Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pant Rant


One of my favorite photos of Jane Birkin. It's all about the jeans.


Chimala Jeans.

Directly above and below: Images from Totokaelo.


J.Brand Jeans


Second-hand Levi's.

I don't rant often on this blog so here it goes: This past December I was a Woman on the Verge of Departure. I was traveling to Denver for Christmas. Being that it was the holiday season I had gained a few extra pounds celebrating. As a result only one pair of jeans fit me in my entire closet: an old pair of J. Crew Matchstick jeans. Yes, my fat jeans had become my everyday jeans--I needed new jeans and fast! Just a pair of nice, skinny but not too skinny, dark indigo, un-embellished jeans. For $100 or less. Shouldn't be too hard, right?


Desperate, leaving the very next day on my trip, I went in search of said jeans. My first stop was Madewell. I've had success with their jeans in the past. Upon entering the store I found it to be a different story. All of their jeans were super skinny, with really long inseams, and the denim looked and felt cheap. I passed. Made a note to self: Madewell is not really geared for a Size 8, 37- year-old woman. Perfect for women in their 20's who are size 0-4 but not pour Moi. Moving on...

I stopped in Madewell's sister store, J.Crew. After all, the one pair of jeans that still fit me were made by J.Crew.
But to my disappointment, this J.Crew store had a very limited denim selection. What they did have: too much whiskering and 'distressing.' No thank-you. I passed.

I went to Barneys CO-OP. They had a nice selection...it was almost too much to sort through. I did find some Current/Elliott jeans that I liked...but not enough to break my $100 or less rule. A bit of an explanation: I grew up in the Midwest where jeans are JEANS. Denim pants originated as work wear. They were never meant to cost $100, $200, $300... so I just cannot justify dropping over $100 on a pair...or so I thought at the time...read on.

I have a limited attention span when shopping IRL (shopping online is a different beast). I can't really handle going into more than 3 or 4 stores total on a shopping expedition- it causes some kind of sensory overload in me and I get tired.

Realizing I was about to reach my store limit, still pantless (!), I stopped into Anthropologie. Talk about overload! Amidst all of the patterned clothing, pillows, drawer pulls, and books I somehow managed to locate a pair of J.Brand jeans that suited my needs...simple, un-embellished, dark denim-- a little bit too skinny (but I was willing to work with that, they had a little stretch so they weren't uncomfortable), the denim seemed decent enough, no damn whiskering at least. BUT they were ...$158. Shit! F@ck!
I give in! Close enough! Sold.

I am still wearing those J. Brand jeans. They have held up pretty well. They are a bit too legging-like for my taste, so I tend to wear them with looser tunic tops that cover my bum & thighs.
I'm still wearing my old J.Crew jeans. I recently came across a denim line, Chimala, that seems to have nice cuts & finishes but the prices are so high. $300 for a pair of cut-off jean shorts?? Just. Can't. Do it.

Yesterday, Tomory cleaned out his closet. I inherited 3 pairs of his old Levi's. They are all a little loose on me. The denim is soft from age and is distressed in an authentic way from being lived in. There are paint splotches on them, and they are faded where my husband likes to put his wallet in the pocket. They have holes that can be patched if I feel like it.
One pair looks good with the cuffs rolled, the other is actually a pair of flares, which are back in style for spring (I have to say I am pleased with this trend toward an easier, wider- legged pant. Who wants to wear skinny jeans when it's 90 degrees outside anyway??). When I wear these second-hand jeans I like to pretend they are a bit like those Jane Birkin wore back in the 60's-70's.

They will do for now. They were free.

But back to New Jeans: Maybe I'm being too picky?!? I do want something specific, something it seems to me designers should be making: Simple, well- fitting, slim but not skintight, darker denim
for around 100 bucks. That fit a solid Size 8 like myself. I'll even take denim that's a little lighter or distressed if it's not cheesy or overdone.
Does anyone know of pants like this? Do they even exist? At this price point? Am I being unrealistic (i.e. cheap)?
What do you look for in a jean? Do you have a favorite pair? If so, who made them? What's the name of the style (be as specific as possible)? How much did they set you back? Why do you like them?

Please do share...and if you've made it this far, thanks for reading my pant rant :)


dee said...

At the moment I am really loving the MIH jeans in the Marrakesh cut. They are a really flattering high-waist, wide leg. They are a little over your budget but I have managed to pick up 2 new pairs on eBay for a quarter of the retail price!

Kelly Massey said...

For $100 or less, I think the best jeans are the more high end Levis, believe it or not. I have several pairs of Joes that I think I'll wear until the end of time but they are above the $100 cut off.

Anonymous said...

Try the Gap. Good quality, great price, nice cuts. You can't go wrong!

*PrairieGirl* said...

i would love to know this, too. i'm sorry, but $150+ is just too much for me for one pair of jeans. anything less, though, and they're cheap cheap cheap looking. one solution i have found, is to troll consignment shops. i got a pair of citizens of humanity jeans for $30 at a local shop & they're holding up pretty well (despite the thin denim)...but it's pretty hit & miss (maybe better in LA?? i live in denver).

my 2 biggest complaints are the damn whiskering. i bought a pair of gap jeans out of desperation last year and after wearing them a few times, my husband noticed and started laughing at me...i hadn't noticed the really weird whiskering (like just above my knees shooting out of my inner thighs...wtf?). he just shakes his head every time i wear them (which isn't often, or in public, since they got a hole in about 3 months). which brings me to my other complaint, the cheap, thin denim, even on the expensive jeans.

all through college (mid-nineties) i wore mens 501s, and i'm actually thinking of going back to them. they're actual denim, they don't have a 3 inch rise (=muffin top). it's just more work to dig through thrift stores to find a decent pair.

Mel said...

My favorite jeans are from Anthro, Joe's and pelcro that were both on clearance.
But I do have some that fit your criteria that I found because they were $6 in a winter-end blow out sale at Loft. They make them still, so I don't understand the clearance. They are the Curvy Straight jeans. I got them in a nice dark wash. They're not the highest quality but they don't stretch out and they're pretty flattering.
Here! http://www.anntaylorloft.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=30090&N=1200009&pCategoryId=3359&categoryId=208&Ns=CATEGORY_SEQ_208&loc=TN&defaultColor=Gray%20Blue&defaultSizeType=Regular

J Crew jeans have been so disappointing--it's like they have made them skinnier! I can't even fit my hips into the biggest size even though I can easily wear their size 8 chinos. Caca!

modaspia said...

jennifer ! check out uniqlo online. i love their jeans and they're inexpensive ($40-50). excellent quality (japanese). before i discovered their jeans, which fit great btw, i would wear only 2nd hand levis from the thrift (gasp, yes)because they were worn in, soft and looked good. when we went to ny last year we raided uniqlo and stocked up.
btw, the $100 i spent on a pair of j.crew jeans (lured by their fantastic styling right?) i HATED on me. i wore them the whole time i was sanding the floors :)

erica said...

these are light, but the wash isn't cheesy, and the fit is amazing. best of all, the denim is sturdy, unlike C/Es, which seem to be on the verge of disintegration. i bought a pair of R13s a year ago, and the knee ripped within 3 months. grrr!!

i agree that denim is workwear, but i am willing to spend up to $250 for a pair that fits and lasts (considering i 'wasted' $150 on R13 and $160 on JBrand).

i would give rag and bone a try, maybe.

Amanda said...

Part of the problem is that fit is so different for different people. Most of the time jeans that fit my waist are baggy in the rear and hips.
It sounds like you and I are basically looking for the exact same thing. Why aren't people making them?
But I have had some luck with Gap Forever Skinny (same as Always Skinny with a midrise), but of course it looks like they have discontinued them.

I used to wear mens 501s in high school and college, but I think my shape is more womanly than it was then...

Jennifer said...

So glad I'm getting comments on this!
@dee : I have been tempted by MiH Jeans.
Jane Birkin wore them afterall, back in the day.
@Kelly M. - will give Levi's a shot. I, like a few of you used to wear Levi's in the 90's. I think my body has changed too much since then to squeeze into 501's- but I'll take a look at them.
@ Anon- willing to try Gap, do you have a particular style or cut that you like there?
@*Prarie Girl* - good idea about consignment shops.
@ Mel: you made me laugh with your Caca :)
Will take a look at your Loft suggestion.
@Ursula- I was thinking of you & your fondness for Uniqulo. I trust your opinion. Is there a particular style you like? Laughing about you sanding in your J.Crew's (I just read you blog post on that last night:)
@Erica- I know you are a lady with high standards & good taste. Thanks for the info about C/E. Rag & Bone, Surface to Air -they will go on my "to Try" list! Thanks.
@Amanda- yes! You hit the nail on the head "Part of the problem is that fit is so different for different people."
It's frustrating. When you do find something you like, it always seems to be discontinued. A result of Fast Fashion?
I do know in the past 20 years or so with all of our changes in trade & manufacturing, all of the outsourcing that has occurred, the quality of denim has gone down. My Levi's that I wore back in the 90's used to last forever.
Hmm, seems like I may have to waive my $100 rule to find what I want.
Thanks all! Keep the comments coming!

erica said...

Exactly, jean recommendations are about as useful as makeup or skincare! But still, it's always good to hear about what works for other people.

I miss the days when I could wear a vintage pair of Levis. My favorite pair cost $3. Those were in my pre-hips days....sigh.

Jennifer said...

I can barely remember my pre-hip days ;)
At least your hips probably came about because of that cute little Leon.
Hoping that these suggestions will at least point me in the right direction.
I plan to report back on what I find.

Ems said...

I'm with Kelly...except I'd add to find yourself a whole Levi's store. I hate jeans shopping cus I have hips and a butt and also don't love to spend a ton on jeans but on a Seattle trip last spring I went in one and just picked up 2 sizes of every cut in the store until I found a couple of styles I liked.

I like that they're a classic brand, decently priced and able to fit a girl shaped girl!

Anne-Marie said...

I wish I could help you. I spend way too much on jeans (despite my midwest upbringing) but it does seem that the higher the price, the more quickly they fall apart. The price is because of the wash, right? The damn chemicals kill the fibers and they fall apart. So stupid.

Anonymous said...

i love this post, jennifer! i must say that out of all of my jeans which range from low to high price ranges, my all time favorites are my vintage high-waisted levi's, one pair that are straight leg and the other that are a nice '70s wide leg.

but another recent discovery are urban outfitters' high-rise jeans. they aren't too high which i like, and they are around $50. they have some stretch but are super flattering on the buns. i was hesitant to try them but i had 3 friends go on and on about them, so i gave in and i'm happy i did!

Anonymous said...

oh and p.s. i just read that american rag recently expanded their denim bar - might be worth checking out!

Jade said...

i actually really like 7 for all mankind. i buy them on gilt for $99 or at nordstrom rack for about the same price. i like the bootcut. but, the pair of jeans i wear the most are the dita bootcut petite from citizens of humanity. i paid $99 for them and didn't have to get them tailored, so it was well worth it. i think 7s and citizens are great for people with hips and curves like myself.

SHAYNA said...

Hysterical. I'm currently going through this exact predicament. I have a pair of j brand skinny (from their "curvy" line) cropped jeans that I feel like a million bucks in. But post-pregnancy they're a bit too tight. Also, I'd like a regular length dk. blue pair. I bought them at a resale shop and they don't seem to exist anymore.

I just did the same hunt, ending up with a pair of jcrew matchstick jeans in rinse that's too light but they were $30 on sale and I had a credit. So....search is still on.

Looking for the perfect pair of slim but not skinny, dark rinse, quality material for under $100. Looking forward to hearing if you find something....

eri said...

I agree with Erica that finding the right denim fit is very personal and subjective. That said, it still is nice to hear everyone's opinion!

I think I have the same Jbrand jeans from Anthro. that you bought and I feel the same way about them. They are good but just a smidge too skinny.

Even though they are expensive I would definitely recommend Acne denim. Their jeans are made from quality fabric and the pairs I own have lasted for ages. They also have higher rises, and straighter cut legs than a lot of other lines. I scored mine on sale and/or on ebay for less than the outrageous $300 retail.

Levis may also be worth a shot (as someone else mentioned). I have a pair of black straight legged jeans from them that I really like.

Good luck!

shipbuilding said...

Hello, I can't wait to hear how you go with this. It's like I wrote this post myself. I put shopping for jeans in the same category as shopping for swimwear - nightmare!

I wish I had some suggestions for you but luckily, you've had plenty of those already so I'll just wish you good luck and I hope the perfect pair is waiting for you. I feel more encouraged now to begin my own search (again!).

Julie D. said...

I have two pairs of Madewell Rail Straights in black and the dark wash that Iike a lot. Did you try those on? I'm also a solid size 8 with hips, and they fit well. My all time favorites though were Gap boyfriend jeans. $59.50!! I don't know if they still make them. Unfortunately I bought two pairs after I had a baby, but they were waaay too big after I lost weight and so I gave them away. I also have a pair from Banana Republic, straight but not too skinny and a nice medium/dark wash that isn't distressed at all. Good luck!

Leila said...

I second the second hand/consignment store call, it takes work but especially in LA where people spend hundreds on jeans, places like Buffalo Exchange and Wasteland are FULL of Acne jeans for $20! it's hard to find dark wash, good quality denim as whiskering seems to be to the 2000s what stonewash was to the 80s/90s, and denim is just so thin now! But I have found APC, Acne, current elliot for $13-30 bucks at consignment stores here in SF, it's worth the hellish hunt! The current elliot were so soft, almost like wearing PJs, but they fell apart in about 4 months so I can't believe people spend $300 on them!

Kristien said...

I used to spend a lot of money on jeans, but these days, try to find bargains at outlets or places like TJ Maxx and Marshall's. My current favorite pair of jeans is a pair of black, slim legged not quite skinny, high waisted DKNY jeans. I got them at TJ Maxx for $24! They are probably most similar to this style: http://www.dkny.com/women/denim/kcmu5835/skinny-jean-rinse-wash-32-length At this point in my life I can't deal with tugging up low riders! I also have a pair of BR skinnies I picked up at a BR outlet for $19. Like the DKNY, they are higher rise and flattering to a woman's shape. I too pine for my circa 1993 perfectly worn in Levi's 501s. They lasted FOREVER! Good luck on the hunt!

UNIFORM natural said...

I love the GAP always skinny. they have a nice dark wash, w/o any treatments and the rise isn't too low-no plumbers butt!
they also now have a high rise which I love.
I've been wearing my 1st pair of always skinny for over a year almost daily and they are still in great shape. I want to hate the GAP but I think their jeans are a good value.
someone just tweeted that lands end canvas jeans are nice too but I have not tried those.

victoria / cats dreaming in keylime said...

I have terrible luck with jeans and never wear them b/c of that terrible luck - and my 37 year old hips - and my low budget. However, oddly, I have luck w. H&M jeans.

oneeyedrabbit said...

Where are your clogs from in this picture? I really like them.