THE LAB: How to Tailor Your Levi’s 501 Mom Jeans

You know that old rule of thumb that if you wore a trend the first time around, you’re too old for it the next time it rolls through (read: 20 years)? That pretty much makes everything within the confines of Urban Outfitters currently off-limits to me, because I graduated high school in the ‘nineties. I either wore it as a teenager (i.e. floral granny dresses) or watched the cast of 90210 wear it (i.e. floral spandex dresses), and thus I am now TOO OLD for all of it. That’s fine with me, because bleah anyway. HOWEVER, one item I miss very much from that era is denim that wouldn’t stretch out and fall apart after two washings (I’m looking at you, Anine Bing). I miss real denim!

Lucky for me (and all of us), good ol’ Leandra Medine over at Man Repeller started wearing a pair of vintage Levi’s and the world freaked the fuck out. Myself included. I’ve thrifted tons of vintage 70’s denim, and it’s always really hot, but so uncomfortably tight, that I’ve never been able to stick with a pair long enough to shape them properly (meaning, wear them until they formed to my body). But ’90s denim is different, because, well, there’s just SO MUCH SPACE IN THERE (like, definitely too much space, let’s be real) and ALSO STRETCH (kind of), but that can always be tailored down. Sure, you could spend $300 on a pair already tailored from Re/Done, but Levi’s reissued the super stiff, heavy weight, hilariously blousey Original 501, and I grabbed mine for $30 on sale. So, there’s nothing to lose, really, and only a perfectly defined and well-supported ass to gain. But am I too old, since I last wore these super unflattering jeans when I was a near child?

Why yes, I *AM* a mother, how did you know?? Why yes, I *AM* a mother, how did you know??

Something about the above picture makes me feel like I’ve already succeeded in 1991-land. Like, that’s basically an ad for how to look great in the ’90s. But this is 2017, and we’ve learned things, people. We’ve learned that if you pull your stretch jeans so, so tight, you’ll have one perfect butt cheek. Just one. But if you pull a pair of these stiff AF jeans really tight … well, you’re about to set the world on fire.

Can you EVEN with that ass?? I don’t even mind the panty line I’ve got going on. I almost LIKE it, which is a first for me (and especially great because I never want to wear another thong ever again in my life, thank you very much).

TOO OLD? Um no. Can’t wait to go break some millennial hearts in these.


Tutorial: How to Tailor Levi’s Original 501 Mom Jeans

[First, to clarify, I’d already pinned one leg when I took the ‘Before’ picture, and I couldn’t bear to take out the pins and start all over, so whatever.]

Step 1: Put on those crispy jeans in total privacy, because ACK! So … poochy. Using straight pins, tighten along the outer leg seam in back, tapering around mid-calf, to retain the existing width at the hem. Step 2: Take off the jeans and measure what you’ve pinned – I marked 1″ on each leg initially and decided to increase that to 1.5″ each. Step 3. Turn your jeans inside out and pin that amount along the seamline, creating a dart. You could also open up the seam entirely, but it’s reinforced at the top. This is easier and blends in just fine. Step 4. Using a zipper foot, stitch as close to the existing seam as possible. This is going to be tricky at the top, but again, it really blends in – don’t stress too much. Step 5. Turn right side out and reinforce with a narrow zigzag stitch on top of your new seam (don’t forget to switch out that presser foot!). Step 6. WASH AND DRY TO YOUR HEART’S CONTENT. Also, do this so many times – you need to soften the shit out of these.

Notes: You may have weird bubbles on the inner thighs, just below the crotch (pictured). A small dart on either side of the center seam, along the inner leg seams, will take that out, but ohmigod it’s impossible to photograph. Same theory as above, just on the inner (not outer) leg seams and teeny tiny – you don’t want to remove ALL of the bagginess here, because that’s kind of the signature look of the 501.

I left the darts as-is inside, but you could trim away any excess and finish the edges with an overlock or zizag stitch. Don’t just cut it and leave it raw, because it will fray away and everything will fall apart. Trust.

This method is also super useful if you’d rather have a local dry cleaner make the alterations for you. I mean, let’s face it – it took me four months to do a 10 minute adjustment. FOUR MONTHS OF NOT WEARING THESE JEANS.

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