Sure, we all know what basics women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.
We haven’t done a roundup on the best jeans to wear to work in far too long — so I thought we’d go on a hunt, particularly since we’re all stuck working from home for a while now!
A lot of readers have noted that if you’re not on Team Sweatpants, odds are good you’re on Team Denim — one of the biggest marks in their favor is that jeans have less give than sweatpants, so you can notice more quickly if you’re gaining or losing weight. Fair point!
For those of you in business casual offices, which are your favorite jeans to wear to work? For those of you with “jean Fridays,” how do you wear jeans to work? In your mind, how are “jeans for work” different from weekend jeans — and how does that translate during these crazy days when we’re all working from home?
For my $.02, I’d say that the best jeans for work should be:
- dark rinse or largely one color — not too much distressing or fading
- no rips or other embellishments (e.g., embroidery)
- probably a more traditional cut (skinny, bootcut, straight leg) versus a trendier cut (Mom jeans, baggy boyfriend jeans, some of the crazy paper bag waists)
Denim is always special to me because I worked on a denim encyclopedia for one of my first seven jobs!)
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Some of our Hall of Famers are pictured here (am I the only one who distinguishes denim mostly by what the back pocket looks like?)
Below: 1) Paige 2) Madewell 3) Topshop 4) Wit & Wisdom 5) Levi’s
2022 Update: These are some of the best jeans for work (affiliate links): 1) Paige 2) Madewell 3) Topshop 4) Wit & Wisdom 5) Levi’s
- Hall of Famers (pictured above): Wit & Wisdom, Paige, Madewell, Levi’s, Topshop
- Affordable Denim: Wit & Wisdom, Topshop, Levi’s, Everlane
- Maternity Sizes: Paige, Isabella Oliver, Madewell, Topshop, J.Brand, Old Navy (check out our discussion at CorporetteMoms on the best maternity jeans for work and play, including whether folks prefer over the bump or under the bump styles)
- Plus Sizes (pictured below): Wit & Wisdom, Good American, Universal Standard, Madewell, Lane Bryant, Kut from the Cloth
Some of the best plus-size jeans for work: 1) Universal Standard 2) Madewell 3) Lane Bryant 4) Wit & Wisdom
(If you are interested in plus size workwear, please sign up for CorporettePlus, our newsletter! Signing up helps us gauge interest in the project, and we promise not to blast your email more than once a week at most. (Right now it’s really infrequent!)
Psst: here’s our latest conversation about skinny versus bootcut.
The Affordable, Stretchy Jean
Wit & Wisdom dominates a lot of the top-rated denim at Nordstrom. Their jeggings have 598 great ratings; their skinny ankle jeans have 570 rave reviews, their stretch skinny jeans have 407 great ratings, and their bootcuts have 170 great ratings. (The brand is also one of my personal favorites — I find them flattering, stretchy enough to handle her curves, and the price is hard to beat!) They look great, especially for the price, and they come in petite and regular sizes 0–16, as well as plus sizes. Wit & Wisdom Ab-Solution Denim / sale options!
Along these lines of “stretchy comfy,” I’d include personal favorites like NYDJ and Kut from the Kloth in general — I’ve loved the Alina style in the past from NYDJ; their Marilyn and Barbara cuts are also extraordinarily highly rated.
The $200 Everyday Jean
People just love these jeans from Paige — so far they have 129 reviews and almost 5 stars. They come in a bunch of different colorways, as well as various levels of distressing (going up to “destructed”), and they’re available in sizes 23 to 32 for $126 (sale price) to $219. I like the basic blue denim of the pictured jeans. (This other Paige style is also very popular!) Pictured above: Paige Verdugo Skinny Jeans / sale options! Paige Transcend – Verdugo Ankle Skinny Jeans
If you’re a fan of Paige but not these exact ones, this ultra skinny is a slightly different option that’s a bestseller at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. Some other contenders for fancy (expensive) denim: these skinny jeans from AG are bestsellers at Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, and these J.Brand skinny jeans are bestsellers at Bloomingdale’s.
Affordable Trendy Jeans
These jeans come in different lengths by inches, like men’s jeans, which is great if you’re looking for something shorter (and huzzah for brands finally offering that option to women!). Of course, Topshop will be on the younger, smaller side, but a lot of Nordstrom customers seem to really like these jeans. They’re available in blue, gray, and black denim and range from $41 (sale price) to $75. Topshop Moto ‘Jamie’ Skinny Jeans / sale options!
Other contenders here include Everlane (“premium Japanese denim”), for sure — Reformation is on the pricier side but I’d probably include them here as well. (Although there’s a lot of Reformation denim down to $53-$64 in the spring Nordstrom sale!) What else would you include in this category?
The Cool Girl Brand (Fancy)
What brands do you put in the “cool girl” category right now, for those of you who are more on the trendy side? I would probably include FRAME, MOTHER, Rag & Bone, R13, Khaite, and AGolde… The FRAME ones pictured above are best sellers (88 great ratings!) at Nordstrom; you can also find them at Bloomingdale’s and Shopbop.
The Best-Selling OG Brand
I mostly hear people raving about the Levi pull-on jeans in the “under $30” range, but the ones pictured above are the TOP selling jean at Amazon right now. It looks like the 711 and 721 skinny styles are both extraordinarily popular at other Levi’s retailers like Kohl’s, JC Penney, Nordstrom, and Macy’s. The Wedgie cuts (man, hate that name) are also pretty highly rated at Nordstrom, Anthro, and others.
In terms of other OG brands, what else would you include? I might say Gap, for example, but I’ve heard far more rave reviews of sister store Old Navy’s Rockstar jeans than I have recently of Gap’s denim. Madewell denim seems to be a ton more popular/on-point than J.Crew’s. What else would you guys include in the OG category?
In general, what denim are you wearing right now? What cuts, styles, rinses? What do you think are the best jeans to wear to work?
Like this feature? Check out other recent installments!
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / belchonock.
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Madewell or Banana Republic. Can someone explain white jeans to me? Like, how do you not stain them and what do you wear them with?
Yes – they say summer! Wear with any top really, brights or neutrals and a fun sandal. So versatile. And don’t eat food without a napkin or make sure you’re well tucked in under the table.
Anon Probate Atty
I have BR white jeans that are actually stain-resistant, which was my number 1 problem with white jeans before. I love wearing them with blue or denim tops that I feel don’t look good can’t otherwise wear with jeans as it’s too much tone-on-tone. They look great with black tops, too.
Personally? Target, Cat & Jack, bootcut dark rinse, from the boys’ section; if your Target doesn’t label the kids’ clothing by gender, you want the section with the dinosaurs and bold colors, not the one with the sequins and pastels. Only works because I’m kind of small (5’3”, 120lb), but size 14 fits me pretty well. And they are actually quite sturdy. Just don’t mention where you got them.
(They are also incredibly cheap in comparison to the rest of these. I wasn’t usually paying more than $20/pair.)
I recently tried the Paige Maternity Jeans, and have been really impressed! I got them at Nordstrom Rack for about $60 per pair, and bought two styles (a bootcut and a skinny, dark rinse). I’m tall and curvy (size 14/33) and about 5.5 months pregnant, and they fit me really well. I bought Old Navy jeans last time, and, while they were much cheaper, they just never fit well. The Paige Maternity jeans are so SOFT, and the design (with the inset panels) fits me better than the full panel.
Small Law Partner
None of my favorites are listed here. Cotton Citizen, AG, Rails, R13. I also wear light wash and distressed jeans to work, so I guess it is a know your office thing. Love to do a fancy blouse like a silk secretary blouse with distressed denim and funky heels or flats.
+1 to AG. Also love 7 For All Mankind
I can’t wait to wear my “tightie whitey” jeans this summer. They have to be worn carefully b/c you do not want to stain them or sit somewhere that is dirty, or they will quickly get ruined. Last year, I gave Luz 2 white jeans b/c they both had stains on the back legs b/c I sat on the bus with them. That was stupid of me, but I was tired and did NOT want to stand for 40 blocks.