How to Shop for Vintage Jeans

Like a lot of you, my eco-anxiety was at an all-time high when I first learned about the impact fashion has on our planet. Hearing that 26 BILLION pounds of clothing will be thrown out this year was a real shocker. I'm now known as that sustainable denim girl and honestly, I am honored hahaha. 3 years ago you'd see me buying at least one new piece of clothing every week from all of the fast-fashion giants - girls night out am I right. But, the more I educated myself and became aware of the issues, I started to shift my consumption habits to buying vintage or secondhand!

Nowadays, you can basically find any piece you are looking for vintage/secondhand because it has most likely already been invented. Fashion is so cyclical, I am even starting to see some of the old trends I used to wear coming back. Take the bootcut. My first pair of designer denim was a pair of bootcut jeans from Seven For all Mankind and now we're starting to see this style creep onto the runway.

Vintage Levi's have also become somewhat of a couture item, with influencers and designers pairing luxury items with vintage denim and cool collabs like Denim Tears' new upcycled collection. It's becoming "cool to care" (thanks Boyish Jeans for that slogan) and with the amount of clothing in the world right now, there is so much opportunity to reuse discarded garments and save them from ending up in our landfills.

'I think for all of us it means an attention more on craft, on creativity, and less on the idea of clothes that are instantly disposable, things that you will throw away just after one reading,' - Anna Wintour

Luckily, denim is one of the most durable fabrics out there and there is an abundance of it at your local vintage, thrift or charity shops! But, of course finding the perfect pair of vintage peach-sculpting jeans is easier said then done.

Here's a little guide to help you find your perfect pair.

Levi's Styles:

Style Rise Fit Notes
501 High Rise Button Fly (at or just below belly button) Straight Leg, Classic

The most classic "mom jean" fit

Accommodates curves and nips in at the waist due to the famous button fly!

505 Mid to High Rise Zipper Fly  Straight Leg, more relaxed fit, slightly slimmer thigh than 501s I love sizing up in 505s for a great boyfriend fit, but sized right and they hold everything in a bit better than the 501s due to the zipper fly
551 High Rise Looser, tapered fit

A serious mom jean

Great for petite gals since its a vintage women's fit!

646 High Rise Fitted in the hips and thighs, wide flare at the bottom If you're looking for a pair of kick ass flares, these are it


Other Brands to Look For:

Brand Rise Fit Notes
Wrangler High Rise Slim through hip and thigh, super straight or slightly flared Wrangler's do wonders for the booty! They hug my hips and make my boyish figure look a little more curvy :p
Calvin Klein Mid to High Rise Cinched waist, loose relaxed fit with a tapered ankle An actual mom jean with billowing thighs and a tighter ankle
Lee High Rise Slim through hip and thigh (looser than the Wrangler's), straight leg, sometimes a bit flared A great alternative to Wrangler's, with a similar fit minus the western feels
Carhartt High Waisted or Low and Slung (depending on if you size up) Roomy and a wider leg These workwear classics are great for cropping into a Jesse Kam vibe
Rustler Mid to High Rise Straight Leg

I'm a big fan of the fit of Rustlers, similar to the fit of Lees.

They're great for squared hips and more petite figures


Sizing Tips:

  • Ignore the sizing label and get a measuring tape
    • Knowing your own measurements will help streamline your hunt for that perfect pair
  • Buying vintage denim means buying men's styles a lot of the time, so as a general rule of thumb, take the number on the tag and subtract by 2!
    • ex. size 32 = size 30
  • Try the "neck trick"
    • this is where you take the waist and stretch it around your neck - I know it might look like you are trying to strangle yourself at Value Village, but it works
    • if the ends of the waistband touch perfectly, they'll fit your waist; if it overlaps, they will be too big
  • Make sure to note that vintage denim generally has no stretch
  • Having trouble finding the right fit? TAILOR THEM!


It takes time and actual searching to find your perfect pair, so don't give up! But, I hope these tips will help you when you're on the hunt ;) Let's break the stigma of secondhand shopping and embrace the natural fades and distressing that come with it!

Until next time, STAY DILIGENT FRIENDS and follow me on Insta for more facts, brand recos and all things denim + sustainability.




Photo by Jordan Kay

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