6 Secrets to Scoring the Perfect Pair of Vintage Jeans

The secrets to shopping for vintage denim.

Ashley Batz Photography

Finding flattering vintage denim is no easy task. Sizes vary widely. You have to navigate non-stretch materials. And the perfect pair might cost you quite a bit.

That’s where the women of St. Lightning come into play. As the owners of a vintage shop on Polk Street, they are experts in classic denim and will help you channel your inner ’90s-era Cindy Crawford. It takes some effort to look that effortlessly sexy. But with their skills, you can master the look that never goes out of style.

It takes some effort to look that effortlessly sexy.

At The Assembly’s in-house vintage denim shopping event, St. Lightning founders Jenni Witt and Sita Lindner worked with members one-on-one to find that elusive pair. The club house was packed — and Jenni and Lindner did not disappoint. They know their stuff and brought the goods.

Secrets to Finding the Perfect Pair

After getting invaluable tips from Witt and Lindner, I’m now the proud owner of a pair of 512 mom jeans (pictured above) in what Witt called a “Jennifer Aniston on Friends stonewash.” Want to find your match? Just follow these tips from Witt and Lindner:

  • Size Up: Vintage denim runs a lot smaller. Witt and Lindner always suggest going two sizes up.
  • Tailoring Is Key: “There are two common types of body types,” Witt told us. The first is a curvy body, where your waist is smaller than your butt or thighs. In that case, you should get the waistband taken in to accommodate your lower body. “If you have the other shape, you gain more weight in your stomach and your chest and have straighter hips,” according to Witt. For this body type, usually your legs are slimmer, so you would want to get the legs taken in. With a little tailoring, you can get the perfect jeans for your body and avoid squeezing yourself into too-tight jeans.
  • Customize to Update Your Look: Cutting the bottoms of vintage jeans is one way to make them more modern. Witt filled us in: “People are chomping their jeans. I call it the awkward ankle.” You can also add patches or custom embroidery.
  • Styling Can Create Balance: Lindner recommends offsetting baggy jeans with a crop top. You want to keep everything in proportion and balanced. Another tip? “Tuck in your tops to show off your waist,” Witt suggested. And if your jeans are distressed, pair them with something polished.
  • Think of Vintage Denim as an Investment: Witt and Lindner say the biggest misconception about vintage denim is that it’s readily available. “Vintage Levi’s are really popular right now,” Witt explained. After more than 10 years of skinny stretch jeans sold by fast fashion brands, savvy consumers want something well made and sustainable. Often, the only place to turn is vintage. But there is a finite supply, which means some pairs can cost hundreds of dollars. St. Lightning tries to keep them affordable, at $98 a piece.
  • Shop in Person: “I cannot imagine buying jeans online,” Lindner admitted. If you do buy online, be prepared to try a few before you find one that works. Since you may not be able to return them, you will have to look into resale if it doesn’t fit.

The Right Attitude Helps

The key to finding a pair of flattering vintage jeans might also be in your head. “A lot of what we consider flattering has to do with what our eyes are used to,” Witt explained. “When I was delving into vintage Levi’s I thought they were awful.” But now, she sees them as a part of a bigger trend that accepts women’s bodies.

If you’re looking for your first piece of vintage denim, the women of St. Lightning have this advice: “Don’t give up.” With their help, you won’t have to.

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