Mother knows best. Mom jeans, the high-waisted, relaxed-fit jean linked to practical suburbia style, is a favored fit by cool girls this spring.
In recent seasons, the jean has benefited from influencers like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner embracing the style in their off-duty looks and from the rebound of ’90s fashion. However, before the late ’90s arrived with midriff-baring pop stars and low rise jeans—a look that snowballed into the rise of skinny jeans—mom jeans were the de facto jean of stylish women around the world.
“Mom jeans weren’t always such a joke,” said Alissa Friedman, Mavi PR and marketing manager.
In fact, the jean style has good bones. From Marilyn Monroe controversially dressing in men’s shirts and the high-rise jean, to Princess Diana—whose effortless pairing of mom jeans with cowboy boots, varsity jackets and logo sweatshirts is regularly fangirled by style blogs like Man Repeller and The Cut—the silhouette has become synonymous with both the girl next door and the rebel.
“In the early 1990s, ‘It’ girls such as Winona Ryder, Drew Barrymore and Shannon Doherty were wearing the style,” Friedman added. “With its high-rise and street style vibe, it was also a favorite of supermodels like Cindy Crawford.”
As trends from the ’90s like crop tops and chunky sneakers have cycled back it style, wider bottoms to balance proportions have grown in popularity with mom jeans being the easiest and most universally flattering cut to adopt.
“We are seeing a lot of trends from the ’90s make a comeback and the mom jean is one of Madewell’s favorites,” said Mary Pierson, Madewell’s head of denim design. “Offering products that are timeless and uncomplicated—we love the effortless yet feminine look this style achieves.”
Madewell’s signature mom jean is cut slim through the leg with an easy fit through the hips to maintain a flattering silhouette. The brand offers both 100-percent rigid cotton mom jeans (and shorts) and styles with comfort stretch.
“With denim being at the core of everything that we do, our design team at Madewell has worked hard to create the ultimate pair of mom jeans in a variety of washes and styles,” Pierson said. The brand, she added, favors heavier weight denim in a heavy stone wash, specifically indigo and black, with lots of yarn character for an authentic look.
This spring, Old Navy introduced its version of the mom jean, a high-rise straight jean. The jean is equipped with the brand’s “Secret-Slim Pockets” for a more flattering fit. Loretta Choy, SVP and general manager of adult merchandising at Old Navy, described the jeans as “a great transition into the straight-leg trend for those who are used to wearing skinny jeans.”
Mavi’s high-rise Cindy mom jean—inspired by Cindy Crawford—is an example of how the brand applies fit, comfort and trend to its collection. “Being both comfortable and sexy was key when concepting the Cindy,” Friedman said. “We created the style according to modern women’s needs and body types and combined the wearer’s comfort with a sexiness and ’90s rigid look.”
Innovations from denim mills are also allowing brands to meet consumer demand for comfort and nostalgic denim. The past several seasons have seen mills dedicate resources to add stretch and softness to rigid-looking fabrications, including Artistic Milliners’ 90210 collection of classic 501-inspired denim with high stretch and Global Denim’s Strech’d collection of stretch denim with a rigid character.
Marbling effects from the ’80s and ’90s were also prominent in Fall/Winter 20-21 collections at Kingpins Amsterdam in April, indicating that this trend isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Soorty showcased fabrics that resembled classic Levi’s and Wrangler, with a new shade called Mars Blue offering a bright blue marble option. Soorty marketing and communications manager Eda Dikmen described the fabrics as “reinterpretations of old heroes” and expects that they’ll be future vintage pieces.
US Group’s collection, Authentic Appeal, served exactly that—fabric with an iconic denim look. The line offered rigid options with bolder indigo textures and brighter twill lines. And Naveena served up heavy marbling and salt-and-pepper effects through technology that twists the yarns in an untraditional way.
Mom jeans are also good for women’s jeans sales. Last month, the NPD Group reported that a total of 364 million pairs of women’s jeans—22 million more in 2018 than in 2017—were purchased in the U.S. in the 12 months ending February 2019, quieting the buzz built around comfort-focused bottoms and yoga pants.
In an interview with the Washington Post, NPD chief industry advisor Marshal Cohen said women are seeking utilitarian and practical styles, like high-rise, straight-leg mom jeans, in place of constricting skinny jeans and casual athleisure.
And brands believe the style has longevity and universal appeal. “The mom jean has become a true fashion fit and is favored by women of all ages,” Friedman said.
“We definitely think the mom jean is here to stay,” Pierson added. “Due to its fun fit and versatility when styling, it has become so popular with our customers that we are working on additional washes and variations that will debut later this year.”