A Good Pair of Jeans Will Change Your Life

I don't know about guys, but for girls, shopping for jeans is almost as painful as shopping for a new swimsuit. I sometimes refer to jeans shopping as "Proportions: Impossible" because at 4'10, jeans are never the right length and -- more often than not -- the placement of the knees, and the rise, are ridiculous; yes, even in the petites section. I know the same goes for my tall friends. It seems like the perfect pair of jeans are the sartorial equivalent of the unicorn: beautiful, much-desired and totally fictional.

Maybe not totally, but it can feel that way as you discard pair after pair over a fitting room door. Too long, too tight or too loose in the wrong spot, crappy zipper, ugly wash, funky cut that makes you look too dated -- a myriad of things can go wrong when you are shopping for jeans. So here are a few tips that can help it go right. Or right-er.

You probably already know some of these rules, but they bear repeating:

Dark wash is your friend: There is really nothing wrong with light wash jeans, but the fact is a pair of jeans in a dark wash is going to give you more bang for your buck. They are simply more appropriate, for more occasions and more venues. • Straight/trouser cut is universally flattering: Keep one pair of these jeans in your closet (again, dark wash!) and you will reach for them time and again. • Read the label: Sure, jeans are made of durable cotton, but treat them nicely, as the manufacturer intends. If you have the budget, dry cleaning keeps them in the best condition, but hand-washing is another option; machine washing, inside-out to preserve color, is yet another option. Hanging to dry and ironing your jeans? Yep. Or dry in the dryer until damp and then let them air-dry the rest of the way. Lucky Jeans has an extensive care guide with tips for caring for your (well, their) denim.

So how about what jeans to buy? Good jeans don't really come cheap, unfortunately. The problem with inexpensive jeans is that even if you find a pair that looks great in the store, they are going to lose their shape and color more quickly, especially if you don't plan on dry cleaning your $25 Old Navy dungarees every time they get dirty. Here are three pair of jeans that get high all-around marks.

Gap Long & Lean

A pair I've purchased several times over, the Gap Long & Lean line is great if you are long and lean or if you are engaging in some aspirational dressing. The most affordable pair on the list, they retail for $59.95-$69.95; they come in a variety of colors and washes, including a gray that I covet.

Tie: J.Crew and Banana Republic

J.Crew is a little pricier, but they have more options in terms of modern cuts and washes; Banana Republic offers less expensive jeans, but they have the ever-elusive trouser jean in a dark wash that short gals covet. Decisions, decisions!

Joe's Jeans

These prices might make you gulp, but can you really put a price tag on a piece of clothing that you will wear over and over and over again? With proper care, jeans can last for years and years, and end up costing you a few dollars -- or pennies! -- per wear. At least, that's what I tell myself when I splurge.

Joe's makes jeans in every shape, size, color, material and pattern, so if you *need* a pair of skinny windowpane jeans in blue and burgundy, they have you covered. If you are only going in for one pair, these Curvy Bootcut ("The Honey") in a dark wash with antique silver hardware are gorgeous.

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