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How to Make your Jeans Last Longer!

Today’s guest post is from Alicia Richmond, founder of Chic on a Shoestring (www.chiconashoestring.com). Alicia and I go back a few years. We worked together on a local television talk show called “Good Things Utah” where Alicia had a weekly wardrobe segment. Even though Alicia has worked with “famous” stylists, such as Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear” fame, I’ve always admired her practical approach to fashion.

Her philosophy is that our clothes are a significant investment so we should make sure that they fit and flatter our body-type so they don’t become regrets hanging in our closet. Here’s a short video (http://bit.ly/10D9KgO) where she shares her wardrobe philosophy. I hope you enjoy her advice and please let me know your thoughts. Next month she’ll be helping us to choose a swimsuit that is flattering for our unique and different body-types! Take it away Alicia…..

Okay, so anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a fabric nerd. My bachelor’s degree is in Clothing and Textiles and I loved playing scientist in the textile labs when I was a student. One of the most practical lessons that I learned in my three semesters of textiles chemistry is the value of caring for your jeans and denim.

Any woman who has shopped for jeans knows that the entire experience is not only an investment in money, but also time. Jeans have become such a staple in our wardrobe that we are willing to go through the entire ordeal of shopping for that perfect pair.

But once you find the perfect pair of jeans, you will want the jeans to last for as long as possible.

Here are a few of my tried and true tips for keeping your jeans and denim looking as “new” as possible.

protect your jeans

  1. For the “first ” washing of the denim, especially with dark wash jeans, always wash in cold water. We are going to “set” the dye. Remember to keep your jeans looking new, only wash your jeans every three to four wearings.
  2. Use one cup of distilled white vinegar, pour in the washing machine and let it distribute well in the water before placing the jeans in the washer. NO LAUNDRY SOAP for the first washing. Then I alternate using vinegar or laundry soap to clean my jeans, after I have “set” the color in my denim after the first washing. Use only a small amount of laundry soap with denim.
  3. Turn your jeans inside out before placing in the washing machine (you can wash more than one pair at a time, but the dye lots must be similar). Always turn inside out to preserve the “face” of the denim.
  4. Jeans will release the largest amount of dye in the first wash cycle. The vinegar will set the dye and prevent it from transferring onto other clothing items and onto your skin.
  5. After the jeans are finished washing, the first time and every time, take out of the machine and re-shape the jeans. Make sure that you pull the legs down to give you a little more length in the hem. Make sure to zip up the zipper and lay flat on a drying rack to dry. NEVER put jeans in the dryer, the heat breaks down the stretch fiber (Lycra content) and the finish on the denim. The jeans will be a little stiff after you grab them off the drying rack. Loosen them up by rubbing them with your hands.

protect your jeans

The jeans above are mine and my favorite. They are some of my more expensive jeans, although I rarely pay full price for anything, but when you consider cost-per-wearing, these jeans have been a good investment; a staple in my wardrobe. These jeans are three years old. You treat your jeans well and they’ll treat you well.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BODY-TYPE IS CRITICAL TO FIND THE PERFECT FITTING PAIR OF JEANS: Two women can be the same height and weight, yet have very different body-types.

  • Are you long or short-waisted?
  • What’s the ratio between your waist and hips?
  • Where is your natural waist?
  • How does your inseam relate to your torso?
  • Where do you carry your weight?

These factors affect the rise of the jeans, the width of the waistband, the wash, the style of the leg, etc. for the perfect pair of jeans. If done well, you shouldn’t have muffin-top and back-gap and the cut will truly flatter your assets.

When I work one-on-one with clients, without fail, they all want a great fitting pair of jeans. For 15 years I’ve been analyzing women and their body-type to teach them how to recognize that perfect pair of jeans that flatter their assets and minimize their challenges.

When you find that perfect jean, you want to make it last and look great as long as possible.

For more of Alicia Richmond’s REAL fashion advice for REAL women…visit Chic On A Shoestring!

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  • Do most or all of these apply to men’s jeans as well? I don’t wear jeans if I can help it as I’ve never found denim to be comfortable, but my husband wears jeans almost every day. We haven’t noticed the fabric fade or wear out but we usually get him a couple of new pairs every year as the hems have started to fray.

  • […] living site One Good Thing, Jill Nystul offers another great tip: when washing jeans for the first time, add […]

  • Can someone tell me why my jeans always wear out between the legs? This time I ot smart and as oon as my brazillian brand Mango jeans started to wear, I took them o a tailor to get a patch sewn on under the worn areas. I do wish I could delay that process. I don’t even carry much weight on my thighs, but I think may be that I walk too much. I hate using the car for small errands and spend most of the day walking with my son every where.

  • Great tips for not drying and pulling on the legs… Will this help keep the pant legs the original length or is that just a sign my butt is getting bigger??

  • […] How To Make Your Jeans Last Longer | One Good Thing By Jillee […]

  • […] How To Make Your Jeans Last Longer [One Good Thing By Jillee] […]

  • I spent many years in the dye industry. Neither salt nor vinegar or a combination thereof actually “set” dyes. They aid the dyeing process by helping to drive the dye onto the fiber, out of solution, so that it is in the right place for any bonding to the fiber to occur. this is called “leveling the dye”.

    The dye houses use a product called Glauber’s salt to level the dye. It is cheap and works better than salt and vinegar.

    What you need to use to “set” the dyes depends on the dye that was used when the jeans were made as all dye classes (Acid, Basic, Reactive, Vat, Direct, etc) have different chemical properties that affect how they react with the fibers. Although jeans are often dyed with Vat dyes using Indigo, it would matter if they were an insoluble or solubilized dye as well or if a sulphur based dye was used.

    since it is impossible to determine what dye products and processes were used , for the home user a general dye fixative is the best solution.
    Common Trade names are :
    Dharma Dye Fixative

    The most important thing is that the product clearly states that it is a FIXATIVE and for all purpose use.

  • I re-sell a lot of clothing and one thing I find is that–as a buyer and a seller–jeans are the thing that inspire either loyalty or loathing. IF you find a pair of jeans you LOVE—make sure you get the TAG INFO. Not just the size but ALL of the numbers and letters. This will let you compare when shopping on ebay etc for a used or new pair from a re-seller who did the leg work for you.

    I DO HATE HATE HATE the “lycra” in “denim”—I wish there would be some one to sue about calling these things “jeans”. They are no longer “jeans” they are giant stretched out elastic underpants. They don’t fit ANYONE well! The dryer makes this much worse. They immed start to shred at wear points. And not in an attractive “distressed” sorta way. And they don’t FEEL right even to the touch! Even basic old Levis have gone over to this new awful “denim”. IT’s NOT denim!

    I have been lucky enough to lose weight and the older jeans are so loose I can pull them right off and they are constantly sliding down. Now–yay for me but—buying NEW jeans–not so easy. Everything I have looked at and tried on–and for me to try on I have to take them home as it is very awkward to use a try on room —and I find that the size tags are absurd–even ones from the same company are completely different! Even the same styles from the same company! I did manage to find a pair at a thrift that are—OK—but—not exactly! And so far as long as I keep losing–I am in kinda a bind as now my whole body shape and center of weight has changed. So I completely understand more than ever why this is such an “issue”.

    I have read that for 100% cotton well made jeans–NEVER wash them. I know–I know! But–it is the “secret” behind those fab jeans that some guys have for YEARS–esp in Japan. You can “spot clean” ’em–but–don’t wash. I guess this is a personal thing. I have handled some very vintage denim in my time–inc some 40’s Monty Wards with the tags still on ’em–and it is astonishing how DIFFERENT our denim–even 100% cotton–is compared to that stuff.

    Going to check out Catherines now!

  • For many, finding the perfect pair of jeans becomes a quest. Jeans are not all made the same, and since there are many styles to choose from, it can be difficult to find a pair that fit exactly the way you want them to. Popular styles include low rise, boot cut, skinny jeans, and flares. Choosing the right style usually means trying on a few before finding one that suits your body type. In addition to denim styles, there are also a variety of colors to choose from. While light colored blue jeans are usually worn during the day, darker denim is worn at nighttime. But many people wear dark denim during the day as well. Jeans are also available in different colors such as black, grey, and red.*

    Brand new content on our very own blog

  • Thanks everyone for your warm response with my first guest post on Jillee’s blog. You’ve asked great questions and I can address some of them here, but I hope to go more in depth and share more on how to recognize which clothes are most flattering to your body-type….especially jeans and swimsuits.

  • I buy most of my jeans from thrift stores and have found many good quality jeans. The “setting-of-the-dye” is already done and since no matter what I do I tend to be a slob and spill/stain my clothes, with the lesser price at a thrift store I don’t feel so bad. I get lots of compliments on how my jeans fit! :>)

  • I agree with an above post that expensive jeans do have a better fit. I’m thin with no behind and it seems like all my jeans slide down and I’m constantly pulling them back up. I found a pair of Miss Me jeans at a consignment shop for over half off and they fit like a glove!

  • I had this conversation with another curvy friend the other day. I can recommend Coldwater Creeks jeans if you are curvy. IMO they are more fashion jeans and not real jean jean because they have a lot of lycra in them. The reason I love them is that they fit my waist and my hips. Most jeans I have to buy larger to fit my hips but then I have a 6-7 inch gap in the back because the waist is too big. For jean jean I found that Bandalino (Sam’s Club) or Eddie Bauer’s fit pretty good with only a little bit of alterations. Brands like Levi are not for me. I have to do major alterations on them if I want them to fit right.

    • I have a similar problem that Rae has, only add plus size (a whole ‘nother problem). Apparently the manufacturers think if you are plus size, you can have no waist.
      I have found only one place that carries these (now that Fashion Bug closed) and that is Catherine’s. Yes, they are “mom jeans”. Yes they actually fit!. Same jeans with different cuts for those who don’t fit in the “box”.

  • I like that NYDJ (Not Your Daughters Jeans) sells only natural-waist (at the navel) styles with excellent shaping and a bit of lycra. There are many styles from trousers to skinnies, including petites and talls, but all have that sleek, grown-up fit we’re all seeking. Each pair is about $100-$120 (which is awfully expensive but cost-per-wear is reasonable because they will become your go-to jeans). Zapppos has them, and of course they have their own website. And I’m SO GLAD that we can finally find natural-waist jeans again after years of nothing but crotch-skimming, crack-baring rags, that made all but the scrawniest teenagers look lumpy and uncomfortable. It still takes some hunting, but there ARE comfortable and flattering ladies’ jeans out there in a range of prices; although don’t you wish they were ALL available to try on in a local store? (Macy’s carries some NYDJ styles.)

    • NYDJ are great jeans. They are particularly flattering if you have a longer torso, but if your torso is proportionately shorter, then they are not flattering. But this illustrates my point. There are so many types of women and bodies and there is not a “perfect” jean for all women. You need to understand your body-type. Whenever I work with clients, my first goal is to help them recognize which clothes fit and flatter and which ones don’t.

  • After jeans have faded a little can they be dyed to go back to a darker look? My favorite jeans are just start to fade in some spots and I’d love to keep them dark. Can I just go out and buy some Rit dye and re-darken them???

    • I’ve dyed jeans a number of times. Sometimes it looks great, other times…not so good…do at your own risk or practice on other jeans.

      To help slow down the fading, wash in cold, turn inside-out and NEVER put in the dryer.

  • The perfect fit is my biggest challenge. I’m finding out that the more expensive brands really do have the very best fit. Do you think so? Even with an expensive brand, the cost per wear seems to all even out. I’m thrilled when I can find a good brand at the thrift shop. Now that’s a real score!

    • Not necessarily. I was in a woman’s closet just last week, doing a wardrobe and closet inventory, and this woman thought I would be impressed with her expensive jeans. I had her try on her expensive jeans and her jeans that cost $40. I pointed out how the $40 pair was actually more flattering to her body-type. With some resistance, she finally agreed that the cheaper, no-name jeans, made her back end look great.

      But I do agree that more expensive jeans are constructed better, generally have better fabric and will last longer, but if it doesn’t fit and flatter YOUR body…it really doesn’t matter. The ultimate is to get a great fitting pair of “expensive” jeans on sell!

  • I recently did a lot of research to find a good, well recommended, pair of high-waisted jeans. I wanted high-waisted skinny jeans with some stretch and also support. I ended up with a pair of BDG “cigarette” jeans from Urban Outfitters. They’re great! Give em a try if you’re looking for the “perfect” jeans. Now I wish I’d seen this earlier but they still look great and I’ll be sure not to dry them anymore. I do think they’ll be better off that way. So many of my clothes can’t dry and I’ll admit it’s a pain to have clothes hanging and laying everywhere, but they really do last such a long time without the dryer. Almost everything that goes in there doesn’t come out the same.

  • I haven’t bought a pair of women’s jeans since I was a teenager. I got sick of all the different brands that were supposedly the same size. Now I just buy men’s jeans. I can go to any brand, pick out the waist and length I need, and have them fit. The average price is $20. No stretchy junk in them, just cotton. They fit great, and best of all, they always cover my bottom. No showing my crack to anyone who happens to be looking, like so many women I’ve seen lately. (Believe me, plumber’s crack is NOT attractive, no matter how fit you are!)

    I have never had a pair of new jeans “bleed” onto my other jeans in the wash.

    • Good point, KD. I never thought about trying men’s jeans. I can never find women’s jeans that aren’t really low waisted, and my muffin top sticks out as well as the plumber’s crack!

    • I have literally done 1,000’s of one-on-one consultations with REAL women over the last 15 years. Not just the size 2 & 4, I’ve styled sizes 0 – 26.

      During these personal consultations, almost without fail, women want to find the “perfect” jean. But you do need to understand if you have a long or short waist, the ratio between your waist and hips…these determine the rise, the width of the waistband, etc. But when a woman finds a great pair of jeans, that flatter her curves, the beauty of her body, she looks great.

      Men’s jeans simply aren’t cut to flatter a woman’s body, but I understand your frustration in fitting jeans.

  • All the talk about what body type, long waisted, inseam. . . How come no advice on how to identify these different types and what to look for in jeans to actually find that perfect pair? I think most of us are more concerned about finding the perfect fit, not about “setting” the dye.

    • Janette, the article is about tips for “protecting your investment” not a how to on body types. Funny thing though, just yesterday I was googling what type of body I was and dress styles for me. I found a lot just surfing the net. If I had saved any of it, I would share, sorry! Give surfing a chance and I bet you’ll find what you’re looking for!

    • I hope to be sharing more on all the factors that help us women to identify the “perfect” jean in the near future. But when you do find that pair that makes you feel great, you want to make them last as long as possible! ….setting the dye is just part of making them last.

  • OUCH, Maria!!! I read the “real” expert’s opinion… but have personally used vinegar successfully for many years. My mom (a fabric artist) taught me early on to “set” the dye of embroidery threads in exactly the way that Jillee described. It’s always worked for me…

    • Apologies! It was not my intention to be disrespectful, and by using the word “real,” I was not meaning it to be taken comparatively with the author. I meant it as “genuine” (see dictionary.com definition), that is, someone who is highly respected as being an expert among those who dye their own fabric. Paula Burch has a PhD and has studied dyeing from a chemist’s point of view for many, many years.

    • Had to do quite a bit of reading from the link above to find out what would work.
      Bottom line: vinegar/salt treatments will not work. But a product called Retayne (available on-line & in quilt shops) will work.
      No mention of washing soda aka soda ash–(which was always my go to)

    • You’re right Maria. Vinegar alone is just part of the equation to make your jeans last. Washing them inside out and never putting them in the dryer are equally, if not more important, to making your jeans last.

    • Vinegar doesn’t make sense to me either. Acids set dye for animal protein fibers, but on cotton I’ve always used soda ash. Seems backward. I do see vinegar being a gentle way to wash jeans though.

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