In:Denim Stories

Denim Stories: Finding the Best Fit, Caring For Your Denim and Where To Shop

At the risk of driving even myself crazy while going on about jeans ad nauseam, I’ll complete my long winded thoughts on denim.  In previous posts, I’ve talked about why it is worthwhile to invest in high-quality denim, how to read the labels on your jeans and what to look for when buying. Now I’ll finish by explaining how to find the correct fit, and how to keep those perfect jeans looking good forever.

People ask me all the time where I shop.  When I say all the time, I mean like, it’s happened three times.  And one of those times, the inquirer was definitely referring to groceries.  But still,  I’ll flatter myself and imagine that people are really into the jeans I wear.  I’ll share the location of those exclusive, secret troves for you, my fellow denim enthusiasts.

More accurately, I’ll identify the brands I look for since I will hunt for jeans anywhere.  I’ve occasionally purchased denim at Nordstrom, more frequently at places like The Rack or TJ Maxx, and even at consignment boutiques.  No matter where I shop, the brands I’ve come to know and trust most are J Brand, Joe’s Jeans, AG, and Madewell.  I like the quality construction, styling and fit of garments I’ve found from those brands, and I shop almost exclusively with an eye for those labels.  It seems like there is a brand for every body type; those seem to offer options that fit me well.  I’ve enjoyed them all for years.


Speaking of cut,  there seems to be a bit of confusion about how high-end jeans should fit.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “designer jeans don’t work for me because they are so long.  They’re made for supermodels!”  That extra length is actually intentional.  Most premium denim brands sew their jeans with about a 32″ inseam so that women of any height can wear them.  Premium denim is meant to be tailored to your exact length.  Just as men’s suiting should be fitted for each wearer, the same is true for premium denim.

My recommendation for the absolute perfect fit is to choose a pair of jeans that fit at your widest point and have the rest taken in.  If you take your jeans to a quality tailor,  all sorts of miracles can be performed to achieve a flawless fit.  My personal challenge is that my thighs are proportionately larger than my waist.  If a pair of jeans fit perfectly at the waist, I’ll feel like a sausage below. The pants will continually squeeze and shift down my legs throughout the day. But if I wear a size that is comfortable at the thigh, the waist gaps.  The solution: tailoring.  I can buy a size that is comfortable through the thigh, and have the waist taken in, with a seam expertly disguised along the back center seam.


Finally, now that you’ve invested in quality denim and had them taken in properly, how should you keep them in pristine condition? Don’t wash them!   I once read an article in which Levi Strauss CEO stated that ideally, denim should never be washed.  Ever, in the lifetime of the garment.  They will stretch just perfectly to accommodate your shape and movement, and stay in exceptional condition longest.

Personally, I find that just a tad extreme, but I can get behind the general idea.  In fact, I won’t say exactly how often I wash my jeans here, or the one last person who has stuck it out through all these denim posts will click away now and never come back.  Other than my light colored jeans which show every last smudge and drip, I mainly just spot clean my jeans with cold water.  I only submerge and agitate my jeans when it seems absolutely, unavoidably necessary to do so.

If you can’t quite get behind the no-wash thing there are a few things you can do to keep your jeans looking fresh.  First off, stick with dark wash jeans.  The lighter the wash, the more they will expose dirt.  Even if my light wash jeans are freshly washed, it seems like they are a magnet for sticky fingers!  A dark wash will allow you to spot clean the soiled area with a cold cloth, and will better disguise these areas until you ready to wash them.

Stick with spot cleaning as long as possible, and air them out between wearings.  Let your jeans breathe a bit.  This will allow any perspiration from these hot summer days fully dry out, reducing bacteria growth..  (Obviously, if you wore them for an entire day at the fair, in 100-degree heat, they may need a washing right away. But if you wore them to the grocery store and back, just let them air out a bit before tucking them into a drawer or squeezing them back into your closet).  When it is time to wash, be sure you turn them inside out.  Wash them on as gentle a cycle as you can.  Put them in a garment bag or even hand wash them, to avoid serious abrasion.  More importantly, be sure to wash in COLD WATER only!


Most importantly of all, never, never NEVER, put them in the dryer.  This is true especially for jeans with any sort of spandex/stretch fibers.  Heat is the enemy of stretch fibers.  I cannot stress this enough.  Hot water, hot dryer, hot iron, hot anything will destroy stretch and ultimately ruin your jeans.  It is imperative that you never expose your jeans to heat.  Hang them and let nature do her magic.  I have a couple of these snazzy things hanging in my laundry area to dry our cloth diapers, and they work perfectly when I wash jeans.

Extra care in the laundry room will extend the life of any pair of jeans, at any price point.  Regretfully, I can attest to the fact that heat ruins high-end jeans and bargain trousers alike.  I’ve also kept a pair I purchased from the clearance rack at Target looking fresh for over 5 years, just by caring for them well.  Crazy? Yes, I am. But also very practical, which is why I feel it’s worthwhile to invest in quality pieces and take the best care of what I’ve got.  If you aren’t convinced to upgrade your next denim purchase, please, for me, and for those poor hard working pants of yours, at least start spot cleaning and stop drying the ones you’ve got.  Spandex and I thank you for it.



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