The rise of the rise: High waist jeans make their comeback


The first time I tried on a pair of high rise jeans I was skeptical. In the sea of low rise denim that we’d been floating through since the early 2000’s, any fly that zipped up past 8 inches seemed so unreasonable, so impossibly counter-trend that only fashion girls could pull it off.

In my mind, high rise jeans couldn’t possibly be comfortable. How was I supposed to sit? How would my butt look? Would they exaggerate my already short torso making me look like I was willingly subjecting myself to an all-day wedgie?

High rise jeans have front rises between 9 and 11 inches… 11+ being super high. With more and more of these styles making an appearance, I knew I had to at least give them a try.

Skepticism hung in the air around me right up until the moment I pulled a pair of DL1961 Margaux skinnies up over my booty and zipped them to completion just under my belly button. At 9.5 inches, they were the highest rise I’d ever dared to try.

And my instant reaction… O.M.G. These jeans feel like a hug! I couldn’t believe how secure and supported I felt. My ingrained need to suck in my stomach dissipated immediately. My butt felt like it was being lovingly lifted.

Surely they wouldn’t pass a “sit test” (a highly scientific test where I sit down) but incredibly, the fabric had enough give to comfortably move with me without bunching up in front.

But the true joy came when I had the rest of my outfit styled and realized that they looked better than fine. They looked great! Everything was streamlined and I could swear I was standing up straighter. It was a true miracle, and all the skepticism I’d had for high waisted jeans disappeared.

My prior distaste for high rise jeans had two distinct origins:

A pair of vintage Levis with an 11 inch rise but no stretch.
  • The last time I’d rocked high waisted jeans as a middle schooler in the 90s was during a time when the fabric content of denim was almost entirely cotton. Jeans were rigid and unforgiving, and if they didn’t fit perfectly they didn’t fit at all. I must have internalized that feeling of discomfort.
  • I also have a short torso and if I’ve learned anything in fashion, it’s that we are constantly striving to elongate. I figured high rise jeans would do the opposite of that for me by cutting into precious midriff real estate.

I was relieved to find that high rise styles of the modern era have it figured out on both fronts. Most designers use fabric with enough stretch that higher waist styles move with you instead of against you like the denim corsets of jeans past.

And proportion is key when it comes to styling higher rise denim. Under a flowy or slouchy top, the rise of jeans is almost irrelevant and a strategic top tuck let’s you define your waist. Under cropped or tighter tops, the higher rise keeps a tummy streamlined and supported giving you a little added confidence to rock the full look.

This high waisted girlfriend style jean has a bit of casual slouch to it, but with the higher rise and a tucked shirt, there is a defined waist keeping the look chic and pulled-together.

With a cropped top, high waisted denim helps support and streamline your midriff.

I literally don’t know what I was so worried about because a defined waist, midriff support, and elongation of the leg works for every body type. Balanced against shoe height and the fall of your top, high waisted styles are universally flattering in a variety of cuts from skinny to full bell bottom.

And just like that, I went from burned skeptic to believer and realized that high rise jeans weren’t just for leggy fashion girls, they can work for anyone.

Have you taken the plunge on high rise denim?

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