A fitting ordeal: Buying the right jeans

September 07, 1995|By Jennifer Lowe | Jennifer Lowe,Orange County Register

One leg in, one leg out. Pull and tug and frown in the mirror. Jump, scooch, strain to button. Oh my, jeans manufacturers are giving us fits.

The average woman tries on 10 pairs of jeans to find the right one, according to the Lee Apparel Co.

And with the flood of fits on the market these days, that number is sure to rise.

Jeans manufacturers have gone crazy. So much for basic shrink-to-fits. Designers have narrowed legs, widened waists, loosened hips, relaxed backsides. They've sandblasted, stonewashed, antiqued and overdyed denim. They've shredded jeans, recycled jeans, even laminated jeans. They've labeled them with terms that require a dictionary: relaxed, loose, baggy, reverse.

If you're shopping for back-to-school jeans, it's almost as if there are too many choices. A recent Glamour magazine survey found, on average, more than 118 brands of size-10 jeans per mall.

Our own informal survey, in which we took two teens shopping, revealed a confusing array of styles priced from $19 to $125.

"In the denim business, fit is like a pendulum that swings back and forth," said Jill Lynch, a spokeswoman for Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco. "Fit is one of the few areas where you can inject some newness. That's why people in the jeans business like to tinker with it so much."

Yet all the fits can be confusing. One of the most popular shapes among teens this season, manufacturers and retailers say, is the "relaxed fit." But it varies by store:

* Gap: "Extra full at waist and thigh, straight leg," (women's); "fuller from hip to ankle, straight leg, extra low at the waist" (men's).

* J. Crew: "full through hip, thigh" (women's); "full through seat and thigh" (men's).

* Clothestime: "fitted waist, fuller hip, fuller thigh" (juniors).

Fit matters for comfort, of course, but among teens, fit also means image. You don't want to wear the wrong jean.

"Most kids my age don't like tight," said Christine Treibel, 13, of Mission Viejo, Calif., school shopping at Nordstrom with her mother. "We wear loose jeans at my school."

So how to find the perfect pair? Keep in mind these tips:

* Know your body. Don't make the same mistake as Miles, the overwrought producer on TV's "Murphy Brown." In a recent episode, he suffered in agony because he mistakenly wore his slim-fit jeans instead of the relaxed pair on a stressful day.

"You need to know what to look for," said Ms. Lynch of Levi Strauss. That means being familiar with the kinds of styles that look good on you.

* Try on lots of pairs. Not what you want to hear, but ultimately the most satisfying tip. Sizes vary widely among manufacturers; some even use European sizing, which can be more confusing.

"I tried on size 24, 26 and 28," said Ashley Ward, 15, of Laguna Miguel, Calif., trying to find the right Guess? jeans at Nordstrom.

With jeans, there are many variables.

"They have so much structure -- waist, hips, legs," said Julie Losee, regional merchandise manager for Nordstrom junior departments. "If you have a skirt, you just have the waist [to worry about]. With jeans, there are lots of things that can go wrong."

If you like a name brand, consider staying with it. Names are especially important to teens, jeans people say. And teens increasingly are paying attention to cost and quality.

* Be open-minded. You know what fits best, you know what's most comfortable. But if you're a diehard Levi's 501 fan, new styles from Levi's might sway you.

And if you're just really confused, there's always the jean by Best World Brand from Clothestime that is loose waist, loose thigh and tapered leg. It's called the "anti-fit" jean.

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