I will never forget when I discovered jeans that actually made me feel good about myself.
I was visiting Spain as part of a 10-day student exchange program when I walked into Zara for the first time. (Mind you, this was 12 years ago, so it wasn’t quite the global fast-fashion giant it is today.) I felt like I, a 16-year-old first-gen kid from Nebraska, was stepping into the closet of a stylish, jet-setting friend—one who maybe didn’t go through the teenage phases and fads I was at the time. At that point, I was in full-fledged “prep” mode, reaching for my ripped flared jeans and cotton polo from Hollister on the daily. But that trip to Zara wound up being a revelation—it’s where I found the jeans that changed it all.
The jeans in question were skinny cut, something I hadn’t ever seen in American stores. They were the perfect wash: mostly on the darker side, with strategically-placed patches of fadedness along the front. And, in keeping with the trends of the time, they were low-rise. But I didn’t feel self-conscious in them because they actually fit—an entirely new phenomenon for me. Though I was relatively thin, I had wide hips, thick thighs, and a big butt that made shopping for denim an absolute nightmare. (And it remains a generally unpleasant experience tbh.)
I still own those Zara jeans, even though they’re a bit too big for me lately. But I can’t toss them out. They encapsulate so much more than just being the perfect pair of jeans. I picked them up on my first trip to Europe, when my lifelong love affair with Spain—and eternal sense of wanderlust—began. I’ve had my heart broken in those jeans. I’ve stayed up dancing until 3 a.m. in those jeans. They accompanied me from my childhood home to my college dorm room to my first apartment and beyond. The memories are simply too numerous to count.
I wanted to find out if other women had developed similar connections with a pair of jeans. And as it turns out, many of us have: Below, seven women recount their experiences of finally finding that perfect denim they can’t let go of—even as trends come and go, and their lives change over time.
We bring you the trends. You make them your own. Sign up for our daily newsletter to find the best fashion for YOU.