Gemma Cartwright writes...

I have a love / hate relationship with jeans. It's no big secret that I'm a dress girl, but there are days when only denim will do. It surprises people to discover that I own about a dozen pairs of jeans, but the truth is, I only have so many because I've never found the perfect style for me.

And I know I'm not the only one - when I asked on Twitter recently what people found the hardest item of clothing to buy, almost everyone came back saying jeans! They're notoriously tricky, with so many washes, cuts and textures on offer, but they're also an absolute wardrobe staple so it's worth hunting down the perfect pair.

So I turned to Donna Ida Thornton for advice.

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About Donna Ida

Donna is a self-confessed denim addict who decided to open her own boutique - with a huge emphasis on customer service and advice - after experiencing poor service buying jeans in department stores. She now has four London boutiques and an online store, all of which stock premium denim brands, from J Brand to MIH in sizes 23 to 34 (plus a capsule collection of tops and accessories).

The price tag for designer denim may be high (£200+ a pair) but at Donna Ida you pay for the service as much as you do the jeans and if you can splash out, it may well be worth it. You can visit the 'denim clinic' and be fitted for the perfect pair by one of the experts working in store. Think of it like a bra fitting, but with more denim! This idea is replicated online with videos full of fitting advice and an extensive set of resources that aim to take the nightmare out of navigating the hundreds of options, but if you can get to London, I absolutely recommend going instore if you can.


The Fitting

For my fitting, I visited the Belgravia store, with the lovely Claire on hand to guide me through the maze of options. Firstly, I was asked what I was looking for, and explained I wanted something I could wear for work or play, quite a classic shape in a darkish wash. My only stipulations were no skinny jeans, and no bright colours.

These requirements were then combined with Claire's knowledge of what works for my body shape, and I was I was quickly dispatched to the fitting room with various recommendations, plus a plain white t-shirt to try them all on with.

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The store is really well-designed for trying on. The fitting room is generous, with a mirror inside, but also a second curtain that opens out into the back of the shop, where there's a raised platform (something I've only seen in bridal shops before) surrounded by a 3-way mirror so you can really get a good look at the jeans from all angles. The team keep a couple of pairs of shoes on hand too, so you can try on with different heel heights.

It's also worth mentioning that Donna Ida offers a tailoring service - they'll take up hems, take in the waist and even add maternity panels (and remove them later) for the perfect fit. One of the pairs of jeans I tried had a ridiculous 36" inseam, but if I'd chosen those they would have been pinned there and then so they could be hemmed to fit.

The jeans I tried

Most of the styles I tried had a flare or were slightly bootcut. I'm a size 14 (occasionally a 12), slightly pear-shaped, with long legs, a short torso and a small waist, so a slight kick at the ankle balances my proportions (skinny jeans have a bit of a 'parsnip' effect on me). Going into Donna Ida, I was convinced I needed a 31" waist minimum when it came to jeans as that's what I've worn before. Claire very quickly had me trying 29" waists and I was amazed to find they fit - going for a stretch denim in a slightly higher rise really worked for me and I found I got a much better fit than I'd ever had before. Previously the styles I've tried have been far too low-rise, sitting on my widest part (which is why I needed a bigger size). I think I was frightened of the 'mom jeans' curse of a mid or high rise, but actually I found once they were on, all these styles looked chic and modern and worked with my body. It's a testament to the Donna Ida team's knowledge that they knew exactly what would work so nothing I tried was a disaster. The only trouble was picking a favourite.


MiH Skinny Marrakesh in Joplin

These are the jeans with the 36" inseam, so if you're tall, these are an absolute godsend! There's nothing worse than a flare that's too short to wear with heels and I can imagine these looking brilliant on a tall woman. Sadly, at 5'7 I would have lost most of the flare in these once they were altered, and though I absolutely loved the dark wash and slight 70s vibe (Claire called the Nicole Richie jeans) they just weren't quite the right fit.

Citizens of Humanity Amber Corpus

Probably my second favourites, these had only a tiny bootcut kick at the hem, and they looked amazing with the heels I tried them with. The mid-rise was flattering without being frumpy, but they were a bit tight across the hips (going up a size would have gaped on the waist) so that eventually made me decide to go for a different pair.

J Brand Kiki in Lotus

The problem with Kiki for me was that the flare was just a bit too wide, and coupled with the 'vintage' wash down the front of the thigh, they looked a little bit too much like the jeans I wore as a teenager, albeit without the disgusting dragons around the hem (don't judge, I was 14). The fit on the waist and hips was gorgeous and the denim was beyond beautiful - it felt more like velvet - but the shape just wasn't for me.

Paige Skyline Bootcut in Fountain

I actually own a pair of Paige jeans already so am familiar with the quality and fit, but these are so much nicer than the ones I have, which could explain the massive discount I got on mine (£40 in a clearance sale). However, like the pair I own, I found the waistband a little bit inflexible, and felt like these might dig in over time. The shape was beautiful though.

The Final Choice

I eventually settled on Hudson 'Beth', a 'baby bootcut' style (somewhere between straight leg and bootcut) in the adorably named 'all you need is love' wash.


They were the second pair I tried and though I liked some of the other ones, I kept going back to these. At £205 a pair, they're the most expensive pair of jeans that have ever graced my derriere, but I have to say, I can instantly tell the difference between these and the cheap high street jeans I've worn in the past. The denim is super-soft and stretchy and keeps its shape brilliantly, but the real seller for me was the fit around the waist (tight, but not digging in) and the bum. These jeans really hug the body. Hudson's chunky pockets are cleverly placed to give a 'lift', and the stretch in the jeans works a bit like shapewear for extra perkiness. Who can say no to that? I also loved the the slightly lighter wash (vintage-esque without looking too washed out) and the length was perfect too, meaning no alterations were needed.


Though the cost of premium jeans is high, I can't speak highly enough of the service at Donna Ida. If you struggle to find jeans to fit and don't really know what to look for, I honestly think it's worth saving up for a trip to the store, rather than buying two or three ill-fitting pairs from the high street in the meantime. This is the first time I've ever gone jeans shopping and not come out feeling horrible about my body. By finding the style and fabric that worked for me, the team showed me that I can wear jeans without compromising on fit, comfort or both. It's all about quality, know-how and a little bit of stretch!

There are four Donna Ida boutiques (Westfield, Belgravia, Chelsea and Guildford). Click here for store details. You can also visit the online denim clinic by clicking here.

[Store photographs (c) Donna Ida. Donna Ida Thornton photo by Jackie Dixon]