Hassle-free, petite, ethical jeans - Levi's or what?
March 29, 2016 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I hate shopping. I need jeans. I do not want to buy clothes made by children. Can I buy Levi's? If not, what?

I hate clothes shopping. I have spent years wearing thrift shop jeans that don't fit. I want to get some that fit, and I'm quite short - I think a 28 or 29 inch pant leg would be about right.

I've also become more aware of child labor and sweatshop labor involved in making clothes.

I've done a ton of searching the web and read several previous AskMes, and I don't know how to sort out the ethical sellers from the sweatshop sellers.

I know Levi's has had a somewhat better reputation than most big retailers but it's hard to tell how reliable that is, or whether it applies to all their products.

I really, really want to find a place where I can go try on some jeans to see what fits, so I can then order additional pairs in the future online. I'm willing to spend extra to avoid unethical labor, but spending more than $100 on a pair of jeans seems really high to me. Added hassle (like buying long jeans and getting them hemmed, or ordering online, trying them on at home, and sending them back) will probably put me off buying anything at all.

If I want to buy ethically made jeans, can I buy Levi's? Am I okay buying anything Levi's makes or do I have to limit myself to the $150-$200 made in the USA jeans?

Any help or suggestions you can give on jeans that
* don't involve sweatshop or child labor
* are available for short people
* can be tried on in person and also ordered online
* cost less than $100 (ideally, rather a lot less)

would be massively appreciately.

Thank you!
posted by kristi to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

You might want to check out the brands reviewed at Grechen's Closet. The blogger is 5'3" and she focuses on sustainable and independent brands.
posted by neushoorn at 9:26 AM on March 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am a big fan of madewell jeans. They're owned by J. Crew, and from my (admittedly limited) research, worker conditions are ethical. I enjoyed trying a bunch on and learning what fits for me. They also have a policy where if you bring in a ripped/old pair you get a discount on a new pair. Average price is about $120 a pair, but they have regular sales and deals.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:26 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

According to Ethisphere, Levi's and H&M are the two apparel companies that are the most ethical.

Here is Levi's statement about Worker Wellbeing. And a case study of what they did in Bangladesh. Which I think is the ideal way to deal with a very touchy issue.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:26 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

/I really, really want to find a place where I can go try on some jeans to see what fits, so I can then order additional pairs in the future online.

I buy Levis, but they vary widely in cut, size, material. You may find a pair of, say, 711s that are perfect. If you go to another store on the same day, or order online, the "same" 711s will fit totally differently. Levis has lots of factories worldwide and the jeans made in Mexico are totally different than the ones made in Asia and there's nowhere that addresses this other than trying them on.

Even in the Levis store I often range over 3 different sizes because of this.

I don't know if you will ever find a brand that has consistent sizing. You will always need to try on your jeans.

And then, even before you bring them home, bring them to your tailor. My alterations are often more expensive than the jeans themselves. Don't go walking around with a gappy waist or bad length. Get that fixed!
posted by littlewater at 9:36 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I very briefly met the guy who does sustainable fashion management for Levis. It was at a big conference on sustainable business mid last year and he presented and then spoke for a while about the technical challenges. They're privately owned and mostly by one family which gives them the ability to pursue goals that aren't tied immediately to profit, and he was very serious and informed about the challenges and solutions to getting mass fashion production done with minimal harm to people and places. They have a whole division doing this and were putting time and energy into it, not just a quick publicity stunt. This was a technical conference, not a public PR-type thing.

I have zero qualms about buying Levis from a fashion ethical perspective. I'm also petite and had really good luck with Levis ordered online with the correct inseam measurement, no adjustment needed. Pick a silhouette and measure and then buy and return several sizes if you need to.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:12 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry to break it to you but: your request, even setting aside the ethical requirement, is an unattainable holy grail in jeans shopping. Jeans that cost under $100 will be made in different factories and cut in stacks, which means that the exact same style and fabric will fit differently from pair to pair. Which means that you MUST try on every time. The (only) way to avoid try-ons is to pay $150+ for premium denim that doesn't cut in stacks. Most of these jeans aren't available in petite sizes, but select styles are, if you're willing to expand your price range.

Otherwise, I'm not sure about the ethical side but Lucky Brand jeans are often made in the USA (check individual styles) and cost under $100 on sale. HOWEVER, they definitely cut in stacks and in fact sales associates will advertise it as a feature -- a 30" short inseam is often actually 29" on a given pair. I have twice tried ordering same-style Lucky jeans from their website and the fit was horrible, so I stick to buying in-store.
posted by serelliya at 10:13 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I believe NYDJ are all made in the USA and are offered in petites, but it's rare to find them under $100 unless it's a good sale.
posted by notjustthefish at 10:45 AM on March 29, 2016

The only thing more certain than my fondness for NYDJ (almost all of which are indeed made in the US) is my refusal to pay more than $50 per pair. I have found some at TJ Maxx and/or Marshalls, but the best consistent source I've found so far is Nordstrom Rack. They often have some in petite sizes, but since my dry cleaner/tailor only charges $10 to shorten a pair of jeans I don't consider misses sizes to be a dealbreaker.
posted by DrGail at 11:24 AM on March 29, 2016

Note about NYDJ: Only the jeans are made in the USA. The ponte pants are made in Vietnam (sample four pairs, three different styles purchased at different times), and the one pair of non-denim ankle pants I have were made in China. I can find nothing about ethical sourcing.

That being said, across the whole line the fit is amazingly consistant. My household has purchased about a dozen pairs of NYDJ jeans and pants over the past several years and they are all the sizes they claim to be (12p, 12, 14p, 14). As long as you don't ever put the jeans in the dryer, they last for years.
posted by monopas at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2016

Best answer: Patagonia has an excellent reputation for making products that are manufactured with very high environmental and human rights standards.

They have jeans for both men and women that retail around $100. You can try them on at REI or another outdoors store and then probably buy the jeans on sale online.

PrAna is another outdoorsy clothing company that has high ethical standards. I think their jeans are anywhere from $60 to $100, and also often available at REI.


posted by forkisbetter at 2:44 PM on March 29, 2016

What about jeans doesn't fit? Is it something a tailor could fix for you? Hemming jeans is not very costly.
posted by Amanda B at 6:11 PM on March 29, 2016

Buy jeans that fit right in your butt/hips area and then get them hemmed.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:04 AM on March 30, 2016

posted by lunastellasol at 5:15 AM on March 30, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks very much for all the great input - much appreciated.

I'm feeling a little more confident that Levi's is serious about ethical sourcing, so I think I'll give the local Levi's store a try.

I appreciate all the answers!
posted by kristi at 9:21 PM on March 31, 2016

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