Discover more from Jane on Jeans
Peak Summer Jeans
And sales. And Celia Ellenberg on the only thing better than vintage.
Who remembers the original Current/Elliott boyfriend jeans? For many women, myself included, they were a much-needed move away from the skinnies that dominated the aughts. God, I loved those boyfriend jeans. Everyone at Vogue, where I worked as a fashion news writer at the time, loved those boyfriend jeans. We put them in the magazine when they launched in July 2008 and wore them around the office exactly as featured: with pegged legs and high heels.
I was living in Brooklyn back then. My neighbor, an elderly Italian woman named Virginia whose husband, I was sure, had been in the mob, would often sit on her stoop in the summertime and wait for me to come home from work. I’ll never forget what she said the first time she saw me in those ripped Current/Elliotts:
“What’s the matter, Jane? Did you lose your job?”
For Virginia, only someone who was really down on her luck would be wearing jeans as messed up as mine.
Of course, Virginia’s comment didn’t stop me from wearing my Current/Elliott boyfriends. Though in time, I did stop buying torn jeans. Maybe it was getting older (I’m now in my 40s), but I suspect it was more about finding my style, which I did long after my boyfriends were gone (metaphorically speaking; technically, they’re in a box in my studio waiting for my daughter). Knee holes just aren’t me anymore.
Except – because uncompromising rules are bleh – when it comes to these: A pair of Levi’s selvedge little “e” straight legs in (what is now) the prettiest, near-white color. They’re my summer jeans – relaxed, faded, soft enough to nap in. So threadbare are parts of these jeans, I wear them sparingly. The holes weren’t there when I bought them. Despite what people like to say about great denim, nothing lasts forever.
I bring up these Levi’s now because I believe they offer good instruction on what to look for in a pair of peak summer jeans – loose, cropped legs and a cloud-blue color. Madewell’s Perfect Vintage Wide-Leg Crop (above) has the right unfinished hem and uniform fade; Citizens of Humanity’s Gaucho Vintage Wide Leg in Enigma has the button fly and 100% cotton denim construction; Levi’s Ribcage Straight Ankle is already a favorite, and in the Ojai Shore light wash it’s a match. Notice: None of these jeans come with holes. That you have to work out yourself.
There are some really good wear-now pairs on sale right now, like these shorts from Nili Lotan and this ecru jacket from Officine Générale. Looking ahead to fall, pleated See by Chloé trousers are tempting, and if it was available in my size I’d also buy the Marques’ Almeida ReM’Ade blazer that Net-a-Porter put with it (I’m on an upcycled patchwork kick at the moment). Bergdorf Goodman has my all-season, all-stars – Mother’s High Waisted Spinner Skimps – in a size 25 for just $115. And also these Moussey Vintage straights that, for $216, are worth a try.
Jean of the Week: by Celia Ellenberg
A vintage enthusiast on her favorite Feels…
I exclusively own vintage jeans. This wasn’t always the case, of course. I came of age during the “modern denim” Renaissance, when L.E.I, Seven For All Mankind, Mavi, and eventually AG by Adriano Goldschmied tried to chip away at the market share long-held by Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler. It was a short-lived coup, but long enough that these brands also began filling the thrift stores I frequented when I became slightly more sartorially independent, and discovered the wider world of denim’s past: Bonjour, Brittania, Jordache, Guess and a number of 70s and 80s upstarts that quickly lined my shelves.
Vintage denim has never been a status thing for me, even though I know there are dealers at unlisted addresses, on unspoken streets, that trade in the scarcity of these hard-to-find relics, charging in the high three figures for a pair of orange tab 517s in perfect condition (if you know, you know). It’s just that the cuts—often higher-waisted and slim through the leg— happen to fit my 5’3” short-waisted frame better than more current styles. Equally important: Older jeans are often made better. I love a sturdy denim that you need to bend (and squat and lunge) to your will—and I hate stretch, so while I may need to wear that pair of “husky” boy’s zip-fly Rustlers on a long car ride to build in a little give before I can comfortably wear them in public, I’m fine with that.
The problem with only buying vintage is that you are often dealing with 1-of-1 inventory, which limits your options as well as the frequency with which you can reliably get a new pair of pants. I am not above sifting through vintage denim online, but it’s tough to get a good sense of fit unless you know your numbers (501s are typically sized big)—or you can find a reliable dealer with plenty of stock and accurate measurements. I buy from one such seller on Etsy; you’ll forgive me for not sharing her handle with you here.
Which is why it was nothing short of life-changing to discover the FEEL Studio’s Genuine Jean, the only new style I’ve ever found that’s close to a vintage fit. I was introduced to FEEL, stylist Stevie Dance’s Los Angeles-based brand, by the impossibly chic Zoe Ruffner, my former colleague at both Vogue and Style.com. Originally launched in just three washes, the single, straight-leg, non-stretch Genuine has a button-fly and a mid-rise and is mercifully cut in two lengths, which saves you (me) the hassle of having to burden your (my) tailor with yet another “original hem” request. I bought a black pair six years ago right before I found out I was pregnant with my son and I wore them with a hair tie to more comfortably fasten the button as my belly expanded; as they faded into a perfect marbled charcoal, they have become my go-tos—still presentable for a night out, and comfortable enough to endure an eight-hour summer travel delay at the newly renovated LaGuardia Airport (above).
Last year, when FEEL released a limited-run of Dume, its fourth and newest color option, I managed to sign up right before they closed the pre-order. Perfectly folded in my ever growing collection, the medium-dark blue wash is right at home between the Big Yanks with an unfinished hem that I thrifted in Chicago, and a pair of 501s that were miraculously pulled from a 1 Euro bin in Paris. But it’s the black pair that has been elevated to keepsake status for the simple reason that I broke them in. For the first time, maybe ever, every fade, scratch, fabric-run and popped stitch is my own.
Celia Ellenberg is an editor, consultant, and Vogue contributor. She lives between Brooklyn and the Catskills with her husband and their two children.
Once again and always, thank you for reading. I’m running a small sale at The Only Jane right now – pants and some jumpsuits are 30%-70% off, while sizes last. (As of me pressing “send” on this letter, Jump One in denim is still available in a size 10.) I tell everyone, buy 1 size bigger in the pants as they look better looser these days. Whether you shop, share, or heart this post, your support is everything, thank you.
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