Types of Jeans for Women: Your Ultimate Guide

For the denim die-hards.

seated woman wearing denim
(Image credit: Marie Claire)

If you're like me, you've probably lost count of the number of pairs of jeans you have in your closet. Frankly, I'm obsessed with denim, to the point that people's first impressions of me usually involve statement overalls or even denim bodysuits from one of my all-time favorite denim brands (especially those focused on making the denim industry more sustainable). However, when shopping for jeans, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the many cuts and styles of jeans out there, from straight leg to boot cut to high-waisted to flare.

To clear up this confusion, I asked celebrity stylist Sarah Nearis to unpack the difference between every jeans type once and for all. Plus, she, along with our seasoned team of denim-wearers at Marie Claire, added recommendations for each and every style.

Bell Bottom Jeans

bell bottom jeans, street style, clothing

(Image credit: Future)

A '70s staple (and one of my personal favorites), bell bottom jeans are an attention-grabbing cut that easily turn a simple outfit, like the classic jeans-and-a-white-tee look, into a fashion statement. “Bell bottom jeans have a flare at the bottom that begins at the knee,” explains Nearis. “[They] tend to be very fitted and snug at the waist and hips with a dramatic flare on the bottom.” In terms of styling, Nearis says this cut looks excellent with both heels and flats. Personally, I love a sky-high heel or a chunky platform to complete the nostalgic look.

Wide Leg Jeans

berlin, germany june 06 alessa winter wearing wide leg zara denim jeans, black gucci bag, white nubik sneakers, fiorucci tshirt with print, ray ban sunglasses on june 6, 2018 in berlin, germany photo by christian vieriggetty images

(Image credit: Christian Vierig)

According to Nearis, wide leg jeans “gradually widen out to the bottom starting at the mid-thigh”—something that distinguishes them from bell bottoms. However, this distinctive silhouette doesn’t mean that all wide leg jeans look alike. “Wide leg jeans can be made fitted at the top, or looser and oversized with a consistent wide and looser silhouette down to the bottom,” explains Nearis. For ultra-wide leg jeans, I like wearing a form-fitting bodysuit, a taut hairdo, and heels. On the latter detail, Nearis agrees, commenting, “I think wide leg jeans look best with a heel and some height.”

Skinny Jeans

paris, france september 28 cindy bruna wears a checked shirt with ruffles, a balmain bag, black pants, outside elie saab, during paris fashion week womenswear spring summer 2020 on september 28, 2019 in paris, france photo by edward berthelotgetty images

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot)

Like many of us, Nearis says that the skinny jeans craze was a trend that she  “was not sad to see go.” This jean, she says, has “a tighter, slim silhouette and is snug throughout the entire fit.” (These are not to be confused with jeggings, which Nearis explains “are leggings that give the appearance of skinny jeans but the comfort of yoga pants.”) 

She attributes the popularity of this jean to the (rather toxic) desire to “look slimmer or longer,” but points out that because this cut is so tight, it often has the opposite effect. “Jean styles are not a one size fits all,” she reminds us, suggesting that those who want a form-fitting look but are uncomfortable in skinny jeans opt instead for straight leg jeans, or for investing in some tailoring at the hem or width.

And for those of us who are unsure of what to do with all the skinny jeans we accumulated over the last decade? Personally, I find my skinny jeans handy in the winter when I want to pull knee- or thigh-high boots over my jeans, or for wearing under long sweaters. 

Mom Jeans

Prince William with his mother Diana, Princess of Wales at Guards Polo Club, The Princess is casually dressed in a sweatshirt with the British Lung Foundation logo on the front of her t-shirt

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

For the nostalgic among us, mom jeans are among the most coveted finds at thrift stores. Nearis explains that this relaxed style is "named after the jeans mothers wore in the '80s and '90s," hearkening back to the decades when most Millennials were growing up. More specifically, Nearis says that mom jeans "are high waisted, with a fitted waist, looser fit in the thigh, and tapered leg down to the bottom." She does note that this style enhances curves rather than slimming them—perfect for crafting that ultimate 80s and 90s power silhouette.

Straight Leg Jeans

Ilirida Krasniqi wears a huge black coat with fake fur, straight leg denim jeans, navy turtleneck, a black belt, black handbag and shiny leather shoes, outside before Proenza Schouler show during New York Fashion Week on February 11, 2023 in New York City.

(Image credit: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)

Nearis calls these her “most recent style favorite,” explaining that “straight leg jeans are just as they sound: jeans where the silhouette goes straight down without any flare or tapering.” And while one might fear that such a straight cut might obscure curves, Nearis says that the opposite is true.

“I personally find these to be very flattering,” she argues, “because they fit nicely at the waist and behind, really elongate your legs, and create a nice clean line.” I, too, have been opting for the straight leg jean more and more recently. They’re a breeze to match with nearly any top, whether it’s long, cropped, form-fitting, or oversized.

Boyfriend Jeans

Angela Gonzalez wears black sunglasses, silver earrings, a purple feather shoulder-off /cropped top, blue faded denim mom jeans pants, a brown camel shiny leather handbag, dark brown shiny leather strappy heels sandals / shoes, during a street style fashion photo session, on March 26, 2022 in Paris, France.

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

I love wearing a pair of comfortable, baggy jeans for the same reason I love wearing sweats: Some days, the less effort it takes to move around in my outfit, the better. Thus, my closet is filled with boyfriend jeans—some of which are men's jeans that I thrifted and took in at the waist. 

"Boyfriend jeans sit along the mid-low hip line and are  generally oversized all over," Nearis says of this trendy fit. And when it comes to how to style them, she suggests, "Generally with a  baggier, looser bottom, you want to do the opposite on top or create more structure on top. For example, I would style them with a bodysuit or crop top, a blazer, and heels to elevate the look."

Boot Cut Jeans

Heart Evangelista wears a white fluffy turtleneck / asymmetric cropped / backless pullover, a pale brown shiny leather oversized long jacket, a dark brown camel suede long belted trench coat, pale blue faded denim large flared pants, diamonds rings, dark brown suede pointed / block heels western boots, a dark brown suede with embossed YSL logo pattern oversized shoulder bag from Saint Laurent Paris, during a street style fashion photo session, on April 22, 2023 in Paris, France.

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Whenever winter rolls around and my shoes become larger and clunkier, there's one type of jeans that I positively live in: The boot cut. Nearis agrees, "Boot cut jeans are a very popular style of jean that have a slim fit at the waist and, as opposed to bell bottom jeans, they have a mild flare starting at the knee down." This modest flare makes way for, you guessed it, boots, along with any other footwear you're keen on showing off. 

"I like styling my clients in this style if they are wearing an ankle boot for a performance," says Nearis, who's styled musicians, "because they are flattening and elongate the legs without any dramatic flare or oversized silhouette."

Overalls and Bodysuits

Emilie Joseph @in_fashionwetrust wears black large butterfly sunglasses, a navy blue denim shoulder-pads / cropped denim jacket, a black faded denim baggy overall / dungarees/ jumpsuit by John Galliano, brown metallic leather with white details sneakers from Valentino, during a street style fashion photo session, on October 16, 2022 in Paris, France. (

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

I love overalls. They're a great piece to have in your closet for mornings when you're in a rush and need to get dressed quickly, and they always stand out—especially if you get funky with a colorful or embroidered pair. Overalls and bodysuits are also handy for days when you're feeling bloated or otherwise unwell and want to avoid a waistband pressing sharply into your stomach.  

Bodysuits, like dresses, make your morning routine especially easy because they can be worn on their own. Meanwhile, you can pair your overalls with turtlenecks, basic cotton tees, or crop tops; dress up with heels or sandals; or dress down with combat boots or sneakers.

Nearis particularly loves the latter, explaining, "Overalls definitely give off a simple, casual vibe so I recommend styling them the same way. I think they look chicest when they are paired with a t-shirt and sneakers, maybe a sweater thrown over the shoulders if it's cool enough. For more of a rock and roll vibe, a darker wash or black denim I would style with a  crop top tee and combat boots."

Canadian Tuxedos

Emilie Joseph wears black large sunglasses, small crystal earrings, a navy blue denim cropped cargo jacket, a matching navy blue denim with embroidered rhinestones / crystals striped pattern V-neck / cropped bra tank-top, navy blue denim double waist large pants, neon pink shiny satin pointed pumps heels shoes , during a street style fashion photo session, on April 30, 2023 in Paris, France.

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

In case you haven't heard, the Canadian tuxedo of early 2000s fame (I'm looking at you, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake) is back and here to stay—just ask Victoria Beckham. But even before the pop legend and fashion powerhouse donned this iconic look, I, too noticed an increase in double-denim looks in ads, at fashion weeks around the world, and even in my day to day life. 

For those who aren't familiar with the term, a Canadian tuxedo is a denim-on-denim look that's usually comprised of a pair of jeans with a matching denim jacket. Like all matching sets, this look is fun, striking, and easy to throw together. Wear as a set, of course, or as separates—it's three outfits in one, really. 

Meet the Expert

Sarah Nearis fashion stylist
Sarah Nearis

Sarah Nearis is a fashion stylist and creative director. She is based in Los Angeles and Nashville.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, gabrielleulubay.medium.com. Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at @suburban.graffiti.art