Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Reader Question: Buying and Breaking in New Jeans

Hi Meg,

Like most women, I have trouble finding a pair of jeans that fit really well. When I buy my usual size, I find that they stretch a lot and I end up with a baggy pair of pants with a huge gap in the waist. Recently, I purchased a pair of jeans that fit a little tighter than I usually buy, thinking that they too would stretch out like the others (I always opt for denim with a little stretch) and be snug rather than overly loose. But now these smaller jeans just make ghastly rolls and gather around the thigh/butt area. Do you have any tips for buying jeans or breaking them in?
Thanks! Esther

As many of you have commented in previous posts, shopping for jeans is far more painful than shopping for swimsuits. My best advice is to try as many brands and styles as possible to find which pairs look and feel good on you. There really is a jean for every body, the key is shopping around. In my experience, I've found that once you get closer to the $100 point, the quality of the denim and the cut often improves, but you should only pay what you can afford. That said, don't assume that expensive equals better. Old Navy has a new denim line that has gotten rave reviews (I haven't tried them yet). Also be sure to check out discount stores like Loehmann's, which often carry designer brands marked down anywhere between 25-75%.

One big mistake that a lot of women make when shopping for jeans (or anything else for that matter) is fixating on the size. We've all experienced "vanity sizing" and have seen how much sizes can range between brands (my closet has everything from sizes 4-12). If you're trying a new brand, bring 3-4 sizes into the changing room to try, and don't be swayed by the number on the tag.

In the process of shopping for jeans, it's also easy to discount a brand because one style doesn't fit or flatter your body type. Try on multiple styles (and sizes) before you move on to a new brand. I wear the Lola Boot jeans by Lucky and I can't even squeeze into some of their straight leg and low rise styles in the same size.


When you've put on a pair that looks good, do a quick test by sitting, squatting, jumping and dancing around the changing room. I like to think I put on a fun show for the people who monitor the changing rooms for shoplifters. It might feel a little silly, but if you notice that they're pinching anywhere, that it's hard to lift or squat your legs, or that your butt shows at any point, you need to go up a size or try another style. Checking the rise is important, because as jeans stretch out, they'll hang lower and you can end up showing far more than you wanted. Personally, I've had the best luck with mid-rise jeans, which hit just at the top of my hips. I can bend over all I want and nobody is going to be seeing my butt.

In regards to your question about jeans stretching out or shrinking, my advice is to find a pair with some stretch. My favorite pairs have 96% cotton and 4% lycra, which helps them keep their shape and allows me to move without being skintight stretchy. I've found that jeans with spandex and elastene are too stretchy (my old pair had 3% spandex and they stuck to me like glue). If you find a pair that fits, take note of the fabric composition, as it'll help you find other pairs that will keep their shape and size.

Anyone else have tips for Esther or would like to share their favorite denim brand?

17 comments:

The Metro Mouse said...

I've been a fan of Lucky jeans, but I also have a great pair of iT jeans (Nordstrom) that I've been told are incredibly slimming and accentuate my petite body's curves. Don't discount what a great color/wash can do for a pair of jeans - anything faded or lighter makes me look heavier. I always go for a darker denim.

Anonymous said...

I usually swear by the Long & Lean jeans at Gap, but this year I tried out their 1969 jeans and I looooove the higher waist and straight leg! They're about $10 more expensive than the rest of the Gap jeans, but I think I'm in love. And being a woman with longer legs, I like the Gap because I can always find jeans in longer lengths. My other favorite jeans are by Paper, Denim & Cloth, but I have one pair by them since it's awfully hard for me to swallow paying $100 on jeans--worth it, but hard to spend it!

sparkler said...

I got my favorite pair of jeans at the Levi's outlet – $27! They were an irregular cut, so they fit me perfectly.

I always bring two sizes into the fitting room. And I always try on the bigger ones first. That way, I feel good if I can go a size down instead of feeling fat if I have to go a size up.

amisare waswerebeen said...

I buy most of my jeans secondhand, so they are already preshrunk and have most of the kinks worked out.

Elle said...

amisare waswerebeen beat me to it - if you've got the time and the patience, you can find great deals at second-hand stores, and little "break in" issues to worry about.

Anonymous said...

I have the best luck at Nordstrom. The sales people are very knowledgeable about which jeans stretch out and are good at giving advice on how to care for them. Also, if you find that they don't fit, you can return them even after washing them. My advice is to buy jeans one size smaller so that they are snug. If one size fits perfectly, try the next size down. At home, only wash with cold water and let them hang dry. Fluff them up in the dryer for a few minutes on low heat. I love the jeans that I purchased and cared for this way: Citizens of Humanity "Ingrid".

kelly said...

A friend of mine turned me on to the website www.zafu.com. You answer some questions about how jeans typically fit and what you want them to do for you (lengthen legs, minimize hips, etc.), and they spit out a list of brands and styles that should fit you. You can then filter by price, brand, rinse, and i think some other things. I historically have an awful time finding jeans, but when I tried on the specific styles they identified for me, they all fit great, so I'm totally a believer.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated your post as I myself once again recently undertook the Great Denim Adventure. Every time I try to find the right pair of jeans it seems I end up paying more for a few pairs of moderately priced jeans that just fit so-so rather than biting the bullet and finding a pair that are initially more expensive but truly complimentary. This time my husband encouraged me to go straight to Nordstroms and not look back. (!) (It's a little spendy for us to usually shop there but we thought a brilliant pair of jeans was probably worth the money.) I could not have been more pleased with the help I received--the salesclerk was very knowledgeable and I told her what I was looking for and what I wanted to avoid. I ended up with a pair of Seven's Bootcut jeans and could not be more delighted. (I have never looked so nice in jeans!) The complimentary hemming was a bonus. We could not believe how painless this year's Denim Adventure was and are pleased with sweet success at last!

beth said...

Oh, so not fair! I live nowhere near a Nordstrom! So many people here have mentioned them. It's kinda hard to do the whole "try on tons of pairs in different sizes" if you order over the internet, it really just isn't the same. >Sigh!<

Stacy said...

I wish I saw this post earlier! I just came back from back-to-school clothes shopping and I had a terrible time finding jeans. (I'm also pretty petite, 5'1 so I need to find pairs that I can hem.)

Some of the best jeans I've found were from TJ Maxx/thrift shops. And like others have said, I usually go for dark colors-- it's more slimming and it's a lot harder to pair a darker colored t-shirt with a pair of practically sky blue jeans.

Anonymous said...

Beth - I live in a place where there is no Nordstroms. What I do is go to the local shops that sell the jeans and try them on. Then you go on line and purchase them. You don't have to pay tax since your state(?) doesn't have a Nordstroms. Also, if you try on jeans and you know exactly what you want, you order them off sites like Revolve.com or shopbop.com. They are great about exchanges and refunds.
I love citizens of humanity and seven for all mankind. They stretch and hug the butt very nicely.

lisa said...

I totally agree with what you said about the "move around" test and buying jeans with a bit of stretch, Meg.

As for preventing jeans from stretching out, I read somewhere a long time ago that jeans should be turned inside out with the fly zipped up and buttoned before they go in the wash. I don't know why this works, but I do this religiously and I have jeans that have survived 2-3 years. (I'm wearing a pair of those right now actually.)

Kimmi said...

I tried Old Navy's new denim line, and wasn't pleased at all. The fits are juvenile (who wears low-rise anymore?), and since I'm no longer in high school, I have no excuse. The price is right though, if one of their fits does work for your body.

Anonymous said...

I wear American Eagle Oufitters, which work really well on almost ALL body types. I have a 30 waist and 36 hips, and size 8 fits me incredibly well. Their skinny jeans are flattering enough for me to wear them daily, and the flares are absolutely the softest jeans I have ever worn.
Breaking in jeans is easy. Most of mine are 100% cotton, so I know they'll shrink a little every time I wash them. So they don't shrink too much, I wear the same pair 3/4 times before throwing them in the wash, and I never use warm water.
The faded look is flattering on everyone so there's no real need to buy new jeans every time they get lightened in the wash. If my jeans ever get TOO light, I just throw them in with all my black shirts, and during the washing cycle, I throw in a little navy dye. The shirts absorb it, making them darker, and the jeans become more classic and unique. These tips have led me to spend $150 AT MOST in denim products over the last year.

Liv said...

I used to wear jcrew's bootcut jeans almost exclusively, but my last couple jeans purchases have been Levi's and I couldn't be happier. The fit on their bootcut jeans is just perfect for me (I've got super short legs, curvy butt and narrow hits, so when I find something that works for my weird shape, I invest in many pairs) and I love the finish. Plus, they are so reasonably priced. Shelling out $60-$100 for jeans is just too painful. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I buy used jeans for a) price and b) that they've been broken in. It lets me experiment with different brands (mid- to low-end ones, of course) so that if I find a cut I like, I can either go to that store and buy them new already knowing I'll like them, or I can look for online deals without having to try them on!

Jess said...

I like Joe's jeans...Da Nang jeans are tough to break in (the material is too hard--but they look unique~), and Marlow's jeans don't need breaking in since they often use stretch fabric!