Denim Fit and Find Guide: Plus Size

A store's racks of jeans can bring on a sense of dread in any woman.
A store's racks of jeans can bring on a sense of dread in any woman.
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Ask any woman to try on a pair of jeans, and her reaction will probably look something like this: hope, then wariness, and finally dread. With the exception, perhaps, of lingerie, and unless you look like a model, jeans are the most difficult item of clothing to look and feel great in.

It's difficult for women who fit into traditional "misses" sizes, for whom most jeans are designed. It's even more so for women who wear plus sizes, typically size 14 through 32 or beyond. The plus size body is just like the misses body, only bigger.

Few women fit the hourglass format most designers have in mind, and plus size women have the same issues with proportions as their smaller counterparts. This is perhaps the greatest single obstacle to an easy time in the dressing room: When the waist, hips and thighs aren't in hourglass proportions, your average jeans, plus size or otherwise, just don't fit right. They're tight in the wrong places, loose in the wrong places and uncomfortable all over, and they can make a larger body seem larger, shorter and just plain less attractive than it really is.

Not too long ago, plus size clothing lines were few and far between -- a few specialty stores carried clothing not at all on trend, department stores had tiny "plus size" sections buried somewhere near the elevator, and no high-end designers went near the larger woman in their lines.

Now, you do a Google search for "plus size" and you find dozens of places to find clothes in sizes from 14 to 32, with some that go up to 44. "America's Next Top Model" has featured plus-size contestants. Designer Mark Fast sent plus-size models down the runway in couture during London's 2010 Fashion Week [source: Daily Mail]. Michael Kors has a plus-size line carried at major department stores like Macy's and Nordstrom. And plus-size jeans are available in the trendiest styles and as wide a fit range as misses-size jeans.

The days of elastic-waisted mom jeans as the only plus-size option are over. But that doesn't mean it's easy to find a great-fitting pair. In this article, we'll find out what makes jeans flattering for a plus-size woman, what makes a comfortable fit, and where to find the widest selections of larger-size denim.

So, when it comes to plus-size jeans, what exactly should we be looking for?