Joyce A. Smith
Today, jeans are popular for all family members. They are worn for every
aspect of daily life, from work to leisure to dancing. Available in a
variety of styles, colors, fabrics and prices, jeans provide a real
challenge to the comparative shopper.
Most jeans are made from 100% cotton or a blend of 50% cotton and 50%
polyester. Other blends of cotton and polyester are available. Nylon is
sometimes blended with cotton for reinforcement and durability. Sometimes
spandex yarns are added for stretch and comfort. A new, cellulosic-based
fiber, Tencel, is being introduced in denim blends with polyester.
The presence of cotton contributes absorbency and comfort. The fabric
also tends to soften with wear and laundering, giving the feel of well-worn
blue jeans. Polyester contributes durability, stability or shrink
resistance, and wrinkle resistance. Ease of care in laundering, as well as
shorter drying times result from the presence of polyester fiber. Many dyes
used with polyester are very stable and retain the rich blue/black color
through repeated washings, more so than dyes used for 100% cotton. Tencel
fiber performs similarly to cotton in absorbency and comfort. It dyes
easily. Tencel blended with polyester will make possible a variety of
textures, but will cost more than other jeans products made of
cotton/polyester blend denim.
Traditional blue jeans fabric is a tightly woven twill construction.
Lengthwise yarns are dyed indigo or blue/black and crosswise yarns are
white. The yarns have a very hard twist for durability, but this
construction feature affects color also. The yarns are twisted so tightly
that the indigo dye doesn't always penetrate, leaving the core of the fabric
white. As the fabric abrades or wears away during use, the white cotton yarn
surface appears, giving denims a lighter or medium blue color.
Contemporary or modern-day jeans are sometimes dyed in the fabric stage.
These jeans have colored yarns in both directions and tend to retain their
deeper color throughout the life of the garment.
Yarns used in denim may vary in weight from 10 to 14 ounces/square yard
of fabric. Normally, jeans with heavier yarns are expected to be slightly
more durable. Some manufacturers use a variety of blend combinations, such
as nylon reinforcement, as well as heavier yarns to increase durability. A
combination of yarn weight, fiber content and finishes/finishing affects
durability of the final garment.
Some denims have an extra layer of fabric fused to the inside knee area.
The process, which is referred to as vulcanizing, adds reinforcement and
durability to the knee area.
A variety of product treatments are available through modern technology.
Among these are brushed denims and stretch denims. Brushed denims are napped
on the surface for a softer look and feel. The fabrics may also be more
flexible after napping.
Stretch denims contribute comfort while bending, "give" for general ease
of movement, as well as smoother fit. Stretch fibers, such as spandex or
texturized synthetic yarns, give stretch to the fabric.
The fashion look in jeans is distressed denim. Identified by several erms
including acid washed, stonewashed, ravaged, aged, white washed, bleached,
super bleached and simply prewashed, the resulting fabric features a
pre-worn look. Treatments give softer hand, more texture, color variation
from frosted, bleached light to faded looks, and distressed edges. Years ago
consumers would break in their own denims by wearing and laundering. Now,
the trend is to buy jeans already broken in.
Distressed denim, often identified by the terms "acid washed" or
"washed," is achieved through chemical (bleaching), mechanical (rubbing or
abrading), or a combination of both processes. Most distressed jean looks
are achieved by some variation of tumbling denim fabric with special pumice
stones soaked in a bleaching agent called potassium permagnate. Different
sized stones create varying effects. In addition to the bleaching effect,
both the pumice stones rubbing the fabric surface, as well as the laundry
action itself soften the fabric and abrade or create a worn look on the
fabric surface. A deep rinse is needed to remove excess bleach in the
fabric. If not removed, fabrics can yellow when exposed to warm water,
detergent, heat from the clothes dryer, or sunlight. The damage is permanent
and cannot be removed. Although the term "acid washed" is sometimes used to
describe this fabric, no acid is used in the process.
Stonewashing is time consuming and expensive, which is reflected in the
cost of garments made from these fabrics. As a result, consumers will pay
more for distressed jeans than similar jeans made from traditional denim
fabric. Some manufacturers estimate that chemical treatments add $11 to the
cost of a pair of jeans, while stonewashing adds an additional $3.
New processes are being developed to achieve the same effect at lower
costs. Sandblasting is a process which projects particles at denim fabric
under controlled pressure settings. The treatment is more mechanical and
abrasive than chemical. Another approach uses enzymes which break down
cotton fibers used in denim, causing the highly twisted yarns to release
indigo dye and soften.
Regardless of the method used to produce distressed denim, durability is
decreased and the life of the garment shortened. Excessive bleaching and
abrading weaken fibers and may cause holes to form and seams to break after
a few wearings. It is estimated that "acid wash" processing is equal to 25
home launderings. Shrinkage becomes less of a problem in the purchased
garment, however, since the "acid wash" or other processes also pre-shrink
Several products or kits are now available to consumers who want to
"distress" their own denim fabric. All systems use some type of mild
bleaching action or mechanical abraders such as a pumice stone for rubbing,
or emery boards. These processes may not be as harsh as commercial
treatments, but still lower the garment's durability and wear life.
Denim producers also use special or irregular yarns and spinning
techniques to give denim a cleaner appearance and softer, loftier hand than
traditional denims. Some result in an "antique" look without distressed
edges. Or, a variety of finishes, such as sandblasting and stonewashes, are
used to enhance the antique or worn looks.
Shrinkage of more than 2% will result in a size change. Read labels
carefully to determine if the jeans are shrink resistant and to what
percentage. If no statements as to shrinkage are present, buying a larger
size than needed is recommended.
Jeans made from polyester/cotton blends should be more stable or shrink
resistant than jeans of 100% cotton. Special finishes, such as Sanforset,
applied to some cotton jeans, control shrinkage as well as reduce puckering
and wrinkling. Those which have received "acid wash" or other rinsing
treatments or "washes" are preshrunk during processing. Consider these
factors when determining the size to buy.
Jeans, jeans, and more jeans! Do you want basic cut jeans or jeans with
special detailing? Do you prefer products made by a particular manufacturer
or designer jeans? Do you prefer classic, full cut, or high fashion styles?
The leg width adds a fashion detail and influences garment fit. Straight
leg, boot cut, flare, and soft slack silhouettes are choices available on
the market, plus some novel styles. For instance, straight leg pants for men
measure 20 inches at the knee and 20 inches at the leg bottom with a fitted
seat and thigh area. The boot cut is a modified flare with a 19-inch knee to
a bottom width of 21 inches. The flared silhouette is approximately 21
inches at the knee with a 23-inch bottom. The soft slack is fuller, with a
23 2/3-inch knee tapering to a 19-inch bottom. Thus, the jean leg style,
such as straight or flare, and the amount of flare will vary.
Fashion and styling details are given more attention by designers, as
reflected in market offerings with much styling variety beyond traditional
jeans looks. Oversized, baggy models in various washes and with localized
abrasion are newer offerings. Other looks are achieved in pleats, tucks,
special yoke insets of contrast or shape, button treatments, and pocket
Fashion detailing is evident in pockets, especially hip pockets. Pocket
shape, top-stitching pattern and other trim ideas are varied to create
interesting and distinctive garment detail; however, some companies promote
plain pocket jeans. Four- and five-pocket styling dominate the jeans market.
Name clothing designers are creating jeans for all members of the family.
In some cases there are special or subtle decorating details, such as
designer initials on snaps or nail head reinforcements, embroidered
signatures, or symbols on watch or hip pockets. Some designers make cuts for
fuller figures or body builds while others cater to persons with slender
bodies. New trademark names for various fit/cuts highlight focus on how
jeans fit; including adjusting cut or offering more ease in menswear and
womenswear. Consumers have cited satisfaction in fit as a reason why they
select a particular brand or designer style. Designer jeans tend to be more
costly. Evaluate features and make comparisons.
Other features are stretch waistbands for men's pants that give and
adjust as the individual moves or bends. Also, styles may have half-elastic
back or side elastic inset waistbands for children's smaller sizes and to
contour Misses' and Women's jeans. Other details are self or decorative
belts and decorative appliques.
Color choices include traditional indigo blue or black to frosted,
washed, powdered lights or dark washes. More color interest in denim is seen
in fashion colors: brown, tan, wheat, gold, brick red, olive, purple, and
teal. A few companies offer vivid colors such as bright turquoise, fuchsia,
and even orange. By the mid-nineties, manufacturers are expected to
introduce tinted neutrals and soft hues such as straw yellow, terra cotta,
and stone. Deep tones and overdyes add to the mix. The use of various color
thread for top stitching can add decorative detailing. Instead of matching
thread, orange, white, or light blue thread is used on blue denim.
The way jeans are cut, put together and finished will influence their
appearance and durability. Since you will wear jeans often, the garment must
be made well. In general, check for smooth, straight stitching, even stitch
length, and threads secured at ends of stitching. Extra stitches, bar tacks,
or rivets serve as reinforcements at places of stress - belt loops, at
pocket openings and below the zipper. Consider these details:
Waistbands - The band should be cut in one piece and securely
stitched with ends enclosed, rather than overcast. Check to be sure belt
loops are securely attached and of ample size and number to hold a belt in
Placket - The fly area, whether with zipper or buttons, should be
faced or of a double fabric thickness. Look for straight, secure stitching
and at least one bar tack to reinforce the bottom of the placket. The fly
facing or shield should be tapered and reinforced with tacking or fabric
tape. The zipper should be sturdy enough for the garment fabric and of
adequate length to easily put on jeans. Be sure the zipper has a secure lock
feature. That is, the zipper glide should remain in place at the top when
stress is applied.
Seams/Stitching - Flat fell seams with double or triple stitching
provide flat, firm, enclosed seams. Check to be sure they are smoothly
constructed. This seam construction encases the seam allowances so there is
no raveling during wear or laundering. If seams are not flat fell, be sure
the seams are serged (overcast) to cover the raw fabric edges and thus
Check the joining of seams at crotch and yoke areas. The joining should
be accurate and seaming properly finished for a smooth garment appearance
Other details - Decorative detailing, such as embroidery,
contrasting pocket insets, or piping, should be evenly and smoothly applied.
Buttonholes should be stitched closely, with no loose threads or exposed
edges. Quality pockets have edges carefully turned under and have been
placed evenly and securely on the garment. Lining or pocket fabric should be
durable, with edges finished. Hems should be even, flat and securely
Jeans are available in sizes for everyone - men, women, misses, juniors,
boys, girls, little boys and girls, and special sizes or cuts for the tall,
petite, slim or large person. What size and type to buy will be influenced
- Your measurements
- Your body build
- Your body or figure contour - male vs. female
- Styling details
Generally, men's and boys' jeans are sized and purchased by waist size
and inseam measurement. Boys' jeans may be sold by size number, such as 8 to
18. Misses' and women's jeans are sold by garment size, such as Misses 8,
10, 12, etc., or women's sizes 36, 38, 40, 42, and so forth. In some
instances, you buy by waist size. Girls, little boys, and little girls size
categories are also sold by size number.
Jeans are cut to fit various body shapes, too. For example, some men's
jeans have full-cut styling and are available in regular and extra or big
sizes. Jeans with full-cut styling are cut wider in the seat and thigh and
longer in the rise (crotch area) for a more comfortable fit. In fact, the
major jeans companies now have trademark names for cut of jeans, such as
Levi's "Silvertab," which is a baggier fit with tapered ankle, or Levi's
"Looser Fit," which is cut fuller in the seat, thigh, and knees. Lee's
"Relaxed Fit" is cut for loose fit in seat and thigh. Other general terms
used may include "cowboy cut," "relaxed fit," "full cut," or "loose fit."
Boys' jeans are available in regular, slim, and husky cuts. Girls size pants
are offered in three size types to accommodate slender, average, and fuller
body types. Junior girls sizes accommodate the slim silhouette. Misses sizes
are available in a wide range, and in proportioned lengths.
If gals want to purchase men's jeans, refer to special conversion charts
available at stores, in retail catalogs, or on some product charts. Use
women's hip measurement to compare with men's waist measurement on the
chart. A general guide is, if female measurements fall between, go to
smaller size for close fit and larger size for fuller fit. Remember, a
female's waist-hip contour and proportions differ from a male's. Men's jeans
still may not fit close to the waist without alteration, and the jean's
waist will not be at the natural waistline of a female.
Special styling, such as contour waistlines and extra leg width at knee
or calf, influence your choice. You may prefer jeans cut and sized by one
It's best to try on jeans whenever possible. Make use of size/measurement
information and consider if regular, full, or slim would be comfortable.
Remember to allow for shrinkage.
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