Forever buying blue jeans
June 29, 2012 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Am I supposed to buy jeans that fit me perfectly in the store, or jeans that are too tight but will stretch to be perfect? If the latter, how do I know how much they will stretch out (or, how tight is too tight)?

I feel like I always have this problem. I'll buy new jeans (because my old jeans are too big). They'll fit perfect at first, but a few dozen wears down the road and they'll be too loose in the waist and upper legs. I'll wash and dry them in the dryer, which helps a bit, but they're never as good as brand new. So I'll go and buy new jeans because my old jeans are now too big again. I think the problem is that I don't know how new jeans should fit.

N.B.: I usually buy mid-range jeans from the Gap/Banana Republic or Levis. Pretty much every type I've bought have had this problem and I'm willing to spend any amount if I can get jeans that will last for years.
posted by 2bucksplus to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Are you buying men's or women's jeans? Do the jeans you buy have any stretch in the fabric?

I'm male and tend to buy on the slimmer side. My only requirement is that I'm able to button them in the store and not walk like Frankenstein, since I know they'll relax.

Denim enthusiasm is a deep deep rabbit hole. Raw, dry Japanese wide loom selvedge denim yada yada.
posted by supercres at 2:59 PM on June 29, 2012

I have that problem too, it's annoying. I buy them just a *leetle* too tight and then they seem to stretch out ok after a few wears and washes. I can't say just how tight, in any sort of measureable way that might instruct you, though. For me it was a trial and error process with each brand and my own particular body quirks.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 3:01 PM on June 29, 2012

Response by poster: Men's jeans, no stretch, 100% cotton.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:01 PM on June 29, 2012

check the tag for percent lycra/spandex. more than 2% and they will probably stretch out hopelessly. you may decide you prefer 1% or none at all. regarding what fit to look for in the store, i was told by a salesperson at a lucky brand jeans store, when i protested that the jeans she offered me were too tight, that as long as i can button them i am good to go (to allow for them to stretch between washings).
posted by nevers at 3:05 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

How committed are you to limited washings? That is, are you buying dark blue and hoping to keep them that way as long as possible? If that's the case, you want to edge smaller, because washing and drying tends to tighten them back up.

I think higher-end denim will also stretch less, but that could be my imagination trying to justify spending 2x more than Levi's.

What general sort of cut are you going for? Levi 501? 511? 514?
posted by supercres at 3:13 PM on June 29, 2012

The key is to figure out the answer for your favorite pair, then keep buying that exact same pair and hope that they never discontinue it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:14 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

A lot of the rabbit-hole-ish forums supercres is talking about have threads with detailed sizing information for the more expensive jeans, like APCs (or Acne or Nudie or whatever). So get thee to Styleforum/Superfuture.

From my own experience I've bought jeans that were (nearly or just barely) unbuttonable in the fitting room, and they all fit great after a little while of not wearing them in public. But they were also ~2-3% spandex so YMMV.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:18 PM on June 29, 2012

Previously, related (check out skidknee's advice).
Also previously, related.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:24 PM on June 29, 2012

Do you wear a belt? I had this problem until I started wearing belts. I'm in the fits-perfectly-in-the-store school of purchasing.
posted by strangecargo at 3:26 PM on June 29, 2012

Another thing you can do is to buy them so they fit at the time; and then when the waistband starts to sag, get them tailored to fit perfectly. (But with me it's never the thighs that bag, only the waist/butt, so maybe this system won't work for you.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:37 PM on June 29, 2012

I don't know why, but this totally depends. For example (and I wear women's jeans) I have a pair of Gap jeans and a pair of Levis jeans. Both are 98% cotton and 2% elastene/spandex.

For the Levis jeans, how it looks in the dressing room is how it will look about 1 hour after putting them on. The come out of the dryer a little tight, but stretch a little during the day to the same size as when I bought them.

However! The Gap jeans fit exactly right when I tried them on in the dressing room. Now that I have them home, I dry them on the hottest/nuclear dryer setting to get them back to the same size, and after an hour I'm tugging to keep the waistband off my knees.

Ok, but you are thinking that's because of the spandex. I have another two pairs: a Levis 501 pair and another Gap pair. Neither of these have spandex. They are both 100% cotton. I have the same problem with these, except less so (the Gap jeans get baggy a little less than the Gap jeans with spandex.)

Note: I wash jeans after each day's wearing. I never wear unwashed jeans that have been worn a previous day. I dry all my jeans in the dryer, nothing fancy.
posted by Houstonian at 3:40 PM on June 29, 2012

1) Belt.

2) Finding a brand you can trust.

3) While searching for your 2), you should be able to find two pairs in adjacent sizes, one a little tight, one perfect. The perfect pair will slide on without pinching or tugging, hug your hips (if you're a woman buying form-fitting jeans), and button with just a slight bit of coercion. Don't buy those. Buy the one that's a little tight. Bring them home and wear them around for a few hours (by which I mean 2-6 hours). If they haven't loosened up/are still too tight, return them.

In the past I've both the slightly tight jeans that still buttoned but felt a little restricting, and those stretched out. The ones that are so tight that I can't button them without sucking in and urging the button through usually don't loosen up enough unless they're stretch. So those are my guidelines for finding the "tight" pair, yours may differ based on your body shape. (I used to buy jeans from Target because they fit perfectly, but now they make them a tiny bit smaller and their new ones no longer have that perfect in-between size. Not all brands will.)
posted by stoneandstar at 4:49 PM on June 29, 2012

Sorry, didn't see that you updated that you're looking for men's jeans. I asked a dude I'm gchatting with and he says the same principles generally apply, except that you'll know what "fit" feels like better to you.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:37 PM on June 29, 2012

It might be an issue of your body shape rather than the pants. You might not have the hip-to-waist ratio that the jean makers have standardized. You said the waist stretches out too much- what about the rest (butt, thighs, possibly knees depending on tightness)? You might need to visit a tailor after a few wears.
posted by windykites at 4:23 AM on June 30, 2012

Stop washing your jeans so often.

That's what's destroying your fit. I have a pair of shrink to fits that I have never washed/dried in the entire six months of ownership outside of the initial bathtube hot water soak/wear dry routine. If I spill something on them, I use a mild solvent like soapy water or vinegar and spot treat with a brush - I use the same brush that I use to keep my suede boots looking clean and nappy.

I hang my jeans on a hook (one of those 3m things) rather than put them in a drawer - this allows them to air out, and also allows the creases and folds that have developed over the past few months to remain where they are. This is important because it is these creases and folds that make these pants the most comfortable and formfitting of any jeans that I have ever owned, and also the make the pants look pretty cool because of the slight fade that almost exclusively develops at said creases and folds. I think you should give STF a chance for sure - buy a dark jeans and check the return policy. Amazon is a good resource. The sizing isn't what you'd expect, be warned.

Now I know the 501s aren't for everyone, and if you don't have a big ass, they probably aren't for you and you should grab something of the ilk of 514/511 from Levi's. Don't wash those either! Initially, they should be form fitting and stiff, but restrict movement slightly. As time goes on (a week or two of wearing them 2-4 days a week), they will start to fit like gloves. Seriously though, the take home message here is that you shouldn't wash your jeans so often! Once a month should be the highest frequency, and that's only if they smell like your balls. Period.

I will repeat this: stop washing your jeans so often, it's why they stop fitting you.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:13 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also: don't be afraid of the tailor. Alterations for pants are pretty much the cheapest.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:18 AM on June 30, 2012

Yeah I only by 100% cotton. I've found that if I buy the size that is just that little bit too tight. The size where I"m tempted to go up a size because the larger size felt really comfortable. Then after a couple of weeks then the smaller size will fit really well. and now be quite comfortable.

so yeah, I think they should be a bit too tight in store. - I also do the same now with Jackets. As they tend to stretch out in the shoulders more than you would expect. And if I get the larger size instore it looks massive and baggy oversized in about a week.
posted by mary8nne at 9:24 AM on June 30, 2012

At 15, I briefly had a job at the Gab and bought jeans from there and I found the jeans did not hold their shape at all... mind you that was over a decade ago now so I'm not sure if that holds true. Now, I buy most of my jeans from Guess... they range from 98-150 dollars there, but I find them well worth it. They are figure flattering and if I buy them just slightly too tight they stay form fitting all day without becoming baggy. I also like Citizens of Humanity jeans. I can't tell if you're female or male by your post, but if you're female and looking for skinny jeans they are the MOST comfortable jeans you'll ever buy. I feel like I could do yoga in them. They're thick like a regular jean but feel like a yoga pant. They look like jeans and feel like jeans though. They're stupid expensive, but I've never regretted them (they're $250 and I own one in black and one in dark denim). I also feel like both of these companies are really utilizing the new stretch jean fabrics so I haven't had any of them stretch out and I also don't feel like I'm a stuffed sausage. In the Guess store I sometimes feel like a stuffed sausage for the first hour or so, then they stretch just slightly and make them comfortable.

I've actually never had a pair of jeans get distorted, so it makes me wonder how you might be washing them. Maybe it's just a string of bad luck. Both of these brands though always keep their shape.

Also, if you find a pair of jeans or dress pants that fit you wonderfully in the butt and thigh, then you can take them to the tailor and have them altered in the back. I have a tiny waist and really curvy butt and thighs and I'd say I'm sometimes a size or so bigger in the butt and thighs than I am in the waist so I've had them altered when they were just so perfect I couldn't pass them up.

Oh, and if you're female, I sometimes use a ribbon for a belt b/c I don't like how bulky belts are. I have ribbons that came with dressier shirts (you know the style where they have a little ribbon around the empire waist of a shirt?). Anyway, I use the ribbon to keep my pants on and then tuck the strings down the side and lay my shirt over it which keeps the smooth lines.
posted by DorothySmith at 9:50 AM on June 30, 2012

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