Best High-Waisted Jeans for Women 2023

Yeah, sure, low-rise jeans are “back” — but as the writer charged with much of our jeans coverage, I have yet to find a denim aficionado who actually recommends a hip-hugger. As a die-hard high-rise-wearer myself, I don’t buy that the love for lowriders will last (there’s a reason why the style was in the outs for so long, after all). There’s nothing like a good high-waisted jean that lengthens your legs, hugs your waist, and makes your butt look fabulous. (As stylist Jessica Cadmus told me, it’s “about the derrière with denim.”) High-waisted jeans can have downsides, though, from unbearable wedgies to red midriff marks and uncomfortable pressure on your insides. So to find the best — and truly comfortable — high-waisted jeans, I asked bloggers, content creators, stylists, and those who are especially opinionated about denim to recommend their favorites. I also searched through our archives for jeans that are Strategist-approved and tried some of the most-recommended pairs to make sure they meet my own high standards. Read on for the best of the best. (Spoiler: There are lots of Levi’s below.)

Before harping on the current state of jean sizing, here’s helpful advice Strategist writer Erin Schwartz got from Clotilde Testa, owner of Walk the West and a self-described “denim whisperer”: Know your exact waist, hip, and rise measurements either through measuring yourself or your current prized pair. (The size you are in one brand may be completely different in another, so this is a more accurate method than taking one of those online fit quizzes.) Inconsistent sizing — or not finding your size at all — can be deflating, so I gave preference to brands that have a wider range, including in length. And another tip on this front from fashion content creator Tilly Macalister-Smith (who actually got it from Flora Fellowes, Net-a-Porter’s in-house denim buyer): Check the height of the model in product notes to compare where a pair will hit on you.

What makes a high-waisted jean high-waisted anyway? As Macalister-Smith tells us, anything that sits at your true waist — above your belly button — is fair game. Cadmus seconds this, saying it’s difficult to give a number for the “ideal” rise (which starts at the seam of the crotch and goes to the top of a jean). But the baseline for a high-rise is around ten inches, Cadmus adds, and many on the market are even higher than that. The rise is usually listed based on the proportions of one size, so while it’s useful to know, it can be hard to tell how a pair will look on you. That’s why I asked the experts to detail the rise of their picks as much as possible.

Purists prefer raw or rigid denim with absolutely no stretch — these jeans will have 100 percent cotton on their tags. “Raw” and “rigid” are usually synonymous, but the former is unwashed and untreated — as soon as anything is done to them, they can’t be called raw anymore, Macalister-Smith explains. Stretch supporters, meanwhile, like just a hint of either elastane or spandex at 2 percent max. “Above that would be extra stretchy,” Cadmus says, adding that stretch isn’t just about comfort — it’s also so that the “jeans snap back after each wear.” (With raw denim, she points out, there’s a breaking-in period, which can be undone with the wrong wash.) Keeping these guidelines in mind, I designated each pick on this list as not stretchy (for jeans made from 100 percent cotton), stretchy (for jeans that feature one to 2 percent stretch in the form of, say, spandex or elastane), or very stretchy (for jeans with 3 percent stretch or more).

High-waisted is an especially broad category —it’s not as specific as mom jeans, for example — and includes just about any style you can think of: flares and their cousins, bootcuts and wide-legs; skinnies and their fraternal twin, the slim; boyfriends and girlfriends. Every cut has its fans and detractors (see the backlash against skinny jeans), which is what makes the perfect pair so subjective. Among our panelists, straight-leg styles were the most popular, but for variety’s sake, I’ve included different cuts to make sure there’s something for everyone.

Each recommendation is denoted as either $ (under $100), $$ ($100 to $200), or $$$ (over $200) — keeping in mind that you don’t have to overspend to get good jeans.

Levi’s Wedgie Icon Fit Ankle Women's Jeans
Very Good Deal

Sizes: 23–39 (plus-sizes here) with 26-, 28-, and 30-inch inseams | Rise: 10.85 inches | Stretch: Stretchy | Style: Tapered straight-leg | Price: $

There was one pair I heard about over and over again: the Wedgies from Levi’s. Named for their cheekier backside, these aren’t the highest high-rise on this list, but have a “natural rise that hits right at your belly button, so it’s high but not too high,” explains Bird founder Jennifer Mankins. The Wedgies come in a number of sizes, and have the distinction of working for petites and talls because they are available in three different inseams — I’m around five-two and didn’t have to cuff the 26-inch version, something that almost never happens (even when I buy a pair branded as petite). 

Mankins likens the Wedgies to vintage 501s, although with a more generous cut throughout. Madewell’s head of design, Joyce Lee, adds that the slight stretch (in the form of 1 percent Lycra) makes them more appealing to our modern sensibilities around fit (meaning these have more give). When I tried a pair for myself, I found that they became more comfortable on the second wear — on the first, they felt a bit snug due to the stiffness of the denim. As for how they fit, the Wedgies are described as “curve-highlighting,” and I thought they hugged just right.

Among the Wedgies’ ever-growing following is Dianna Cohen, founder of hair-care line Crown Affair, who wears hers weekly, saying “they look as great on when they’re still tight and just out of the wash as they do once they’re more worn and loosen up.” Sara Zucker, director of social media at Korres, favors the Wedgies in the Icon fit, which has a more tapered leg, and says they are “shockingly flattering,” especially “if you’re going to dip your toe in the pool of frump.”

Abercrombie ’90s Ultra-High-Rise Straight Jeans
Very Good Deal

Sizes: 23–37, with 26.5-, 28.5-, 30.5-, 32.5-inch inseams | Rise: 11 inches | Stretch: Stretchy | Style: Straight-leg | Price: $

You might recognize Abercrombie’s 90s Ultra High Rise from our ultimate jeans story and petite-specific jean guide. I’ve included them here as well since Abercrombie offers them in two different petite lengths: short, designed for anyone five-foot to five-foot-three (in sizes 27 to 37), and extra-short, which is only offered for sizes 23 to 30 and made for those under five feet. (If you’re on the taller side, the jeans are also available in a 32.5-inch inseam.) Those options sealed the deal for me, as someone who’s five-foot-two and often has a hard time finding petite jeans that are actually petite. The 90s Ultra High Rise also previously received praise from Serrano and photographer Lizbeth Hernandez. Serrano sported them while doing “a round of high kicks with the Radio City Rockettes” if you’re curious about their comfort level. And Hernandez describes them as “perfect for my curvy body.”

Madewell Stovepipe Jean
Very Good Deal

Sizes: 23–33 with 30-inch inseam (with a “standard” inseam of 27 inches and a petite inseam of 26 inches for reference) | Rise: 11 inches | Stretch: Stretchy | Style: Slimmer straight-leg | Price: $$

If you’re tall, Madewell can be a goldmine for jeans — as long as there’s enough stock. The brand’s tall section sells out often, in part because it offers two inseams, to cater to “tall” and “taller” folks: The former is for those who are between five-foot-eight and five-foot-11, and the latter is for those who are six feet and up (note that the “taller” sizes are usually the first to go). Former Strategist writer Chloe Anello, who’s five-foot-nine, has cultivated a whole collection of Madewell’s “tall” jeans in a variety of the brand’s cuts. Former Strategist social-media editor Hannah Stark, who’s five-foot-ten, says her Madewells are “the only jeans that fit my body correctly.” I have heard good things about this Stovepipe cut, which has a slimmer straight-leg and 2 percent elastane for comfort.

Universal Standard Seine High Rise Skinny Jeans

Sizes: 00–40 with 24-, 27-, 30-, and 32-inch inseams | Rise: 11 inches | Stretch: Very stretchy | Cut: Skinny | Price: $

Universal Standard is a Strat-favorite brand that is known for its size inclusivity; we’ve also featured it in our guides to the best plus-size work pants and jeans. Its best-selling Seine jeans are a particular standout, available in sizes 00 through 40 as well as four inseams ranging from 24 inches to 32 inches. Freelance film writer Maggie Fremont was the first to evangelize them to us, back in 2018: “When I first put these jeans on, I legitimately giggled,” Fremont writes. As a self-described “thick-calved girl addicted to skinny jeans,” she liked that the pair balanced structure and comfort, with an 11-inch rise and stretch in all the right places. Since then, petite-plus influencer Natalie Craig has also sung the jeans’ praises, emphasizing how comfortable they are. The Seines are on the stretchier side, with 4 percent elastane, so you might even consider sizing down (as suggested by the brand) for an especially close-to-the-leg fit.

Levi's Ribcage Ankle Jeans
Very Good Deal

Sizes: 23–42 (plus-sizes here) with 27- and 29-inch inseams | Rise: 12 inches | Stretch: Stretchy | Style: Straight-leg | Price: $

Levi’s Ribcage jeans are a Goldilocksian wonder with a number of devotees. They feature a “deliriously high” 12-inch rise favored by Strategist editor Maxine Builder; the result, as content creator Amy Serrano describes it, is “legs for days.” The rise on these is just over an inch higher than that of our top-pick Wedgies — but I really noticed the difference when I tried a pair myself. I felt firmly held in, especially in the waist. The Ribcage’s straight-leg cut is also a little roomier than that of the Wedgies — though they’re similar stretch-wise, with more of a give on your second wear. New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff describes the legs as having “just the right amount of flare.”

Levi's 501 Original Fit Jeans
Very Good Deal

Sizes and lengths: 23–34 with a 30- or 32-inch inseam | Rise: 11.125 inches | Stretch: Not stretchy | Style: Straight-leg | Price: $$

Back in 1873, Levi Strauss invented the jeans now known as the 501s. These are as classic as they come. I’ve heard lots of folks describe the 501s as a standard bearer to judge their other jeans, with many owning vintage versions of the style. You don’t have to shop secondhand to get them, though — the company has kept its familiar fitted straight-leg silhouette for more than a century. In comparison to the Wedgies, which have a rise of 10.85 inches, and the Ribcages, with their ultra-high 12-inch rise, the 501s come in at just over 11 inches. So you’re getting a “semi-high waist,” says musician Aly Michalka. She adds that “the more worn they are, the better they look and feel.” Celebrity stylist Karla Welch (who has collaborated with Levi’s in the past) stole her first-ever pair of 501s from her brother — and agrees that they only get better with age. The 501s top our list of the very best men’s jeans, too — with Drew Westphal, who works in digital marketing, saying, “There’s a reason that modern-day denim companies use the fit of the 501 to make their own jeans.”

Agolde Riley High-Rise Straight-Crop Jeans
Very Good Deal

Sizes: 24–34 with a 26-inch inseam | Rise: 11.5 inches | Stretch: Not stretchy | Style: Cropped straight-leg | Price: $$

Agolde’s Riley jeans are more of an investment, with a price tag of just under $200 — but you can rest assured that they’ve been commended many a time on the Strategist. When I was reporting on our guide to mom jeans, Levi’s Wedgies might’ve been the most mentioned pair, but Agolde was the most mentioned brand. Their very high rise of 11.5 inches — just a half-inch lower than the Ribcages — is still comfortable to wear, which is no small feat considering they’re made from non-stretch denim. When I tested the Rileys myself, they loosened up well over a couple of wears, without losing their shape. They also have a slimmer, skinnier leg than the traditional mom jean, and they did wonders in the back, curving around my butt in a way that made me feel great — exactly how I want to feel in jeans, especially at this price point. The Rileys are also a favorite of the petite-content-creator crowd and Stella Blackmon, a filmmaker and former New York Magazine photo editor, who wears mom jeans exclusively.

Reformation Cynthia High-Rise Straight Jeans

Sizes: 23–31 with a 29-inch inseam | Rise: 12 inches | Stretch: Not stretchy | Style: Slightly cropped straight-leg | Price: $$

If the words “rigid denim” make you panic, don’t — the Cynthias won’t take much effort to break in. (Reformation suggests the jeans run a half-size small, so you might consider going up a size.) Strategist managing editor Kelsie Schrader had a “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants moment” when she first tried out this pair. “Normally, when people call jeans ‘comfortable,’ I want to ask them how much the brand is paying them to say that, but, truly, these are comfortable,” Schrader says. On her five-foot-two frame, these weren’t too long, tight, or loose, fitting her legs, thighs, and waist just right. Katie Schmidt, owner and designer of ethical fashion label Passion Lilie, also evangelized for the Cynthias in our mom-jeans guide, explaining that Reformation’s denim is usually designed for those who are leggier and these give the illusion of much longer legs.

Weekday Rowe Extra High Straight Jeans

Sizes: 23–34 with 30-, 32-, and 34-inch inseams | Rise: Not listed | Stretch: Not stretchy | Style: Straight-leg

From decade-old Swedish streetwear label Weekday, these jeans feature rigid recycled denim — at around half the price of the Reformation pair above. Weekday doesn’t list a specific rise measurement, but since the jeans have a Strategist seal of approval — writer Rachael Griffiths confirms these are indeed as “extra-high” as promised — they earned a place on this list. Until she tried these jeans, Griffiths always had trouble finding high-waisted options that fit her butt and didn’t gap at her waist. “They’re not tight around the bum, but the bum isn’t lost in a sea of fabric,” she says. These also run slimmer at the waistline, which means they don’t have much give (the jeans don’t feature any stretch after all) but are so well fitted that they lie flat on her lower back, solving the gaping problem. “Oh, and you might be thinking, ‘Extra-high — these must be a pain to sit down in,’ but they’re not at all,” Griffiths assures.

Levi’s 720 High-Rise Super-Skinny Jeans
Very Good Deal

Sizes: 23–40 (plus sizes here) with 28-, 30-, and 32-inch inseams | Rise: 10.25 inches | Stretch: Very stretchy | Style: Skinny | Price: $$

Skinny jeans were second in popularity to straight-leg styles among the people I spoke to. But of all the pairs mentioned, the Levi’s 720s emerged as the Platonic ideal of what skinny jeans should be. These have a super-close-fitting leg — almost jeggings-esque — and they’re made from a blend of polyester, elastane, and cotton, which is why I’ve labeled them as “very stretchy” rather than just “stretchy.”

Writer Diana McCorry, who owns the 720s in three washes, says they feature “enough stretch to avoid that nasty tummy compression but enough shape to create a great silhouette when you stand up.” And while McCorry often feels she has to choose between comfort in the rear and excessive tightness in the midsection, “the 720s are a little loose in the waist, but not quite enough to necessitate a belt, which is nice.” (An honorable mention goes to the Levi’s Mile Highs, which according to Strategist associate editor Jenna Milliner-Waddell are “super stretchy to the point where you can size down and have enough compression to suck everything in.”)

Frame Le High Flare
Very Good Deal

Sizes and lengths: 23–34 with a 34-inch inseam | Rise: 10 inches | Stretch: Stretchy | Style: Skinny through thighs, flare from knees | Price: $

The flare on these Frames is “like a cherry but on the bottom,” says Cadmus. They are meant to be reminiscent of bell-bottoms, with a decidedly more form-fitting shape through the hips and thighs that widens into a flare at the knees. The cut adds even more interest to their waist-defining ten-inch rise (which is at the lower end of “high,” and the lowest on this list) and butt-sculpting shape. Plus, they’re comfortable to wear, promises Cadmus. “Actual vintage high-waisted flare jeans sans stretch from the ’70s feel constricting,” she says. (One such pair she owns requires her to lie in bed and pull the zipper up with a hanger to get them on.) But this jean has the right kind of stretch that makes them keep their structure while you’re wearing them.

Rolla’s Sailor Jeans

Sizes: 24–31 with 28.5-inch inseam | Rise: 11.75 inches | Stretch: Stretchy | Style: Wide-leg | Price: $$

Digital content creator Carrie Carrollo introduced me to Australian denim brand Rolla’s Sailor Jeans (which she, in turn, discovered at a small store in Cobble Hill called Article&). Carollo, who’s five-foot-five, was slightly dubious about whether they would work for her — the ultra-high-waisted, dramatically flared jeans seemed more suited for those who are taller. But these fit perfectly. “The waist-to-hip ratio, for my body type, really works,” she says. And the wider wide-leg really does call back to disco-era bell-bottoms: “Paired with a vintage T-shirt, I always feel like they look extra ’70s.”

Wrangler Westward 62 High-Rise Bootcut Jeans

Sizes: 24–34, with 30-, 32-, 34-, and 36-inch inseams | Rise: 12 inches | Stretch: Stretchy | Style: Bootcut | Price: $

These jeans have the same high rise as the Levi’s Ribcage with a bootcut leg. But if you’re going for that cowboy-inspired fit, there’s nothing better than a pair of Wranglers. Model Georgia May Jagger (who has been the face of the company’s heritage campaigns) can’t live without this pair, which have “that classic Wrangler look” with a more figure-hugging leg up to the knee and a full-on flare at the bottom. And she should know — she has been wearing Wranglers her entire life, thanks to the deep Wranglers devotion that runs in her family (one of her aunts would even wear them while performing actual rodeos). Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens has also heard several testimonials from friends about the power of Wranglers.

• Chloe Anello, former Strategist writer
• Stella Blackmon, filmmaker and former New York Magazine photo editor
• Casey Brown, blogger
• Maxine Builder, Strategist editor
• Jessica Cadmus, personal stylist
• Carrie Carrollo, digital content creator
• Sarah Chiwaya, plus-size-brand consultant
• Dianna Cohen, founder of hair-care line Crown Affair
• Natalie Craig, petite-plus influencer
• Maggie Fremont, freelance film writer
• Rachael Griffiths, Strategist writer
• Monica Heisey, writer
• Lizbeth Hernandez, photographer
• Georgia May Jagger, model
• Tessa Jennifer, founder of Auralie
• Simone Kitchens, Strategist senior editor
• Joyce Lee, Madewell’s head of design
• Tilly Macalister-Smith, fashion content creator
• Jennifer Mankins, Bird founder
• Aly Michalka, musician
• Jenna Milliner-Waddell, Strategist associate editor
• Diana McCorry, writer
• Dominique Pariso, Strategist writer
• Chelsea Portner, Buzzfeed project manager
• Hailey Rizzo, the blogger behind Feeling Good As Hail
• Amy Serrano, content creator
• Katie Schmidt, owner and designer of ethical fashion label Passion Lilie
• Kelsie Schrader, Strategist managing editor
• Erin Schwartz, Strategist writer
• Hannah Starke, former Strategist social-media editor
• Alexis Swerdloff, New York deputy editor
• Clotilde Testa, owner of Walk the West
• Karla Welch, celebrity stylist
• Sara Zucker, director of social media at KORRES

Additional reporting by Angelica Frey and Hilary Reid

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