Our model, Michelle Ostermeyer, wears a pair of flare-leg jeans that provide a visual balance to the hips.
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How we love our jeans.
How we dislike trying them on - and on and on - in the search for a pair that fits well and is comfortable, flattering, and stylish.
According to a survey by Levi Strauss & Co., women say jeans are the second-most-difficult item to fit, right after bathing suits.
"Finding the right one is a project," said Sarah Lyons, manager and buyer at Sophie's Sister in downtown Toledo.
The upscale women's clothing shop recently offered advice on how jeans should fit as part of a presentation called "What Not to Wear" during a Girls' Night Out at Avenue Bistro on West Central Avenue.
A key checkpoint is at the waist, said Miss Lyons. The waistband should lay flat to your back, she advised. "If there is a gap, keep searching."
Proportion also is important: If you're a little hippy, go for a style with a wider leg opening - a flare rather than a straight-leg cut - to provide balance, she continued. A low-rise jean - with a waistband just below the navel - also is a good choice for the pear-shaped shopper.
Levi Strauss & Co. s Intellifi t System scans shoppers bodies and recommends sizes and styles of jeans based on the measurements.
A straight-leg style will lengthen the leg visually and appeal to fashion-forward types who might want to cuff it and wear it with high-heel boots, Miss Lyons said.
Jeans have become a fashion piece, she observed: "They serve many purposes and are an acceptable fashion even for dress-up occasions with a strappy pair of heels and a great jacket."
Complicating the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans is the increased number of choices on the market, Miss Lyons said. "When we opened [in November, 2003], we had two denim lines. We now have five or six, because we have found the need to have enough variety for different body types."
But the industry that is giving us more styles and brands to sort through also has blessed us with spandex, bestowing a forgiving stretch in some brands and styles. "It's helping jeans fit better," Miss Lyons said.
Levi Strauss & Co. of San Francisco, which has been making jeans for more than 130 years, has recently offered high-tech help to shoppers in the form of an electronic body scanner that recommends size and style based on a person's body measurements. The Intellifit System is being test marketed in five cities this spring: New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Sarah Lyons, manager of Sophie s Sister, models jeans that fi t properly at the waistband, with no gap in the back.
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It works like this: the shopper (fully clothed) steps into a cylindrical glass booth. The system performs a body scan, cross-references the measurements with Levi's product offerings, and in about 10 seconds spits out its recommendations.
"Literally, almost every day we've had 1 1/2 to two-hour lines out the door," Amy Gemellaro, a spokesman for Levi Strauss, said in a telephone interview. Ms. Gemellaro, who is based in San Francisco, was speaking from New York City, where people were lining up to try the fit system at the Levi's Store in SoHo.
Ms. Gemellaro said the company tried the technology first on its own employees. "People were so thrilled with the results," she said; many were surprised at recommendations for styles that they'd never considered - a high waist or boot cut, for example.
The same Levi's survey in which women rated jeans the second-most-difficult item to fit also showed that fit matters to men, too. Men in the survey rated it as their No. 1 reason to buy a pair of jeans - although Ms. Gemellaro noted that men and women look at the issue in different ways.
"He's looking at fit in general - comfort physically and [comfort with] style," she explained. "She's more interested in the personal esthetic."
Ms. Gemellaro agreed with Miss Lyons that the fit challenges posed by jeans result from the confusing number of styles and manufacturers, not because of the nature of the fabric or the garment itself. Both have stood the test of time, "amazingly so," Ms. Gemellaro said.
Fit also relates to one's personal style, she pointed out. Some people like their jeans snug, others want some breathing room, for example. A particular pair of jeans might be comfortable physically but all wrong in terms of one's self-image or sense of fashion.
Nevertheless, Ms. Gemellaro offered some advice based on body type.
Regarding the rear view: "Women shouldn't wear pockets that are centered on your backside," she said. They should be slightly low, giving the illusion of a smaller seat.
Men whose rear end is somewhat flat could benefit from a visual lift offered by a style that rests a little low on the hips and has less fabric at the crotch, she said.
A style with the waistband at the hip bone will give the illusion of a longer torso, Ms. Gemellaro continued. A lower-cut jean, sitting just below the waist, "is good for a belly," she noted. "The last thing you want to do is throw fabric all over yourself if you're trying to minimize."
A high-waist jean is flattering for people with straight, slim shapes, she said.
Ms. Gemellaro said Levi Strauss expects to offer the Intellifit System in additional markets.
If you don't want to wait for it to come here, another option is offered by Lands' End Custom, a program that started with chinos in October, 2001, and added men's and women's jeans in April, 2002. Other custom garments have been added since then.
The process starts at landsend.com by filling out a questionnaire about sizing and desired features. The company uses that information and a database of what it says are more than 5 million sets of detailed body measurements to come up with the customer's "fit profile." That becomes the pattern for a garment that is individually cut and sewn.
The profile is saved for future orders and can be adjusted if you lose a bit here or spread a bit there.
Contact Ann Weber at: firstname.lastname@example.org