Friday, November 8, 2013

Fashion Fix ::: Finding the Perfect Pair


Finding the "perfect pair" of jeans can be an exercise in patience and humility, and even sometimes just exercise.  Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes years.  

I was formerly a "super-cheap jeans" buyer. Back in that era, Target sold some sort of Levi's variant and they were great for my wallet, and I bought a few Old Navy here and there. I just didn't bring myself to spend a ton on them in the past because I didn't "care."  But I had an awakening when I decided one day to actually try some more premium denim on, when I was having a "good butt day."  And that made me "see the light."

At the time, and sometimes now, admittedly, "getting them over my ass and buttoned" is my idea of "yay they fit!"  Breathing is so overrated!  While I know that's not entirely accurate, it applied. And it worked for me. I didn't apparently care how my butt looked, I didn't apparently care if my underwear (or in all honesty, my butt) hung out the top like a "whale tail".  Mind you, I do not wear thongs or anything of the sort....granny panties for the win, y'all!  But time went on, the aforeblogged "enlightenment" occurred and I am a changed woman.  

As a result of that experience, I now spend roughly $75 to $100 per pair on my jeans, and it's worth it. And really, if I could fit into many more "premium" brands, I might even pay more if they look good on.  Since I wear them so often, and typically wear them until they die (or I grow out of them), the cost per wear works out to almost nothing, if not into the negatives. And I have found that the mid-priced lines I buy fit my body better, and last me several years. I usually rotate about 3-4 pairs for 3 years or so before one or two finally die in the inner thigh area. I patch them to get a little more out of them, but eventually that's not enough. 

Kut from the Kloth, photo via

I was asked recently to share my favorite brands and places to shop for jeans. Emphatically, I would have to say that my favorite brand for the last several years has been Kut from the Kloth, also sold here.  I like the line because their particular styles are typically cut fuller/straighter in the waist which works for my thicker middle and because they come in a plethora of boot cut styles. Another more recent find is Wit&Wisdom, which appears to be a Nordstrom exclusive line, and they're cut equally straight in the waist which allows me to get a nice smooth look. I also love the "itty bitty bootcut" they offer, shown below. Not a big flare, but certainly not straight or skinny at all.  That's what works for MY body and may not work for everyone.

Wit & Wisdom "Itty Bitty Bootcut" jeans

Another brand I like is CJ by Cookie Johnson, which is great for so many figures, especially super tall and super curvy women. Her jeans are super stretchy, and super forgiving. (They're super, thanks for asking!) The brand has so many cuts, but my favorite are the bootcut "jegging" which is kind of a stretchy slim bootcut. Because they're designed to work for women who are significantly taller than myself, I end up needing almost a foot cut off of them when hemmed, but they're still fantastic on me and they keep their shape well over time.

The CJ by Cookie Johnson bootcut "jegging"

When I look for dressier jeans, I usually go with a Trouser Jean.  In super dark washes, they're often work-appropriate (or in my case consultation appropriate) for all but the most professional and conservative environments, and I happen to be lucky enough to have a casual-business casual friendly situation, though I try to not overdo it with denim in the office.  My favorite trouser jean style is from Ann Taylor Loft, though at the moment the pair I own is slightly too small (I will get back into them!). I have them hanging in my closet and refuse to part with them in a desperate hope they'd fit again when I lost more weight.  

The Ann Taylor Loft Trouser Jean in a Saturated Dark Wash

When it comes to cuts and leg-lines, in general, I prefer a mid-rise boot cut, or a "mini boot cut" that borders on straight leg, which of late has been quite a tougher one to find with the flood of high-rise skinny and legging style cuts in the market (more on my feelings on that trend in the coming weeks!)  

I also prefer a dark wash, and generally little detailing. But at the same time, especially when it comes to the Kut jeans, I am also someone who likes the "flappy butt pocket" look because it makes me look like I have a perkier butt, and Kut from the Kloth often nails the "flappy butt pocket" for me. If I had to share any input with that brand's designers it would be that if you have a particular style that comes in "regular pocket" don't call the "flappy butt pocket" by the same name.  Example: Natalie comes both ways. As did Farrah for a while. That makes reordering a favorite pretty much a pain in the...uh...butt.  

The aforeblogged "flappy butt pocket"

A big sticking point for me for almost every pair I buy is that they be as dark an indigo wash as possible, but not black, and if the perfect pair comes in a wash with weird lightness or whiskering, I have been known to purchase navy or similar RIT dye and dye them darker. The reasoning? Well, a dark wash is flattering for ALL figures, especially fuller ones like mine, but it also makes sure they work for all occasions, and can make a less expensive brand look more expensive.  So if your budget doesn't allow a $75 pair of jeans, or multiple $75 pairs, and you're in the market more for Old Navy, get their dark wash jeans in the cut that works best for you. Viola, they look significantly higher end, and your rear end looks bangin'!

I was also asked about where I buy jeans.  I seem to have the best luck shopping for jeans at Nordstrom, in part for the insane selection, but also because I can get alterations on site. I always need at least 6" hacked off the bottom of almost any pair, and their in-house alterations department has been great for handling that, and for the random "I ripped the belt loop off my jeans pulling them up by the loops again" oopsie situation. I have yet to have an issue with my alterations needs that they haven't been able to handle.  

If you can find yourself a good tailor (assuming you didn't buy from Nordstrom), make the time to find one. Hemming and any necessary tucks are the key to perfect fit. Many women get lucky off the rack, others require tweaking of everything, length or otherwise. Spend the money on the tailoring. That applies to everything, not just jeans.


So you've found your perfect pairs of dark wash jeans. Now what... Well, caring for dark washes properly is vital, and really, needs to start before you ever put them on.  Before I ever wash them, I soak fresh jeans in a bucket filled with a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and salt for about 2 hours.  Then I throw them right into the washing machine and I wash them on cold two times (often in a row) with only jeans or navy pants and a few Shout Color Catchers tossed in, as well as a cup of salt and a cup of vinegar mixed into the water. I let them hang to dry, and wash once more on cold and hang to dry again.  

All of these steps help preserve the color, and get any dye-related stiffness out of the material.  I almost never throw my jeans into the drier, except for a short burst on the lowest heat to get any stubborn wrinkles out. This whole routine is simply a result of having had a few too many dye-transfer issues on handbags, car seats, clothes and my legs that I have gotten a little more drastic in prepping new jeans before wearing them. But going through all of this extra prepwork has not only stopped that from ever occurring again, it's also kept my jeans dark and fabulous until I wear them out.

What has been your biggest hurdle finding the perfect jeans?  Any favorite denim lines, cuts and retailers?   For me the biggest hurdle is in my head, usually, the disappointment when the size on the tag of the pair that actually does fit is a number I am not happy with.  I am still working on the "it's my body, not the article" vs the "article is not cut right for my body" debate.   But I power through, and, I can always cut that tag out... 

Like every other article, you gotta try everything on, even two pairs by the same brand in the same size. I have yet to find total consistency within any brand and when I find a winner, I tend to buy multiples (I know, you're surprised by this revelation...) because you never find the exact same thing when you go back for more and then you're left in a panic starting all over.  And no one wants that! 

What are your favorite denim lines and cuts? Where do you buy them? 

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