The Best Jeans for Women of 2020
The Amazon Essentials High Rise is one you'll want in multiple colors so you can pair it with any outfit. Of all the pairs we tested, the Amazon Essentials is the most versatile; it fits true to size and is comfortable to sit in for hours (no seams or grommets that dig in) or go for a walk. The material held up to testing better than most other pairs; the seams didn't budge when rubbed with coarse sandpaper, and the material showed little wear on the knees when rubbed with sandpaper. The high waist and stretchy material make for a flattering fit, and this pair has surprisingly deep front pockets. They're also an excellent value, with multiple styles.
There are few downsides to this product. The stretchy material (it includes 18% polyester and 3% elastane) means it gets a bit sweaty to do gardening or yard work on a hot day. If you're a brand loyalist who cares deeply about the latest trends, the Amazon brand doesn't pull as much weight as some high-fashion brands. Overall, the Amazon Essentials gives an incredible bang for the buck and is our first choice, as it's the pair you'll dig out of your closet again and again.
The Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda Classic High Rise Tapered is the most comfortable pair we tested; they're not quite sweatpants, but do come close in comfort. The high waist means they stay in place when you sit, bend over, or squat down, so they're great for gardening, projects around the house, or lounging on the couch. They're also durable — you can literally rub them with sandpaper, and it won't make any noticeable difference. The belt loops are also solid. Unlike most women's models, which have tiny front pockets, these are big enough to fit a whole hand in, which is refreshing!
The downside of the Amanda being close to sweatpants in comfort is that that's reflected in the style. Despite being marketed as "the original slimming jean," there's nothing slimming about this very loose tapered fit. (Most reviews agree that they're true to size, but the 33" waist and 30" inseam are both a few inches bigger than the average size 10.) They may not be ultra-flattering, but for pants that can stick with you all day and not leave you feeling like you need to change when you get home, the Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda Classic is the perfect fit.
The Levi's Women's 721 High Rise Skinny are the pants you want for a first date—the high-rise style slims hips, and the snug fit hugs thighs for the most flattering fit of the bunch. The skinny cut and neat cuffs mean they pair nicely with flats or heels. You also won't have to worry about them coming apart, and the belt loops are sturdy enough to withstand even the flashiest belts. The seams and material hold up well under pressure (a little color change during testing, but no signs of weakness), and the zipper is smooth as can be.
These are pants for looking stylish, not necessarily for getting a job done. The range-of-motion is okay, considering they're made of relatively heavy denim and fit fairly tightly, but they're not meant to do lots of squats or bending over (you'll likely want a belt or a long shirt with these). They're also less comfortable for sitting for long periods; the same waist-high cut that makes them so flattering also digs in a bit the longer you sit. For a night out or a cute casual Friday outfit, the 721 High Rise Skinny is the pair you want.
If you enjoy doing cartwheels (or even just walking the dog), the LEE Women's Instantly Slims Classic Relaxed Fit Monroe Straight Leg is the right pair. The high waist sticks with you for bending, squatting, lunging, or stretching, all without bunching up or exposing the wearer's backside. The relaxed cut and true-to-size fit also mean this pair of LEEs fits comfortably, without any grommets or itchy tags digging in.
Unfortunately, this is not a particularly durable product. We managed to wear a hole in the seam of the inner thigh just over halfway through testing the durability metric (it took just 60 rubs with coarse sandpaper), and the color changes significantly when the material experiences wear-and-tear, including washing. There's already a slight difference in color after just five washes. The zipper fly also catches occasionally, around one in 20 times. But for a comfortable, easygoing pant that moves with you, the LEE Women's Instantly Slims Classic Relaxed Fit Monroe Straight Leg does the trick.
Let's address the elephant in the room — the Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women's Totally Shaping Pull-on Skinny aren't exactly traditional denim. They're pull-on, which means no zipper, front pockets, or belt loops. Of course, that also means there's way less material to potentially break — there's no belt loops to pull off or zipper to catch. They're also comfortable, and there are no grommets to dig in. The high waist stretches and doesn't expose anything when squatting or bending.
Then again, it's hard to adjust to a pair without front pockets, and the sewn-in faux pockets don't even look very convincing. The waist measurement is true to size, but the inseam is short for its size. You'll want to wash with like colors, especially on the first few washes, as they leak a fair amount of dye off the bat (although there's no noticeable difference in the color of the material afterward). The Signature are a pair you'll never have to mend.
The Signature Gold Label Women's Modern-Skinny is as comfortable as you expect denim to be, and they look nice enough to wear to work. The slightly shorter-than-average inseam means they look cute with heels and flats, and the black color pairs nicely with a blouse for a day at the office. Bonus: There are no pokey seams or grommets that dig in, so they're comfortable enough to make it through your commute and an eight-hour day.
These aren't pants to wear for projects around the house or in the yard, and they aren't the most durable. During testing, we rubbed each pair with coarse sandpaper; we noticed significant wear on the inner thigh seams, which resulted in a change in color and texture. At nearly 24% polyester, the super-stretchy material also attracts and clings to a great deal of pet hair; if you've got pets, you'll want to carry a roller with you. The Signature by Levi Strauss will fit right in at a casual office and are a better value than many items you might find in a professional wardrobe.
The Levi's Women's 711 Skinny are today's version of the distressed pants that were so popular in the early 2000s (think an expensive pair of Abercrombie & Fitches with pre-worn holes). Like most Levis, the belt loops and hems are sturdily constructed, and the seams stay intact even under pressure.
Unfortunately, that's about all there is to recommend the 711 Skinny. The holes in the knees and ankles in the "distressed" style are easy to rip and enlarge. They also fit so tightly that many reviewers suggest going up one or even two sizes when ordering; despite that the measurements are fairly standard for a size 10, this was the only pair we had to do a little dance to wiggle into. Because they're tight, there's not much range-of-motion, and you may want a belt to keep them up if you're bending or squatting. The 711 Skinny are a slightly budget-friendly alternative to some higher-fashion products, but may not be worth the cost.
The NYDJ Women's Marilyn Straight Leg is a comfortable pair for running errands or even wearing to the office on a casual Friday. The seams hold up well, and the material is very soft and stretchy. They're comfy enough to walk around in, and the cut is loose enough that the pants don't dig in anywhere if you're sitting for a longer period. The material is lighter than typical denim, which make them a good option for the summer.
Material on the knees didn't hold up particularly well to testing; while our testing did not result in any holes, the color and texture changed significantly when rubbed. Although they fit mostly true to size, there's a large gap in the waist at the back (and indeed, the waist measurement is a rather large 34" for the size). Then again, the higher price point means you probably won't want to wear these for outdoor chores, anyway. The material is a little itchy on the inside, so it's worth washing them inside out, which helps a bit after a couple of washes. The Marilyn Straight Leg is a comfortable, durable pair that's worth spending a little extra.
The Hybrid Hyper Ultra Stretch Comfy Skinny is a bit different than most of the others in this lineup. Thanks to the spandex blend (hence the "hybrid"), the material is extremely stretchy; they are more similar to slacks than to typical denim, which means it's among the most comfortable pairs we tried. They're true to size and look great, and you're able to easily dress them up with a cute blouse. They also boast deep pockets, which we appreciate.
Unfortunately, these were the least durable pants we tested. It took only a few rubs with a sheet of sandpaper to create dime-sized holes both in the seam and in the knee, and the back pockets are so stretchy that we were left wondering if they'd hold much in. The zipper fly catches nearly every time, and the material stretches out and gets noticeably wrinkly after a few hours. Still, for an affordable pair of pants, you can dress up and wear all day, the Hybrid is a good choice.
Why You Should Trust Us
Emma Walker has worked in the outdoor industry for a decade as an outdoor educator, raft guide, avalanche educator, and occasionally indoors as a marketer and adventure writer. As a result, she needs clothes that perform well on the trail and also look great in the boardroom.
While tending to chores on Emma's small urban homestead, she was able to thoroughly examine each pair and really put them to the test. Each contender was exposed to significant testing and wear while in professional contexts and in the garden.
Analysis and Test Results
We assessed each pair in our lineup based on five key metrics: comfort, durability, range of motion, components, and sizing. Our expert created metrics and ranking associated with our key metrics, which allowed her to objectively compare each pair side-by-side. This way, we are able to give you, the reader, excellent information that will allow you to meet your needs and budget.
Denim is meant to be comfortable enough wear anywhere, all day. We tested this metric by determining the level of comfort each provided while sitting and moving. We then assessed stretch, how stiff each fabric was, and the weight of the material. We noted spots where waistbands, seams, and grommets dug in while sitting, as well as pinch spots and hot spots while moving. The Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda Classic was easily the most comfortable pair we tried, thanks to its relatively light denim material, medium stretch, and slightly looser fit.
The Signature by Levi was a close second, thanks to its ultra-stretchy material, which made it so that sitting, bending, and squatting were no problem. The Amazon Essentials Women's Skinny was also very comfortable, with a fit that was snug enough to be flattering but not too tight.
Denim balances durability by increasing the stiffness and thickness of their fabric and balancing stretch. To test durability, we abraded each pair 100 times (on the knee and inner seam) with a piece of coarse sandpaper. We also tested wear and tear during everyday wear and typical chores in the garden and in the house. The Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Shaping are quite durable since they have no belt loops or zipper to malfunction.
Of the traditional denim, the Levi's Women's 721 High Rise Skinny were the most durable pair. The material had the least wear of any pair we tested when rubbed with sandpaper; there was a slight change in color but no significant wear on the material. The seams also stayed intact except for some slight fraying when rubbed with sandpaper, and the belt loops were very sturdy.
Range of Motion
Range of motion is important at work and for play. To test this metric, we performed many bends, lunges, and squats; we were sure to note any chasing, discomfort, or pinching. We then sat in the pants for two hours and wore them while performing chores around the house and yard.
The LEE Women's Instantly Slims Classic Relaxed Fit Monroe Straight Leg was the standout in range of motion. This pair allowed for such great range of motion that our tester wore them while gardening and did not note any restriction. A few other notable pairs, which stood out for range of motion, include the Gloria Vanderbuilt and Hybrid Ultra Stretchy.
We noticed a large range of quality when testing the components metric. Each pair was tested for the zipper quality by rapidly using the zipper 100 times. We also tested belt loop quality by stressing the belt loops, which meant tugging of them 100 times.
To determine any loose stitching or fraying, we examining the stitching upon arrival. The Amazon Essentials High Rise Jean had the best component parts. We appreciated that the stitching was high quality, the belt loops had no issues or tearing, and the YKK zipper was flawless. The TAT brand zipper on the Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women's Modern-Skinny and the Levi's brand zipper on the Levi's Women's 721 High Rise Skinny also worked smoothly, each catching only once during our testing. The Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda Classic zipper caught occasionally, around one in ten times. The zipper on the Hybrid Skinny was the worst of the bunch, catching near the bottom nearly every time.
Sizing is key for comfort and performance, and women's jeans are notoriously inconsistent in sizing. To find consistency with sizes, particularly with various cuts and stretch, we measured the waist and inseam of each contender. We then compared the waist and inseam against the advertised sizes. We paid attention to stretch during wear, and looked for any issues with shrinking after washing. We've noted when pairs were true to size or deviated greatly from the typical sizing.
Our tester is typically a US Women's 10, and while all pairs did fit, there was a huge range in fit: waist measurements ranged from 28" on the Hybrid Womens Hyper Ultra Stretch Comfy Skinny to 34" on the NYDJ Women's Marilyn Straight Leg Denim. Inseam lengths ranged from a very short 27" on the Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women's Modern-Skinny and the Levi's Women's 721 High Rise Skinny to a fairly long 31" on the LEE Women's Instantly Slims Classic Relaxed Fit Monroe Straight Leg and the NYDJ Women's Marilyn Straight Leg Denim.
The NYDJ Women's Marilyn Straight Leg Denim fit the biggest; they fit comfortably but there's a gap in the back of the waist. The tightest fit was the Levi's Women's 711 Skinny; these were the only jeans our tester had to do a little dance to wiggle into. With a 32" waist and 29" inseam, the Amazon Essentials High Rise felt the most true to size.
Jeans are meant to do it all, and they should be comfortable, functional, and durable. If you're lucky, a flattering pair will make you look great whether you're sitting behind a desk or tending to projects around the house. With countless cuts, styles, and qualities of material and components on the market, consumers have infinite choices about the denim they choose. Our extensive testing measures a range of metrics, arming you with the information to find the best pair for your use and budget.
— Emma Walker