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It's no secret that the key to a successful wardrobe is the mystical perfect pair of jeans, but nailing the holy grail of fashion must-haves requires more than just knowledge about washes and sizing. The right cut is the difference between a flattering look and a failing look. Though straight cut and tapered jeans may look like twins on the rack, subtle cut differences place the two styles worlds apart.
Clues to Cut
When you're holding up a pair of straight leg and tapered jeans side by side, the differences seem slight, but the impact is huge. Straight leg jeans are cut to be approximately the same diameter from knee to ankle, and they fit snugly around your thighs and hips. Tapered jeans are cut to fit tightly from your knee to ankle, shrinking in diameter to create a tapered ankle. Though both jeans lack the signature wide ankle of a flare, boot cut or wide-leg jean, straight jeans are slightly more open at the ankle, and tapered jeans fit your ankles like a glove.
Get It Straight
Straight cut jeans have a reputation for being utilitarian, for better or for worse. Straight cut jeans are favored for create a clean, simple line down the outside of the body. The subtle shape is ideal for a casual office setting when you want to be comfortable and stylish without being too sexy. Straight leg jeans are flattering on most body types, but if you are looking to create curves where there are none, look elsewhere. Wearing a pair of straight cut jeans successfully depends largely on the fit. Steer clear of super-high waistbands, loose backsides or hems that fall above your ankle or below your heel.
Not Your Mom's Tapered Jeans
Tapered jeans may have been a staple in your mom's closet back in the day, but modern tapered jeans have a better style reputation. Tapered jeans hug your body from waist to ankle, so if you have legs to show off, tapered jeans are your go-to option. If you are thicker through the hips and thighs, tapered jeans will only accentuate the contrast with your slimmer calves, so they probably are not the most flattering style. Though tapered styles should hug your legs, don't go too tight at the waistband. Get the hem right, too -- go too long and you get ugly bunching at your ankles, but go too short and you're rocking some high-waters instead.
Making It Work
Accessorizing your jeans is critical for hitting the right style stride. Neither straight cut nor tapered jeans has a wide enough ankle to fit over a pair of shoes, so either tuck the jeans into your boots or opt for simpler heels or flats. Since straight leg jeans can make you look shapeless if you aren't careful, a pair of slim heels will give your behind and posture a boost. Tapered jeans pair well with a set of romantic ballet flats or fierce gladiator-style heels. Tapered jeans are also better-suited for tall boots, since you won't get the dreaded fabric bunch around the knee that you might see with straight jeans.