Fashion & Beauty

How to Buy Jeans: 7 Things to Consider

February 19, 2014


Denim Bar owner Mary Alexandre has good jeans. / photo by NAME TO COMEOwning a pair of jeans or three is practically a necessity for those of us who have considered them a uniform ever since college, or before. But in the past 10 years or so, our old standbys have turned their backs on us. Designers such as Balmain embellished them with so much hardware and ripped fabric that the only ones who could possibly wear (or afford) them were rock stars. Other brands began turning out uncomfortably if not embarrassingly low cuts and ultra-skinny legs more suited to the profile and lifestyle of a teenager, if not her budget.

Not ready to give up on a wardrobe staple but in need of some advice about how to navigate the new cuts, My Little Bird spoke to 45-year-old Mary Alexandre, an avid jeans wearer who has owned the Denim Bar in Arlington since 2005.

 MyLittleBird: Is there a style grown-up girls should gravitate to?

Alexandre: There’s an alternative to skinny jeans. Straight-leg jeans flatter most figures, elongating your bottom half. Most of my vendors are now offering a slim boot cut, a middle ground between a straight leg and a wider boot cut. The key is, you want it to fit through the knee. Plus, a close-fitting leg looks more sophisticated. Throw a blazer over trim jeans, wear heels, and casual becomes dressy.

 MyLittleBird: What do you look for in fit?

Alexandre: The jean should lie flat across the small of your lower back. Brands like AG Adriano Goldschmied ($150 to $200-plus) and Joe’s Jeans (about $150) have a contoured waistband, which corrects the gapping issue. I never recommend taking in the waist to solve gapping in the back because it will pucker after the denim stretches out. Resist the urge to buy jeans that are slightly larger; buy them to fit snugly, so when jeans do stretch, they won’t look baggy. Choose a mid to high rise and a medium to dark blue rinse.

MyLittleBird:  I’ve heard a lot of talk about pocket placement. What should we know?

Alexandre: The pocket should be located where the top of your hamstring meets your rear. It shouldn’t be too high up or too low, and it has to be proportional to the size of your rear end.

MyLittleBird: White jeans have been so popular for warm weather. Will they continue to be a trend this spring and summer? Any drawbacks to wearing them?

Alexandre: I see the trend lasting. Be sure to consider the weight of the denim and cut when purchasing. Some can be too thin and almost see-through. An ankle-length, straight-leg pair is ideal for hot-weather getaways and for summer outings.

 MyLittleBird: Have any tips on how best to take care of jeans?

Alexandre: Never overwash them. It destroys the denim. Wash in cold water and then hang to let dry. Dark denim should be washed inside out.

 MyLittleBird: What’s the most common misconception about jeans?

Alexandre: Forget the mindset of what jeans used to be. They’re accepted everywhere you go. Think of them as you would any other pair of pants; you can pair them with a T-shirt as easily as with a sequined top.

 MyLittleBird: I’m a believer in getting the best fit possible for the price. A few years ago I paid $185 for a pair of shadow black J Brand cigarette-leg jeans that I love. Still, I wondered whether lower-cost options could also win my heart. I knew Levi’s were priced at about $60 and I had heard about their ID Curve jean selection, which offers four different fits — slight curve, demi curve, bold curve and supreme curve. I was not boyishly built enough for the slight curve; even the demi curve was too straight. I was ready to give up because, how could I actually be a bold-curve fit? But when I answered yes to the saleswoman’s question asking me if I had problems with jeans gapping at the back, I tried the bold curve on. Then I read the label — they’re described for the woman whose waist is much smaller than her hips. Bingo. The supreme curve?  Only for Christina Hendricks types. Do I love my Levi’s as much as my J Brand’s? Not quite, but considering I can buy three for the price of one J Brand, I give Levi’s a little slack. Anyhow, the moral of this digression is, when it comes to finding the best-fitting jeans, keep an open mind and keep trying on.

We asked Alexandre a few more questions:

What’s your beauty secret? 
Exercise often, inside and out. And Creme de la Mer.

Where do you like to hang out?
Rooftop bar at Eventide in Clarendon; in D.C.,  Proof.

What are you reading?
“The Paris Wife”

Denim Bar
1101 South Joyce Street, B8
Arlington, VA 22202

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