of a certain vintage


A few months ago, I bought a pair of vintage Levi's online on impulse. Okay they're not that old, certainly not pre-1970s, but I'm pretty sure Levi's doesn't make them quite like this any more - they're in the kind of thick, sturdy denim now extinct in the mass market, plus they have the kind of high rise and button-fly I rarely see on women's jeans. They remind me of a pair of old Levi's my sister had in the 90s', which is perfect since I had an early 90s' childhood and a late 90s' adolescence, and am a long-time fan of Thelma and Louise and their high-waisted badassery.

I know classic 501s look terrible on me, so I bought these with the aim of bringing them to my tailor - I wanted the relatively high waist (just around my belly button), the button-fly (I love ripping the buttons, hah) and tight fit around the butt and thighs, and so long as these bits fit well, the rest is easy.

It's not unusual for me to buy secondhand jeans or jeans on a deep discount with the aim of getting them drastically tailored - most of my old Diesel jeans are altered because when I worked there, it was the era of bootcut jeans and I don't like bootcuts. My "boyfriend" jeans are all jeans bought a size bigger and then taken in at the hip to fit. I read this quote on Jean Stories - "When you purchase jeans, you want them to fit comfortably over your largest body part (be that your thigh, waist, or hip) and everything else can be shaped to your liking" - and I understood perfectly.

I lucked out because these ones did fit perfectly at the waist, hips, and thighs, never mind that it was frumpy as hell from knees down. My tailor easily took care of that and gave me the tapered fit I wanted. He also cropped it a little more so that it hung above my ankles, which I find to me the most flattering length for me, and also quite practical - no wet hems in the rain.

For alterations inspiration, I found some good ideas on RE/DONE, which offers a fairly decent, albeit expensive preposition for those who don't want to hunt for old Levi's and get them tailored themselves: they source and alter vintage pairs in several cuts. They've become quite a thing, and even if one doesn't need to go to such expense to achieve the same thing, I can get behind something that at least makes good use of unwanted clothing.

I was actually motivated to write this post after I saw comments on a post on A Cup of Jo on the non-stretchy jean trend, and I was fascinated by how some people hate them - many swore they would never go back to the discomfort of non-stretchy jeans. I'm not averse to stretch, but I am definitely on the other side of the fence - the stiffness of old-fashioned denim looks better on me and because most of my jeans are non-stretch anyway, I'm used to them and I don't feel uncomfortable at all.

But what does everyone else think? A ridiculous trend or the revival of a good idea?



LL said…
I don't have much experience with vintage denim, but the high-waist button fly looks very good. I'm hoping to get a pair of Levi jeans as well, but that is a purchase for the far future.
Shutterbug K said…
I need to find a tailor who can work with denim. I have a gal who fights me on hems--I have to tell her to reattach original hems. LOVE the fit and wash on you Lin; did the wash come like that or has it worn in more since you've had it?

I just bought my own first pair of unauthenticated 501xx from a vintage boutique here; I'm torn on having it altered though. I should look at Re/Done for ideas.

How long did it take you before getting used to the compression/or having the waistband and hips break in? I tried getting through a day of work (of mostly sitting) in my 501s and it was pretty restricting.
Archana said…
I think of 90s as the worst period for fashion. Sweatshirts, cargo shorts, wife beaters, logo tshirts, etc.

But Alexa Chung and you can pull off these pants really well. You have the right proportions.

I wouldn't even try.

I see some beautiful bags in the photos.

Joy said…
So difficult find some in Hong Kong! Pray tell which site you got them on?

Thanks :)
lin said…
LL: I really love higher waists with button-fly because I think it flatters my shape. It has a nice line.

Shutterbug K: I'm really fussy about original hems! Some brands make the effort to hem jeans beautifully, or distress the edge slightly for a nice finish and cutting them off is a shame.

The jeans came like that, I think they were already distressed even when new, because the jeans don't feel very worn, despite the wash.

The hip part is always going to be a bit of a squeeze, and I know because I have relatively round hips. It does loosen up over time (it got comfy enough within a couple months and I wore them a lot), but I think on the outset you have to sacrifice a close fit for comfort. There's a reason why these jeans looked mumsy on many women!

When buying jeans with no stretch, I would take a size with a bit of wriggle room in the widest part of the hip, and bring it to a tailor to taper the leg slightly for a more flattering shape. If the waistband gaps, I'd ask the tailor to make some adjustments there as well, without taking in the widest part of the hip, if possible.

Archana: Hahah, when I think of the 90s I think of Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang and Yohji - cool minimalism. There was a lot of ugly crap (there is in every era) but I filtered most of it out.

Ah bags, my weakness! I got a very beautiful leather backpack for my birthday and it made me slightly uneasy because I now simply have more bags than I have time to use them.

Joy: I wish you well! I bought mine on the noihsaf bazaar IG page.

Archana said…
Oh yes, I hope I didn't come off as rude. I apologize if I did.

I did forget it was the time of Lang, Yohji and CK. Somehow, I see todays Gucci and it reminds me of the 90s. No idea why. I lived in India and never watched any fashion shows.

But seriously, your denim posts are my favourite. You wear it really well.
eizhowa said…
Calvin Kleins slip dresses and Helmut Langs creations are the first things that come to mind when I think of the 90s as well:)

I love the button on Levis. Having clothes tailored is so underrated. I am always very happy with the result, but hardly ever go to a tailor. Makes no sense.
Zee said…
Hi, I live in Singapore too and was wondering if you can recommend the best cobbler and tailor you know! Thanks xx
Lori said…
It is possible that this revival of the 100% cotton jeans comes in the same vein as the many current trends that look back at a time when life and things were simpler and of better quality (as we perceive them now, of course), like farm life and artisan pottery and the Paleo diet, for example. Jeans were designed to be 100% cotton, to be thick, rigid and sturdy. They were not designed for comfort, but for durability, which is a great quality in itself and I think justifies the whole craze. Of course the durability factor also lends them a specific aesthetic that we enjoy. I am on the bandwagon for sure.

I find myself obsessed with denim lately. I buy a lot second hand and I often make alterations on my own, which I end up disliking because they are never perfect of course. But I haven't looked for vintage Levis yet. They all look the same to me and I haven't yet had the time to research online. But what I also don't get is why it is so desirable. I get the made in USA denim, the Japanese milled, etc, I don't really get the vintage Levis resurection, besides the nostalgia playing a big role in it, a nostalgia that I don't share because having spent the 90s in Romania, I was wearing some sort of weird Turkish jeans not Levis at the time, and so was everyone around me. But with fashion I never know. I might find myself looking for a pair in the thrift store tomorrow and maybe I'll put them on and fall in love.

Anyway, I also wanted to say that I enjoy your denim posts a lot and often go back and reread some of them.
I prefer button-fly as well, especially since I've had issues with the zippers breaking on my Frame jeans. I never have luck with jeans in vintage shops - people in the 60s/70s/80s must have had tiny waists! I can never get vintage high-waist jeans to button, lol. I find that the jeans that have stayed in my closet for 6+ years (and that I still wear) are all non-stretch. I think all stretch jeans lose their shape eventually and they lose whatever made them flattering when first purchased. The only annoying thing of course is the break-in period, which is why I think re-purposed jeans like re/done are having a resurgence, because you get updated fits with good-quality denim that has already softened up a bit.

No matter how many times I tell myself I have too many jeans, I'm always on the lookout for more!
lin said…
archana: not offended at all!

eizhowa: I tend to accumulate pieces before I go to the tailor because I am so lazy...

zee: my tailor is vega tailor at bukit timah shopping centre for clothing, and for jeans i go to this guy who works out of a tailor's shop called cj apparels at lucky plaza (#02-96C) called michael, he's an old hand at fixing jeans and he's used to working on designer denim so you can trust him with expensive items. i've also been curious about a place called jeansfix at market street, their repair work looks good.

shoe-wise, i get very basic sole work done at shukey at far east plaza, second floor. i don't know of a good cobbler that can do elaborate work, like resoles.

lori: thanks! actually i think stretchy jeans are pretty durable too, and i agree with the current craze for 100% rigid denim is linked to nostalgia and romanticising the good old days. personally i like rigid denim because i like the texture, and certainly not because they are more comfortable!

koko: yes, i am currently eyeing some nudies, but have resigned myself to the fact that i have more jeans than i have the time to wear them.
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