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10 Mar

7 Conscious Brands Modernising the Denim Industry for All Body Types

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Did you know that the clothing sizing system in the US is based on a study that a bunch of white men from the US Department of Agriculture conducted decades ago? If this enrages you, read on to discover the history behind this outdated system, as well as conscious brands in the industry actively working to modernise it.

The fashion industry has an outdated sizing system

Nalga, bum, culo, booty—whatever your favourite term of endearment is for your lovely “behind,” the fashion industry seems to think that only one kind of shape is worth making denim for. As a petite Latina, the sheer lack of sizing accuracy makes it extremely difficult to find a solid pair of jeans—it’s always too long, with a big gap in the back, too scrunched, or so tight in the thighs that I feel like I might topple. No matter how you identify, if you’ve gone out to buy a pair of jeans, you’ve most likely felt the experience was exhausting, frustrating, and anxiety-inducing. But, how did we get here, and why is it so difficult for denim to be properly sized?
Let’s start with a bit of history. As the Wall Street Journal reports, most apparel in pre-industrial America and much of the world was “made-to-measure” at home or by professional dressmakers and tailors. Yet, it wasn’t until after the turn of the century and the industrial manufacturing boom, that women’s ready-to-wear clothing took off. In fact, by the end of that decade the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted the first large-scale study of women’s body sizes. These largely white, male technicians took 59 measurements from about 15,000 also mostly white women.

Then in the late 1940s, the Mail-Order Association of America, representing catalogue businesses including Sears Roebuck, enlisted the help of the National Bureau of Standards—now the National Institute of Standards and Technology—to reanalyse the sizing, often using the measurements of women who had served in the air force, creating a 1958 standard that was largely arbitrary. Sizes ranged from 8 to 38 with height indications of tall (T), regular (R), and short (S), and a plus or minus sign when referring to girth.

Fast forward a few decades, and we have the advent of “vanity sizing”—or the idea that clothing brands mislabel their products to encourage consumption and consumer approval. This psychological tactic occurs when the labelling of clothes, in this case denim, indicates a smaller size than the actual cut of the item. In other words, those size 4 jeans might really be closer to size 8, and perhaps even bigger.

Let’s be clear—whether brands engage in vanity sizing or simply make clothes for certain body types (cough cough Brandy Melville and Abercrombie), the actual sizing system is still thoroughly outdated and inaccurate. And while the body positivity movement has made significant progress in representation in the media and celebrating a diversity of body types, it still feels like denim for curves is hard to find, especially in the sustainability space.

Conscious denim brands celebrating body diversity

Luckily, not all hope is lost. There are denim brands out there looking to do things differently—in both sustainability and body diversity. Below, you will find a curated list of denim brands that are going back to basics in terms of custom tailoring and sizing, curvy fits, or creating new sizing systems made specifically for all body types and genders.

Body positive conscious denim brands


Rated: Good

Sailor Jeans in Indigo Denim – Ships internationally from Australia

Made from certified, 100% Fairtrade organic cotton 12.5oz denim, these high-rise jeans are gorgeous and responsibly-madel. The jeans have front and back pockets, a wide leg, and are fastened with nickel-free tacks.

Kowtow uses organic, fair trade cotton and non-toxic dyes to produce its clothes. It designs elegant, timeless womenswear, and also has a range of ceramics.

At the time of writing, the jeans can be found in AU sizes 2XS-2XL.

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Shop Kowtow.

Yes Friends

Rated: Great

Mom Mid-Wash Organic Jeans – Ships internationally from the UK

Yes Friends designer Aimee Green writes, “I designed the Mom Jeans with 3D software to help get the perfect fit. They’re made from organic cotton and hemp denim, in an excellent factory paying living wages.”

Yes Friends is a UK-based fashion brand that creates more sustainable, ethical, and affordable clothing for everyone. Yes Friends’ first product, classic cut t-shirts, cost less than £4 to make and the brand only charges £7.99. Using large scale production and direct to consumer margins means Yes Friends can charge you an affordable price for its clothing.

At the time of writing, the jeans can be found in UK sizes S-2XL. Find the rest of the Yes Friends range inclusively sized in UK sizes 2XS-4XL.

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Shop Yes Friends.

Seventy + Mochi

Rated: Good

Mabel Jean in Vintage Americana – Ships internationally from the UK

Seventy + Mochi’s newest jean is your most adaptable wardrobe staple. Featuring a long, vintage-inspired wide leg with a high rise, these jeans are beautifully crafted from a blend of GOTS-certified organic and recycled cotton yarns from the brand’s GRS-certified recycling plant. No virgin or non-organic cotton is ever used.

Seventy + Mochi is a UK-based, conscious, and kind denim brand making season-less, long-lasting denim using recycled materials, kinder production methods, and fashion out of waste.

At the time of writing, these jeans can be found in UK sizes 25-32 (please refer to the size guide).

See the rating.

Shop Seventy + Mochi.


Rated: Great
A pair of classic blue baggy jeans by unspun.

Baggy Fit Jeans in Organic Mid-Vintage – Ships internationally from the US

Made for all body types, always. unspun’s classic, baggy fit jeans feature a relaxed fit from the hips down and a silhouette with some attitude.

unspun is an American brand, creating a denim world that reduces global carbon emissions by 1% through a zero-inventory and lower-waste process.

Its product sizing is totally customisable to ensure you always find the perfect fit.

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Shop unspun.

Eileen Fisher

Rated: Good
A pair of undyed, white loose fit denim jeans from Eileen Fisher.

Undyed Organic Cotton Denim Lantern Jean – Ships internationally from the US

Made from 98% organic cotton, Eileen Fisher’s undyed jeans is sculpted with a wonderful lantern shape and side panel detail.

Eileen Fisher creates more ethical, timeless, well-made clothes designed to work together, wear effortlessly, and be part of a responsible life cycle. The brand has also made a public commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and uses lower-impact materials.

At the time of writing, the jeans can be found in US sizes 2XS-2XL. However, the brand’s standard sizing typically ranges from 2XS-3XL, with petite and plus ranges also available.

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Shop Eileen Fisher @ Veneka.

Shop Eileen Fisher.


Rated: Good

Tovi Wide-Leg Jean – Ships internationally from Australia

Made from cotton sourced in the US, the Tovi Jean is a traditional, five-pocket jean with a flattering and easy-wearing wide leg silhouette. These jeans are cut for an amazing fit, with the wide leg shape that feels contemporary and nostalgic all at once.

A pioneer of independent Australian design, Elk was founded in Melbourne in 2004. Elk creates bi-annual collections that are informed by a design ethos where simplicity and sustainability meet innovation.

At the time of writing, the jeans can be found in AU sizes 24-35.

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Shop Elk.

Dawn Denim

Rated: Great
A person wearing o-shaped, organic blue denim jeans by Dawn Denim.

STARDUST Organic Soft Denim – Ships internationally from Germany

Dawn Denim claims these are “the most comfortable jeans you’ll never want to take off again“. They are comfortable due to soft organic cotton and stretch material, perfect for a relaxed everyday look.

Dawn Denim is a German denim brand that features jeans that fit our times. The brand strives to empower women to change the way clothes are made, sold, and worn. Making your butt look good in jeans is a welcomed side-effect.

Find the jeans in XS-3XL.

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Shop Dawn Denim.

Shop Dawn Denim @ Cerqular.

Levi’s (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

501 Jeans – Ships internationally from the US

As a proud owner of vintage Levi’s myself, I can say with confidence that this label is great for curvy women. These lovely vintage 501s have never been worn and feature a classic style that can be worn with love for years.

Levi’s is committed to producing quality, hard-wearing products, and it continues to make strides with regards to environmentally sustainable production methods. This includes its Waste<Less range, made from 20% post-consumer waste. However, some work remains to be done, which is why we recommend purchasing vintage or second hand.

At the time of writing, these jeans can be found in US size 32.

See the rating.

Shop Levi’s Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Editor's note

Feature image via Kowtow, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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