Denim Dilemma: Does Paying a Lot Mean Getting a Lot?

Is there really a difference between jeans costing $20 or $200?

ByERIC NOLL via logo
April 23, 2010, 5:21 PM

April 24, 2010— -- Americans spend $13 billion dollars a year on jeans. They are the most worn item in every woman's closet but they can also be the priciest. When sizing up the perfect pair, can anyone really tell the difference between cheap or expensive jeans? Elle magazine's Anne Slowey, reveals the difference between a $200 decadent denim and lean, mean $20 pair of jeans.

According to Slowey, one of the biggest difference between cheap and expensive jeans is the fabric. "Denim starts out like burlap, and through expensive processing, designers are able to make them feel like soft cotton," reveals Slowey, Elle's fashion news director. "There's some jeans that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars that will actually form to the shape of your body overtime. They will flatter your silhouette and make you appear longer and leaner."

Pricier jeans will also ensure that the color of the denim will always stay as crisp as the very first wear. "When you're paying more money, you're actually getting a jean that isn't going to lose its wash," she says.

But Slowey has found that bargain-priced denim jeans, ($10-$40 a pair) are now a better quality than they used to be. "There's never been a better time to buy low-end denim."

Slowey reveals four secret ways to make cheap jeans look expensive. First, only buy straight leg jeans in a dark blue wash. That's the style most pricey pairs come in. Second, flip jeans inside out before they're washed. This ensures that when the dye fades, it gets trapped inside the jeans. Third, use cold water only and never dry them. The dryer makes them lose their shape and turn frumpy.

"I don't put anything in the dryer," explains Slowey. "The dryer is the enemy of fabric. It's going to cause your jeans to come out shapeless, lifeless and dull."

And fourth and most shocking of all, Slowey says not to wash jeans until they absolutely necessary to preserve the shape, fit and color. "

As far as washing and taking care of budget denim, at $29 and $35, you put them in the washer, you're not only going to lose the shape and contour, but also the color. So I just say, wear them to death."

Cheat Sheet: Anny Slowey's Tips for Buying Jeans:

When trying on jeans, try on one size smaller than usual.

"Denim is going to stretch. Depending on the cut, buy one size smaller," Slowey says.

A big time saver in the store is to hold jeans up next to the body and stretch the waistband. If the band goes all the way across the body, chances are they're going to fit. Also, avoid a flare cut jean, which tends to cut the body and make everyone look shorter. Instead, opt for a straight leg pair which tends to be very slimming on most body types. That's because they're usually constructed with a higher waistband and will elongate the leg.

Slowey also warns not every style works for everyone. "Buy for your age, buy for your style. Don't be lured and seduced by your department store dressing room. Everything looks better there," she warns.

The biggest trend Slowey says to avoid is relying too much on belts. "Don't buy jeans to accessorize with a belt. It's not about putting a belt on your jeans this season. They should fit you perfectly as is."

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