Jeans Shopping is Terrible: A Comparison of 12 Pairs of Madewell and ASOS Jeans

Behold, my journey to find two pairs of blue jeans in which I have tried on a frustrating number of jeans.

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I’m on a quest to find 2 more pairs of blue jeans! Until last month I only had two pairs of jeans, which were actually two pairs of the same style/size – ASOS petites Farleigh Slim Mom Jean in Washed Black (which is a straight-leg style).

I’m looking for:

a straight-leg to slightly slouchy boyfriend style

and/or

a wide-leg (probably cropped) style

Both with retro vibes. Which is in. So modern vibes? Idk.

TL;DR: I have a 29″ waist and 39″ hips and got the Madewell Petite Curvy “Perfect Vintage Jean” in the Fitzgerald wash in a size 27″.

I’m not even attempting to shop for this secondhand because unlike sweaters or skirts, jeans are so hard to fit! My local Goodwill is 99% jeggings/super-skinnies and bootcut styles in tired-looking washes. And I’m not ordering from random etsy/ebay/online vintage sellers because I prefer to deal with returns from stores where I’ve had historically good experience with returns.

I bought a few from ASOS because the one style of jeans I have from there fits very well, they have a large petites section, and have free shipping and returns.

I bought the rest from Madewell because I like the particular trendy cuts they offer, they offer in petites (alas, online only and not free shipping), and have generally good customer service.

I’m not set on finding The Best Quality Ever, just something that doesn’t look like it’ll give out within a year or two. As such I’m also looking at mostly high-cotton percentage items.

My strategy to start with was to buy according to the size charts and advice in reviews to size up or down. This went TERRIBLY and all but two of them were so big in the waist I could fit a whole fist into the waistband (and sometimes have extra room on top of that). After that I ordered down a size in the styles I had liked enough to try again.

Tip: When reading reviews, Nordstrom also carries some of the Madewell line and has a lot of reviews, so check there too.

My measurements

Figure out how to quantify your shape is tricky, but here’s a load of my measurements as of May 2019 in case it helps you decide how to interpret the fit photos.

My waist is 29″ (73.66 cm) around. Obviously this varies depending on whether I’m standing or sitting and how good my posture/core engagement is, 28-29″ seems like the most typical range for me. This is taken holding the measuring tape flush but not tight (skin is not spilling over it). I had my boyfriend help. Usually it’s better to have a second pair of eyes and hands when taking your measurements.

That means that for non-stretch items, the waist should be 29-30″ around to be comfortable, or have 14.5-15″ flat measurement (~37-38cm).

This is consistent with the clothing sizes that fit me. I’m on average a medium or a size 8 at most mall brands.

I have 39″ (99cm) hips. I think the waist-hip difference is pretty evenly distributed from the front and side.

Legs:  (Only measured my right leg, and I did this by myself as best I could) My thighs measure 59cm (23.2″) around at the spot where my thighs touch (widest part). My calves are 38.5cm (15.2″) around at the widest part.

I am 5’1″

Composition: (I think this definitely matters – I looked different a few years ago when I weighed about the same but had much less muscle) Most of my exercise nowadays is figure skating with the occasional ballet class or at-home conditioning thrown in. As such I have IMO respectably muscular legs. I don’t watch calories either though so there’s definitely a layer of fat over it all. I don’t know my body fat percentage.

Here’s a recent photo of me in shorts for reference:

Measurements of some current items

Taking a few flat measurements of a non-stretch skirt that fits my waist really well and a non-stretch dress that fits exactly and no accommodation for food baby (small end of anything I should consider). My cheap measuring tape is from Daiso and it only has centimeters.

I couldn’t use measurements of clothing when actually buying since none of the brands I shop from provide flat clothing measurements, but I think this will be useful for shopping online from ebay and etsy in the future. Also I wanted to check that I wasn’t going crazy when I ordered something listed as some waist measurement that seems to really, really not fit.

Modcloth space dress: 36cm (14.2″). This fits my waist exactly and is 100% cotton. The size chart says it’s for a 27-28″ waist. Nice! It actually matches up. It has a teeny tiny bit of give from the knit, but there’s no spandex and I can’t eat a large meal in this and be comfortable.

https://www.modcloth.com/shop/dresses/heart-and-solar-system-a-line-dress/70538.html in XXS through 4x. I would try and get this secondhand or on sale if possible because it is unlined and made of what feels like bedsheets and doesn’t seem worth $69 plus tax and shipping and it’s not an ethical/sustainable production.

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The dress with layered thermal top and tights

Uniqlo x Ines de la Fressange midi skirt: 37-38cm (14.6-15″) on the top of the yoke. 100% cotton corduroy with no stretch. Uniqlo’s size chart says their size 8 is for a 28″ waist (their mediums are for 28-29″ waist) and usually items are cut at 30″. This is a comfortable fit although I can’t tuck chunky sweaters into it.

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ASOS Farleigh slim mom jean in washed black / Petite W30 / $51

38cm flat. I would guess that I got these sometime in 2017 so alas I can’t speak if current batches will fit the same. I suppose they are a smidge tight at the hips, but they’re reasonably sturdy-feeling and comfortable. They’re a little bit gap-y with thin shirts but not unacceptably so. It’s okay because I can also tuck in thicker sweaters, though it’s a bit tight then. 98% cotton 2% spandex.

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https://us.asos.com/asos-petite/asos-design-petite-farleigh-high-waisted-slim-mom-jeans-in-washed-black/prd/9832225

I hate that ASOS almost always picks 5’4″ models for the petites range which is supposed to be for like 5’0″-5’4″. Sometimes it’s still too long even on them!

Screen Shot 2019-05-16 at 4.22.07 PM.png
Model wears: UK 6/ W25″
Model’s height: 163cm/5’4″

Jeans!

Presented in chronological order of purchase. No one is paying me anything for doing this post, and as such I could not be assed to attempt scientifically acceptable levels of fit comparison. But hopefully this is still helpful.

The yellow square-neck top in the fit pics is from Anthropologie.

1. ASOS Farleigh slim mom jean in light wash / Petite W30 / $51

https://us.asos.com/asos-petite/asos-design-petite-farleigh-high-waisted-slim-mom-jeans-in-light-blue/prd/9836301

These unfortunately were small in the hips compared to the black colorway. They also seemed to be made of a thinner, stretchier denim (and the feathering on the hips was stronger in the pair I got than on the stock photo). I didn’t get a photo of these on me but it had some visible wrinkles from pulling across the hips.

farleigh-light-blue.jpg
Model wears: UK 6/ W25″
Model’s height: 163cm/5’4″

2. ASOS DESIGN premium wide leg jeans in light vintage wash blue / Regular W30 / $60

https://www.asos.com/asos-design/asos-design-premium-wide-leg-jeans-in-light-vintage-wash-blue/prd/10729117

These almost worked. They fit (well in so far as these are supposed to be cropped but fit me as full length) but the fabric was really heavy 100% cotton and had a weird drape.

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No thanks

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Model is 5’9″ wearing W26″ L32″

3. DESIGN Balloon leg boyfriend jeans in light vintage wash / Regular W30 / $51

https://us.asos.com/asos-design/asos-design-balloon-leg-boyfriend-jeans-in-light-vintage-wash/prd/9840578 (out of stock at time of writing)

They had run out of the petite size and I decided to try the regular size (sometimes this works out on looser tapered pants I intend to cuff anyway). I thought the exaggerated silhouette was cute, but since the material on these was also thick 100% cotton and they’re a tapered style (and I think I had these cuffed at least twice), when I bent my legs 90 degrees to sit down the cuffs would strangle my calves as the whole pant moved upwards. I moved away from skinnies to not be strangled! Nope. These were actually my favorite silhouette of the bunch. I’ll keep an eye out for a petite version I may not have to crop as much and/or a similar style that has 2% spandex.

They also seemed bluer in person than in the website photos.

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ASOS models in the reg line are typically in the 5’9″-5’11” height range

4. The Perfect Vintage Jean in Fitzgerald Wash / Petite 28 / Fitzgerald Wash / $98

https://www.madewell.com/the-perfect-vintage-jean-in-fitzgerald-wash-C2819.html

41cm flat, 100% cotton. This was the only pair I purchased in store, and this was a few weeks prior to placing any of the online Madewell orders. The store associate (and online reviews generally) said I would probably have to size down in these. The 29″ size was too big all around and not in a “but it’d be cute if the waist got taken in!” way. 28″ was snug on my thighs but I decided to get them anyway. They’ve since stretched enough to be slightly relaxed but I wouldn’t call loose in the thighs. They don’t sag as I walk.

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cuffed 3x
madewell-curvy-petite-vintage.jpg
Stock photo from the petite range, didn’t list the model size/height. They have photos of a few other models with sizing listed in the link for the regular size of the jean.

5. The Petite Curvy Perfect Vintage Jean in Fitzgerald Wash / Petite 28 / Fitzgerald Wash / $98

https://www.madewell.com/the-petite-curvy-perfect-vintage-jean-in-fitzgerald-wash-K7528.html

Actual waist size 40-41cm, 100% cotton. This more or less had the same waistband size (as promised! good!) as the regular one, and indeed had more room in the hips and thighs. However that meant that now it was way too loose in the waist AND hips and sagged more when I walked. Back it goes! The length was much better though.

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So at the very least the curvy petite 28″ and regulary 28″ do both have the same size waistband. However you can see they’re a bit larger than what’s labeled as ASOS 30″ jean. The Madewell ones are 41cm across (16.5″) and the Madewell one 38cm across (15″). Even given that you should add like 2 inches to a non-stretch waist to accommodate for movement and bloating, 32″ around seems a bit much for a 28″. I guess ASOS does tend to run a bit small (at least compared to US brands) but at least it’s somewhat consistent in the waist sizing.

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6. Petite Emmett Wide-Leg Crop Jeans in Langston Wash / Petite 29 / Langston Wash / $110

https://www.madewell.com/petite-emmett-wide-leg-crop-jeans-in-langston-wash-K9151.html

41cm across. These were the only pair that was more of a stretch denim of 92% cotton/6% poly/2% elastane. It’s thin and I found the fabric + cut not very flattering on me as it emphasized stomach and thigh fat bulges (more apparent in person / with movement than in these photos). You can see it a bit in the stock photo model photo too. I think this material would be better suited to jeggings because then the all-over bodycon fit doesn’t make you look 10lbs heavier.

Also felt that I’d want these hemmed about two inches and there is only one dinky front coin pocket. If a pair of jeans doesn’t have front pockets or will need alterations it had better be A+ everywhere else. This was not it.

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madewell-wide-leg-crop.jpg
“Ronja is 5’11” wearing size 29″

7. Petite Emmett Wide-Leg Jeans / Petite 28 / Agate Wash / $95

https://www.madewell.com/petite-emmett-wide-leg-jeans-K4984.html

The only pair that was too small! Half the reviews I saw said TTS and half said to size down, but clearly I should be at least a 29″. I thought a bit more and decided I’d prefer a more cropped style (more practical) so I didn’t try the size up. 92% cotton/6% poly/2% elastane.

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madewell-full-length-wide-leg.jpg
No sizing info on this model photo

8. Petite Pleated Wide-Leg Jeans / Petite 8 / Willowdale Wash / $110

https://www.madewell.com/petite-pleated-wide-leg-jeans-L0003.html

These are A Look, but I was into it, at least initially. However these were just too big at the waist. I was okay with the fit otherwise but I was pretty sure I could fit a 6 so I ordered that one to compare. These can go almost to my bra band when hiked all the way up and tended to sag to a mid-rise when moving without a belt. 98% cotton 2% spandex.

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Looks alright, but it’s actually loose. I could make do with these with a belt or get them taken in more, but why do that if the 6 will actually fit?

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madewell-pleated-jean.jpg
stock photo – no word on model size/height.

9. Petite Slim Emmett Wide-Leg Crop Pants in Speckle / Petite 29 / Feather Blue / $95

Backordered – will update this when they arrive, but who knows when that will be. At the time I purchased them, I believe (but didn’t write down because I thought it would be included in the email, but that appears to not be the case) it had an estimated ship date of May 23rd and it is now May 28th with no word.

10. Petite Curvy Perfect Vintage Jean in Fitzgerald Wash / Petite 27 / Fitzgerald Wash / $98

Hurray! These FIT. I’ve heard two other people at this point mention they’ve had to go down two sizes in this particular style, so I guess it’s not just me.

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I haven’t worn these enough to stretch the thighs out a bit but given how they other ones stretched I think these should get there. They are currently snug but not circulation-killing when sitting down (and comfortable standing). I think I would prefer these with 1-2% spandex (the black straight-leg pair I have is 2% spandex and is still sturdy while not being quite as squeezy) but I’m okay with these enough to keep them.

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The following photos L to R: 28″ petite curvy 1x cuff, 28″ regular 3x cuff, 27″ petite curvy 2x cuff (they came in the mail like that and I didn’t realize it was cuffed twice until after I took the photos).

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28″ can comfortably fit a whole fist in the waistband. 27″ very uncomfortably accommodates a whole fist.

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11. Petite Pleated Wide-Leg Jeans / Petite 6 / Willowdale Wash / $110

These fit well! Better than the 8 for sure. Didn’t require a belt to be kept up.

However after attempting to style them a couple of ways I decided that even though to me they were about 70% cool hippie girl they came off as 30% horrible oversized late 90s mens jorts and decided it wasn’t worth the money, closet space, and effort to see if I could oVeRcOmE the tiny voice whispering “giant jorts” every time I put these on.

I also only liked them with a narrow range of items, and while there were a few looks I thought were pretty cute (yellow top with clogs, striped tee with clogs, beret and white sweater look), the bad ones were like, really bad (as opposed to skinnies or straight leg where as long as they fit, the worst you can do is “meh”).

Also on top of all that the wide-leg cropped 70s-ish style is definitely a trendy enough thing that I don’t think I’d like a style like this as long as a more innocuous straight-leg style, and if I’m not 110% into these right now in every styled outfit, I don’t think it makes sense to keep them. (inb4 “just wear what you love!!!!” and “but actually, you can style any item in a fresh way…” and “trends cycle!”, I am aware of that, but I just don’t have the space to keep shit that I’m not super into for the given year and I do enjoy looking on trend for my context)

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I did a few more outfits not pictured as well. I concluded that the sweaters looked better with belts to provide some structure/cinching to the waist area amidst all the volume, and similarly they look best with clogs (visually heavy sandal compared to birks that can hold up to / balance the pants volume) and fitted shaft, pointed toe boots (both emphasize 70s style). I tried them with oversized graphic tees but it leaned more 00s dude style than 70s women’s style which was what I was going for. I think given that a lot of my vintage tees are oversized I should probably stick to fitted bottoms with those.

12. Petite Pleated Wide-Leg Jeans / Petite 6 / Afterglow Red / $78

https://www.madewell.com/petite-pleated-wide-leg-pants-L0005.html

I was pretty sure this name was a reference to drugs which didn’t seem on-brand for Madewell, but it turns out “afterglow” can also refer to sunset sky coloration. Googling on a private browser window pulls up the drug slang first though so eh…. But anyway, it’s a nice warm red! Figured I’d try having a red pant option since I like the red midi skirt so much. 98% cotton/2% spandex.

madewell-pleated-red.jpg
“Michele is 5’9” wearing size 2 “

These fit (similar silhouette to the blue jeans). But turns out these are not a nice bright warm brownish red but rather a dusty reddish brown which I don’t find as appealing. Also more of a thin trouser-y material than a stiffer sort of material I was expecting. And really wrinkly from shipping! I would have sent these to the cleaners to be straightened out before wearing them out of the house. I decided that with this sort of material I would enjoy a standard tapered trouser a lot more.

(I do own an iron but I am not very fluent with it and given all the pleats on this and how long it takes me to iron basic things, I would rather just pay the cleaners to fix it really well once and then be careful on how I dry it to prevent excessive wrinkling that requires an involved ironing job again. I don’t need to iron fancy things often enough that I feel it’s a worthwhile skill for me to master. Don’t @ me.).

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Other frustrations which are not relevant to sizing

This is just a rant section which you can feel free to skip. Some of this was my fault and some of them were no one’s fault, and all of these are extreme first world problems, but overall it was just a really frustrating experience.

My apartment complex does not have a secure mail area and packages sometimes get stolen, so usually I send things to my office and then have to carry them back with me along with all my sports stuff.

The first Madewell order I forgot to put my office’s unit # and UPS could not deliver it the first time. I managed to update the address but the system update took a while and on the next attempt it got returned to sender because UPS tried to deliver it on the weekend and no one could sign for it.

Another order I put the right address, but it was delivered to the wrong floor. Our building does not have reception areas for companies on every floor, so I had to go to 5 different floors (and you cannot access other floors from the stairwell, you have to wait for the slow-ass elevator which is always high-traffic during lunch hour) before finding the package (it showed up as signed for by someone who was not in my office).

The next order after that I had sent to the local Madewell. The day it arrived (and I logistically could not pick it up the next few days) it was absolutely pouring. I picked up the order then realized that my transit prediction app had stopped connecting to the local transit agency (NextBus is defunct, use Transit. I think it was out before the Transit app when I first moved to this area so that’s why I’d had it) and the shopping area I was at is at the end of a bus line. Also I had gone negative on my card from the last transbay trip which meant the autoload for the local bus wouldn’t work anyway and I didn’t have cash on me. So I took a Lyft back and spent probably more than it would have cost for shipping anyway (though I mainly sent to the shop in order to ensure arrival, not to save the couple of bucks).

When I was finally going to return the 6 pairs of Madewell pants, I lugged them all on the bus down to the end of the line and then found that the Berkeley store was closed for repairs until further notice due to a ceiling leak. I then had to make an unplanned trip to SF to return them, which is usually not fun and ends up taking half a day because I will usually try to bundle other SF errands while I’m there. It was a long weekend so I’m glad I actually had an extra day for doing that, but then I didn’t get to spend the extra day doing low-key housework like I planned.

To Conclude

I ended up keeping the 28″ regular of the light wash straight leg (“perfect vintage”) style from Madewell as well as the 27″ curvy petite in the same style.

If I had tried these on all in one go I would have just kept the curvy petite, but the regular fit is pretty comfortable and does work pretty well with a thicker sweater tucked in so I’m not really mad about that.

I’ve found that I’ve worn these enough recently that I think two pairs here is excessive. I’ve found that works for me in staple items with non-stretch waists that I would wear year-round. I have two adjacent sizes of the same green corduroy trousers and button-front corduroy midi skirt, and as mentioned above I have two pairs of the black jeans (though those are the same size).

Anyway, I hate jeans shopping and I hope to not do this again for at least another few years.

xrub44o

10 thoughts on “Jeans Shopping is Terrible: A Comparison of 12 Pairs of Madewell and ASOS Jeans

  1. Oh man, I definitely know from fairly recent experience last year that shopping for jeans is the absolute worst. (It’s bad, and painful, enough that I’ve been putting off shopping for another genre of jean-like solid black pants I desperately want, for our “no jeans, but almost anything else goes” casual Friday dress code, which I’d reliably wear through the late fall to early spring time of year. Now that it’s summer, I’m going to put it off until temperatures cool down again.) I only had one real silhouette and set of fairly narrow criteria in mind last year when I was shopping (petitie sizing, skinny or very slim straight leg jeans in a dark blue wash with some fading at the knees rather than solid dark blue, preferably 90%+ cotton), and even though all my criteria actually left me with very few choices, I still tried on at least a dozen pairs, with very few that I liked even a little bit.

    And ooh, figure skating must be a fun workout, though I’ll bet it’s quite difficult and requires a lot of strength?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, this whole experience makes me think that the jeggings thing will probably never really go away because I can see a lot of people just going “nope, never doing standard jeans again.” I haven’t needed to go dress pant shopping for a while but that sounds like that would be equally difficult!

      I love skating! It’s definitely become more of a workout now that I’m in the low-intermediate level (we are at the stage where we’re supposed to be practicing single jumps, although I’m still just walking half jumps because I’m so risk-averse) at my rink’s adult classes. It’s great for legs and core since you’re engaged pretty much the whole time you’re on the ice.

      Like

      1. I lucked into a pair of dress pants from Loft that fit me almost perfectly with my first ever order of dress pants as an adult (I’m a skirt suits-only for interviews type of gal)! Sadly, I’ve never been able to replicate this success, even with similar pants labeled as being of the same type of fit from Loft.

        And ah, I can imagine that it’s difficult to do jumps! I’m definitely a particularly cautious/afraid of falling down-type.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a wonderful post! I throughly enjoyed it, though new to your blog. I was mainly looking for some styling tips for the Madewell pleated jeans, when I stumbled upon your page. Good grief for going through all those jeans. I love Madewell and will definitely consider your comments when looking for my next pair.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed reading the extra long post. Hopefully it was a little helpful on the styling end for your original query as well! I actually just bought some black jeggings after swearing off them for about a year, so I have another jeans review post soon (this time thankfully did not require quite so many attempts and returns).

      Like

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