Jean Therapy

Why is it always so hard to find the perfect pair of jeans? And how is it that some women can have a closet full of jeans where others are lucky to find a single pair that flatters?

The Saturday Early Show has pondered this quandry and we turned to a fashion expert, Sarah Shirley, for help.

Long gone are the days when there were just a few popular brands: Lee jeans, Levis and - in the '80s - the Calvin Klein jeans popularized by Brooke Shields.

Now, there are so many brands of jeans, in all shapes, colors and price points, that there are stores that sell nothing but high-end jeans. It was to one such den of denim, the National Jean Company, that we brought Maggie Rodriguez, and where she tried on more than a dozen pairs until she found one that worked well for her figure - slender and petite.

We asked Shirley to help find jeans for four women with very different body types - curvy, thick around the middle, petite and boyish. Though jeans can range in price from $30 up to $500, we asked her to focus on jeans that cost less than $100.

When shopping for denim, she says, "Be patient. Plan on spending at least an hour trying on different brands, so you can compare different fits and sizes."

We asked her where we ought to begin our jean journey. "Department stores like Bloomingdales have tons of premium denim and premium prices. But vertical retailers like the Gap, Old Navy, Express and Lane Bryant are great places to find jeans. J.C. Penny has partnered with Chip and Pepper to make a lower priced premium jean." She added that Target is similarly partnered with Rock and Republic to do a lower priced denim line as well.

  • Petite: "When you are petite like Gabrielle, who is just 4'11", you really want a jean that is going to give you the appearance of all-over length, not just in the jean," said Shirley. "So what we chose here is a skinny jean in a really dark wash - this is almost black. Gabrielle can really pull off this style of jean off because she is petite all over. Skinny jeans really makes her legs look long and, note, there is not extra fabric to hide her figure like a wide leg jean would."

    Avoid boot cut or over-flared jeans that have a lot of excess fabric at the bottom and are tighter at the top.

    Shirley dressed Gabrielle in Levi's Skinny Straight Jean in a Medium Wash, (www.levis.com) and paired them with a long slouchy turtleneck from Uniqlo and a pair of Miu Miu boots.

  • Boyish: "When you have a boyish shape you definitely want to try to add some curves to your shape," said Shirley. "This is easily done with a pair of jeans that has some movement. So look for a wide legged trouser jean that is made out of a thinner denim. Also, the high waisted jean is really trendy this season and someone that is not too hippy can really pull this look off because it will help give you the appearance of hips and curves."

    Avoid a straight leg jean if you have no curves - this will make you look like a stick.

    Shirley dressed Kenya in Uniqlo's Wide Leg Fit $59.50 (www.uniqlo.com) and paired them with a Milly Cheetah spots-on-silk twill bateaux neck top (www.millyny.com) and Franco Sarto shoes.

  • Curvy: "If you are curvy the trick here is to flaunt it, don't hide your classic hourglass shape," Shirley advised. "You want to find jeans that fit you in your waist (without a gap) and follow the curves of your body. I find that a boot cut jean works best for someone with a curvy figure because a boot cut jean fits throught the waist and the hip and follows through the knee where it flares out a bit and balances out your shape. Go for a medium to dark wash and look for jeans with stretch or Lyrca in them."

    Avoid small and flap pockets and look for larger flat pockets with not too much detailing on the back. Also, avoid large pockets on the front as well, said Shirley.

    Shirley put Melissa in Venezia Jeans from Lane Bryant $39.50 (www.rightfit.com, the Lane Bryant interactive Web site that includes a quick and easy-to-use size calculator to help a customer discover her best size, shape and color). The jeans were paired with a Uniqlo fitted blazer, Steve Madden clutch and shoes, and Tarina Tarantino jewelry.

  • Thick around the middle: If you are a bit thick in the middle, you want a jean that is going to carve your middle out and give you some CONTROL," stressed Shirley. "Do not go for a low waist or a high(true waist) jean - look for a mid-rise. We have all heard the term "muffin top" and a jean that cuts into your mid section will only accentuate that." She suggests "a jean with a wide waist band in a dark denim. What we want to do is go for a jean that is going to give her the look of a small waist. The wide waistband with a wide leg or stove pipe leg. The trick here is the waist is the smallest point and everything else goes out from this point."

    Avoid, "like the plague, low-rise jeans paired with flimsy T-shirts that show your muffin top bakery in full!" said Shirley. "Look for tops that will give you some structure like a great blouse that is ruched through the mid section."

    She put model Patrinilla in Bisou Bisou Michele Bohbot Dark Denim Jeans, $44.00, from J.C. Penny (www.jcp.com) and paired them with a boxy-cut double breasted knit jacket from Uniqlo and shoes from Issac Mizrahi for Target.

    Other items:

    Jewelry: www.tarinatarantino.com;
    Shoes: target.com, francosarto.com;
    Shoes and Bags: stevemadden.com;
    Tops: anthropologie.com, www.millyny.com, and uniqlo.com.