut better for curves & stomachs, & are a bit more classic but with a twist (think high waisted but more dark wash/ indigo rinse denim). They do free worldwide shipping above a certain amount (depends on your country).
Their Millcombe trousers have a more ballooned silhouette, whereas the Hallworthy jeans are more of a relaxed yet straight leg & the Waterdance trousers (in indigo rinse) have a high waisted, side button opening (so you’d probably get less of the ‘phantom denim penis’).
I am also around 5ft3 & a size UK12 in tops (due to my waist) but a UK14 in bottoms (due to my thighs & butt). The 14 petite fits me great in the Hallworthy jeans – they come with one pressed cuff that hits just above my ankles (rather than a double roll) & can be unrolled (no stitching) to full length. The single cuff is in the same dark rinse material, whereas the double cuff is when you start getting the contrastingly light lining showing. The back patch pockets look surprisingly flattering on my butt (some styles come with welt pockets instead) & the mid-to-high rise works great on my short-to-average torso (especially with a belt).
Thanks for that recommendation! These sound like they might work for me!
I think ‘phantom denim penis’ is the best thing I’ve read on the internet today (& it’s not even afternoon yet!) That is all.
Karen O. says
I LOVE this! This is why I’ve been reading WO2 for years now. Thank you for showing what the jeans really look like. I’ve had the same experience, especially as someone needing a 14P like yourself, only I’m shorter (5′). I’ve only found one style of Madewell jeans that fit me and they’re from about 3-4 years ago, the Slim Boyfriend in 30P which they mistakenly sent me. I ordered 31P, which was on the bag but all the tags on the jeans said 30P. I haven’t bought jeans since. Anywhere. These high rises are killing me. They cut me off at an uncomfortable place on my stomach where I end up getting bad indigestion. Also, I’m not willing to keep pulling down the waist to sit and hiking it up when I stand. Or playing the button/unbutton game. I’m too old for that stuff.
Honestly, the only pair of jeans I’ve had that fit me perfectly and I mean like a glove, were a pair I ordered from an online site called makeyourownjeans.com. I entered all my measurements but when it came time for the rise and waist measurements (my problem areas) I specifically indicated a 9.5″ rise, a 36.25″ waist, and a 26.5″ inseam. The jeans were 3% spandex and at the time (about 8-10 years ago now) I got skinny jeans. When I pulled them out of the bag I was sure I just wasted $50, but I knew I was taking that chance going in. They looked like they’d never fit. Overall they were way smaller than any jeans I had, but when I put them on they fit like the proverbial glove. I could not believe it and I received many compliments. I miss those jeans. I may have to visit them again as my menopause body has changed quite a bit now. Anyhow, thanks for letting me go on and on. Wonderful work, as usual, Allie
Yes to all of this and thank you for sticking with it to complete the review. I would have given up. I have a pair of Madewell High Rise Slim Boyjeans and I kept them because they were exactly what I was looking for in terms of the fit of through the legs, the wash, and the length but, yeah…I definitely should have returned them. The crotch is way too long and has way too much fabric. They don’t make me feel great. It’s so hard when it *seems like* everyone raves about something and it doesn’t work for you. I appreciate your message and will try to keep that in mind with future purchases.
Jenn K says
Thank you for your hard work, this was such a great post. I’d love to get some jeans but have been dealing with abdominal swelling due to illness. My body has been super unpredictable, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable wearing stretchy denim. Thinking more and more that I might make some elastic pants out of non stretch denim. Why not, right?
I have a pair of Madewell demi-boot 32 petite jeans from last summer that I like. They don’t start off with the baggy crotch, but as the day goes on, if I don’t have a belt on, they slide a tad. This is the first and only pair of jeans I have from Madewell. I am immensely grateful for the jeans reviews, as I’ve felt dumpy in every straight leg style I’ve tried and have been dreading picking up the search again this spring.
I’d like to have pictures from behind on those models to see what tricks they are using for the photos, because the shape of the jeans in the Madewell pictures are often not the same shape as the jeans you tried on.
Nicole Kowalski says
First, thanks for the hard work involved in this. The unpacking, the changing, the repacking and returns. Exhausting. Now that you mention the phantom penis, I see how long the crotch is in some of the model shots. I have one pair of Madewell I kept but sold another pair on eBay because their high rise was ridiculous on my 5’4″ shortwaisted, apple body. I usually wear a 31 and the pair I kept are a 29!
You had someone on your last post chiding you for not using the “size guide” before ordering. your review shows the folly of any sizing guide with dozens of cuts/washes/fits. Hang in there, I have faith you’ll find your perfect pair!
Thanks for doing the work – the super long crotch is all I needed to see here! Not being able to make a proper crotch is my #1 disqualification on jeans, and it seems like all the sizes and styles that you tried on all have the same crotch flaw. I’m around your size, just taller, and I went on a “perfect jeans are out there” mission last winter. I ended up buying some basic Gap curvy skinnies and gave up. Trying on multiple pairs of denim at different stores and having the same disappointment is the hottest, most frustrating thing you’ll ever do!
Again, I love it when you do try ons and honest reviews!
Joni Boetticher says
I’m so relieved to see you had the same problem with too much fabric in the crotch. I keep trying various Madewell jeans and sending them back because of that problem. I’ve been so confused and frustrated because so many people love and recommend their jeans.
Nihongo Dame Desu says
I thought the mini-boot cut looked fabulous and couldn’t understand why you didn’t like them. Until you showed the side angle and I could see the weirdness with the length. It’s odd that there is a break in the front but then the back manages to look too short. So thank you for doing thorough reviews and multiple photos. Like you, I’m crushing on that Perfect Vintage in that wash, but I too would need a petite and it isn’t available in my size (also, likely, a 32). Maybe that just saves me a lot of trouble!
catherine cossaboon says
I JUST LOVE YOU! Thank you for your honest comments and pictures. It really helps to see the pictures along with the review. BTW- your faces in the pictures are priceless. Keep trying on and reviewing and I’ll keep reading!
This is a great post and I salute you for putting yourself through that!! I have a pair of Eileen Fisher jeans that are easily 10 years old. I wear them when nothing else will do, at most a handful of times a year. I’m pretty sure I haven’t had them on since fall of 2019. I treat them with kid gloves because when they’re gone I doubt I’ll even try to find another. I’ve tried and the puffy crotch/phantom penis thing and waistband up under my boobs…just not for me.
I’ve been trying to find a pair of straight leg jeans that aren’t baggy in the knees. They never appear baggy on models, and looking at your try-on haul, they don’t seem nearly as baggy as the styles I’ve tried on. Is this a fit thing? Are they too big? Too small? Too short? My weight also fluctuated over the pandemic and I struggle with sizing and fit. I’m 5’1” and roughly a size 14. I thought maybe they were too long and weren’t hanging right, but they seemed to bag even when I put on heels, just to check. What do you think about baggy knees?
Megan P says
Honestly if you like the balloon silhouette, I would try the Universal Standard Bae Boyfriend jeans in full length. I have very thick thighs and calves and they fit me like the model. They hit at my low ankle and I’m 5′ 6”. They are ever-so-slightly tapered at the bottom, but in a way that looks good with birks or canvass sneakers. I have the dark indigo and the faded wash–I don’t like the dark denim feel but I love the faded denim–it looks a lot like the washes you featured.
Cameron Barry says
Thanks for taking one for the team! I would’ve been done after the second pair and would’ve blamed it entirely on myself.
Shelly Cook says
Thanks so much for this post! I recognized the issues you were experiencing in my own travails with finding jeans that don’t slide down. Even NYDJ Jeans leave room in the crotch on me, and definitely don’t make me look 10 lbs thinner! I especially appreciate the fashionable vs flattering part. I struggle with body image and a light bulb went off for me when I read it. I’ll keep trying to find a good fit: meantime, I’d love to have white jeans that don’t show cellulite on my heavy thighs. Just a pipe dream?
I’m taller and a smaller number size, but I have a lot of the same physical characteristics: solid thighs & calves, a mighty, muscular booty, and otherwise straight up and down. And I have the same difficulty in jeans. I can’t get over how much excess fabric there is in the belly and thighs — and my upper thighs are, ahem, plentiful. I was bummed out this past weekend after trying on jeans, so I needed this post. I’ve decided not to be ashamed that I need to unbutton high waisted jeans if I’m going to sit down for any length of time. It’s not my fault jean makers can’t figure out my (very low) waist-to-hip ratio.
Tracie Bowman says
You made me feel so much better. My butt is non-existent and my belly takes up most of the the room. By the end of the day I have to unbutton the waist too.
This article cements my dislike of jeans. I won’t even try on a pair that is sized 31, 33, etc. out of sheer protest. If that number represents something, I’m baffled, as measuring the waist or the hips or trying to figure out the ratio between the two does not yield anything resembling those numbers. In fact, as I think about it, I’d like to see jeans offered in a range of fit ratios — waist to hip — to accommodate apples vs. pears vs. straight up and down. There’s just no way a size 31 jean can fit a pear-shaped woman and an apple-shaped woman, even if both have the same size waist.
Kudos to you for braving the jeans world and for showing photos, as well.
Pam Porter says
I am so glad you shared this, and all the photos so we can see for ourselves that it’s not just us. I would have been in tears. If this was a try-on session I”d done, I”d have given up on any jeans this year, wondering what on earth had happened to my body during quarantine and been really truly depressed. Thank you for letting us see it’s the clothes, not always us. This actually gives me hope – it’s empowering, to know we need to just keep our chins up and looking. Looking forward to seeing more jean brands that DO fit and flatter in coming sessions. Thanks Alison!
E E Deere says
Alison, you have done us all a service by trying on all these jeans. It takes a lot to not want to throw the whole pile out the window. I haven’t bought jeans in at least four years, it is too daunting. I 100% believe it’s not us, it’s the clothes.
OH MY GOD the phantom denim penis! Ever since high rise denim became a thing this has been a problem for me, especially with shorts for some reason. My phantom denim penis and I feel less alone now!
You and i have very different body types, but I’ve never been able to make Madewell jeans work for me. in the last couple of years I’ve wasted time and money trying until i finally realized it was them (the jeans) and not me, and to just walk away. Not every brand is for every body, and this one is definitely not for me.
I have a completely different body shape, love the Madewell quality, but only one style of theirs works for me. I used to wear a couple of other styles, but as I have gotten older(I have been buying from them since they opened), I have gravitated to just the one . I also order online mostly for apparel, but find that you just need to go try on jeans there, as a discrepancy in sizing is common. J Crew Vintage Straight Jean ticks a lot of the boxes for a new spring jean, and sizes listed on their website range from 23-37 waist and 3 lengths. They have become my favorite jean other that the Madewell ones.
Ruth Slavid says
I just can’t stop giggling about the ‘phantom penis’