Any of my coworkers can tell you that my daily uniform, 90 percent of the time, consists of jeans and a sweater or button-down. But that said, denim and I have a long, fraught relationship history; I’ve always struggled to find pairs that fit the way I want. (I’m comfortable with my body most of the time, but I’m never so acutely aware that my figure is not an hourglass as when I’m attempting to muscle myself into a pair of rigid high-waisters in a fitting room.)
Over the past decade or so, I’ve shelled out more than I care to admit on both high-end and mid-range brands—from form-fitting skinnies to boyfriend jeans to vintage-style cuts—and the best I could usually hope for, fit-wise, was “decent.” So when I found myself killing time at a Brooklyn thrift store recently, I wasn’t expecting to find my denim holy grail. I tried on a vintage pair of men’s Levi’s and found they had the straight-leg fit I’d been seeking in the legs and hips, and an extra-high rise that actually worked with my long torso. The waist was a little loose, but I figured at ten bucks, they’d still be a fairly cheap experiment after alterations.
I should say here that I always considered tailoring a luxury reserved for fancy people and weddings (in fact the only items I’d had altered recently were bridesmaid dresses). Why would I voluntarily spend extra money on my bumming-around everyday clothes? Well, after seeing the results of the thrift-store jeans, I’ve seen the light: They look like they were made for me, because, well, they sort of were. No pinching in the waist, no weird smooshing of the back of my legs (both issues I’d often had in the past). The alteration cost $25, bringing the total cost of the jeans to $35, but considering I’ve already worn these dozens of times versus those bridesmaid dresses gathering dust in my closet, it’s absolutely worth it.
My point isn’t that everyone should rush out and pick up a pair of men’s Levi’s from the ’80s. But I’ve learned that whether you spend $10 or $200 on your denim, a little tailoring can go a long way, especially if it’s the article of clothing you wear the most. But who knows? Your dream jeans might be waiting at a garage sale and not a department store.