It probably comes as no surprise that, as part of The Mom Edit team, I’ve tried on my fair share of jeans. But I was a bit of a denim hoarder long before I worked with TME (the shelves of my high school closet were packed with piles of denim that I painstakingly organized into ombré towers — very satisfying), and the best denim finds, in my opinion, are those that catch you by surprise.
The ones you pick up not because they’re the latest “it” jeans but because you figure “eh, why not” — and then find yourself reaching for them over. and. over. again.
My Top Jeans Under $100: Gap High-Rise Barrel Jeans (TTS) | Levi’s Cropped 501s (TTS) | Gap Low Stride Jeans (TTS) | Levi’s Ribcage Jeans (size *down* one) | Hudson Wide-Leg Paper Bag Pants (size down)
These are the five pairs of denim (ok, one of them is more of a chambray trouser) that I’ve been wearing the most over the past few months. There are some classics with a twist (Levi’s 501 Crops, but in a playful wash) — and some that feel both wildly on-trend and nostalgic (Gap Low Stride, I’m looking at you).
Perhaps best of all, at the time of publication, they’re all under $100.
The Best Jeans Are The Ones I Can’t Stop Wearing… & Are Under $100
Yep, we’re talking budget-friendly denim that has genuinely earned a long-term spot in my wardrobe. Denim that even, in some cases, is good enough to stock in several washes. (Gap’s Barrel Jeans come to mind.)
As you’ll see, four out of five of these jeans are all kind of a medium-blue, distressed situation. As in, clearly, I have a type. If that’s not your type, rest assured that they almost all come in a variety of other washes that are easy to find, with some hunting. The most important thing to stick with, if you’re looking for the same fit I’m wearing but in a different wash, is that the composition stays the same. In the case of everything here but the Levi’s Ribcage jeans, we’re talking 100% cotton. (I talk about the Levi’s Ribcage in more detail in the video, but it’s important that you go for a cotton-lyocell blend, not elastane.)
Jeans Review: 5 Affordable Styles That Wear Well & Fit Beautifully
For ease of comparison, I paired all five denim options in this video with the same Adidas cropped tank and Stan Smith sneakers, so you can see where the rise and hem sit on each one. (I included other looks, as well, but I’m a visual learner, so I thought controlling some of the variables might be helpful for others, as well.)
As for fit, I’m 5’5″ (and a half!), slightly long-waisted, and pretty straight through the middle with a little more booty than you’d expect for my frame. My “usual” denim size is 25 Regular and that’s the case for most of the jeans discussed here, but the video includes more detailed notes where it matters. (Size down in the Levi’s Ribcage jeans and, potentially, the trousers, for example.)
Note: shown throughout — Adidas Cropped Tank | Adidas Stan Smiths
Gap High-Waisted Barrel Jeans (TTS): Easy, slouchy, with a higher rise that wears as comfortably as low-rise (read: not tight), these might be my most-worn jeans of the past year, period. So good that I own them in four or five washes. I wear my true size.
Also shown: Free People Brookside Sweater | Aerosoles Rina Flat
Levi’s Cropped 501 Jeans (TTS) (also at Revolve and Levi’s): A classic, and available in loads of washes, but I find this one to be playful without being obnoxious. Regardless of wash, go for a 501 Crop that’s 100% cotton. It’ll take a couple of wears to break them in, but once you’re there, they fit like a glove. Try Julieta’s trick (I mention it in a bit more detail in the video) for expediting the break-in period. It’s key. Wearing my true size.
Also shown: Topshop Maxi Cardigan | Mia Alma Clogs
Gap Low Stride Jeans (TTS): I’m calling these the quintessential California jean. Ideal with everything from Birks (shearling-lined, if you please) and Vans to chunky boots (the latter is a real 90’s vibe!), and, while they’re low, there’s something sexy about the exact fit. No itty bitty super low-rise fly here. Instead, they sit low on the hips the way a pair of borrowed jeans might be, and I’m thoroughly into the effect.
Also shown: Elapsy Womens V Neck Lace Crochet Blouse | Birkenstock Arizona Shearling
Levi’s Ribcage Jeans (size *down* one) (also at Revolve): Possibly the only pair of non-100% cotton jeans you’ll hear me rave about, and that’s because, while they’re soft as can possibly be, they’re not stretch. Instead, they fit and feel like thrifted, vintage perfection. Despite what some sites say, the whole TME team (myself included) sized down in these for a fit that hugs curves while still being comfy.
Also shown: Similar White Top | Similar Sandals
Hudson Wide-Leg Paper Bag Jeans (size down) (also at Nordstrom Rack and Amazon): A sleeper hit if ever there was one, and perfect for all four seasons. Deceivingly heavy chambray pairs well with knits and layers for colder weather while the cropped length and paper bag waist gives them swingy spring and summer appeal. They’d even be office-worthy. Size down if you don’t want to depend on the tied belt to keep them up.
Also shown: Gap Shaker Stitch Cardigan | Similar Sandals
Ok! I think that’s it! Enjoy the video, drop a comment below with any questions (or you can always DM me on Instagram), and good luck!
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