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Why your denim jeans are loose and why blue jeans don't fit the way they used to

Updated on December 17, 2016
TessSchlesinger profile image

Globetrotter, author, and thinker with interests in environment, minimalism, health, dancing, architecture, décor, politics, and science.

Why your blue jeans are now too big for you!

Jeans, these days, just don’t fit the way they used to. In fact, they aren’t even the same hardwearing product, an they’re not made the same way. This article covers why they stretch, why they remain stretched even though you’ve washed them, and what to look for in a tight fitting, hard wearing pair of kick-ass jeans.

Blue jeans are ubiquitous. Everybody wears them. The trick is to look good in them. And all of us can look good in them. The secret is the fit, and the biggest issue today is that they loosen up within a few weeks of buying them. Here's why.

Reasons blue denim jeans become loose

 
 
 
Elastic in Spandex breaks
Plain weave instead of twill weave
Low thread count
 
 
 
 
 
 

Marilyn Monroe in blue jeans

Film stars look good in jeans. Look at these photos to see how you can look in the properly fitted jeans.
Film stars look good in jeans. Look at these photos to see how you can look in the properly fitted jeans. | Source

Elastic in denim jeans fabric

As waistband and weight has expanded, it has become more difficult for manufacturers to get an ideal fit for everybody. The way around this is to weave elastic into the common so that, regardless of body type, the jeans hug the hips, the thighs, and the waist.

The problem with this is that the elastic breaks. Elastaine or Spandex is a manmade product (85% polyurethane polymer) that stretches as old fashioned rubber bands used to do. But as we all know, the elastics that we used to use for our hair wore out with use. That is the same thing that happens when an elastic product is woven into a cotton fabric.

The elastic content also means that high wearing areas like the knees wear out even more quickly.

Spandex in denim jeans make the fabric lose its tight fit after a few wears. The elastaine continues to weaken until the jeans are too large for comfort. Generally there is about 1% or 2% elastaine or spandex.
Spandex in denim jeans make the fabric lose its tight fit after a few wears. The elastaine continues to weaken until the jeans are too large for comfort. Generally there is about 1% or 2% elastaine or spandex.

Denim thread count is important

Yes, I know that you buy sheets with a 400 thread count, but did you know that you are buying jeans with a 30 thread count? Okay, I’m not sure what the thread count is in jeans these days, but I remember my textile courses at college and the more threads there are per inch, the stronger the product.

Thread counts determine many factors. When you have a very low thread count, you have a fabric like muslin which is almost see through. A chiffon has even fewer threads per inch and so is entirely see through. A fabric that is used for eiderdowns or feather duvets in order to prevent the features from seeping through is a minimum of 230 threads per inch.

Have you ever noticed that if you have a fabric that is virtually see through that it stretches very easily? That’s because the threads move next to each other. It’s also easier for them to break because the thread next to them doesn’t hold them in place.

Manufacturers want to make jeans as cheaply as possible so they use cheap fabric with a low thread count.

Essentially, the lower the thread count of the fabric with which your jeans are made, the more your jeans are going to stretch.

Denim fabric with a low thread count stretches more quickly because the thread isn't stable and moves around easily.
Denim fabric with a low thread count stretches more quickly because the thread isn't stable and moves around easily.

Plain weave vs twill weave

In days gone by, a twill weave was used for jeans. This is a much more stable weave than plain weave. Twill weave is more expensive than plain weave, so again, manufacturers have cut costs in order to bring a denim product to market much cheaper.

Twill weaves are also stronger than plain waves. They are highly unlikely to stretch or lose their shape. While a good plain weave with a high thread count is stable and the threads won’t move, a twill weave is more stable.

Learn the difference between a twill weave and a plain weave by studying this diagram.
Learn the difference between a twill weave and a plain weave by studying this diagram. | Source

What to do about loose jeans

There are some options, none of them particularly convenient. The first is to buy your jeans one or two sizes too small which means you may struggle to get into them initially.
The second is to wear them for a few weeks, then take them to a dressmaker to have them altered to fit you. Bear in mind, however, that the elastic will continue to break throughout the lifespan of the jeans.

The third option is to look for jeans without elastaine or spandex (pure cotton, in other words), and if there is difficulty with the fit, then have them altered.

The forth option is to buy fabric with a high thread count, a twill weave, and pure cotton. The LA fashion district has many stores that stock a large range of fabric.

Different options for purchasing blue jeans

Some people have small budgets so they would rather buy cheap jeans and replace them more frequently. Others have buckets of the green stuff and they are okay with spending $700 on a pair of jeans. Buying an expensive pair, however, does not guarantee that the fabric will not stretch.

Every item of clothing should have a small label inside that details the fabric. If the fabric isn’t 100% cotton, then don’t buy the jeans if you aren’t okay with it stretch. The label won’t tell you the thread count, but I don’t think it a bad idea to begin to ask our lawmakers to legislate that our clothing also gives an indication of thread count. The label also won’t determine the weave, but you can make yourself familiar with the difference between a plain wave and a twill weave, so can tell this at a glance when shopping.

100% Cotton Jeans

Would you rather have a good pair of jeans that doesn't stretch and lasts five or ten years or replace them every six months

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Style of jeans - side zipper vs front zipper.

Everybody wants a pair of nice jeans that fit nicely. Forty years ago, it was the norm for all lady’s jeans to have a zipper on the side. With the advent of unisex, lady’s trousers started to have a zipper in front. This serves no practical purpose (as it does for a man). In fact, for a lady trying to hide a few extra pounds, the additional fabric make the tummy look even larger. It’s best to have the zipper on the side.

Also, if you are on the overweight side (I am), then the darker blue jeans are more flattering. Try to get a pair where the dye doesn't wash out. If anything, that dye is bad for the ocean. We can be environmentally green while doing with the blue that makes us look good!

So if you're going to have a pair of jeans made, consider not only the fabric but the style and where the zipper will be placed.

© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger

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