I polled friends on their jeans price point, which ranged from $25 for no-names bought at Winner's (our TJ Maxx) to $250 or more for designer brands. Most were in the middle, paying $75-$120 but watching for sales. One woman said her sister turned up at a hiking lodge in Alaska in $500 Balenciaga jeans, but she's an outlier.
Several women buy theirs at thrifts, paying $10-$20 for, as one said, "someone else to break them in".
Zipping up, high and low
The boy and I chose a venerable Montréal institution, JeansJeansJeans, which is exactly like "Say Yes to the Dress" but for denim: they carry least six dozen labels, from mid-to-high end, all marked down.
He vanished to the men's side. A pleasant, gimlet-eyed woman sized me up by pulling my coat aside and looking at my butt; she asked for my criteria (straight leg, higher waist, dark wash), deposited me in a curtained, mirrorless fitting room (no champagne) and told me to "vait".
In this vast warehouse space, jeans hang like a Christo installment on overhead racks, as well as floor carousels. You do not touch. She pulls them, handing six pair at a time through your dressing room curtain.
Lois (which she pronounced "Loyz") fit best, but I found several other options at good discounts, for example, $80 Yoga Jeans, usually $120 locally.
Some women figure the higher the price, the higher the booty. But I could find no correlation between price and fit among the mid-range brands—just a matter of pulling on pants till the mirror tells you you're cute.
I asked for an upgrade and was handed a stack of "premium denim": $200+ jeans from Rag & Bone, AG, Naked & Famous, Seven.
|Rag and Bone skinnies|
Props to the saleswoman for telling me the $65 Lois looked as good as the three-times-as-much pair.
Prestige jeans' price equals a piece of real jewelry, and much of the status attaches to fabric: raw, selvage, heritage: there's a whole taxonomy.
But I remember my first pair of riveted, cardboardy Levis ca. 1960 ($16) worn in the bath to shrink-fit; I don't need an reunion with the Ghost of Denim Past. And, despite Anderson Cooper's endorsement, I like to wash mine.
A few days later, I checked out a few lower-end chains (Reitman's, Smart Set, H&M). At first glance, the jeans looked pretty good, but those chains cut for their main market, young adults. These are Your Daughter's Jeans and they let me know. Many were too low in the rise, delivering a simultaneous wedgie/moon. It was here, too, that I found the dreaded "leg twist".
Fitting the grown woman
|Talbot's Heritage ankle jean|
Talbot's promise Babe Paley but deliver June Cleaver; the company once known for well-made classics has dropped the fork. Their jeans, though, fit me neatly, and good for them for using the same quality denim for Misses, Petite and Women's lines.
NYDJ's treatments (overdyes, coating), almost Photoshop-effect cut and vast range of sizes (Misses, Petite, Plus, Tall and Short) earn devoted repeat business. I thought my first pair were pricey, and now say, Worth it.
Politics in blue
|Lucky Brand "Sofia"|
Here's a link to 10 American Made Denim Brands, not all of whom carry women's styles.
Lucky Brand (owned by the conglomerate that owns Liz Clairborne) is one of the most widely-distributed, however, only part of its line—the Made in America (MIA) range—is produced in the US.The Sofia straight leg, is one, around $130.
Montréal's Naked & Famous makes its jeans locally, of Japanese fabric, but other Canadian companies (Parasuco, Silver) manufacture offshore.
|Shockoe Classic Denim|
They're made of denim from Cone Mills, America's oldest denim maker, and hand-sewn in Richmond, VA.
So, it's a balancing act: style, status, cost, conscience. And then there's the three-way mirror, where my vanity trumps my politique every time.
How much will you spend on denim joy? Do you splurge or settle? Does provenance matter?