Ecommerce store shoppers

How can I buy vintage denim online?

Every once in a while, we’re faced with tricky fashion questions that make us want to phone a friend. Consider our Ask an Expert This Friend column, turning to the experts — designers, stylists, and other fashion pros — to address your thoughts, comments, and sartorial concerns.

It’s safe to say that a large majority of us have been giving our denim an extended break for much of the last two years. In many ways, 2021 has been tougher for us than 2020, and just as our lives have changed, so have our bodies and our wardrobes. Shopping for denim can be a bit of a nightmare to start with – add a global pandemic to the mix, and there’s a whole different set of challenges.

Most of our shopping has become even more online than before. Buying used on the Internet, however, has not necessarily become easier. The biggest hurdle when it comes to finding vintage online is sizing, which is notoriously inconsistent in this category. Then, if you’re looking for smaller e-commerce stores or individuals selling their used goods, there isn’t always the return option. Add shipping times and online shopping becomes a guessing game to know when your items will actually arrive.

The benefits, however, are enticing. It is a more durable and often more affordable choice. And there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of finding The Perfect Vintage Jeans.

Enter Alex Stevens, the owner of New York-based vintage boutique St. Evens and a deeply knowledgeable denim resource, who has developed a foolproof guide to finding your best pair of jeans without ever trying them on. (I’m 3 for 3 on vintage denim bought from her shop and on eBay using the guide.) We asked her to detail her top tips for buying vintage online – read them all below.

Forget your size — and learn your measurements

“I feel like a lot of things usually turn into frustration with ourselves, like something’s wrong with us because it’s not right for us. In the end, it’s not about about you or your body shape,” Stevens says. “It’s the fact that there are only 10 trouser sizes, and those exact 10 sizes are supposed to fit every person.”

Because number sizing is so inconsistent — especially in denim — she won’t look at the number on a label. “I can wear a 2 in one brand and a 10 in another,” she says. Buying on size only only adds to the frustration of finding the right fit, as there are quite a few measurements that come into play. You’re better off working on individual metrics: hips, waist (in terms of where you actually wear your pants rather than your natural waistline), waist, inseam, and waistband-to-ankle length. (Men’s denim almost always comes with waist and inseam measurements. If you buy women’s vintage styles online, sellers will usually share measurements; otherwise, you can request them.)

To get started, first look in your own closet. “For denim in particular, but also for everything else, I recommend measuring your actual clothes and using that as a reference,” Stevens says. This lets you know the measurements of the clothes you want to buy, not just what your body measures.

Lay the garment flat and measure from the top corner across the waist to the other, not along the curve of the waistband. (Steves notes that you shouldn’t cinch the pants, but rather keep them relaxed.) Double that number and you’ll have the waist measurement.

For the hips, you’ll want to measure at the widest point of the denim, between the waist and the crotch or around the bottom of the zipper. Stevens’ guide to St. Evens reads: “Think about how your body moves when you move. Your hips and thighs move apart when you sit, so make sure you have plenty of space to be able to do things in your pants.”

The inseam is measured from the crotch to the ankle, down the inside of the leg, while the length runs from the top of the waist to the outside of the ankle to the hem. The length minus the inseam equals the height. This last point is important because you may not want your jeans to fit your natural waistline: “If you’re not looking for something really high-waisted, you need to know your waistline at a lower point”, says Stevens.

Stevens recommends taking these measurements at least twice a year, as bodies change – however, you know your body better, and perhaps more frequent measurements could help. “It’ll give you a useful range because you might have a pair of jeans you really like and realize they’re really uncomfortable one week out of the month,” she says.

Take a good look at the fabric

Stretch denim and non-stretch denim are very different, in terms of fit and measurement.

Scroll to continue

“Traditionally, denim has always been 100% cotton, but in the ’60s and ’70s there were some that had a little bit of polyester added,” says Stevens, noting that synthetic fibers have become more popular as “brands l ‘said. makes denim wrinkle and crease resistant, and easier to care for.” Still, jeans didn’t have as much stretch until the 80s and 90s – “then in the 2000s we got a little crazy with it.”

Older stretch denim will contain a very small percentage of lycra or spandex, usually around 5%; anything you find with 20-50% non-cotton fibers is much more contemporary.

The debate between stretch and non-stretch really comes down to preference and what you consider comfortable: stretch denim tends to be softer and provide a tighter fit, but can be harder to buy online and can require a different wash than 100% cotton denim. However, a little stretch allows a pair of jeans to retain their original shape longer than their non-stretch counterparts.

Familiarize yourself with the brands

In her guide, Stevens offers suggestions on which brands might work best for certain body types, based on her knowledge of the vintage market. (I learned that Wranglers are a great option for me because they’re long and narrow and I’m 6 feet tall.)

She recommends Wrangler for a “narrower” body type or someone looking for something more snug: “When we talk about tightness, we say the waist-to-hip measurement is closer – there’s has less difference between hip and waist,” she says.

Lee might work well on hourglass shapes, as his jeans “tend to have a larger waist-to-hip ratio and be a little more curvaceous. They definitely have more shape in the waist and butt than some other brands of jeans.” popular denim.” (Even if you don’t have curves, they can create it for you, says Stevens: “That excess volume can actually create the illusion of a little more in your hips and buttocks, if that’s something you’re looking for.”)

Levi’s are a good option if your body falls somewhere between a high waist-to-hip ratio and a low waist-to-hip ratio. “I think that’s one of the reasons Levi’s have been so popular for so long – in terms of form, they’re very good for the medium,” she says.

Visit your tailor

Stevens is a big believer in crafting our denim. (“It’s probably cheaper and easier than you think,” she writes in her guide.) “The idea that we’re all pulling the same clothes off the rack and they’re just going to fit everyone world is absurd,” she wrote. said. “There are so many different body types, objectively it’s unrealistic.”

If you’re shopping with the intention of customizing your denim, it’s easier to size up than size down. “If you turn any of your clothes inside out and actually look at the way the garment is constructed, there usually won’t be a lot of extra fabric with the denim.”

The denim hem is the easiest solution and usually doesn’t affect the shape of the pants unless you’re working with a specific leg shape, like flares. Then how much you shorten the pants comes into play.

“When it comes to hip and waist modifications, I would say two inches is probably the absolute maximum you can modify without significantly altering the shape and structure of the denim itself,” Stevens says.

Please note: We occasionally use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.

Never miss the latest fashion industry news. Sign up for Fashionista’s daily newsletter.