What’s with the supermodel-long inseams? Why are your hands stained blue? Answers to these and other denim issues.

By Yolanda Wikiel
Updated July 06, 2009
Geoffrey Sokol

Q. Jeans are never the right length for me. What are my options?

A. You have two choices:

  • If you’ve found the pair that fits you perfectly, except that they are too long, wash them first. “You may lose half an inch off the hem,” says Steve Boorstein, author of Ultimate Guide to Shopping and Caring for Clothing. Then have the jeans tailored to the proper length with the shoes you plan to wear with them. Make sure the original hem is reattached so the pants look finished.
  • Or search specifically for jeans that come with your inseam. These brands offer a range, from petite to tall: Gap (gap.com), J.Crew (jcrew.com), Lee Jeans (lee.com), Levi’s (levi.com), and Lucky Brand Jeans (luckybrand.com).

Q. Why are some jeans so pricey?

A. With premium jeans, typically anything over $100, more attention to detail is put into the garment.

  • The denim often comes from a mill in Italy, Japan, or the United States and is more expensive than denim from China.
  • The fabrics used are higher quality, in fiber and in weave, so the end product is softer but stronger.
  • Premium brands conduct extensive fit testing.
  • All fading, whiskering, and fraying is done by hand. “The more distressed and complicated the wash, the more expensive the jeans will be,” says Susie Crippen, creative director of J Brand.

Q. What’s up with boyfriend jeans?

A. Petite pear shapes should avoid this trend, since the combination of baggy legs and rolled cuffs “makes you look shorter and adds volume,” says Gretta Monahan.

  • Yes, the style can accommodate thicker middles and thighs, but it should look slouchy. You shouldn’t fill out the waist, the hips, or the thighs.
  • Although the cut is loose and casual, step away from the sneakers. “That’s a fast track to frumpy,” warns Monahan, who likes them rolled up and paired with heels or gladiator sandals and a flowy top. Crippen suggests partnering them with pretty flats, a fitted tee, and a short jacket. “Whatever you wear should be girly, to create that juxtaposed style,” she says.

Q. Why does indigo rub off on my skin?

A. The term for this is crocking, and it happens naturally with denim. “Regardless of brand, with any inky color there is probably going to be some dye transfer,” says Jessica Arredondo. Here’s how to prevent and handle blue stains.

  • Look for a label warning the denim may bleed. If there isn’t one, rub white paper against the fabric to check for residue.
  • If there is any risk of crocking, wash the jeans before wearing. Launder them alone in cold water so the dye won’t damage other items.
  • If the dye has smudged onto other clothing, pretreat the area with a stain remover, then wash in cold. Repeat as necessary without using the dryer until the stain is gone.
  • If the indigo rubs off on a dry-clean-only garment, upholstery, or leather, seek out a professional cleaner.

Q. How can I keep jeans looking new?

A. Prevent fading and shrinking by laundering jeans infrequently―after three to five wearings. Turn them inside out before washing, and use the delicate cycle and cold water. Boorstein suggests a color-safe detergent, such as Tide Total Care ($8 for 50 fluid ounces), to counter the chlorine in water and slow fading. Remove the jeans from the dryer while damp and step on the hems while pulling on the waist to maintain the length.

  • To best preserve the original size, color, and shape, dry cleaning is the way to go.

Q. Is there such a thing as stylish plus-size denim?

Can’t find a pair above a size 12 that doesn’t scream “mom jeans”? Try these fashionable brands.