Skip to main content

Back to Basics: How to Pull Off White Jeans

You can do it! Here are some tips to keep in mind.
From L to R: Jesse Kamm, The Row, Levi's

From L to R: Jesse Kamm, The Row, Levi's

"Basic" may have adapted a negative connotation in recent years, but there's no shame in seeking advice on theoretically simple sartorial conundrums. In our latest column, "Back to Basics," we're here to guide you through life's most common (and important) fashion and beauty concerns. First up? White denim.

White jeans are right up there with bras and swimsuits on the "annoying and intimidating to shop for" scale. Even the most fit, cellulite-free ladies can have a hard time finding a pair that's flattering, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Plus, given that a pair of white jeans is one of the most versatile, chic wardrobe staples you can have for this time of year (nothing's better suited for a summer day on which you haven't shaved your legs), once you find the right pair, you'll be living in them. And we're here to help. Below, some things you'll want to consider before shopping, along with some links to our favorite options.

Find your silhouette

Chances are you already have a pretty good idea of what pant silhouette looks best on you, but remember that white jeans don't have the strategic whiskering and fading that some other denim has for illusory slimming effects. If you have concerns about how much of your natural shape you want to highlight, go with something that's slim but not clingy. A common mistake is to buy something that's a tad too big so that it's loose, but that won't do you any favors.

There are plenty of slim-legged options that are fitted in the hips and less clingy — and thus less revealing — in the thighs. Look for styles that are labeled "straight leg" or "boyfriend." The slightly high-waisted, vintage-inspired Levi's $128 "Wedgie" in vintage chalk is a current industry favorite. If you're into Levi's but not a high waist, these in "snowdrop selvedge" looked great on a friend of mine recently. If you're fancy and want something super sleek, The Row makes a chic, ankle-grazing option for $550. Less fancy? Try Topshop's $100 boyfriend jeansMadewell has a great cropped boot-cut option for $128, too.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Another way to go is the of-the-moment high-waisted and cropped, wide-leg or flared silhouette — something that looks (and thus fits) more like a trouser. This will work on most body types, but if you're on the shorter side, we'd suggest avoiding anything extremely wide. For wide-leg, there's Rachel Comey's beloved "Legion" ($345), and Madewell's $128 version. MiH has a nice flared option with a frayed hem for $270. Current/Elliot has one with a subtler flare for $198.

The least forgiving silhouette is going to be a fitted, high-waisted, skinny style. Dhani bought a pair last summer, and while they can look chic, they're pretty much a FUPA disaster after one large meal. If you need something for, say, brunches during which you don't plan to eat anything, or if you just don't give any fucks (which is great!) go for this pair, or these.

Pay attention to fabric

Unless you're a supermodel or, like, Jules from "Real Housewives of New York," a thicker, stiffer, more selvedge-like denim is your best bet. The Levi's above, for example, are made from a heavyweight denim, which will hold things together without clinging. Anything thin and/or super stretchy is going to put everything you've got on display.

If you're willing to look outside the denim spectrum, you could seek out a softer cotton alternative. One of our favorites is J.Crew's $98 cropped "Teddie pant" in white, which provides good coverage on the legs (though less on the butt). They're also machine washable — i.e., just as low maintenance as jeans. Or, if you're looking for something a little more on-trend, Jesse Kamm's $395, high-waisted, wide-leg pants are a cult favorite.

Get the right undergarments

If you still find you need more coverage in the bum area — or if you opt for the J.Crew trousers — we highly recommended buying a pair of these $36 Spanx shaping shorts. Rather than pull everything in, they simply smooth things out. And whatever you choose to wear under your white jeans, make sure it's seamless and nude (as in, the color of your skin) — not white — in tone. Uniqlo's ultra seamless hip-hugger shorts are great if you don't want to go the thong route.