Light-Wash Denim: The First (of many) Attempts To Find My New Favorite Jeans


It’s Spring Denim Month over here at TME.  Usually we just declare a theme week and be done with it, but we’re having a few issues with this one.

When I first brought up the concept of finding a go-to pair of lightwash denim for Spring, it was met with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  Laura was all I LOVE IT OBVIOUSLY MORE DENIM YES…..Cam piped up with ‘do shorts count cause it’s hot already’ (rub it in, Carolina, rub it in), Scotti couldn’t seem to grasp what constitutes light wash (Is this light wash?  No.  Is THIS light wash?  No.  Is thi- No.)….and I could see Amanda, sitting there in her black jeans, giving me side-eye through the screen.  (In hindsight those were probably leggings.)

I know, I know, I know.

Denim trends have been driving us all crazy for months now, and lightwash denim is no exception.  Actually, there’s so many more things that can go wrong with lightwash denim:  a too-flat, completely uniform wash that perfectly outlines each lump, bump and muscle….or distressing  that doesn’t quite hit in the right spot, creating a squeeze situation right above the knee, to name but a few possibilities.


So here’s our compromise:  Finding a perfect pair of lightwash denim for Spring is probably going to take a few attempts.  So in the interest of shopping helpfulness (it’s only enabling if it’s good)….we’re bringing it all to TME:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And we’re comparing our real-life pictures to the pics on retailers websites.  Why?  Because soooooo many retailers, where lightwash is concerned, have fallen into a really bad habit:  they’re grossly over-exposing the denim, and you end up with a pair that looks nothing like what is shown online.

So….here’s my first attempt.  I found some strong contenders, but not the lightwash denim of my dreams.  I’ll keep looking.  In the meantime….enjoy and good luck!

Grlfnd Karolina Jeans (in petite)

Grlfnd Karolina Jeans in petite (also in regular)

The GOOD:  Ok – these were *almost* the lightwash denim of my dreams.  They come in petite sizes, have a modern cut (aka ‘mom jeans’), coupled with maybe the best wash I’ve seen.  It’s that perfectly faded blue, with distressing in allll the right places (probably thanks to both petite and regular sizing options).  Shockingly, Mike thinks these things are soooo sexy.  Mom jeans FTW.

Yet, NO: They’re made from old-school, non-stretch denim.  Which would be OK….except….it means the high-rise waist isn’t comfortable.  YesIKNOW we all did this in the 80’s….but on a daily basis, I need a soft jean.  I’ve had these for a while now, thinking that I’d get used to them, but these have become a strictly date-night jean.

jeans | sweater | blush bag | tan heels | black tank


AG Jodi Crop Jeans

AG Jodi Cropped Flares (24 for reference)

The GOOD:  These are the softest, high-rise jeans I’ve ever worn.  They seriously feel like pajamas.  Sizing down is probably a good idea.  I also love the wash, the cool distressing, and the modern shape.

But…. However soft and comfy, these are still cropped flares, a jean that is very tricky to wear.  Cropped flares look amazing with heels (duh – but I rarely wear heels), cute flats or flat sandals, and….that’s it.  Sneakers?  Not always.  I haven’t totally given up hope, but first I have to crop these a bit more.  Happily it’s just a raw hem, so I just need to get the scissors out and have at it.

Here are a few pics to better illustrate….

jeans | black heels | tan booties | black sandals | sneakers | black tee | black boots

Rag and Bone Dre

Rag and Bone Dres (size 24 for reference)

The GOOD:  Time and again, these are some of my very favorite jeans.  And you guys agree – they’re the top-selling jean by TME readers last year.  The Dre’s are considered a girlfriend jean – a cross between a baggy boyfriend and a tight skinny, and I tend to wear mine all summer long.  (NOTE:  In this wash, I went down a size.  Typically I do NOT.)

HOWEVER: Unless you adore that bottom hem, or are handy at doing DIY embellishments, don’t get this wash.  Instead, I’d go for this one.  In a moment of weakness, I bought these, hacked off the hem, and decided I’d do something totally unique to these jeans to make them AMAZING.  In all likelihood, that ‘totally unique’ thing will probably be when Pax accidentally draws on them and I forget to wash it off.  Sigh.

tee | jeans | sandals | bag | hat | choker

AG Cropped Stilt

AG Cropped Stilt (size 24 for reference)

The GOOD:  AG is my go-to right now for skinny jeans.  The denim is always soft, the washes always spot-on, and while I typically get the AG legging jean, the Cropped Stilt has a slightly wider ankle that is especially cute for showing off summer sandals.  In this wash, I sized down one size.

Close, but No Cigar: These were cute, but not distressed enough.  Too….”nice” I guess.  I want something a little rougher.


Frame Denim Skinnies

Frame Denim Skinnies

The GOOD: Suuuuuper soft denim in a pretty wash.

NOPE:  I just….[snore]….was looking…..[snore]….for something….more. [zzzzzz]


Tortoise Shiko Highwaist Cropped Skinny

Tortoise Shiko Highwaist Cropped Skinny Jeans

UGH, WHATEVER: I pulled these out of the box and immediately thought, “I need to start getting more sleep.”  The retailer pic, however, cleared things right up:  DUPED.  I was duped.  Nowhere in the retailer pic does it show that weird blue line outlining the trim.  Or that annoying keychain which is really hard to get off.  Or the fact that this jean has wide calves.  Which is fine, but #truth, Revolve Clothing.  #TRUTH matters.


Shop the Jeans I Tried


Shop The Jeans I Want To Try

Anyone try the jeans below?  Spill the deets!  And if I were to do another round of try-ons….which pairs do you want to see?  Leave a message in the comments…..




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Shana founded The Mom Edit in 2008. She lives with the love of her life (his name's Mike) and their two crazy boys in downtown Philadelphia. She loves a good styling challenge (her engineering side shows eventually), appreciates kindness, and usually picks scotch over wine, sneakers over stilettos, and shorts known as denim-underwear, always.

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  1. I really do like the ag cropped on you….I tried the grlfrd not comfy! Stretch has spoiled me…I think you should try the citizens the levis and the mother from anthropology…:)

  2. I just got the Pilcro pair in the jeans you want to try. I’m happy with them, but I’m a Pilcro fan – rise is just right (not too high, not too low), and fit my narrow hips well. The only thing I’m not sure about, and you can’t see in the photo unless you zoom in, is the distressing on the thighs kind of looks like a lion lightly scratched me. The distressing is so light that it almost looks unintentional.

  3. I have the dres in the marina wash with the step hem. Love them! I’m short 5’3″ and these require no hacking off. The wash is also not as bleached as on the website pictures. I was afraid it’d be so white but it’s actually a tad lighter than the grlfrnd karolinas (I have those too!). Super soft and comfy. If you want a tighter fit, size down but if looking for a looseness I’d go with the usual size. I went my usual size and I find myself wishing I’d sized down because I have to keep pulling these up. Otherwise I’d consider this a good contender for that perfect light wash jean!

  4. I am loving Madewell’s Slim Boyjean: Raw-Hem Edition. I’m 5’4″ and they’re a great length for me, but they run a little big so I’d recommend sizing down.

    • I also purchased these (on a whim) and LOVE them! I did size down as well. I’m struggling to figure out how to pair them with booties, but love them w/sandals.

  5. Love these selections – I’m looking for a light wash right now and will be following this closely. Thanks for researching! I’m dying to try Madewell’s ‘perfect summer jean’…have you tried those yet?

  6. Some of these look really ‘short-waisted’, like the Frame Denim and the AG Jodi Crop. Yikes. I can’t believe this is the intended design! Isn’t that uncomfortable? That would be an automatic disqualifier for me.

  7. I purchased the JCrew toothpick in the wash listed above and although they feel like butter on your legs, the wash is awkward and not flattering at all. Such a shame because they fit like a glove!

  8. Would love some recommendations, feedback on jeans that fit curvier girls. Like so there’s no gap in the back, and also.. bigger legs :). Love these choices, but not sure any of them would work for those of us with bigger legs and booty.

      • This. Always.

        I do have two pair I love that fit this bill- Lucky Brand Lolita (but only the ones that are mostly cotton- the ones that are only 70/80% cotton are not good) skinnies and A Gold E Isabel skinny boyfriends. Both run tts imo.

        • I’m a fan of Lucky Brand -Sofia for me. Boyfriend jeans are more or less straight-legged for me and certainly not slouchy, not in the cute cool way I see in pictures! AG Contour 360 is good

    • I love paige transcend – verdugo ankle skinny jeans. I swear by them fitting my curves (lots of butt) and bigger thighs!!

    • I’ve got wide hips and big-ish thighs and I’ve had good luck with: Citizen’s of Humanity, Joe’s Jeans, and J Brand. It does usually take me a lot of trying on to find the right cut though.

  9. Thanks for your exhaustive research! Always appreciated ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have thicker thighs and butt so for a while was stuck on needing that “slimming” darker wash look. But I’m over it and now I’m good with the following:

    – a pair of high rise, light wash Denim x Alexander Wangs I found at the Rack that are a bit of a snooze (no distressing, etc) but really good basics for a lighter skinny jean, and I love em. They denim is substantial but with a little stretch, and they really stay up (so many stretchy high rises just end up back down at the hips, or is that just me?). Had to chop the hems way off but I like that look right now anyway. I can’t find sizes for sale online but they’re here:–22001-22-jeans-503906918.html

    – also love my Levi’s 501 CTs that are a good boyfriend/mom jeans kind of hybrid. I wish they had a little higher rise but they’re pretty dang close to what is been looking for, so I settled and have been mostly happy with them:

  10. My favorite pair of jeans is a yoga pair from James Jeans. I can’t find another pair as stretchy and soft as those but still maintains it’s shape. I would like it if you included a pair of James Jeans in your next search!

  11. hi Shana, light denim is a tricky one for sure! I have an old pair of rag and bone in a wash called Surf. I think you may have the same pair. I’m finding them a bit of an awkward fit and am wondering if (and how) you still wear yours? they are quite long, maybe I should be brave and hack the hems off?

  12. Please let Cam do shorts! Summer has come to OK as well & as long as I live here (military spouse, so everything is temporary) I need to dress the part.

  13. I feel like all I have are light wash denim. JCrew toothpicks and Madewell flares both in lighter washes. I just bought some MiH in black and am having trouble styling them!

  14. So, I’ve been reading all the posts of the light washed denim and I’m a little sad to see the direction The Mom Edit has taken the last little while. I’m glad to see that there were a few options without distressing, but I know a lot of readers work in fields where they can’t where distressed jeans with holes in them to work (and there’s no way I’m going to spend $100+ dollars on something I can only wear 2 days a week). I’m one of them. I can wear jeans to work (architecture) but can’t wear holey jeans. I miss all the posts you used to do on fun and flattering work wear. Any chance you can work some more work wear pieces into your roundups this spring/summer. I will even volunteer myself to be a model/guinea pig for dressing room tryons (IF I can make it a shopping trip in Philly with Shana–I’m in DC so its an easy drive ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks. I’ve been a devoted reader of The Mom Edit and Ain’t no Mom Jeans since my son was born 6 years ago–I just want to make sure it still relates to moms’ real lives!

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