Confession: I have a minor obsession with finding the perfect pair of vintage Levi’s 501 jeans, one that’s going to flatter my rear and make it look really good. Another confession? Believe it or not, I’ve tested over 30 pairs on my search, both in store and by blindly ordering online. With no luck, I reached out to Jane Bishop, co-founder and denim guru behind Jean Stories, for some help. We bonded over our denim obsession, shared the best places to shop vintage denim in Los Angeles, and the very best part? She opened my eyes about why it’s so hard to find the perfect pair of vintage jeans. Keep reading for Bishop’s top three shopping tips.
1. Opt for vintage shops that have an edited selection of clothing.
Do your research. If you’re headed to a vintage shop, make sure to find one with a curated collection of denim. Live in Los Angeles? Bishop suggests visiting What Goes Around Comes Around and Mr. Freedom. “What Goes Around Comes Around in Los Angeles has an amazing selection of 501s,” she says. “I love that the store is organized really beautifully and by size.” Since there’s an overwhelming selection of vintage denim out there, shop at stores where the buyer has already edited the selection.
Searching online? “My business partner, Florence Kane, has had great success online vintage denim shopping. She had a Hail Mary moment when she found the perfect pair of Levi’s 517s on Urban Renewal. They are super tight and sexy, and she rocks them really well.”
2. Let the salesperson know what you’re looking for.
When it comes to buying denim, most people already know exactly what they want and which styles look best on their body. “I’m often the girl that’s like, ‘I don’t need any help, I’ve got this one,’” says Bishop. “I know how I want my butt to look, I know how I want my jeans to fit, I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like.” But when you’re vintage shopping, it might be helpful to let the salesperson know what you’re looking for, in case they know about some of the store’s hidden gems. That’s what happened to Bishop: “I told her I was looking for a 501 with a super-cinched waist and no crazy wash, and she took a look at my body and told me about a pair she had in the back. It’s always worth asking.”
3. The wash of the jean is key.
When it comes down to it, it’s rare to walk into a vintage store or order online and find the perfect fit. Most likely, you’ll need to alter the jeans, whether it’s tapering the leg or cropping the ankle, both popular fixes. Bishop’s secret? Focusing on the wash and not the fit. “I always start with the color because the truth is you can do anything to a pair of jeans, if you have the right tailor. If you find a wash that really speaks to you and the jeans fit in some way, go for it!” Mission accomplished.
Do you have a denim dilemma that needs solving? Tell us about it in the comments below and we’ll start investigating!