I know this sounds a bit dramatic… However, I’ll bet some of you are nodding your head right now. I wish I could say this has never happened to me—there are certainly way more important things to get upset over—but I want this blog to be honest, unvarnished space. So, if you’ve ever stood in front of the mirror wondering why you can’t just have a “normal” body, please know you are not alone. More importantly, consider that the “normal” you are seeking is fiction!
We all have insecurities—even those among us who seem most confident. To prove that, let’s chat about my weak point… jeans. There’s a reason you see me wearing dresses/skirts 99 percent of the time! Are you searching for the best jeans for petites with muscular legs? Me too.
When you’re short and curvy, jeans can be a battle (I’m 4’11).
Athletic gals you know what I’m talking about! Find a pair that fits over your muscular thighs and you’ll contend with a huge gap at the waistband. Go up a size and you get a baggy, ill-fitting look. I was a competitive gymnast growing up, then switched to cheerleading in college. My intense training left me with powerful legs that were great for my sport, but not so great in the denim department. Even Olympians, like Simone Biles, struggle with this!
Thankfully, clothing brands are beginning to realize we don’t all come in the same shapes and sizes. Options for athletic frames are exploding right now! There are even some designed by petites for petites, like Abercrombie’s “Olivia Jean” inspired by blogger and former University of Kentucky cheerleader Olivia Rink, and others designed specifically for female athletes. I’m not nearly as muscular as I once was (so jean shopping is getting easier), but I do have ample experience and insight into finding denim for petites with athletic frames. This post will walk you through my favorites, plus share a few figure-flattering tricks I picked up along the way.
In general, muscular women have more success with jeans that have a high stretch factor. When I was still active in gymnastics/cheerleading, I always looked for styles with a legging-like feel. Standard jean fabrics don’t always offer enough “give” to accommodate highly developed thighs. Keep in mind, darker washes are much more slimming than lighter tones. Additionally, avoid excessive whiskering. It draws more attention to your thigh area and can create a bulkier appearance.
Pro tip: When you slip your jeans on, take a minute to arrange the leg so that the vertical seam is in a straight line, instead of curving with your thigh. A curving seam mimics the musculature of a larger thigh, and accentuates it, whereas a straight line will downplay the area.
Pro tip: Waist-defining, wrap tops with sleeve detailing (like this similar piece from SHEIN) can help balance out muscular thighs. Use color and pattern to call attention to the areas of your body you want to highlight.
Quick post update: The “Olivia Jean”, an Abercrombie style designed in partnership with 4’11 blogger Olivia Rink, just surpassed my favorite Topshop jeans in my ranking of the best jeans for curvy petites. Seriously, I have never felt more confident in denim! The “curve love” line offers a classic look, tapered high-waist (goodbye waistband gap), and curve-hugging stretch with an extra 2 inches across the hip and thigh. I’m wearing the Curve Love High Rise Super Skinny Ankle Jean. They come in a variety of lengths, including extra short, in sizes 23W-37W. Unfortunately, they sell out FAST! Here is another variation of my jeans (different wash/distressing) with more sizes available.
I missed out on snagging a pair the first time Abercrombie carried them, but they just got restocked. Bonus – They’re on sale! I ordered the 26 short (my measurements are 33/26/36) and thought it fit perfectly. Remember this is an ankle cut, so you don’t want it to be too short. Initially, I thought I would need the extra short length – that would have been overly short.
After the “Olivia” jean, Topshop is my trusty favorite for petite denim. Its Jamie style offers a high-waist, which elongates shorter legs, and a super-stretchy fabric to accommodate muscular frames. Best of all, the “Jamie” has an amazing ability to retain its shape. Don’t you just hate it when a pair of jeans looks good for the first hour, then bags out? Topshop’s Jamie jeans are comfortable, but suck you in at the same time. Be aware they do run small. Pay close attention to the sizing chart. I bought one size up, as do most customers. Topshop is now an ASOS brand. You can also snag them at Nordstrom.
Loft is another place I’ve had great luck with jeans. Not only does it offer petite sizing, but it also has a “curvy” petite line. Loft’s “curvy” styles are designed to flatter curvier hips and thighs. It carries a variety of washes, including a super-flattering dark rinse.
Pro tip: Want to look to taller instantly? Visually elongate your leg line by wearing pointed-toe flats, heels or boots.
Old Navy makes bold claims with its “Rockstar” jean. Namely, that it will fit and flatter every body. In fact, just this summer, the retailer merged its original & curvy line to create one universal, body-inclusive fit that spans 39 sizes (this Glamour article discusses the change). For bargain denim ($30 and under), the Rockstar performs quite well. I wear mine regularly and have been super impressed with the softness and contoured waistband. However, these are super stretchy and have a tendency to bag out after a few hours. In my opinion, they lean more jegging than jean.
NYDJ (or Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) offers a wide range of styles and shapes. It has ample room in the thigh area and utilizes something it calls lift-tuck technology. Basically, it’s a slimming panel that smooths your front and lifts your backside. Order one size down, NYDJ runs large.
Madewell has great jeans… and they’ve tailored them for curvy petites! The company took its popular style and reengineered it for those needing a bit more room in the hips and thighs. Its petite curvy line offers a narrower waist with a contoured waistband, a longer rise (for a rounder booty) and a little extra room in the leg area. These don’t disappoint!
Do you have a favorite brand for petite denim, for muscular frames? Let me know in the comments below and we can add to this list!