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For most of us, finding the perfect pair of jeans feels like a never-ending search. Maybe the waist fits great, but the rear pockets are too low. Or perhaps they make your butt look amazing, but the length is all off. Aside from fit, there’s also the issue of durability. Does the color begin to fade on darker washes? Do the seams start to fray after a few seasons? For all these reasons, we bet you have a stash of jeans in your closet that rarely gets worn.
With this in mind, we wanted to find out the best places to shop for denim that we will actually wear. Luckily, this doesn’t mean you have to splurge on designer brands. To find out the clothing chains that sell the best-quality denim, we consulted retail experts and stylists. Read on to learn their picks.
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“These are quite possibly the most comfortable jeans I have ever worn,” shares West. “Dear John’s selection of denim is known for excellent craftsmanship and fit, made of the most buttery soft fabrics and designed to flatter.”
And with prices ranging from $44 to $108, it’s not hard to pick up a couple different pairs. “You will find an incredible selection of trending denim styles from colors to crops to flares, all types of rise, and side slits galore,” says West. “I love to shop Dear John for a denim refresh or when a client wants to try out a hot new style but doesn’t have the luxury price tag.”
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There’s a reason Levi’s has been making blue jeans (which they actually invented) for 150 years—they stand the test of time. While the denim at their regular stores can be a bit pricey (though it’s certainly worth the splurge), fashion stylist, lifestyle blogger, and podcast co-host Tara West recommends the Levi’s Outlet.
“Serving us their classic cuts and fits, the outlet offers a selection of denim that might be from a past season but rest assured, the styles deliver,” says West. “I like to shop Levi’s outlet when I’m hunting for casual finds for my clients that want a sportswear look and feel, so I opt for a pair of 501®’s with an oversized blazer or sweater and loafers.”
Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, adds that Levi’s now has a SecondHand store. According to the site, the way it works is that you can trade in jeans, denim shorts, and Trucker Jackets that are in good condition. You’ll receive a gift card for the trade-in value, and others can shop your gently used or vintage pieces online. “It might not always provide the best deal so be sure to check new prices as well, especially if there are sales going on,” notes Ramhold.
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“This is a brand that seems to make almost every list of quality denim,” says Ramhold. “It has a large loyal following for sure, and prices aren’t necessarily designer-tier levels. I saw jeans starting around $98 for a regular price, but sale items were as low as $30, so there are definitely deals to be had if you want to stock your closet.”
Another way to save at Madewell is through their trade-in program, where you can give back a pair of pre-owned jeans from any brand, either in-store or online, and receive $20 off your purchase. Like Levi’s, Madewell also has a site where you can shop pre-owned denim.
Prices aside, Madewell is known for its range of fits and sizes, as most jeans are available in regular, petite, tall, taller, and plus. In a deep dive into the brand, the Strategist spoke to fashion experts about Madewell’s denim.
“I feel contained and smoothed in these jeans, and the waist comes up high enough [so] I don’t get that annoying gapping at the back,” said lingerie expert Cora Harrington about their high-rise skinny jeans. Celebrity stylist Samantha Brown said the signature vintage jean “has the perfect amount of stretch so it’s not constricting and doesn’t lose its shape with wear,” adding that they fit “just about anyone.”
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LA Denim, courtesy of Everlane
Like Madwell, Everlane is a clothing retailer that consistently lands at the top of best denim lists in large part for its fit options. You can choose from their straight, relaxed, skinny, curvy, or wide style (you can find a detailed description of what those really means on the site) and prices usually start around $78, explains Ramhold.
In their Denim Guide, Everlane says, “We believe that starting at the top gives you the best fit possible—because when it comes down to it, the waist, butt, and hip are the real make-or-break details.” They also recognize that not everyone’s body fits in a neat box, so they offer two inclusive fits—the Everyone Jean, which is meant to fit all body types and genders, and Curvy Denim, which was designed for those with hourglass shapes with an “adjusted hip-to-waist ratio.”
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Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the quality of your denim. For more affordable jeans, Ramhold points to several brands at Target. “Universal Thread and Wild Fable generally receive good reviews… and can last quite a while as long as you care for them properly.” She does note that not every pair is a winner, so it’s important to read reviews before purchasing.
Target also carries its own Levi’s line, which offers jeans for close to half the price of traditional Levi’s. Aside from this collaboration, you can expect denim at Target to run between $20 and $40, Ramhold says.
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If you prefer a department store that offers many different brands, Elizabeth Kosich, a New York City-based certified image stylist and founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling, suggests Nordstrom. “For the contemporary woman, Nordstrom has a top-notch curation of the best denim brands on the market. The array of labels is ideal for the customer in search of the right brand for their body shape.”
Kosich is especially fond of Nordstrom’s large selection of MOTHER jeans, which she feels is the best denim brand on the market thanks to their signature stretch fit. This figure-flattering brand is not cheap (they sell for close to $300), but it’s a favorite of celebs including Jennifer Garner, Meghan Markle, Olivia Wilde, and Jennifer Lopez.
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Another splurge brand recommended by Kosich is Ralph Lauren, specifically their Japanese denim, which she calls “the best of the best.” According to the stylist, these jeans have “superior construction, premium dyes, and timeless cuts.”