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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.
Much like it is with cognac, the older your jeans become, the more premium they look and feel. And if you need some living proof, look no further than Kendall Jenner’s recent appearing in high-rise vintage denim, cowgirling it high and mighty.
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
- 9 Best Vintage Jeans to Buy Now
- The Origins of Jeans
- Vintage Jeans Trending: The Old Is The New
- How to Identify Vintage Levi’s Jeans
- How to Identify Vintage Wrangler and Lee Jeans
- How to Choose Vintage Jeans Cut and Style for Your Body Type?
- Pro Tips on How to Shop for Vintage Jeans
- Where to Buy Vintage Denim?
- How to Actually Take Care of Your Vintage Denim
- How to Style Your Vintage Jeans
- How to Style Your Vintage Denim Shorts
- How to Style Your Vintage Denim Jacket
- How to Style Your Vintage Denim Skirt
- How to Style Your Vintage Denim Dungarees
From vintage Levi’s to rare finds, here are our top 9 picks of the best vintage jeans to get now!
1. Vintage Levi’s 501 Light
If you are hunting for a pair of vintage jeans able to visually make you taller, these Levi’s 501 in a light blue shade are right up your alley. Featuring a classic five-pocket design and a front zip closure, these vintage jeans cater to crowds in terms of natural fading and distress. What’s more, the slight flaring gives off sought-after cowboy vibes. You can acquire this vintage gem at NA-KD.
2. Citizens of Humanity Liya High Rise Jeans
These super light blue vintage jeans from Citizens of Humanity are definitely off the beaten path. While high-rise and ripped spots give them that captivating vintage appeal, the light color makes it feel modern in the first place. You can shop these Liya jeans at Shopbop.
3. Vintage Karolina – Distressed Jeans With Raw Hem
These vintage-inspired jeans from GRLFND do not fall under the typical vintage category. Featuring an intriguing distressed style and raw hems, the Karolina pair obviously runs skinny with form-fitting aspects to it, but that high waist is what translates it into the vintage realm. Get this pair from Net-a-Porter!
4. Vintage Distressed Boyfriend Jeans
Stella McCartney offers up these super-comfy boyfriend effect vintage jeans in the acid wash that perfectly nips in the waist and calls for a cool pair of white sneakers and a flirty shirt for the full picture. Get this pair for yourself at Net-a-Porter and rock your ’90s look all the livelong day.
5. Re/Done Vintage Jeans
Here is an incredibly lovely offering by Re/Done with a high-rise structure and raw, frayed hems. But what makes this pair of vintage jeans a really standout number is its light blue shade takeoff that’s actually worth your investment. Get this piece from Forward!
6. R13 Distressed Bowie Vintage Jeans
These mid-rise, straight-leg vintage jeans crafted by R13 are just another confirmation that customized denim with a vintage feeling is riding high and mighty this season. Pick them at Net-A-Porter now and make your street-style charm unbeatable.
7. Re/Done Vintage Jeans in Regular Wash
Want a laid-back casual look that’s really cool? This regular-wash high-rise pair reconstructed by Re/Done will fill the bill wholly. Wear them with some bohemian white top and a cool straw hat to take your vintage look to a completely new level. You can buy this pair from Net-a-Porter.
8. Asymmetric Crossover Vintage Jeans
If you are hunting for some sick-style vintage jeans, welcome to R13 to catch hold of their crossover asymmetric offering. Featuring a contrast wash and straight legs, this lovely pair sells on Net-a-Porter.
9. Current/ Elliott Cropped Vintage Jeans
The classic cropped fit is back again retailing at Net-a-Porter. The regular blue wash, straight cropped legs, high-rise fit and leg rip make a perfect mix for every woman eager to highlight their body all the more.
The other day when I was walking down the street, I caught myself counting how many people wore jeans in their everyday life. I scoped out every possible design of denim of every possible wash outstandingly being right for every body shape. Isn’t it fantastic how a single garment piece could pave its way through every walk of life to be fairly called the most popular fashion item ever?
Let’s turn back the hands of time to explore the origins of jeans and pass through its amazing evolution – from working uniform to the symbol of rebellion to the first-class fashion fad with many other mannerisms in between.
The Etymology of Jeans and Denim
First things first, where do words jean and denim come from? According to the historians, the Italian sailors in the 15th century used to wear pants out of cotton corduroy, a fabric type exported from the city of Genoa. Gênes, the French word for Genoa is supposed to be the origin of the present-day widespread word “jeans”.
As for the “denim”, it is a more sturdy twill fabric of which the contemporary jeans are made. In an effort to reproduce the jean fabric, the weavers in Nîmes, France developed another fabric that was later called denim – Serge de Nimes – de Nimes – “denim”.
The fabric was later dyed into indigo derived from the plant Indigofera tinctoria. That was the birth of the “blue jeans” phenomenon nailing it down for several decades in a row.
Who Stands Behind Blue Jeans?
Let us just come clean that very few of us have really explored the history to find out when and how the iconic blue jeans breezed in and became so ubiquitously used by everybody regardless of age, gender and nationality. But it would be worth doing it, for sure. Before making tracks for vintage denim shopping, come with us to take a trip down the memory lane and start rocking the jeans with more insight.
It was in 1853 that Levi Strauss, a 24-year-old vendor of Jewish origin, whose father was a tailor, immigrated to the United States from Bavaria, Germany. A roll of canvas was the only heritage left to him by his father, which he decided to use to make his living.
Gold Rush in California was in high gear at the time with myriads of miners seeking their fortune, and Levi Strauss took time by the forelock starting to sew tents for gold miners. It was until the day when one of the gold miners told Levi that if he had had a solid pair of pants he would have slept anywhere not in a tent.
And Levi took no time to tailor a pair of sturdy pants out of the brown canvas, which he sold to the miner at just 1 dollar and 20 cents. The brown sturdy pants became popular among gold miners.
Blue Period Is Taking up
In the 1860s, Levi Strauss successfully replaced the brown canvas fabric with heavy twill-woven cotton, which is called denim today, while the indigo dye gave birth to the Blue Jeans.
Copper Rivets: Making Jeans More Durable
In 1871 a new name popped up in the history of blue jeans. Jacob Davis, a Latvian émigré and tailor had a brilliant idea to reinforce the pockets of the jeans with copper rivets to prevent them from being torn under the weight of gold nuggets.
But since he didn’t have enough financial means to patent the smart solution, Jacob Davis reached out to Levi Strauss and as a result on May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and his partner, Jacob Davis, received U.S. Patent 139,121, for an “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”. The patented “XX” jeans were later dubbed Levi’s 501.
Popularization of Levi’s Jeans: How It Became a Cool Thing
Gold Rush is over and gold miners are back on their way home. So what to do with this working uniform that served around so effectively. Right! To develop it into something really, really cool.
The Levi’s jeans start playing for high stakes in American Westerns. Starting from Stagecoach rifle-toting Ringo Kid rocking a pair of blue jeans to the outlaw motorcycle gang film the Wild One starring bad boy Marlon Brando in Levi’s 501 to the River of No Return with all-time beauty icon Marilyn Monroe raising the bar of jeans even higher, the denim grows to be a real feast for the eye.
Need an even cooler factor? In 1953, Marlboro launched a marketing campaign “Marlboro Man” featuring denim-wearing masculine cowboys.
Hippie Movement and Jeans
The early ‘60s were marked as the start of hippie movement, a liberal counterculture. Hippies created their own communities, listened to psychedelic music, embraced the sexual revolution, used drugs, maintained long hair and wore JEANS. Jeans took another shape becoming the equivalent to rebellion and nonconformity rather than working class uniform.
Jeans as a Fashion Item
In 2000 Time magazine names Levi’s 501 the “Fashion Item of the 20th Century”. Jeans started to become a real fashion fad, outperforming such run-after fashion items as mini skirt and LBD. Denim items entered a crazy phase of multiple transformations and designer solutions to measure up to the expectations of anyone and to look equally as chic on any occasion.
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.
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.”
Did You Know?
• Jeans were originally called “waist overalls”.
• In 2001 jeans were banned from the Oval Office by George W. Bush.
• Want to know the most vintage jeans ever? In 1998 a pair of 115-year-old jeans was detected in a California mine.
• In the ‘50s jeans were not considered respectable in the USA. They were banned in social places, like schools or theatres as a sign of rebellion.
• Do you know why copper rivets are places only on front pockets? Originally black pockets featured rivets as well, but as many started complaining of them scratching saddles and chairs, the black rivets were removed.
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.
Take it as a challenge; vintage denim shopping is no picnic and you really need a helping hand. Here is an all-embracing vintage denim shopping guide that we have worked up specially for your happy shopping and future come-hither looks. Let’s hit it big!
How to Identify Vintage Jeans
First off, let’s define the term “vintage clothing”. Vintage is considered to be any piece of clothing that dates back 25-30 years, i.e. if you are up to acquire a pair of vintage jeans you need to inspect jeans manufactured prior to the 1980s.
Levi’s (1853), Wrangler (1904) and Lee (1889) are prominently the most age-old manufacturers of jeans; so when we talk about vintage denim, we usually allude to these brands. But identifying original authentic vintage jeans is a tough nut to crack, given that millions of fake vintage jeans are now circulating around the world both online and in retail stores.
Here is a range of fashion tips that will guide you in recognizing the differences between real and fake vintage jeans, as well as in determining the production date of your vintage jeans. After all, you might get your hands on a pair of authentic Levi’s 501 jeans but dated after the 1980s, which is by far out of vintage zone.
1. Check the Redline! What does it mean? The point is that from the beginning through to the 1980s Levi’s 501 jeans were being woven on old-school shuttle looms, which resulted in self-finished edges. Redline running through the white selvedge, which becomes visible only when cuffed is the calling card of premium Levi’s 501. Afterwards the shuttle looms are replaced with wider projectile loom and Levi’s jeans lose their signature selvedge detailing now coming out with stitched up edges.
2. Search for capital “E” on red tab! If the red tab onto your right hip pocket features the white logo written with capital “E”, then your Levi’s jeans have their roots prior to 1971 and correspondingly are more valuable than those produced after 1971 with lower case “e”.
3. Scope the buttons! If you hold in hands new Levi’s jeans, you will see three-digit numbers (501 or 555) stamped on the buttons. The things were not like this prior to the 1970s. The buttons were stamped with 2, 5, 6 or the letter W. So three digit numbers indicate either to new Levi’s versions or to fake ones.
4. Check the rivets! On older version manufactured from mid-1960s through to the 1980s, the rivets were silver and flat with LS&CO-SF stamped on them. The newer styles feature copper rivets with circular patterns along with LS&CO-SF.
5. Look at back pockets! In the pursuit of authentic vintage Levi’s jeans, be mindful of the stitched Arcuate detailing on the back pockets, a nuance that becomes shallow on new versions.
6. Read the care tags! The vintage Levi’s jeans featured care tags reading “Shrinks about 10%” written with dark blue letters on plain white. After 1985 the care tags are written with red with Levi’s logo placed on top.
7. Check the inseam: The vintage Levi’s should also have a single felled inseam, a single stitch running down the inner thigh, otherwise you are dealing either with newer versions or replica Levi’s.
1. Wrangler – search for bells! Blue bell is the distinctive mark of vintage Wrangler jeans. Look for blue bell tag on the inside of fly and bell etched into back pocket patch for your successful vintage denim shopping.
2. Lee – look at the buttons! On the buttons of Lee jeans produced up to 1949 you can inspect “Union Made,” “Lee Cowboy,” or a laurel wreath.
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.
Did You Know?
• Originally jeans for men and women could be differentiated by the zipper. Men’s jeans had zippers on the front, while the jeans for women were distinguished by the side zipper.
• Who was the initiator of washing new pairs of jeans for faded and worn-out effect? The first retailer was a boutique in the New York East Village called “Limbo”.
• In order to dye each pair of jeans, only a few grams of indigo is required.
• How did blue jeans become popular outside the USA? Thanks to the American soldiers during World War II who were wearing blue jeans when off duty.
• The most expensive jeans ever are Secret Circus jeans – $1.3 million per pair. That’s because the design includes 15 diamonds.
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.
Did You Know?
1. Unlike original jeans made of pure cotton, the modern skinny jeans include a bit of an elastic fabric known as ‘Elastene’ that makes them stretchable.
2. Each American owns 7 pairs of jeans on average.
3. A single 500-pound bale of cotton is enough to produce 200 pairs of jeans.
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.
When you have finally scored your dream pair of vintage jeans or those on-trend denim dungarees or maybe a lovely denim button-down skirt, the least you want is to see them look not the way you took them off the racks. While your vintage T-shirts are not at much risk to get damaged while washing, thus preventing you from panic attacks, whether to wash your vintage denim items or not is really a sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.
While many might stick to Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh’s suggestion to stop washing your jeans keeping sustainability top of mind, the other half of the denim-heads are more on the side of cleanness and tidiness.
But we are mostly intrigued by Jane Bishop’s based-on-natural–evolution approach to this question: “You don’t want to ruin them or ever do something to them that will make them unwearable, of course. But if they change, I mean, isn’t that life? I mean, nothing ever stays the same forever. Denim is life!”
No matter where you stand in this torrent of denim-wash opinions, you are just obliged to know every nuts and bolts of how to take care of your vintage denim. Below we have outlined some valuable tips for the better future of your vintage denim.
Hold off Washing Your Vintage Jeans As Long As Possible
Since you are dealing with vintage denim, that is to say, with an item already worn-out and broken-in, thereby more out on a limb, you are about to double down on its caring regime. Besides, you have opted for that very vintage pair because of its fading type and distress level, so you don’t want it to lose all those aspects you have been captivated by while shopping, to say the least.
So, try to keep them clean as long as possible so as to avoid that rub and friction that may jeopardize your vintage jeans.
Consider Spot Cleaning
How to act if you have spilt a bit of mustard or ketchup on your jeans? Tossing them in a washing machine only for a spot will actually be unreasonable from your side. There is a perfect option in here; consider spot cleaning!
Just arm yourself with a damp cloth and a mild soap or detergent and start working the stain inside out to dab it off. You can also make use of a toothbrush instead of a damp cloth as an easier alternative. This trick can be equally as effective on other denim items.
When to Wash Your Vintage Denim?
When it comes to raw denim jeans with no wash and fading, all denim experts unanimously assert that it takes up to 6 month for a pair to break in, which means you should linger on the washing regime.
But what about the washing frequency of your vintage denim that has its own fade and wash already imprinted? The ideal washing frequency rate here is every 10-15 wearings, unless you haven’t participated in a mud wrestling in your newly acquired jeans.
How to Wash Your Vintage Denim?
First things first, never take your vintage denim to a laundry, as you never know what chemicals will be used and what damage they may cause to your vintage treasure. Instead, jump on taking care of your jeans by yourself.
It’s highly advisable to prefer the hand-washing option to machine washing for safer and longer lifecycle of your denim. First off, flip your jeans inside out (flipping-out will prevent it from extra fading, while also ensuring more thorough cleanup), soak them in a bathtub full of cold water with a small portion of mild detergent and keep them in for about 30 minutes.
Rinse them 3 times, using a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar for the final rinsing process. Vinegar is able to preserve that much-cherished fade of your jeans and also to disperse unpleasant odour caused by detergent. After rinsing, never risk wringing your jeans to sidestep damage, but instead press them gently to let off the water.
However, if you are short of time or have just done your nails, go ahead with machine washing thus keeping a couple of tips in mind:
• Wash with a cold cycle, which is a surefire way to maintain the wash type of your jeans the way you have acquired them.
• Use the gentlest and shortest cycle while machine-washing your vintage jeans, unless you want them to go all the more faded and distressed.
• Wash them alone, especially if your vintage denim is in a light blue wash, otherwise a darker item might bleed and change the wash of your denim.
How to Dry Your Vintage Denim?
Drying your vintage denim also needs some professional instructions if you want to keep them in your desired shape and wash. While the electric dryer might feel and sound a wonder device of the 19th century, pass it over when it comes to denim care. The dryer can be of service only when you are after to shrink your stretched out jeans.
But if the agenda is to maintain its initial look and feel, air-drying is the best option when you have a veranda. Alternatively, you can lay flat your vintage denim on a towel to let it dry by itself.
How to Freshen Your Vintage Jeans?
At times your denim starts looking a little bit exhausted and unenergetic, but without any exposed dirt on it or it might sometimes smell not so pleasant. So what to do to freshen up your favorite vintage denim?
How to Store Your Vintage Denim?
Whether you are used to hanging your denim collection or stack them folded on each other, try keeping some space for them to breathe since, well, denim is life, after all!
Vintage Denim Fashion: Styling Is Everything
Vintage denim fashion is a serious science, for you information. “Oh my stars, I have finally grabbed my ideal vintage jeans!” you may exclaim with delight. Are you seriously thinking you can lie back and relax now? Well, unless you are an old-hand denim expert, well-versed to style it any way.
For others in need of a helping hand, we have put together a bunch of inspirational styling tips whether your target is vintage jeans, a denim jacket, a skirt or a pair of cool jean shorts.
• For your everyday office wear appeal, straight-leg vintage jeans paired with a lightweight white shirt or classic striped one tucked in, can work wonders in terms of rocking the typical smart casual style. Add a pair of classic pumps or cool ankle boots to finish off the look with a big hit. Don’t forget to cuff your jeans for extra merit.
• That’s a universally admitted truth that high-rise vintage jeans walk hand in hand with crop tops, a tandem always able to give off some va-va-voom vibes. If you are that much bold, go for crop tops above your midriff or go the extra mile with a lingerie style bralette. But if you just need to show off the high-rise grace without exposing skin, opt for a cropped item meeting your waistline.
• Avoid wearing straight-leg vintage jeans with hip reaching tops or shirts. However, if you have scored a pretty baggy top and are on pins and needles to give it a try, tie its lower hemline into a Coachella-inspired knot for your flirty look.
• When considering styling your vintage jeans with an outerwear piece, classic trench coats, long hedonistic animal printed pieces, or long cardigans will work well across the board. You can also go for cropped badass leather jackets or bomber jackets with cami tops underneath, but skip out on playing with hip-reaching blazers, as they tend to break the balance.
• Flared or boot-cut vintage jeans are inherently grandiose both on tall and petite girls. Double down its grandiose factor by topping it with a pussy bow shirt and a pair of tonal pumps and hit the jackpot with your ‘70s-inspired look.
• If you have always overpassed denim on denim, just cast all doubts. If at least one of your denim items is a standout piece, you are going to start a denim-saturated unrivalled game. Consider bringing together two-tone kick flare vintage jeans and a statement denim blazer and just rest assured, you are on a winning streak!
• If you are more on a sporty side, your frayed light blue vintage pair is about to fit like a glove with a slogan-reading T-shirt and a pair of sneakers, while a shirt tied around the waist is going to toughen it up.
• If you are going to play a feminine-masculine blending game with your dark blue vintage Levi’s jeans, there is no better way to do it than to add a pair of strict brogues or loafers.
• As the Coachella season is just around the corner, be prepared to rock your vintage blue wash jeans with playful peasant blouses, off-the-shoulder tops or front-knot shirts.
• While acid wash vintage jeans might seem the most difficult to style, we have two killer offerings for you. Wear them either with a black skull-printed top for rock-chic vibes or else go more comfy with a chunky knit sweater.
• If you boast having that iconic hourglass figure, your high-waist vintage denim shorts paired with a front-knot floral shirt and finished off with a bow band is a surefire thing to channel a sexy pin-up girl flare.
• For casual street style, opt for a striped T-shirt tucked in your frayed denim shorts with raw hems. Any sneakers or better, a pair of strapped sandals will be a spicy addition to the look.
• Who said that denim shorts are only due for beach relaxing or bicycle riding? Team them with a pair of pumps, a hip-skimming blazer and a casual top underneath and you will reveal their pretty classic side.
• Have you ever gone white head to toe and felt the lack of some pretty addition? That was undeniably the lack of a vintage denim jacket. Get your hands on a perfect blue boyfriend denim jacket for your next time all-white ensemble.
• Any floral skirt or dress, be it a form-fitting knee-length staple or a casual flirty option, is sure to be sweet-sounding with your faded vintage jacket buttoned up or nonchalantly unbuttoned.
• Want to be wrapped with ultimately cool girl vibes? Team your blue vintage denim jacket with a playfully white crop-top and a pair of statement tinted sunglasses for the confirmation of a cool factor.
• In case you haven’t yet jumped on a creative vintage denim skirt styling solution, go with this quick fix without a second thought. Whether your button-front denim skirt is of knee skimming length or stretches below your knees, is A-line or form-fitting, stay assured that a white statement T-shirt is the right thing to create a win-win look. Want some fine-tuning finishing touches? Think gladiator sandals and a stack of bracelets!
• If you own a denim shirt of a different wash than your vintage skirt, go with it. Tuck it under your high-waist skirt and hotfoot it along the streets with a pair of ankle boots.
• If you want to rock your long denim overall other than in a run-off-the-mill casual style, infuse it with chic vibes. What can work better than a striped T-shirt, teamed with hot red accessories? Yum-Yum!
• Your vintage denim short dungarees just call for wandering along the best Miami beaches. Do it in a big way; wear a bandeau underneath your overall and throw over a colorful kimono jacket for some pretty bohemian allure.
Photos via @mikutas, @styleheroine, @bartabacmode, @queenofjetlags, @thefashionfraction, @tamara, @marinathemoss, @negin_mirsalehi, @rumineely, @happilygrey