Denim And Its Stretch Factor


We all have the problem with buying jeans and finding out after a few wears they have stretched out to be saggy in the butt. Sometimes you have to buy them super tight and wear them around the house for a while to stretch them out to the perfect fit… All of this can be super frustrating and a problem we have to go through with denim. If you are obsessed with having the perfect fit and conscious of how your jeans look just like I am then I hope this can help you in some way. I’ve put together some information on how I have found different fabric blends fit over the years.

Unfortunately with denim it’s a fabric that will ALWAYS stretch out no matter what you do, it’s that material that is just notorious for stretching because of how it’s made. 100% cotton jeans are the worst for stretching out and losing their shape because once they stretch they don’t go back in shape, they remain stretched out due to the lack of elasticity. Jeans with elastane/lycra do stretch out a bit but not as bad as rigid denim. They tend to shrink a little bit when you don’t wear them and go back into shape. When you wash or dry your jeans on a high heat to shrink them back to their original size you can actually damage the elasticity of the jean, so when it stretches it will not go back properly into shape as the elasticity is not as good as it was before, that’s why they recommend putting them on cooler washes and tumble drying on low to keep them in best condition. So the more you attempt to shrink your jeans the worse they will become over time. Sometimes there is nothing you can do but to wash and dry them on high, I am guilty of doing this to my stretch jeans and after a while they don’t fit or feel as good. Jeans I find that don’t stretch out much, if any at all, are cotton/poly blends, the poly in the blend makes them a little more stiff and non stretchy, these are not the most comfiest of jeans and they do tend to run small because of the non stretch factor but they don’t stretch out really badly, they hold their shape and size with a lot of wear. Rock & Republic do a lot of poly/cotton blend jeans, the only problem I find with this blend is they run quite big in the waist and you get a little gap.

DL1961 have released their jeans in a 4 way stretch material, meaning the jeans won’t sag or lose their shape. I own a few pairs of their jeans and they are wonderful, the denim is super soft and stretchy just like a legging but the material is thicker so they are flattering like jeans. Not only are they great material but the pocket placement is wonderful, perfectly placed for the pert bottom look. I love them! Again they are a poly/cotton blend so they are perfect if you are tired of baggy bottoms and want to keep your tush tight! But unlike other poly/cotton blends they are super comfortable! I definitely recommend them! Another specific jean I have found to be great and doesn’t stretch out is Diesel Matic, I own a lot of Matics and they seem to keep their shape really well, I think it’s because of the thickness and strength of the denim, they do stretch out but they do not lose their shape. I find them to be great. Don’t buy the 100% cotton ones, buy the the poly/cotton blend or the cotton/elastane blend.

My best advice to you if you hate your jeans sagging in the butt is to buy them tight and stretch them out, you can wet stretch them by dampening the tight areas and wearing them until they fit perfectly or you can try the cotton/poly blend as it should fit right away and stay that way just like the DL1961 4 way stretch jeans. Sometimes there is nothing else you can do but stretch your jeans out if you have fallen in love with a specific pair you know will be loose after wear, just take a size down if you know it will stretch out and wet stretch them, I know it’s hassle but if you are a denim lover and you can’t resist the jeans it’s the only way!

This post was inspired by an email I received asking for advice on this issue.

Written by Lorna Burford


  1. Thanks for another very informative article! Wet stretching sounds similar to something about girls wearing their jeans in the shower or bath to achieve that skin tight fit they were after. Wonder if that ever worked?

  2. That normally works for raw denim, shrink to fit because when you buy them completely raw they are bigger than the tagged size so they need to be shrunk, you wear them in the shower to wet them and let them dry on your body so they shrink to fit πŸ™‚

  3. My heart is breaking… how can you say ” Don’t buy the 100% cotton ones, buy the the poly/cotton blend or the cotton/elastane blend” That is nearly a sin for the denim industry… true denim guru’s cherish, promote, teach, buy and LOVE 100% cotton denim. The beauty in 100% cotton jeans is that they mold to YOUR body. You just have to love them enough to break them in. You buy them with out being able to button/zip them. The magic of 100% cotton is in the possibilities of finishing and washing possibilities. the fade, color, abrasion the opposing warp and weft effects. When my 100% cotton jeans come out of the washer they are not flat- they are curved and completely the shape of my thighs and butt; they are the MOST perfect fit- no pulling, no winkles, they don’t slide down when I sit and it’s a completely smooth leg line. To get it: you have to earn it and baby those jeans.

    EX:4 girls all a size size 27 (4) 4 pair of jeans. After 4 weeks each jean is PERMANENTLY re-shaped to CUSTOM fit each girls figure. They all start out with the same exact jeans and after 4 weeks they would not be able to swap.

    Going back to the beginning and appreciating the Diesel brand- It was the original Genius group MASTERED the 100% cotton jean- sometimes we can go to 1% but when you begin adding polyester in denim they are no longer jeans! You have to appreciate what denim is on all fiber blends… they have a purpose for each shape and shoe, season, and look. I got it all and wear absolutely everything a denim company has made, I love my jeggings too. Just trying to share some passion from one denim girl to another… You can’t love Diesel and HATE 100% cotton jeans.

  4. You read it wrong Casey, I am all for raw denim and 100% cotton, this is an article purely for those people wanting jeans that don’t stretch out and which jeans keep their shape. Not about the best denim. I completely agree that denim that moulds to your body like raw and dry denim does is amazing, everyone who is a fan of DenimBlog knows I love raw denim but this is just for those people who want jeans that do not stretch out and want jeans that cling.

  5. How about ‘how much elastane do jeans need to have in order to be the most comfortable’ ie to be able to wear them and sit down all day at the office!

  6. I would say at least 2%. I find 1% jeans are a bit stiff but then some 2% ones can be too. It completely depends on the weight of the denim too. A jeggings would be the most comfortable in my opinion.

  7. Hi Lorna,

    I hope you can help me. We are not allowed to wear denims at work. I bought myself a normal pair of blue pants and it looks a lot like a denim but I don’t think it is. The label inside says 83% Cotton and 17% Polyester. It does not stretch or shrink. Is this a denim or a normal pair of pants ?

  8. I totally agree with Casey. I have lots of cotton blends, but my 1st love will always be 100% cotton. Thats how I found this link, searching for 1005 cotton jeans. I’m so frustrated with the blends. I miss the days when I could get 100% from all my fave designers πŸ™

  9. Great Article! I decided to take your advice, so i searched for the DL1961 jeans and saw alot of nice styles. I could not find this 4 way stretch you spoke about were you meaning that all their jeans have a 4 way stretch or is that a particular style(4 way stretch) ?…..
    Also i noticed most the jeans material were saying 55% Cotton, 45% Xfit Lycra . What is Xfit Lycra?…Is that the cotton/poly combo or cotton/elastine? I didnt see any stating cotton/poly ! Thank you so much for any advice!! πŸ™‚

  10. Hi Gloria! Most of their jeans, if not all, are the 4 way stretch and fit really well. The Xfit lycra is the 4 way stretch fabric, it’s a really super stretchy fabric which holds its shape well, so when you wear them they don’t go baggy or saggy, they spring back to shape! The Xfit lycra is actual lycra, it’s not poly πŸ™‚ Hope that helps!

  11. Does anyone have AG Jeans? I bought a pair (premiere 5 years) that fit me perfectly on the first day.

    BUT, after a full day and a half or so of wearing them, they began to stretch out in the butt area. Now it looks hideous! I’m really upset I spent so much money on these jeans, only to have them look baggy in the crotch and butt area after a day. Who the heck has time to wear jeans w/the tags still on for 10 hours straight to stretch them out to see what the median fit will be like? I can’t return it. I contacted AG and they did not respond. I already tried washing them and drying them on high like 3 different times, then in a moment of desperation dumped a pot of boiling hot water on them. They still end up baggy, and in the ugliest way after a few hours.

    I don’t want to tailor them, the high cost of taking them in will end up more expensive than the jeans themselves. *Groan*…

  12. Hi Emily, yeah I have plenty of AG Jeans, they are one of my favourite brands. I have never had them end up saggy in the butt though at all. I’m really confused as to why that would happen. Were they looser to begin with? With most jeans the general rule is you should buy them tight and then they stretch out with wear, which is what usually happens. I can see they would go baggy if they fitted a little loose to start with, but they shouldn’t be hideous. I wouldn’t have recommended doing the dryer either though, putting that much high heat on the denim ruins the elasticity of the fabric and actually damages it so they don’t retain their shape well or fit right after that. I would definitely try contacting AG again, try calling them. That shouldn’t be the case with their jeans as they are gorgeous most of the time. How strange. Perhaps they were a defective pair? Or like I said looser to begin with?

  13. PLEASE HELP! I want to buy some jeans online, but I have no idea how they will fit. they are supposed to be jeggings and are 75% Cotton, 2% Elastane, 23% Polyester…. Can you tell me if these will be stretchy? How stretchy will they be? Or will they be stiff? I know they won’t be like leggins, which is not what I’m looking for, but I am wider in the hips so I MUST have some stretch or give, or these pants definitely will not fit me…. Thanks for any help or input!

  14. Hi, I would need to know what the jeans are. Every single brand runs differently, as do most different cuts and material, so I would need to know what they are in order to help you!

  15. Hi Lorna,

    Have you had any experience or knowledge in regards to Etienne Marcel’s? I bought a pair about 4 months ago in the store, and I fell in love with the style/cut of these jeans. Although when I tried them on at the store, I felt they were just a bit too snug, however they still looked good enough (at the time), that I said what the heck, and bought them any ways. They are 97% cotton 3% elastane. I have noticed after wearing them a few times, there is absolutely no give or stretch, especially in the legs, where it is the tightest (normally for me jeans are always tightest in the waist). Like I said, I just love their cute style. Now I am debating on buying another pair of Etienne Marcel black jean shorts but this time online, (addicted to online flash sale sites, yikes). I am now wondering if I should size up, or keep my same size? I would hate for them to become too too baggy, and at the same time, too snug. What do you think? Maybe this particular brand isn’t for my body type..?….

  16. Hi Maria! I actually hadn’t heard of Etienne Marcel until your comment, but I have since looked them up. I haven’t ever tried their jeans or looked at the brand in person so I don’t know much about them, but that is odd given that they have 3% elastane that they wont stretch. That type of blend usually always stretches out. Have you tried doing some light squats in them? I would also recommend making the thighs a little damp (not soaking) and then wear them like it, that should help stretch them too. With shorts though, I always tend to favour looser pairs myself because if the leg opening is tight then it doesn’t make my thighs look good, however, if the jeans fit you in the waist and butt perfectly, I’m inclined to think the leg opening on the shorts would be wider, so in theory you shouldn’t have the tight thigh problem!

  17. Hi Lorna. I am from India. I have a pair of denims from ZARA. It was my favorite jeans till the start of this summer. It has lost it’s fitting all of a sudden. It is stretching out, specially from my butt and lower butt area. It’s very hot and sweaty in India these days, Is this the reason for my denim losing it’s fittings. Please suggest, what should i do about it.

  18. Hi Sonia! I think the reason would be because Zara denim isn’t premium denim, it’s a cheaper denim so it’s not known for holding its shape very well. But definitely too much heat can damage denim, it’s why they don’t recommend putting your jeans in a dryer with heat, but also if it’s humid and your jeans are getting damp, this will stretch them too because the wet makes them stretch easier. It’s probably a mixture! Hope this helps!

  19. Hi Lorna,

    Ruchi here. I am looking to buy my first pair of premium denim, as all my usual ones have become totally saggy and out of shape. I absolutely love denim, and instead of buying 2-3 ill-fitting ones, I want to invest in a single good pair.

    By the way, I found your article to be quite eye-opening as far as the configuration of denim material is concerned. But I am severely limited as far as denim styles go, as I am only 5 feet even and need 28 inseam for straight-leg and 29 inseam for bootcut/flare jeans. Skinny jeans are a strict no-no for me, because even though I am super slim (US size0/00) I am quite curvy in the hip and upper thigh area and these area get too highlighted in skinny jeans, making my legs seem even shorter.

    After reading your wonderful article, I checked the DL1961 website for cotton/poly mix material but wasn’t able to find any in petite range, or in any of the regular bootcut fits. I did find the cotton/xfit blend. Call me old-fashioned but somehow I don’t like the idea of wearing denim with 45% of stretchy stuff in it. Anyways, I will try and keep in mind your advice about looking for cotton/poly blend if I want the jeans to retain its shape.

    I also had a query about the use of polyurethane in denims. I was searching the AG jeans website and came across petite jeans with 98% cotton-2% polyurethane blends. I searched on the web and found some articles stating that polyurethane was stretchy, but retained its shape much better than lycra/spandex. Could you please let me know if this is true?

    Also, I read somewhere that Paige denim has really snug fits even for super petites like me, as their sizes tend to run a little smaller. Would you have any idea about the validity of this claim? Also, how would you rate, Hudson and Citizens of Humanity denim?

    There are so many options that the more I explore the more confused I am getting. My apologies for the above diatribe.

  20. Hi Ruchi!

    Have you ever tried a skinny jean in premium denim? They fit entirely different all over compared to cheaper jeans, so they often look different. My favourite ever skinny jeans which hold their shape perfectly and fit amazingly are the James Jeans Couture skinny in Vesper. They are specifically designed to be flattering, they have padded back pockets, suction thigh wrapping, contoured waistband and a wonderful suck you in denim, they are amazing jeans, really. They are skinny, but they are so flattering.

    AG Jeans hold their shape very well, but you have to remember, if you want a pair of jeans that wont bag out and loose its shape, you need something with a lot of stretch. The rigid denim and the denim with about 2% elastane really bags out, so you are in need of something with a high stretch content. I know it’s a skinny again, but The Ankle Legging from AG is amazing. It doesn’t really stretch out at all and they are soft and incredibly flattering. Finding straight leg or bootcut jeans which don’t bag out is very hard though, they generally don’t have the stretch content needed to keep them in shape. Since I love the James Jeans Couture though in Vesper, I would recommend to you the straight leg pair? They are the same body shaping material and the same wash and will retain their shape, but in straight leg You are definitely doing the right thing by investing in an amazing fitting pair of jeans than buy numerous ones that are no good after a while. Let me know what you think of those. You can see how I have worn them a few times here as well:

  21. The general info in this post has been darn helpful. I do have a more specific question, though.

    Years ago I bought myself Levi 501’s, and they fit at the waist, but the thighs were just too tight. I’m a small guy, but athletic, and with no womanly curves to hold my pants up, it was tough finding something that was slim but still comfortable on my legs. Last year I discovered Levi’s 514 (slim straight leg), and they fit me perfectly! Of course, I have since learned the lesson that jeans stretch out, and the 30 inch waist is now too big to wear without a belt (and it even then, it definitely cinches).

    Anyway, today I found that Levi offers a “lesser” jean with their Signature line, so I hopped over to Walmart to check them out. I, again, found a great fit (the 29×30 fit pretty ideally, the 28×30 was way too tight), but my concern is in how much they may or may not stretch. I forgot the exact blend percentage, but 65% cotton/35% polyester sounds right. They’re listed as all-cotton online, so I’m not sure what’s up with that, but do you have any experience with these jeans or know how much they might stretch? I could wear the 29 waist just as it is, but if it loosens up as my others did, I’d be in the same boat again.

    Sorry for the long comment – hopefully, though, if you have an answer, this could help someone else in the future πŸ™‚

  22. Hi Mark, I don’t have experience with them as I’m a girl, sorry! But generally the rule for me and jeans is to buy them tight so they fit perfectly after they stretch out. If the jeans were cheaper from Walmart, I’m going to give a safe bet that they will stretch. What most of us here do to get the best fit is buy them tight, so it’s not comfortable, but then wear them at home for a few days to break them in, they will stretch out a lot and then you will be left with the perfect fit πŸ™‚ And if they are still a bit too tight, make them damp and wear them, they will stretch even more then! Good luck with it!

  23. Hey there. This was an interesting article!

    So I have a few jean questions; I don’t know if you’ll know or not:

    So I just bought 2 pairs of Arizona Skinny Jeans– one was 11.99 & the other was 14.99.
    Ok, so the 14.99s are 100% cotton, and the 11.99s are 98% cotton 2% Spandex.
    The ones I have been wearing are the 100% cotton ones, and they are just a little tight, I am wondering if I just wear them normally (a few days without washing is normal for me) and then wash them on whatever setting, (cold, warm, whatever) if they will be just right after a while.

    Also, with the spandex/11.99 ones, will they we likely to become a bit baggy after a while if I do the same thing(wear for a few days and then wash on whatever setting)?

    Also, I am a guy so this is awkward, but let’s just say for a moment I did wear the 100% cottons in a warm bath for 30 minutes.(and perhaps did some stretching/ whatever) Would they actually shrink and fit me perhaps a bit better, or would they stay the same, or would they fit like a girl’s jeans (which admittedly who knows if that’s a bad thing… but I will say some guys just look weird wearing whatever it is they wear).

    Also, lastly, I bought one pair of Levi Signature Jeans (skinny fit) from wal-mart a good while ago, and as mom stained them with bleach tabs in the wash, I decided to go all in and bleach them completely. This pair is maybe a bit looser around the waist, and I do jog in them. I noticed shortly after bleaching them and jogging in them they have a tear (and now 2 tears) right in the in-between the legs/ lower crotch area, but it’s not visible except when I sit down. Everyone I talked to said this was because the bleach weakened the fabric, and that a lot of wear is happening there (for a while I was wearing them every day because they were the only pair of jeans that I had that weren’t hand-me-down regular fit 38-30s! Gosh!)

    I did notice after a while that they seemed to stretch a bit and the bleach seemed like it made them less rigid and perhaps weaker.

    They are 60% cotton 40% poleyester.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks so much-

  24. Hi Steve,

    The only times that wearing rigid denim in the bath tub or shower to get it to shrink to fit is suitable is when they are raw. Since yours are just a normal 100% cotton fabric, if you wear them in the bath and then do stretches in them, they will stretch out a lot and get baggy and lose their shape quite a lot. So I don’t recommend it. 100% cotton always stretches, so just wear them around for a while and they will stretch out enough to not be too tight. I don’t recommend washing jeans so often though, especially only after a couple of wears. Jeans are generally designed to last a long time and be tough and durable, they don’t tend to get dirty from just normal wear, so hold off on washing them as much as you can is my advice. It’s what I do. It’s important because the more you wash the denim, the weaker it becomes, the more it loses shape, the more it stretches out etc.

    As for the 98% cotton ones, those will stretch with wear again, but not as much as the 100% cotton ones. They should also hold their shape a little better, but you can expect some sag. Especially if they only cost that much money, they wont be premium or high quality denim, so they wont be designed to keep their shape, if that makes sense.

    In terms of your Levi’s that you bleached, that is why they ripped for sure. Washing and drying or any type of heat in general on denim weakens the weaving and makes them more prone to tearing, but if you put harsh chemicals like bleach on them, they get weakened even more. Bleach is a strong substance and damages the make up of the threads, so it’s almost a definite reason as to why yours have ripped now. If you want to do DIY with bleach, I recommend only doing it on stretchy jeans and mixing bleach with a lot of water so it’s a lot less potent. Straight bleach is not good.

    Also, I don’t think girls jeans on guys is weird. One of our writers here Jonathan wears women’s denim as they have a better fit to them in the legs for his body shape. It just depends on your preference! Let me know if you need anymore advice!


  25. Wow your awesome thanks for the reply πŸ˜€

    Normally the jeans I bought are maybe 26.99 and 30.99 but I still get what you’re saying about them probably not being premium denim.

    And most of time I guess “girl” jeans can look okay on guys, just occasionally you seeoe guy that’s like walking around in these things that are way too small, he’s too big, and it just looks wrong. But I could see wearing girl jeans once I got over the mental block. It’s still gonna be awkward if anyone asks though… plus you’re a girl why would you think it was weird? πŸ˜›

    Well I used to wash jeans once after every wear until I realized what I was wearing was lame and then only had one pair I liked for ages. Even so, I have worn jeans most of a week before. Who am I kidding, I’ve worn them the whole week before, but my bleached ones start to look a little dirty after a while πŸ˜‰

    Well, I’ve tried diluting the bleach before, and it didn’t seem like it would work to make them white, which is what I wanted, sortof. So I got a little frustrated with it and just did straight bleach.

    Lastly, what does “raw” mean exactly in denim?

    Thanks for the great ultra quick :O reply.

    Later πŸ˜€

  26. Raw denim is denim that is untreated and not washed at all, so it’s made into jeans in its raw and pure form, which is that deep and dark indigo blue. The idea behind those is wearing them constantly and not washing them for month to create your own fading and whiskering! They are really cool! But not for everyone because of how long you have to go without washing them.

    Oh it’s only good to wear women’s jeans if they look good on you and feel fine. If they look like leggings or fit terribly then it’s no good at all. Putting diluted bleach on your jeans does lighten them, but it takes a long time. You would need to leave it on the denim for a while for it to work! But the cheaper the denim, the more it’s likely to rip and break, I would suggest (if you can afford it) a pair of Nudie jeans! They are of amazing quality and fit!

  27. HI,

    Do you know of a place where I could locate what abbreviations mean, for example PU when you see the percentage on the tag & you are discussing, means more of the stretch factor I believe? So meaning what the abbreviation stands for and then what the purpose is, does it make them stretch, soft, hard/stiff etc.

    I have a pair that show
    41% Cotton /34% CV /17% PE/ 8% PU

    So very curious as I have not worn them yet, thanks

  28. Hi, hopefully this should help:

    CV – Viscose
    PE – Polyethylene
    PU – Polyurethane

    The higher the percentage, the more of that fabric. It doesn’t sound like they are the average run of the mill denim though. I’m not entirely sure what the two P fabrics even do, lol.

  29. I hope this article is still open for comments. I’m still a little confused on how the fabric works and seems to be ever changing.
    I for the most part wear True Religion jeans, but.. I can’t seem to get the fit right.

    Example. I have 2 pairs of the same True Religion jeans, at least I thought I did. One pair fits very tight opin my thigh area. The other pair fit loose in my thigh area, which I prefer.
    The two pairs of True Religion I am thinking of purchasing have are as follows:

    One is a hand picked straight leg with 74% cotton, 25% Polyester and 1% Spandex
    (My issue is I do not want a form fitting jean and especially not on my thighs/knee area due to being a little more curvy)

    The other pair of True Religion are called 11.25 oz stretch denim with 92% cotton, 6% Eme and 2% elastine

    This is very overwhelming for me lol. Can you tell me which of the two jeans are a looser fit?
    And is it possible tell me what to look for in the material (that I prefer to be a looser jean material) when I make future Jean purchases?

    Thank you so much.

  30. hello…. i really hope this article is open for comments…. i wanted to knw abt cotton lycra and denim jeans… i wanted to buy jeans online and im thoroughly confused about which to buy… cotton lycra size 32 is a bit loose for me… and denim 34 is also a bit loose.. both around the waist… should i opt for a smaller size..if yes.. which one is good… which one turn baggy after wearing… please help me…..

  31. Hi, I really hope you can help me!!! I have a old pair of levis 505 straight leg jeans. They are 99% cotton and 1% elastane and are a size 16m. Since they have very little stretch and I am now in between sizes I feel like a size 18m would fit PERFECTLY but I can’t find anything like them!!! I’ve tried so many jeans and none fit the way they do!!
    I am also disabled so I can’t go to stores and try on jeans all day, so I have to rely on the Internet and just try different brands, styles and sizes…. and if they don’t fit which most don’t I have to send them back!
    I personally hate stretch jeans!! I’m a hourglass/curvy tall gal and think stretch jeans do nothing for my figure other than excentuate whatever I want to hide!!
    I have bought a pair of Lee classic fit in black and love the fit but the waist comes up to my ribs and if I sit the automatically roll down!
    PLEASE if you can give me ANY suggestions I’ll FOREVER BE IN YOUR DEBT!!!
    Thank you for your time and hope to hear from you soon

2 Pings & Trackbacks

  1. Pingback:

  2. Pingback: