Women who?ve been riding since they were teeny-boppers probably have well-worn skinny little jodhpurs in their cedar chest to prove it. But it's no secret that as we age our bodies tend to bulge in unexpected places. Even if we didn't actually add pounds, the weight seems to shift into places that makes slipping into the skinny jeans tailored for teens, well...somewhere between horrifying and impossible.
When we were young we'd sacrifice comfort for fashion, but in our later years we want it all?fashion AND comfort. So that's what we decided to seek from jeans manufacturers.
We rounded up women of various shapes who ride both English and Western and got them to try a bunch of pants to see what works on a no-longer-pencil-thin body. We found when it comes to older women there are two basic shapes: the classic ?pear? shape of a smaller waist with larger hips and thighs; and the thicker waist and thinner hips and thighs of the classic ?apple? shape. Sometimes ?forgotten in the middle?is the straight up-and-down body with a waist measurement that almost matches that of the hips and thighs.
Here's what we found:
While we all liked different jeans for different reasons, we all agreed on one thing: a touch of stretch and a forgiving waistband were important. Stretchy material, like Spandex?or the lack of it?was a focal point for many of our riders.
Some stretch helped pants fit better and made them more comfortable to ride in. However, too much stretch and they were hard to keep up when not sitting down. A lot of Spandex also made the jeans a little warm to ride in during hot weather. We found 1 to 2% gave us give without heat. See all the?jeans in our trial.?
Form vs. function. When it came to our vanity, most of our mature women riders didn't care for a side zipper. They felt that the flat front of side-zip pants emphasized any extra belly that some older women tend to have.
Even the women used to side-zip English breeches preferred the camouflaging effect of a fly front. They also felt a front zipper was easier to reach and do up than a side zipper. Some were concerned about front zippers being irritating by pushing into the belly, but most of the jeans we tried were styled for riding, so were cut lower in front, virtually eliminating that problem.
When it comes to a flattering look, we all felt a solid-color pant with a kneepatch or full seat (leather or fabric) in the same, or close-to-the same, color tended to have a slimming effect. With breeches, we thought full-seat stitching on the back gave a shapely look, particularly if it was light-colored stitching on dark fabric.
Many of the riding jeans we tried featured a ?no gap? waistband. These wider waistbands were slightly stiffened, but had enough elastic to keep them from gaping out at the middle of your back when you sit down. The no-gap waistbands had a soft lining, and we found them comfortable, particularly if they were combined with a cut that was higher in back and lower in front.
The regular Western jeans we rode in used the standard metal button to close the front at the waistband, but some of the English-style breeches and jods used a metal hook closure. Some of those had a decorative, non-functioning metal ?button? on the outside, a style touch that all of our testers liked.
Engish-Rider Favorites. Our English testers who wore tall riding boots liked the soft, net-like lower legs on the Bobbi and Beka breeches as they fit smoothly inside tight boots. The English riding jeans we tried were all close-fitting, so our riders really wanted the little added Spandex or Lycra in all of them.
They weren?t as picky about pockets, except they preferred pockets they could get into easily and not ones on the inside of the waistband. Side-zip or fly front was more a matter of taste while those with any bit of belly opted for the fly front. Having the extra grip of a leather or suede fabric kneepatch or full seat, such as on the Equissentials and Beka breeches, was something many of our English riders wanted. Read about the Cargo-Pants Breeches: ?"The Testers Said, "Include These!"
Western-Rider preferences. While English riders tend to want specialized pants for riding, most Western riders like multi-purpose jeans they can pull on in the morning and keep on all day whether riding, doing barn work or running to the store.
The Wrangler Q-Baby and Wrangler Shiloh jeans both were not only comfortable to ride and work in they also had enough style to wear out to lunch.
The Shiloh jeans were attractive and up-to-date with bling on the pockets and fake crease lines bleached in across the front, but the Q-Baby jeans were a tad better with a little bit of stretch and not so wide a bell bottom as the Shilohs.
Western riders wear their jeans outside their boots, so they like the lower legs to slip down easily over cowboy boots. All three Wrangler jeans, plus the Carhartts, and the Equissential Western jods all fit fine over boots.
Most of our Western riders preferred deep pockets and front zippers and belt loops big enough to accommodate a wide, western belt. Most felt mid-rise jeans that were cut lower in front tended to be more comfortable. A little ?give? in the material was good, but not as essential for them as for those who wore tight English breeches.
Bottom Line. If you only ride in warm weather, we found TuffRider and Fuller Fillies very comfortable to ride in on hot days.
If you ride through the fall and winter, the Equissentials breeches and Western jodhpurs were warm and comfortable. The thick, deerskin seats on both the Equissentials were grippy and great looking (we love that Equissentials offers these jeans in maternity and will alter them to your pre-baby size later).
If you wear a large size, Fuller Fillies comes in waist sizes up to 40 inches and Wrangler Q-Babys are available in sizes up to W26. If you're tall, some sizes in the Wrangler jeans are available with up to a 38-inch inseam.
If your waist tends to expand and contract inches during the year, you'll find the really stretchy waistbands on the Romfh and the Bobbi Breeches are forgiving.
But when it came to both comfort and lookin? good, we found the Q-Baby jeans from Wrangler and the Equissential Western jodhpurs were hard to beat. But we gave the nod to the Q-Babys because they were comfortable in and out of the saddle, in warm or cool weather, and they easily went from riding to shopping at Walmart.
Originally published in February 2012. Article by Contributing Writer Nancy Butler.