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Are Expensive, Designer Jeans Worth It?

I have spent most of my adult life rolling my eyes at the insanity of expensive jeans. They are jeans! How different can they be?!

Ever since I saw a £50 ($60) D&G white baby onesie in Harrods department store in London, I was convinced that staple-type clothing items made by design houses are a total scam. Isn’t a pair of $200 jeans just the same thing? I mean, I know that stretch jeans from Old Navy will disintegrate within months, but Gap? Guess? Banana Republic? With discounts & coupons & sales, I should be able to get a great pair of jeans for $60, right?

Well, as I sit here typing in my Seven for All Mankind jeans… I can admit that I may have changed my tune.

After I purged a lot of my wardrobe, I felt light and free and unencumbered from excess clothing. Until my jeans (one of 2 or 3 that I wore constantly) ripped, and it was THE WORST THING EVER. This is what the minimalists don’t tell you: that when your lean, no-margin-for-error clothing supply does have an error, it is devastating! 

So, in desperation for a pair of well-fitting jeans, I came into possession of a pair of 7s. And now, y’all, I am a believer.

Why the change of heart? Well, a few factors. 

  • I wear jeans pretty much every single day. Of course, shorts & dresses appear in the summer, but where I live, summer is only a few months long!! And, counter to many of my generational peers, leggings have just never captivated me. I work for myself, so there’s nobody else for whom I need to dress. Besides which, I don’t live in NYC or Hong Kong; our city (not nicknamed “Cowtown” for nothing) is famously casual.

All this is to say: jeans are a key piece of my wardrobe! And by key, I mean essential. For something this integral to my daily life, comfort, and enjoyment, I am ok to spend more.

  • They really are… better. I knew the fit was excellent from the start, but several months in, nothing about the fit has changed, not at all. Part of that might be that I bought them pre-worn (more on that later), but it’s also that the construction is very, very good. Designed not to sag in the bum or shrink up, not to mention, look flattering!

What really, truly sold me on them was the snag. I am clumsy and I snagged my beloved new jeans on a sharp corner of my desk, creating a little hole on the thigh near my knee. Repairing it was (is) on the to-do list, but I didn’t get around to it for a while. Much to my surprise and delight, what happened to the hole in my jeans was… nothing! Nothing at all. It has stayed looking exactly the same for weeks (months), not growing, pulling, unraveling, or otherwise ruining the denim. This is not the first time I’ve had a hole in my jeans, and with any other pair, I would have expected the entire leg to have grown into a giant, non-fashionable rip by now. Game over, I was in love.  

  • I don’t actually love shopping. Jeans are notoriously variable in their sizing (size 4 in this cut, size 10 in that), even within brands. To find a pair of excellently-fitting jeans from a brand that will continue to have the same cut available: that is a big win for me.
Have you ever bought the same shirt or pair of pants in the same style, same size, but that fit differently? That's because in mass manufacturing, a large pile of fabric is cut at once, and sometimes the bottom piece of the pile ends up slightly larger than the top piece. But if a denim specialist is charging hundreds of dollars, their reputation depends on a consistent fit. This also means that once you've found a great cut, you can shop reliably online or via a wider array of shopping avenues to take advantage of the best price offers. 


    Here’s the caveat: 

    I still paid only $60-$70 for my otherwise-pricey jeans; they just belonged to someone else first ;). I have a fantastic consignment store in my part of town that sells new & used women’s clothing, with a rack of all designer jeans. It makes it easy to try on loads of pairs from different makers, finding the perfect shape & fit.

    And, besides getting an amazing pair for a great price, the biggest win is that I know exactly how the jeans will wear. They’ve been washed and worn, and whatever off-the-rack changes to the denim has already occurred.

    So, while I have philosophically rallied to be pro- expensive, designer jeans, would I actually pay full price for them?

    It's hard to say!

    When you're conditioned to expect to pay a certain price for an item, it definitely requires a shift in thinking — and budget rearrangement — to accommodate a change. But, somehow, many people who were appalled at first over coffee shop culture (you expect me to pay how much for a cup of coffee??) are now the ones racking up their Starbucks Rewards. 

    If I were ever to buy a pair of regular priced 7s (at around $179), that would be a BIG DEAL for me. But, now when I hear tales of denim woe, because a pair shrank in the wash or lost its fit, I am not surprised. I have my own little, private moment of smugness thanksgiving that I have come across this amazing secret to utter jeans satisfaction!

    What do you think about denim? Do you splurge, or have you found a bargain pair that work for you? Is the price of a pair really worth it? Share in the comments below:

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