How to style high waisted jeans 2023: 7 outfit ideas for every occasion

Looking at how to style high waisted jeans with a modern twist? These seven outfit ideas will bring this wardrobe staple bang up-to-date

Three women showing different ways on how to style high waisted jeans
(Image credit: Getty)

Breathe new life into your favorite denim and discover how to style high waisted jeans for any occasion. Whether you’re looking to dress them up for an evening out or want a more casual look, these tips will help you maximize this denim piece's versatility.

High waisted jeans have been around since the '40s, however, they had a surge in popularity during the '70s lasting well until the '90s, with the now infamous mom jean before suddenly being displaced by low-rise jeans as everyone embraced jeans that showed off your tummy button. However, for those of us that want a little more support and sculpt from our denim, the high waisted jean is back and thankfully, it's going nowhere. 

“High waisted jeans suit most body shapes as they cinch in at the waist and create a beautiful silhouette,” says Jean Queen Donna Ida Thornton (opens in new tab), whose self-named brand produced the high-rise option ten years ago, when she couldn't find them anywhere else.

High waisted or high-rise jeans are designed to sit high on or above the hips. The term rise refers to the distance from the waistband to the crotch seam, and on a high waisted pair of jeans, this can be as much as 13 inches. 

How to style high waisted jeans 2023: 7 high waisted jean outfit ideas

High waisted only refers to the waistband so they can come in many different leg styles from skinny to flares to mom jeans. Not only are high waisted jeans some of best slimming jeans around, but they also often have a more sophisticated feel that can be lacking in their low-rise counterparts, which makes them perfect for more formal occasions. 

If you're still unsure of how to style jeans, high waisted denim is the easiest place to start as they are regarded as the most contouring jeans around. The high waist gives a nice vintage feel, as it contours your shape, giving that old-school, hourglass aesthetic. However, by learning how to style high waisted jeans in certain ways, they can also look incredibly modern, no mean feat when it comes to denim.

Here's how to style high waisted jeans for every occasion.

1. How to style high waisted jeans with a blazer

Three women showing how to style high waisted jeans with a blazer

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“A blazer and jeans are such a classic combo,” says Donna, who suggests playing with proportions to ensure it works for you. She says: “Try a tailored blazer for flares and a more oversized jacket with skinnies.”

While a blazer may seem formal, learning how to style one with high waisted jeans creates a good basis for many smart casual outfit ideas. Paired with a striped t-shirt and jeans it’s the perfect brunch outfit idea, while also working for the school run. Swap out your striped top for a fitted bodysuit and heels to elevate the jeans to night-time status.

The key to making this work is to wear the blazer over a tucked-in top. While you don't always have to show off the high waist, in this instance it really works and helps to balance out proportions. For those who are daring enough, a crop top also looks super stylish under a blazer, however, the more cautious fashionistas can opt for a blouse with a frilly collar for that ‘80s Princess Diana look, which fits in with the latest fashion trends 2023.

2. How to style high waisted jeans with a sweater

Three women wearing jumpers and high waisted jeans

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If you’re looking for a casual weekend look, high waisted mom or baggy jeans work well with sweaters, but, as with all high-rise jeans, you need to make sure the proportions work for your body type.

“I find more fitted bodysuits and sweaters work well with my shape - curvy and petite - when I wear high-rise jeans, otherwise they swamp my frame,” says Donna. “I’ll add a cape over the top and add shape with a belt. If you’re taller you might prefer a looser shape, which you can always tuck in to give definition.”

Not sure how to style high waisted jeans with a sweater? If the jumper isn’t too bulky, you can tuck it completely into the waistline of your jeans. For chunkier knits, or how to style oversized sweaters, do a French tuck. What this means is you only tuck in a few inches of your sweater at the front. 

If you still feel swamped, a heeled boot or court works well with this look to balance out proportions. Don’t discount a cropped jumper either as when teamed with the best high-waisted jeans, it saves you from flashing any flesh when you’re wearing them.

3. How to style high waisted jeans with a blouse

Three women on the street photographed showing how to style high waisted jeans with a blouse

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One of the big denim trends 2023, high waisted flared jeans, alongside baggy jeans are back with a bang. These leg-lengthening jeans make a great companion to a blouse or shirt, especially when tucked in, '70s style.

How to style flared jeans for 2023? Choose a slightly cropped style for a modern take and add a pretty blouse - a sheer one gets you extra fashion points. As with all flared trousers, it’s best to tuck your blouse in to create balance, which is where the high waisted jean comes into its own. 

The best shirts and blouses for high waisted jeans shouldn’t be too bulky as you want to tuck them in, to help define your waist. Think simple white cotton or florals for day and satin or chiffon for evening. It’s the perfect look that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. With trainers or ballet pumps and a pretty white blouse, it’s perfect for running around town or a coffee with friends. Choose a sheer or lace blouse, pop on your heels and you’ve got one of the perfect brunch look.

4. How to style high waisted jeans with an evening top

Three women showing how to style high waisted jeans with an evening top

(Image credit: Getty)

For Donna, high waisted jeans are a no-brainer when it comes to nights out.

“Just flick on a heel with flares and style with a fitted top with exaggerated sleeves,” she says. “For skinnies, a plain bodysuit or white tee and blazer always works.”

The rule of thumb for how to style high waisted jeans with an evening top is to choose where the attention goes. If you're going for more voluminous barrel leg jeans, then a sleek asymmetric top is a great choice, however, with skinny or straight leg jeans, you can go a bit more OTT - think sequins, ruffles, or 3D florals.

Wondering about high waisted straight vs skinny jeans? Skinny jeans are great if you like to show off your figure and also work well with longer-line tops and dresses. Think of straight jeans as a looser skinny jean fit. They suit all body shapes and ages, which makes them perfect for a minimalist capsule wardrobe.

If you need a slightly more formal look, go for a darker wash. This is where black jeans come into their own. Not sure how to style black jeans with an evening top? Ditch the safe black top and instead add some metallic shine with a gold blouse or a sequinned t-shirt.

5. How to style high waisted jeans with a dress

Three women showing how to style high waisted jeans with a dress

(Image credit: Getty)

Cast your mind back to the early Noughties when wearing a dress over jeans was the height of fashion. Many a rising star from Miley Cyrus to Anne Hathaway sported the look, which has become somewhat derided over the years for being the height of bad taste. However, fast forward to 2023 and thanks to '90s fashion trends ruling the roost the look is back - and done right, learning how to style skirts over pants can look super chic.

Teaming high-rise jeans with a dress allows you to break out one of your best midi dresses, but with the added comfort of jeans. It's the perfect pairing of pretty and practical.

But how to style high waisted jeans with a dress? The key is to keep the jeans as bulk-free as possible, which is why the best jeans for this look are skinny jeans. Wearing layers can add width to your frame, so choose a lightweight dress and accessorize with a slim heel to keep everything in balance. An easy way to tap into this look is to team your jeans with a shirt dress. That way you can keep some buttons open to show off your jeans and it feels just like wearing a long shirt.

If you want some glamour, choose a satin or sequin frock with an asymmetric hem. You want to make sure your jeans have equal billing with the dress to make this work, and a short-long hem can work really well here. 

6. How to style high waisted jeans for petites

Three women showing how to style high waisted jeans for petite figures

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If you're petite the main thing is to show off the high-rise waistband. Covering it will mean you lose that leg-lengthening effect that high waistbands give you. In fact, the higher you can go the better - try the Levi ribcage, which has a super high rise, plus some stretch, so you’re able to sit down in comfort.

Finding the best jeans for your body type can be tricky for any woman, especially if you're looking for the best petite jeans (if 5ft 4 inches or under) and those super long leg lengths are a no-no. Donna suggests seeking out specialist advice.

“Speak to a denim specialist who can advise on the right size as fabric and stretch can vary,” she advises. “I’m petite and I love a high-rise style. I’d wear a high-rise Rizzo skinny, Kitty Kat ankle crop or a beautiful Kate or Minnie Flare.”

She also says finding a good seamstress or tailor is a good idea so you can get jeans hemmed, especially if you've found a pair of jeans that fit everywhere else.

7. How to style high waisted jeans for plus size

Three women showing how to style high waisted jeans for plus size

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Finding the best jeans for curvy women can be tough but the plus size high waisted jeans are some of our favorites. There is little magic to finding the perfect pair, essentially you just need to try them on, choose a range of brands, styles, and washes, and see what works best for you.

Those women who are curvier around the bottom with a slimmer waist may struggle with high waists as the waistband can sometimes gape, so go for fabrics that have some stretch in them so they can hug the curves closely.

If you’re not keen on skinny jeans or flares, consider boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans. The relaxed cuts make them more comfortable and versatile to wear, but whereas boyfriend jeans tend to sit low on the waist, mom jeans are more figure-flattering with their high-rise waist. This helps lengthen the body, while the tapered leg adds less bulk than baggier boyfriend jean. For this reason, a high waisted straight leg jean is a great all-rounder.

As for how to style high-waisted jeans for plus sizes, keep the top half slimmer than the bottom to help balance your figure and define your shape. You also want to show off that waist so if you don't want to tuck in your top, knot it or if it's a shirt, wear it open over a more tight-fitting vest or bodysuit. Cropped tops are also perfect for this style, longer length styles will still show off your waist as they'll just touch the top of your jeans and if you feel too exposed throw something over the top such as a blazer or cardigan. As long as you feel fabulous, you’ll look fantastic.

What can you wear with high waisted jeans?

Pretty much anything goes when it comes to how to style high waisted jeans, however, the key to ensuring they look modern is to either tuck in your top or wear something on your top half that’s slightly cropped. The high waist is what helps legs look longer and your overall body shape more contoured so it would be a shame to not use this styling trick.  

You also need to consider the cut of the jean, as it’s all about balancing out proportions. The best mom jeans look better with slimmer line tops, while high waisted skinny jeans can take a longer line such as a tunic or oversized shirt.

What body type looks best in high waisted jeans?

As there are many types of jeans for women, it's best to work out the cut first as this is more important than the high waist. However, apple body shapes definitely reap the most rewards from high-rise jeans as they offer the most amount of contour, with some pairs even benefiting from built-in lift and sculpt panels, acting like the best shapewear and helping to accentuate the waistline.

Highlighting the waist is also of benefit to athletic figures as a well styled pair of high waisted jeans can add curves, while they can be a great choice for hourglass figures (especially high waisted skinny jeans) as they hug and enhance naturally curvaceous figures.

Are high-rise jeans still in style for 2023?

High waisted jeans are going nowhere says Donna.

“We launched our own brand of high-rise jeans in 2012 because we just couldn’t get them from other brands. Ten years later, they’re still going strong,” she says.

She continues: “It’s popular because high rise works with all denim styles, from skinnies to flares and always looks super flattering.”

If you want high waisted jeans that scream 2023, go for a super wide flare or baggy (aka puddle) jeans. This will ensure your jeans are bang up-to-date, while still making you look fantastic.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

With over 22 years’ experience in journalism, Jayne has written about a variety of subjects. She spent the start of her career within the world of film, interviewing Hollywood stars, attending premieres and lusting after red carpet outfits, and then moved into fashion, launching websites for big magazines such as Look, Woman’s Own and Wedding and working with top fashion brands such as Westfield, LK Bennett and Hunter. 


Career highlights include dressing up as Kylie (in gold hot pants!) for a national newspaper and working on big fashion events alongside Giles Deacon, Henry Holland and Naomi Campbell.