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Can you describe the present-day fashion zeitgeist with just one word? Throwback, withal a huge throwback! Think Saturday Night Fever sparkling disco vibes, the Wild One Marlon Brando riding a motorcycle in a cool pair of Levi’s vintage jeans or Marilyn Monroe-esque high-rise vintage denim appeal. This is a dead giveaway that the fashion circuit is highballing it back to the old times in quest of some freshness and vigour, however paradoxical it might seem at times.
Starting from Vetements’ reworked vintage jeans to Balenciaga’s shockingly shocking colorful spandex to Gucci’s pussycat bow exuberance, vintage redux is having a remarkable moment for already several seasons in a row. But that’s vintage jeans that have most powerfully turned on the blue light like a bolt out of the blue and made us leave everything stretchy, form-fitting and low rise.
When there is so much vintage blue matter in the air, why not finally turn the page of world-weary skinnies and embrace the authentic and snug-fit vintage denim? I bet my boots that once you acquire your first pair of vintage jeans right for your body shape, vintage denim shopping might become your next big obsession. Here is all you should know about this blast from the past, if you are after to make your vintage denim shopping coup de maître.
Vintage Denim Shopping Guide: Contents
- Vintage Jeans Trending: The Old Is The New
- How to Choose Vintage Jeans for Your Body Type?
- Pro Tips on How to Shop for Vintage Jeans
- Where to Buy Vintage Denim?
If you are really sick and tired of those skin-tight, low-rise jeans hugging tightly every curve of your body, welcome on the board! High waisted mom jeans with frayed pockets, whiskered coloring and torn knees from the old times are making a huge comeback, thus encouraging us that keeping the look low-key can be just zero cool.
When did all this vintage denim excitement kick-start? When underground-chic brand Vetements delivered a range of reworked vintage jeans strongly paired with ankle boots at its fall 2015 fashion show, the results spoke volumes: the line was sold out in no time on Net-a-Porter at $1,450. No two ways about it: the folks are gravitating towards the origins.
The vintage denim trend has been bulking out for already several years, but in a refined, invigorated and refreshed state. While heritage denim brands like Levi’s, Lee or Wrangler are still working their part in the denim zone producing fresh new cuts and designs, an overwhelming majority of women are for rummaging flea markets, thrift and second hand shops to find a pair of vintage jeans that has its individual history, carries the characteristics of its prior owner and has that appealing vintage feeling to it. Then it is all about taking the vintage jeans to a tailor for some plus-minus operations and the wardrobe is updated with a pair of vintage-modernized jeans.
Read Next: The History of Jeans: Denim Origin & Facts
In this regard, a range of online retailers works up a sweat to get behind this eminent movement. The LA label Re/Done founded by Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur has stepped up to the plate to keep heritage brands relevant and to create sustainable fashion.
“Girls can find jeans at vintage stores, flea markets, Goodwill — but it doesn’t fit them well because it’s all guys’ jeans anyway,” says Barron. “We solve that problem for them. We take the jeans apart ourselves and put it back together while keeping the American denim heritage relevant. There’s a story behind each pair, like, who was the trucker that wore these jeans before me? It all becomes part of the fabric of what we do.”
Many might consider this version of vintage denim shopping a huckleberry above a persimmon, given that it saves a lot of time. After all rifling through a flea market to find your ideal pair of Levi’s jeans, then searching for a veteran tailor who will cut your jeans in a way as not to deprive it of its original appearance, might be something really time-consuming and not effective.
RE/DONE offers up two-in-one solution – you choose your size and then you are shown a wide range of jeans of different shapes and washes already customized and modernized by deft hands.
What are the other extra factors about vintage jeans that have made it a trend at one fell swoop? In this day and age, nothing is more applauded and appreciated than natural appeal. So the comeback of vintage denim automatically weeds out that long-time accepted make-believe rips and tears.
Want to rock some rock-chic distressed jeans? Why not do it in a natural way especially as Levi’s 501 jeans only have been made for 40 years at around 10 million pairs a year. So many pairs of vintage jeans at your fingertips now!
Denim Refinery is just another online retailer specialized at refining your vintage denim into something modern and dashing. The scheme is super comfy for anyone who wants to score a pair of modernized vintage jeans from the comfort of the home. You just need to dust out your outworn vintage jeans, choose the refinement type and send it out in the pursuit to get back something up-to-the-minute.
High-rise snug-fit vintage jeans are obviously lording over the other styles at this moment. Day in, day out we thumb through the Instagram profiles of our favorite celebrities just to find out that yet another style-dictating girl has jumped on the vintage denim bandwagon. Kendall Jenner is cowgirling, Rita Ora gives her preference to Levi’s baggy jeans, while Ashley Olsen is flaring up with flared vintage jeans.
As a typical petite girl, I have never thought of wearing that high-rise vintage denim for fear of looking somehow sloppy, with gaping waist and unflattering butt. But the other day when one of my slim-figured colleagues entered the office wearing a pair of vintage blue jeans with raw hems, I couldn’t help but pay her a compliment; “You really look cool in these vintage jeans”. Suddenly, it hit me right between the eyes; why not chase all fear and hunt for my perfect pair of vintage jeans that will let me play my cards right.
Read Next: Best Vintage Jeans for Women
Though thrift shops, flea markets and online retailers are literally knee-deep in different styles of vintage jeans, the chances to get your perfect body-flattering pair at the drop of a hat are truly slim to none. Hats off to those exclusive vintage-lovers that have already lucked out in that complicated case, as hunting for vintage jeans is really back-breaker.
No matter how crackerjack is your jeans tailor, the pair to be customized should be in a fit not requiring a total reconstruction. While leg part can be modified to fit your shape without much effort, it’s advisable to minimize any customizations when it comes to butt and hips.
With Levi’s 501 being the gold standard in the vintage zone, you are not limited to only this style. There are still Levi’s 505 and Levi’s 517 at your fingertips, as well as vintage pairs from other heritage brands like Wrangler, Lee, Jordache, Calvin Klein and so on and so forth.
Each and every brand and model has unique traits to it able to flatter this or that body shape, let alone the fact that regardless of label, every unique pair fits differently depending on the body shape of its prior owner. So which style to choose if you want to cut a fine figure in this tough period of vintage craze?
Vintage Levi’s 501 for Hourglass-Shaped Body
Those women who boast having curvy shapes should assuredly go for the classic Levi’s 501 style. As known, Levi’s 501 was originally designed for men who needed high-rise snug fit while working. That’s why Levi’s 501 coming a long way through the mid ‘90s is more nipped in at the waist, pitched lower in the front and higher in the back.
The button-fly design gives more room through hips and butts, while the slightly flared legs tend to keep the hourglass-shaped body in nice proportions in terms of waist/leg ratio. Additionally, with more coverage in the seat, Levi’s 501 promises to make your butt look really hot.
Vintage Levi’s 505 for Straight Figure
What did the American punk rock band Ramones, punk fashion mogul Debbie Harry or rock star Patti Smith all have in common? That’s the cool Levi’s 505 style introduced in the late ‘60s and so fittingly cutting a deal with the hippie movement. While Levi’s 501 is more associated with working class, rough war period and American Westerns, Levi’s 505 calls to mind the liberal counterculture broken out by hippies.
The vintage-obsessed tomboyish girls are likely to make the best of vintage amusements with Levi’s 505. First off, this cut has zip fly versus button fly that keeps the midsection flatter and smoother. “The buttons on the 501 push the front of the tummy out, creating a pouch,” Levi’s head of design Jonathan Cheung explains. “The zipper fly makes that area flat and holds you in.”
The rise is defined as more medium high-rise, pitched just below the belly button, having slimmer fit from thighs through ankles, and ending with more tapered construction. Besides, this cut will be right up the street for those who are somehow lily-livered to abruptly switch from run-of-the-mill skinny jeans to vintage gems.
Read Next: How to Take Care of Your Vintage Denim
Vintage Levi’s 517 for All Body Shapes
This high-rise, boot-cut Levi’s design is a universally flattering staple for those women who have a yen to go cowboy style. The high-rise cut is meant to do wonders for butts across the board, while the boot-cut style is a real superiority for short stature ladies with its leg-lengthening effect and for tall ones alike when it comes to playing up the height extra time.
Vintage Wrangler for Make-Believe Curves
The iconic blue bell and stitched “W” on the back pockets are what best defines Wrangler jeans originally meant to serve cowboys during rodeo races. Successfully passing through decades Wrangler jeans are currently a real mic drop for women on the thin side of a build. Why? As Janet Sung from Denim Refinery states, “They give my hips a tighter hug, making my boyish-shape a little more curvy.”
These high-rise vintage jeans with a slim cut, straight or slightly flared legs are likely to throw you a curve, creating curves you have been dreaming of so long.
Lee Riders for Long-Legged Women
Lee Riders fits nearly like Wrangler to comfort slender women but at the same time being quite feasible for curvy women as well through looser hips. This is just another vintage denim style that features that je ne sais quoi symbiosis of high-rise and straight or slightly flared leg. But what makes Lee Riders a real stroke of luck for tall women is its long inseam to make tall ladies look even more grandiose and elegant.
Vintage Jordache for Curvy Shapes
The designer vintage jeans by Jordache are specially cut out for curvy shapes mainly due to the super high-rise that nips everything in. Extra room through the thighs and the tapered legs are just factors to make curvy women come by this vintage denim style. Need some icing on the cake? Zippers, snaps or denim bows on the back of the ankles.
Vintage Calvin Klein Jeans for Sex Appeal
We couldn’t but touch on the most scandalous designer jeans in the history ever. It was back in 1980 when 15-year-old Brook Shields was shot in a Calvin Klein jeans campaign, asking “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The slogan gave birth to its sexy appeal and had people think of Calvin Klein jeans as something synonymous with sexy.
Mid to high-rise cut, blousy and tapered leg, and loose snug fit are what undergirds the sexy hallmark of vintage Calvin Klein jeans.
Once you have pinpointed your body shape and the vintage jeans cut to best flatter your figure, time is ripe to take the plunge and start hunting for your long-cherished pair. Here are some pro tips from vintage denim experts that we have put together to guide you when at sea about the wash, distress level, sizing and other tricky things denimphiles come across when shopping.
1. Forget the Traditional Sizing: Vintage Sizing Is a Different Kettle of Fish
Vintage sizing of, say, gold standard Levi’s 501 is by far the most challenging part of vintage shopping. All vintage experts unanimously state that vintage jeans run 2-3 sizes smaller than modern sizes. So if your regular size is 26, expect to go up to 28 or 29 for the perfect vintage fit, while a size up will create a boyfriend jeans effect. In point of fact, the explanation of this divergence is simple as ABC; no need to push the panic button.
“95% of all Levi’s are men’s jeans,” says Sean Barron, the co-founder of RE/DONE. “Plus, guys have less hips, and the true Americana guy who wore these jeans needed them to be comfortable.”
The vintage-obsessed girls, who know vintage shopping backwards and forwards, are old hand at this tricky sizing, but those like me who are on the verge of testing the waters, might find this sizing thing something damn confusing.
But things become even more complicated when we start considering the vintage factor, that is to say, the fact that before popping up on the racks of your favorable thrift shop, the pairs have passed through decades, each one carrying its individual story and entering our wardrobes with the forms and shapes of its prior owner. That’s why, if possible and there is a vintage shop in your vicinity, the best way to find your ideal pair is to try it on over and over again.
An extra tip for you while at the shop and stockpiling a range of vintage pairs to try on in the dressing room: do a quick check for fit, just hold the waistband around your neck like a huge necklace and if the two ends don’t overlap, then it’s a waste of time to try them on, the jeans are too small for you.
So how to act if you aim at shopping for vintage jeans online? First off, always be ready to experience some failures, especially if you are fresh-minted in vintage shopping, while also targeting online stores that have return policies and refunds.
Some eco-friendly online labels like RE/DONE or Denim Refinery provide some pretty comprehensive in-detail sizing guides to help the shoppers minimize the error probability, while at Etsy or eBay the sizing guides differ from seller to seller. In any case, before ordering, it’s worth contacting the seller for more detailed information.
2. Choose Your Favorable Wash and Distress
The next step while shopping for vintage jeans is to determine which wash best resonates with your preferences and individuality. When we say wash, we mean the color and fade of the denim. We have been witnessing that artificial fade and distress for a long time now, but with vintage fashion trending now, there is a good chance to enjoy naturally faded worn-out appeal of jeans.
If you want to jump on the rigid and work-inspired side of the vintage jeans, you are likely to gah over deep indigo wash with slight whiskerings on the thighs. If you are after something more complicated and fancier, cast about for a pair of acid wash jeans.
However, it is that mid-tone blue wash that revives the iconic blue jeans phenomenon. “If you are buying vintage denim for the first time”, Bliss and Mischief designer and founder Hillary Justin recommends, “start with a mid-tone jeans with a lot of highs and lows – denim that goes from dark blue or medium blue to a light blue where there is wear, like at the top of the thigh or knee.”
While looking for your ideal pair of vintage jeans, considering the distress level is also crucial. But again it is a matter of personal preference. Whether you wish to rock tears at the pockets or on the knees or maybe give your preference to unique paint splatters all over, the best part is that you are dealing with a pair that has lived its own life.
3. Consider Taking Your Vintage Jeans to a Tailor
That will be a real run of luck to score a pair of vintage jeans totally at the ready to be worn straight up and hit the streets. More often than not you find the hems too long for your preferable fit or there is that irritating gapping at the waist.
While the leading denim experts insist on keeping the vintage pair unmodified for its original vintage feel, at times making some adjustments is just inevitable. If you have pulled off to find an expert denim-specialized tailor, he will crop, hem, taper or do anything else with your vintage denim the right way to maintain its vintage vibes.
But if you are still in search of a masterful tailor, we’ll square the circle for you and recommend considering 7th Bone Tailoring in New York City, Denim Doctors or Denim Revival in Los Angeles.
Maybe the most common adjustment is about the length. In general, hemming is nothing troublesome but when it comes to vintage jeans, especially Levi’s 501 selvedge denim, you need to play it safe. So instruct your tailor to keep the original stitching and selvedge otherwise your rare vintage piece is about to lose its value.
Tapering is just another adjustment that your vintage jeans may undergo if you are of slim build, and flared staples feel somehow unflattering for your body shape. Again Justin states, “I have clients that are really tiny and the thigh is just too overwhelming on them, so they take it in an inch, so they’re not swimming in their jeans.”
Altering waistband is recommended to do only when there is a little gapping, while the other parts fit just perfectly.
4. Learn How to Identify Your Vintage Jeans
How do you know if the jeans you are buying are vintage or not? First off, vintage jeans are manufactured prior to the 1980s since clothing dating back 25-30 years is considered vintage. Also, check out our guide to identifying your vintage jeans to pick the real ones!
If you are now here in pursuit of getting into everything vintage denim, then you are likely already taken away by the newly-broken-out trend. To this end, you are purportedly planning to give it a go and snap up a pair of straight-leg, high-waist and no stretch vintage treasure. So what are the best places in LA, New York or online to purchase vintage jeans and make strides in fashion circuit?
While you can look through nearby thrift shops or flea markets any time possible, we want to grease the wheels and lend you a helping hand. Here is a list of the best vintage locations to make your search a tad more painless.
New York-Based Vintage Stores
1. What Goes Around Comes Around
351 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
Price: $170 – $200
If you want to feel the luxury of vintage to the max, there is no better place to visit than the much-buzzed-about What Goes Around Comes Around. With the flagship store based in New York, SoHo, WGACA has its vintage boutiques in Los Angeles, Miami, Roslyn and East Hampton as well.
Among genuine Chanel bags and Hermes jewelry, you are sure to find your dream pair of Levi’s 501, cherry-picked by denim experts and featuring various washes to your liking. While online shopping is also available, that will be just a pleasure to hit the store and get professional advice from denim experts for the perfect fit.
2. Grand Street Bakery
602 Grand St
Brooklyn, New York
Grand Street Bakery that sounds so sweet is actually a vintage store. Baking racks serving as hangers and an old oven as a dressing room are fond memories of its bakery past, now fully breathing vintage.
Vintage Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee or Carhartt – you are about to find any style here with different levels of distress and fade just in keeping with the current trends. Mind that you are not limited to only jeans: there are also denim shirts, jackets, vests, overalls and shorts galore.
With affordable price tags starting from $35, Grand Street Bakery is a perfect hub for your cost-effective vintage denim shopping.
3. Stella Dallas
218 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012
Stella Dallas and its sister store 10 Ft. Single by Stella Dallas are definitely worth your visit and lasting exploration for some authentic vintage denim pieces. This well-curated shop brings to the table everything vintage, starting from Japanese souvenir jackets, vintage Champion sportswear and rock ‘n’ roll tees to redline selvedge Levi’s as your most whimsical target.
23 Howard Street
New York, NY 10013
Best known for its eco-friendly fashion scheme, Reformation is also among the first-class purveyors of vintage jeans as an extra confirmation of the label’s sustainability. The vintage Levi’s jeans are not sold as are but with little adjustments for a more modernized look. Drop in on here whenever in New York and go beyond those breezy floral dresses Reformation is popular with.
5. Raggedy Threads
602 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Want to scope out a vintage piece with story and character? Then you should definitely draw beads on Raggedy Threads having its stores located in New York and LA. Rest assured that Jamie Wong, the store’s owner, will let you know in details the story behind that distressed pocket of Levi’s 501 jeans.
6. L Train Vintage
629 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Here is another vintage store in Brooklyn that will find you rummaging a vast variety of vintage pieces for hours. With many sister stores spread across Brooklyn and Manhattan, L Train Vintage offers up a plethora of worn-out Levi’s and Wrangler jeans that are just the right things to upgrade your wardrobe with. What’s more, the prices are quite reasonable, roughly priced between $7 and $15.
7. The Vintage Twin
Pop-up locations at 199 Lafayette and 138 Wooster
New York, NY 10012
Many define the Vintage Twin as an exceptional venue to find that long-cherished pair of vintage jeans lifting the butt to perfection. That’s because the store offers up meticulously chosen vintage staples to live up to the expectations of the most whimsy characters.
“Few people leave the store without jeans,” Morgan, one of the twin sisters states, “We just look at you and put you in a pair of jeans. We don’t need your size, and we usually get it the first time.”
No wonder, that the brand’s clientele includes such big league names as Bella Hadid, Alexa Chung and Jamie King. If you want to own body-flattering Levi’s, Wrangler or Calvin Klein pairs, go online, or else follow the brand’s Instagram account to know where the next pop-up shop will pop up.
LA-Based Vintage Stores
1. Denim Revival
7934 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Denim Revival is a great place to relish your vintage pleasures whether you want to acquire a pair of old jeans or just want your vintage treasure to be revived for a polished look. They can handle everything: taper waist, lower waist, chain-stitch hems, repair belts, age your clothing or make them look new. Hit up their Los Angeles store and level up your vintage experience.
2. Rose Bowl Flea Market
1001 Rose Bowl Drive
Pasadena, CA 91103
On the second Sunday of every month, crowds of people make tracks for Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena to start their impressive vintage explorations. Rose Bowl is by far the most well-known flea market in the USA, where along with vintage jeans you can also snap up some thrilling antique furniture, Navajo rugs or anything else to your heart’s content.
Those who are early birds are likely to get the most out of this vintage festival – admission tickets cost $20 between 5 am and 7 am, and for good reason.
1282 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Originally crafted from the life-long vintage collection of Elizabeth Parks Kibbey in 2014, this high-end vintage boutique supplies iconic Levi’s, Wrangler and Calvin Klein vintage jeans with an eye to contemporary trends. Here you can also dig some valuable staples from such luxury brands as Prada, Giorgio Armani, Chloe or Yves Saint Laurent.
2840 College Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
Carla Bell, the founder of Slash, compares her work to a doctor’s appointment, where the patient comes in, explains his or her denim problems, and then gets diagnosed. So, when suffering from gaping waist for a long time, put your trust in Slash to solve your denim problem in a flash. This Berkeley denim store features both vintage and contemporary denim priced at $25-$35 and $45-$95 respectively.
5. Wasteland (San Francisco and LA)
1660 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
There is one vintage boutique that is always a reflection of the moment – art, music, history and the now. This is the praise of Wasteland vintage haven with locations in Studio City, Melrose, and in Santa Monica. This vintage mecca boasts having a wide variety of both vintage and contemporary pieces from high-end fashion houses that are surely worth your open-eyed sifting through racks.
6. Berda Paradise Thrift Shop
3506 W. Sunset Boulevard (at Golden Gate Avenue)
If there is one thrift shop that is within affordable framework and is worth your check, that is Berda Paradise thrift shop, so popular among Silver Lake residents. This non-profit thrift shop is definitely singing a different tune, known for its $1 rack and supporting Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic.
Among every kind of clothing, house wares, jewelry and knickknacks, Berda Paradise also renders out vintage Levi’s jeans at incredibly low prices.
217 Mott Street (Between Spring and Prince Streets)
Founded by Mark Haddawy and Katy Rodriguez in 1996, Resurrection has boutiques both in LA and New York. Exhibiting such iconic items as Hermes bags and Halston gowns, Resurrection is ranked as one of the most premium vintage stores in LA. So be ready that the prefect Levi’s jeans that you have scoped out at Resurrection might cost you a pretty penny.
Best Online Vintage Shops
eBay, that multinational e-commerce corporation, is one of the best online hubs to seek out vintage denim. Levi’s 501, Wrangler, Lee – you have a wide range of vintage tidbits at your disposal with price tags ranging from very affordable to really pricey.
You just need to use the search filters in the right way, track down a really credulous retailer and not to forget that fake vintage jeans are a dime a dozen.
Etsy is just another e-commerce website that offers a relatively smaller selection of vintage denim priced at $15 and higher. Here you are likely to come upon any kind of vintage denim starting from skirts and shorts to overalls and jeans. Check out Colony Vintage, Shop Exile or Northwest Vintage Co. as the most trustworthy shops on Etsy.
RE/DONE defines itself not as a denim company, but a movement to restore individuality to the luxury fashion space, a movement to keep heritage brands relevant, and a movement to create sustainable fashion. Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur, the founders of this online luxury fashion label, have joined up with Levi’s to repurpose their vintage gems, hand-cutting and re-sewing them and adjusting them for the perfect fit.
Priced at around $200-$300, RE/DONE is seriously making waves among celebrities and fashion types, bound to be sold out at a moment’s notice. So hurry up to get the best out of RE/DONE’s valuable undertaking.
4. Denim Refinery
The vintage denim scheme of Denim Refinery stands so close to RE/DONE. Along with classic Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee or Gap jeans at stock, the e-boutique also zeroes in on denim refurbishment. “Refine your Denim” is a perfect service for those who have a couple of jeans collecting dust in their wardrobes.
Just choose your refinement type, be it soften, laser, wax, distress or foil and be prepared to greet your rejuvenated jeans.
5. Urban Renewal – Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters actually beats the drum thanks to its recently broken out Urban Renewal in-house brand that seconds the idea of recycled fashion. A large collection of worn-out dresses, T-shirts, button-down blouses and, of course, vintage jeans has been carefully hand-picked from flea-markets and warehouses around the world.
Having undergone some minor adjustments, the vintage denim offered by Urban Renewal will perfectly fit your low budget.
6. Beyond Retro
This vintage clothing superstar, awarded CoolBrands status in 2009 and named number 9 in Time Out‘s ’50 Best Shops of London’ in September 2010, is way ahead of the curve with its vast vintage offerings from every era of the 20th century.
First opened in a disused diary factory on Cheshire Street in East London, Beyond Retro then spread out with shops in Brighton and Sweden, up to occupying online territory as well. Though not falling under the budget-friendly category, this vintage treasure trove is undeniably worth your explorations for prefect vintage denim findings.
7. ASOS Marketplace
ASOS Marketplace offers such a large variety of vintage boutiques that you might even be spoilt for choice. Just dig deeper to unearth your ace of aces vintage Levi’s pair or else continue with your searches to come by other leaders in the vintage zone as Wrangler or Lee.
Photos via Instagram