For my latest buy this…instead of that installment, I challenged myself to find denim that’s made in the US for about the same price as denim that’s imported. I couldn’t do it. I did find a couple of brands that produce in the US for under $100, but just barely. And that’s still about twice as much as imported denim.
But that’s what we have to work with. I’m not going to try and convince you to pay more than $100 for jeans if you’re dead-set against it. Oh, wait, yes I am. Seriously, though, in my experience I’ve not found a pair of jeans that fit me as well, and last as long as premium denim (made in the US) does. And I’ve had a LOT OF EXPERIENCE with jeans. More than I’d care to admit.
Anyway, as far as denim is concerned, it’s VERY easy to buy made in the US, if you’re open to spending about $100 – most of the contemporary designer brands are all made here. Many many years ago, before I was bitten by the premium denim bug (started with Goldsign, which still remains my absolute favorite denim brand), I wore Gap jeans, but I swore off them completely several years ago; they stopped fitting me right and I found the quality to be very poor. Anyway, I never bought a pair of Gap jeans without the extra 40% off, because that’s what they were worth to me – not much at all.
Madewell had promise, too, I suppose, but I never found a pair that fit me like I thought it should, and now that they’ve raised prices to over $100, I’d rather spend a little more to get a pair of jeans that are made in the US. Again, with Madewell, I feel like they’re trying to position themselves as an “American heritage” brand, and they have an opportunity to do MORE with regard to producing in the US, but don’t. I read recently that Madewell’s denim is designed in Los Angeles, and they take pride in that, but then they produce their denim in Vietnam, or China. Really? And with the price increase they’re selling their jeans for about the same price or more than you can purchase denim that’s made in the US (around $125 or so), in Los Angeles, actually (American Apparel produces $99 jeans in LA). It just rubs me the wrong way. With Madewell’s size and influence, they COULD produce their jeans in the US I think – and choose not to.
Ultimately, yes, you’re going to pay more than $50 for denim that’s made in the US. For many, I understand that’s a hurdle to get over, especially if you’ve never tried premium denim before. What’s all the fuss anyway? (Again, I’ll refer you to my post on why I pay more than $200 for jeans for that answer…). And remember…cost per wear!! cost per wear…
But, as I also mentioned in the post about paying more than $200 for jeans, you CERTAINLY don’t have to. If it is important to you to to buy made in the US, AND stay under $100, it’s absolutely possible by shopping sales (the best places in my experience to look for denim under $100 is Nordstrom sale section, Nordstrom Rack, and The Outnet – although they’re not all going to be made in the US), and using coupon codes from places like Shopbop and others.
Why is made in the US important?
If you live in the US, or in North America, made in the US is “local” – the environmental impact of transportation, etc. is lessened (although often, the fabric is imported…). Shopping local is always a good thing, in my opinion.
Working Conditions – some would argue that standards in the US for paid leave and health care are behind other countries’, but in general our working conditions in the US are better than in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic and under some circumstances, China. Although companies such as Everlane are trying to improve working/living conditions in and around their factories in China, and are “radically transparent” about it.
Heritage – denim is pretty quintessentially “American,” and there’s still an industry here around it. Interestingly, it was the premium denim brands like 7 for All Mankind in the early 2000’s who brought denim manufacturing “back” to the US in a big way. Levi’s had already left, Gap, etc…
Quality – I am under no illusion at all that made in the US automatically equals higher quality and longevity. In my experience, however, and in general, it does. I have paid careful attention to my clothing, where it’s made, how long it lasts, and without a doubt, I have found that the things I love the most, and that last the longest are made in the US. Base your expectations of quality on your own experience with a brand and inspecting a particular garment, NOT on where it’s made; that’s what I have done, and determined that I wish to stick with made in the US.
Denim made in the US under $100:
Bluer Denim | most are $95, and top out at $125
Which we Want | at Need Supply Co (my impression is that these are more “juniors” or modern sizing, but most are $99)
American Apparel | under $100 (also probably run small)
Sale sections (look for brands that are made in the US) –
The Outnet | one of the best places for denim under $100
Nordstrom sale section | they just started their clearance sale on 2/11
Barney’s Warehouse | a GREAT selection
Revolve Sale | TULIP is usually good for 10% off
Singer22 | has coupon codes frequently and good sales
Denim made in the US under $150 :
Allison Izu | made in Hawaii for ladies under 5’6″ – only 2 prs of denim capris right now
NYDJ | at Nordstrom (between $110 and $130)
Denim made in the US – $150 to $200+ :
7 for all Mankind
AG | Anthropologie has some exclusive styles
Citizens of Humanity
Eileen Fisher | they are NOT all made in the US
Imogene & Willie (use code GRECHEN15 at Zady for 15% off)
Joe’s | not all made in the US
Levi’s | only the dark and white washed 501 styles are made in the US
Rag & Bone/JEAN
Azalea has a nice selection of J Brand, Rag & Bone, etc., always 20% off with code GRECHEN20
Hampden Clothing has Current/Elliot, J Brand, and Rag & Bone for 15% off all the time with code GRECHEN15
Do you buy denim that’s made in the US? is it important to you? why or why not? What is your favorite denim brand? Did I miss any??
Previous Buy this…Instead of that:
Madewell Transport tote vs. Made in the USA Leather totes
Love your blog. I live in Ireland, but I have to agree with you that premium denim is well worth it. When I visit the US I always stock up on 7 for all mankind, Paige, Citizens of Humanity and William Rast ( my favourite, are they made in US? ). Believe me at $200.00 they are way cheaper than what they retail at in Europe. I have some of these jeans for 5 years and they are worn constantly. If you look at cost per wear they are well worth it and I also like to buy clothing that is made in the country I’m visiting. I do not like to buy clothing made in China, it is very hard to follow the trail to see how transparent some of the companies are. In Europe I like to buy clothing made in Europe, it’s not always easy to find though. Sorry for long rant.
Grechen Reiter says
thank you for your comment catherine! yes, i think william rast is made in the US – i’d forgotten about that brand, actually!
cost per wear – so important when considering how much to spend on something! based on that, my original goldsign jeans from 10 year ago (that are now shorts) are down to mere pennies…or less…they paid for themselves over and over again…
I agree with you and buy my NYDJ thrifted. Love the fit and feel and durability. I only buy USA or European made clothing and shoes. I thrift so it is cheaper and a treasure hunt but sooooo worth it. I find another area where you get what you pay for is shoes. I only buy Italian made shoes. The quality, wear and classic styles really show through. We Americans have imperiled our economy and allowed China to litter our country with “trash” goods. What were we thinking? Better to have one really great pair of well made local or quality piece than a hundred so so rags.
I totally agree with you on this one. My Imogene & Willie jeans are my favorite right now, but I also have J Brand, Seven’s, Rag and Bone and Citizen’s. They get worn constantly and get better with age. They also do not lose their shape and the fabric just gets softer with washing. Cost per wear is the argument I use with my DH when I buy a pair, who can argue with that?
Grechen Reiter says
oh!! i want to try imogene & willie so bad. my (male) cousin has a couple pairs – he lives in nashville, where they’re made – and he RAVES about them. they look great too…
i’m just a bit afraid not being able to try them in person first. how do you find that they fit? what style do you have??
I have the Imogene Slim Indigo: http://shop.imogeneandwillie.com/products/imogene-slim
I ordered them online and had great service. 29 is my normal sizing, they had recommended a 28 and I got that first. They were just too tight around my waist so I returned for the 29. Shipping was seamless and quick. They are long and I have toyed with getting them hemmed, but the girl at I&W said that she just rolls them up – kind of what most people do and that is how I have been wearing them. There is a store in Portland and I know some retailers carry them now if you want to try in person. Visiting the Nashville store is a dream and my wish list from them is huge!
Grechen Reiter says
huh, interesting. the trina turk store here carries them. weird. i never would have known, because i NEVER would have gone in to trina turk!!! seems like most retailers tend to carry the men’s styles…
unfortunately i don’t get up there to visit family much anymore since my grandparents are gone…but when i do, it’s on my list of places to go.
I’ll definitely book mark this post as I’m all for supporting Amer business, but I tend to lean toward what fits and a lot of the premium brands cater to the slim through hip/thigh gal and forget curvy, heavy thigh gal ..
A few years ago, I sent an email to Paige denim asking which jeans would fit a pear shape and I never even got the courtesy of a return email.
I also agree about the GAP, I use to wear their jeans, but the fit changed and now their ‘curvy’ fit gaps in the waist on me.
So sure, my JLo jeans may be made in a foreign country .. but darn it all if they don’t fit perfectly 🙂
MonicaP´s last blog post ..Fringe Cardigan and a few accessories from Charming Charlie
I discovered Frame from your blog and am absolutely in love with my new Le Garcons. I’m also a long waisted 5’3″ with a 26 inch inseam. Now I’m looking into the Goldsign Virtual High Rises since the others worked so well. Have you had yours altered, or was the inseam right for you? I may also take Ayr up on their offer to do a home try on because they come in a 26″ inseam. Thanks!
Grechen Reiter says
hi mandy! twins!! 🙂
i have not had the goldsigns altered, sometimes i fold them under and other times i just leave them long – they’re just about a 1/2 inch “too long” if at all… i’ve toyed with getting them hemmed, but i almost never like jeans after they’re hemmed, so i probably won’t do it…
i’ve wanted to try ayr also, if you do, please report back!!
oh…try the goldsign glam skinny jeans also, i would have had to size up in those, they ran pretty small, but the inseam was PERFECT. and they have a 9 inch rise, which was also nice. i like the 10 inch rise a little better though…
I love the super skinny ankle stretchy jeans made of US denim by Muji. I got a pair at the 8th Avenue NYC store and then went online to get other colors. They beat anything I have tried so far. Granted not made in the US but made of US denim.
Thanks for the tip on the Goldsign Glams. When you have legs this short,, nothing feels better than finding a pair of perfect length jeans. I never like the way hemmed jeans look, either.
As I get older, I’ve grown to appreciate a higher rise in my jeans. Lower rises just aren’t flattering on my hips. I tracked down a pair of Frame Le High Skinnies that I’m going to try out.
I’m a huge Rag & Bone fan because of the awesome fit for my particular body but own older Paige, J Brand too. I seem to always have problems with waist sizing. It’s either a gap or else the waist is too tight but the rest of the denim fits perfectly. I found a life changing device on Amazon that stretches the waist perfectly. I saved a lot of my older too tight muffin top producing denim using it.
I think it’s called a heavy instant pant stretcher. It’s solid wood and under $20 usd. Highly recommend! Now I buy for the overall fit and can disregard a too tight waist which opens up my options.
I agree that thrifting is a great way to get quality items with a little hunting.
I don’t think, however, that we have “allowed” China to litter our country with trash goods. That implies that it’s another’s country’s fault that we repeatedly buy cheap, poorly made items and not support companies that pay a living wage in the US (or elsewhere). We love to spend less as long as it benefits us in the very short term by allowing us to buy more, more, more. That mindset is no one’s fault but our own.
Thank you for this series, Grechen. I look forward to more posts on alternate brands to consider!
Grechen Reiter says
whoa. what a great tip!! thanks karen. that’s sort of the problem i have with my black ag stevie sateen jeans. maybe that will help it? do they stay stretched??
Wasn’t blaming the Chinese, was blaming our price as the determiner mentality. We allowed this by not supporting our own manufacturing. It is for us to turn this around.
I have quite a few pairs of J Brand, some AG, and Citizens of Humanity – and haven’t paid more than $50 for any of them. (We have a great NBC 1/2/ of 1/2 place that has closeouts/returns/past season stuff, and sometimes they have great things at ridiculous prices. I got a pair of J Brand high-rise skinnies for $10, perfect condition. ridiculous.) I’ve worn NYDJ before – first experience with USA/premium type denim actually, and I’ve never considered buying anything but since then. I’d happily pay $200 for jeans that are perfect (I’ve just lucked out a bit with finding good deals). I’ve really been wanting to try Imogene & Willie, high-rise and black jeans = yes, please!, but I’m too nervous to order online as I’m generally a hard fit.
While I’ve not bought Baldwin, I’m a big fan of them, as they’re from KCMO and that’s our go-to weekend city. 🙂 My husband is also ridiculously tall and thin, needing a 31×37, but getting by with 32×36 if he ever finds it, and the guy in the Baldwin shop in KC mentioned that they could make him a pair with a longer inseam – this was a few years ago, so they may have grown beyond that, but I was pretty pleased with the offer (at the time we had $0 to spend on jeans, so didn’t go through with it, but the idea was nice).
Yes they do stay stretched but that’s probably because I never machine dry my denim and always wash inside out in cold. If they tightened up too much I would just wet the waist, insert the stretcher in the waistband and measure out how many inches I want them to be. It’s super easy.
I ‘m experimenting with the overnight freezer method rather than machine washing these days. It appears to work pretty well actually! If I’m spending so much on a pair of jeans I really want to make them last so I will do anything:) I’m loving your outfits these days btw!
So disappointing to hear, Monica, since Paige has my ideal fit. I might as well just finish my comment here…I love premium denim, but as one who grew up in the 70’s, it’s REALLY hard for me to pay premium price. I will never buy jeans without trying them on again, and I do al out all of my shopping online. So, as long as I’ve tried a brand, I’ll buy online and hopefully, at a discount! I also wear NYDJ because they’re very comfy and fit me well when I’m carrying extra weight (like now).
That sounds so great, Karen! My problem is always, waist fits/hips huge or hips fit/waist TIGHT.
Lawless Denim started up via Kickstarter. They make jeans here in the US for about $100 a pair, including cone selvedge denim if that’s your thing. They also do custom-fitted jeans for a bit more. I haven’t tried them yet; they’re still pretty new, but I hope they do well.
Can someone chime in and recommend some US made jeans that will fit the curvy hips/thighs woman like Monica P asked above? I purchased some MOTHER denim in my “usual size” and couldn’t even pull them up above my hips. I can’t wear citizens of humanity in any fit and all j brands are too tight. I’m not plus sized, just have a larger boned frame but am a size 8-10 with an athletic body type. I want to feel good about my body and my purchases. I welcome any suggestions!
Grechen Reiter says
Hi Fern – i have “athletic” thick/short legs, large hips/butt and a small(er) waist and goldsign is really the best designer for me, and has been for 10 years. also, frame fits well, AG, and sometimes Paige. i do NOT do well at all with j brand or citizens of humanity either. genetic is worth a try also….i had a couple pairs of genetic that i liked.
Thanks for taking the time to reply, Gretchen! I will try some of the brands suggested above. And it’s good to hear that someone else has trouble with the other brands I mentioned, it makes me feel less alone in my denim struggles:) I have been googling around and came upon two newer US-made brands, Ayr and DSTLD. DSTLD seems cool because they claim to be the same quality as higher end designers, are made in LA and are being described as the “Everlane of jeans.” Any experience with them or Ayr? Thanks again, I enjoy your blog.
Loved this! Thanks for all the great ideas too about where to buy. I do find many sale U.S. made jeans at Nordstrom Rack and Anthro. I totally agree that the made in the U.S. is worth the cost per wear and also makes me feel better about buying! Terrific blog! Just finding it. Kim
Kairi Gainsborough says
I never realized what an impact buying locally made clothing can make. Buying denim jeans made in America means that they won’t need to be transported as far, and that is much better for the environment. I will definitely look for the brands you listed so I can feel the difference in quality for myself.
Great post! I’ve always wondered how Madewell gets off being so expensive and is made in China. Everyone seems to love them, thought I was the only one turned off by this. More people need to care about made in USA and then more brands will make in USA. Eventually making it cheaper to produce here.
I’m looking for USA made jeans made from American cotton. Any thoughts?
Most of the above are imported cotton as far as I can tell.
Grechen Reiter says
yes, good question suzie – post coming next week!!
Great. I’ll hold off on my purchasing 🙂
Just an FYI that Joe’s and their fairly recent acquisition, Hudson, are both made in Mexico. There’s an online article in Women’s Wear Daily as well as some in the financial periodicals including the Wall St. Journal. There’s been a class action lawsuit against the company for claiming “American-made” when their original product had a number of foreign-produced components. So, buh-bye Joe and Hudson.
Thanks for a terrific site!
By the way, I wonder the location for production of London-based M.I.H. jeans. They fit incredibly well. Don’t know if they’re UK-manufactured or not.