Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Quest for Black Jeans

This isn't exactly CorpGoth, but it's goth-ish &, well, I want to rant about it!

This weekend, I attempted, for the billionth time, to find black jeans that fit me. And, for the billionth time, I failed. Firstly, black jeans are a rare species. While it would be a casual goth wardrobe staple, it's not something you can find easily in many stores. They're a trend that goes in & out of style in the mainstream. Secondly, I am what might be politely phrased as a "specialty" size. Petite plus size. I'm 5'2" & currently wear something around a U.S. women's 12-16 in pants.

Much has been written about the issue of vanity sizing -- how companies make clothes in smaller number sizes to supposedly flatter consumers. And every savvy shopper knows that different brands have their own fit models, which dictates a specific (& basically, completely random) size & shape standard for each brand. Fashion lines targeted towards juniors with slimmer hips & bust such as H&M will run smaller than, say, lines such as Talbots targeted towards older women with more pronounced curves.

Add petite sizing into the mix, & everything goes haywire. Some brands think "petite" means "chop a few inches off the pant leg & arms" while others miniaturize the entire garment, as if petite women were child-size versions of adult women. Even when they cut length off, different brands shorten by different amounts. The petite-focused blog Alternations Needed has a wealth of information in the Petite Fit Guide section & Adventures in Alterations that explain exactly how standard size garments (including juniors & typical petites) differ in accurate fit from petite women's bodies. Unfortunately, that site is aimed more at small petites, those who wear sizes at the 0 end of the range. I suspect one of my thighs might fit into a size 0 waist trouser. *sigh*

So with this background, you know a little about my lifelong quest for black jeans that fit. Not sure why I tried again today, guess the mood just struck. Here are some reviews of places & brands, which may or may not be applicable or useful to others...

Where the black jeans are & aren't right now:
Usually, Gap jeans fit me great. The "curvy" cut & "ankle" length accommodate my pant size & my inseam length. However, they don't carry black or even a very dark wash right now. Around September this year, Gap did have lots of black jeans online. BUT, the same size that fit me in the store did not fit when I bought them online! Lots of people complained on the website of the same thing. Wtf, Gap?

Old Navy pants -- not jeans -- often fit, but petites are very hard to find in the store. It's easier to order them online. I did find petite dark wash (not exactly black) jeans in the store, but the "short" length was perhaps 3" to 4" too long for me. How is that short?

I thought I'd give Torrid a try because the store specializes in plus sizes & edgy, hip trends. Well, I liked a lot of what I saw, & the sizes were close to fitting, but the pants were all too long by a 3" or 4". Yeah, I sew, but I hate hemming pants more than anything in the world. Also, you cannot hem jeans without them looking dorky, imnsho. I just won't do it. Rolling jeans is out of the question -- it simply reinforces the fact that I'm short. No thanks.

I didn't even bother with the super-trendy stores like True Religion, Lucky, & Guess. Maybe I'm stereotyping, but they don't seem like the kind of places that sell to people over size 8. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong because I honestly will pay big money if I could find black jeans that fit my big ass & little waist!

So, on to Macy's petites department, my usual best-bet for things that fit. I know I'll find a wide selection of both in-house brands & fancy labels, plus great sales. I tried on absolutely everything in that section even close to my size in a dark wash, from grey to black. One critique: Unfair of Macy's to put petites jeans on racks high on the wall! My arms & shoulder were aching from reaching up so high.

Style & Co. is my least favourite brand for jeans. I have one pair in a dark grey wash that I've been wearing for years, but I kind of hate them. They're a bit too high-waisted or maybe it's that my waist is a bit slim but my hips are wide -- whatever, they tend to sag on me & it's very irritating! My blue jeans from the Gap don't fit so poorly. But I can still wear the Style & Co. jeans with longer tops or jackets & that doesn't show. Just feels annoying. I tried on the latest incarnations of solid black jeans from this brand, & *gag* even worse. Very mom jeans, high-waisted, plus 3" too long.

Not Your Daughter's Jeans were interesting -- lots of pretty embellished black jeans. But they were insanely overpriced, starting at $100, for very stretchy jeans that were all rather high-waisted. Felt a tad mom jeans-ish in the waist. The length was an inch too long -- would have been ok with heels or heeled boots. If they had been less pricey, I might have gotten a pair just for kicks, since they were super-black.

DNKY were also an one-inch-too-long length. Apparently, "petite" means you're 5'3". Couldn't find a size that worked well for me though, & they were a very dark blue-black wash not true black.

Ralph Lauren jeans were about 2" too long & I couldn't find a good size. But I did like the straight-leg cut. Couldn't tell about the rise though. Nice, sold true black (better be, for $100!).

Calvin Klein jeans fit like a glove, very comfortable but not too stretchy. However, they're maybe an inch shorter than I would ideally want! *eye rolls* If you are 5 foot tall, these would probably look super-chic, because I love jeans & trousers that just hit the floor without dragging. The darkest I could find that fit me was a dark grey, & they were on sale for $30, so I bought them. I think they'll look good with black buckled boots (of which I have many). Just looked a little odd with the flats I wore today.

I looked online later & found more in a solid black wash with a supposedly slightly longer inseam (29", when the ones I bought measure 27"). We shall see! The great thing about ordering online from Macy's is that I can return them to the stores in person, thus saving shipping fees.

Levi's had decent length. Just that inch too long. I didn't like the boot-cut jeans, they felt a little too wide, more like bell-bottoms, & I couldn't find skinny jeans or straight-cut in my size. But the sizes seemed about right otherwise, had a more mid-level rise, it was just the leg shape that didn't appeal. I did find the skinny black Levi's in my size online, so that's another TBD.

Anyone else found black jeans they love? Any petites &/or plus size jeans recommendations? I'll wear colors other than black in jeans if the fit is fab!


  1. I would love a pair of black jeans (I used to have a skinny pair), but I have similar issues. I'm 5'4", but I have really long legs for my height, so I need an inseam that's on the short side of regular length...BUT I need a rise (crotch to waist) that's petite, i.e. not mom jeans, but not hipster.

    I also have very muscular thighs from all the walking I do, so most jeans I can't even get over my knees.

    It's really frustrating. Generally, I just don't even bother buying jeans because it's such a pain.

  2. Something I've finally come to realize is that you can get a professional tailor to shorten jeans and they look exactly like the store bought hem. There's a couple of tricks they use, including cutting off and then reattaching the manufactured hem in such a way that it looks like the real deal. The lady that F takes his stuff to for dry cleaning did around 4 pairs of jeans and trousers for me a while back and it only cost about $30 for them all.

    So, I'd say go with Torrid and then spend the $ to have them professionally taken up. It's the least irritating option, if you ask me.

  3. Also - I love Lucky Brand, but I'm close to not fitting into most of their styles at this point. They do carry up to a 12 in the store, if I'm not mistaken, but they're basically using a juniors fit model, so the larger the sizes get, the weirder the fitting gets in areas like hips, thighs, etc. I run into problems the most with thighs. If the hips are large enough to accommodate my ass, then the thighs will still be weirdly just a smidge too tight. So, I go up a size, and then they fall off my ass. And of course they're all miles too long, because the "short" inseam they carry is 32", and I'm a very solid 29".

    Anyway, yeah.

  4. Shelia - Ugh, why do jeans do this to us??? It's so cruel. There must be some small percentage of the female population that can wear off-the-rack sizes w/out problem.

    Sarah - Hmm, I hadn't thot about a professional tailor for jeans. I should try that (pending what I just ordered from Macys) bec. those ones at Torrid were awfully close to fitting well in the hip/waist ratio. And yeah, that juniors fit model is a killer. Not round enough! And then you go up, but the waist is too big.

  5. I think the deal is that there is enough of a percentage of the female population who are willing to put up with badly fitting clothes, not necessarily that the clothing actually fits a large percentage of people and we're all just the outliers. I know about 75% of my wardrobe is made up of clothes that sort of fit, but not quite. It's why I've been living in knit dresses a whole lot more these days... Can't go wrong with a knit dress!

    And now, back to my glass of wine. Can't go wrong with that, either. :)

  6. Sarah - I feel like I see women in jeans (tho' not necessarily black jeans) all the time & they don't *look* horrible. Of course, they may feel horrible. I've gone thru long periods where jeans were not a part of my wardrobe at all, but then occasionally there's that magic combo of my size & manufacturer size.

    Yeah, until that happens again, back to knit dresses. At least there are lots of cute ones around!

  7. heh. Try finding tall jeans. I tried so hard, but every time I went to the web site they were 'out of stock'. For every type of black jean in my size on every web site I could think of. Because of course, they only make one pair of tall jeans in that size, and someone else already bought them. And if they're too short, you can't just lengthen them.

  8. I'm always on the hunt for a pair of black jeans, and there seem to be plenty available this season, but only in the "skinny jean" style, which does not look good on me AT ALL.

  9. joycebre - True, there is no lengthening option! That's a bummer.

    katysioux - I tried keeping an open mind about skinny jeans, having seen some plus-size ladies rocking the style. But straight-leg really looks better on me, & yep, that's a lot harder to find this season.

  10. Yeah, tall jeans are equally as hard to find. If you have hips. I'm 5'11", 165, but I have big hips and a round butt. It's ok, I'm not complaining about my shape, and I can find long length jeans, but they always seem to be made for twigs, not girls with hips. I finally found a store I can (usually) almost always find jeans I like - Buckle. BUT they START at close to $100. Yikes. $75 if I'm lucky. But they fit really well, so every couple of years I'll buy a new pair. No black though, sadly.

  11. Oh my traveled far and wide for your black jeans! I got tired just reading about your journey. =)

    I second Sarah's advice about the professional tailor. At 4'11", it's a safe bet I have to get every pair of pants I've ever owned hemmed. A tailor will do it for about $10, and replace the original hem so it looks fresh from the store.

  12. Thanks for the survey! I'm not on the plus-size range (when did 14 become a plus-size, anyway?) but I'm 5'0.75" & have been blessed/cursed with an hourglass shape. For most black jeans I have given up and just made sure they were super-stretchy to fit around my thighs/hips. When Old Navy had a curvy-fit line they fit my thighs & were a little too big in the waist, not a big deal. Those seem to have disappeared, tho.

    If you want to go for some good not-black jeans, I recommend Express' Eva line. I've never had a problem fitting the thighs/hips, and the waist tends to be just a little bigger than necessary, easily solved by tucking in a shirt or wearing a belt.

    I cannot find pants short enough. I have heard good things about Ann Taylor, but pants in my size never make it to the sales rack.

    I have figured out a system for hemming jeans and not looking stupid. It involves folding the hem up, and then down, so just the seam peaks out from under the outer fold. Then I sew wee-tiny stitches (just big enough to go over one stitch of denim) every half-inch across the top of the fold. Match the thread to the denim, and it's nearly invisible unless someone lays their head on the floor to examine your jeans. It takes about an hour to get a pair done, but it's cheaper than a tailor.

  13. - yes, jeans in any length for women with hips AND under $100, is that too much to ask???

    Alterations Needed - clearly, I'm missing the boat on pro tailoring for jeans, heh. I've taken trousers to the dry cleaner for hemming, but never thot of doing so for denim. Next stop! (And yeah, jeans shopping is exhausting, so I don't do it often ;-)

    lovleanjel - ooo, I will look at the Express brand & I'll have to try that hemming trick too. Thanks so much!

  14. Kohl's has been my best bet for jeans. At <5' and a solid size 14 jeans I have never failed to find something there. They generally don't have the black version in the store, however, if you find a good style, their website is usually well stocked with other colors (including black)

    Also, lane bryant and sears are pretty good if you are willing to venture into them. Just got $10 black jeggings that are perfect with the knee high boots I bought at Lane Bryant. LB's jeans are generally well stocked for shorties like me, and their online store is pretty good.

  15. Joyful Darkness - I don't have a Kohl's quite near enough by, so I've only shopped there online. But a good rec is worth figuring out a bus trip ;-) I haven't tried Lane Bryant in a long time bec. I kept not finding petites. Maybe it's worth trying again. Stores/brands go thru cycles - about 8 years ago, the best jeans & trousers I ever had were all from LB!

  16. I don't think it's bad to say that petite sizing is "miniaturizing" regular ladies' sizes - if a petite person is in proportion to her height, then she should be wearing something that is miniaturized from a "regular" size. We don't just have short arms and legs. If we're proportionate, we're short all over!

  17. CynthiaC - I guess I didn't explain that well. "Miniaturizing" or just shrinking clothes isn't usually proportional. But grading a garment down (or up) requires moving seam & other fit adjustments that are more subtle. You can see this on sewing patterns how the seams shift & don't just jump in 6" for a smaller size. The waistline can move, armscye & neckline can change shape, etc. Better petite clothing brands take all of this into consideration. Hope that makes sense :-)

  18. I've had trouble looking for plus-sized dark jeans for years, I usually just settle for bluejeans at Kmart due to a lack of $$ and time. But thanx for all of these leads!

  19. Chrys - I wore the CK jeans last weekend & they fit great, even got compliments. So that's one recommended. Still waiting for the Levis on order...