The Cost of Denim: Expensive Jeans vs. Cheaper Brands in Consumer Reports

by Jaime on May 13, 2010

Consumer Reports wrote a great little article comparing high end denim to their cheaper counterparts. Including the big two – 7 For All Mankind and True Religion – as their expensive choices, Gap, Levi’s and Lucky Brand as mid-range and Old Navy and the lower end Levi Strauss & Co Signature Line, they went through the stretch, fit and styles of each pair.

Check out the review and see if you’re surprised by what they found!

Marketers might deserve a special place in hell for turning blue jeans into a luxury item. But is there any real difference between a $20 pair and a $240 pair? Our textiles expert evaluated seven women’s cotton/spandex boot-cut jeans in that price range, looking for sewing and fabric flaws, washing one pair of each five times, opening stitching at the waist to examine construction, and checking zippers. She found:

Some of the less expensive jeans have better construction features, such as interfacing under the waistband. The two cheapest jeans have stitching under the waistband to limit stretching.

Midpriced Lucky was the only pair that didn’t shrink at all. (However, it was so “distressed” that you could lose change from a holey back pocket.)

The biggest shrinkers would have lost about an inch in width on a 40-inch hip and almost an inch in length on a 30-inch inseam.

With the $240 True Religion jeans, you get silver bling (on back pockets and, for some reason, hiding inside a front pocket), a nice print fabric for the pocket bags (where it can’t be seen), big white stitches as an accent, and a zipper that won’t stay up unless it’s locked down.

Bottom line

You pay a lot for fashion and hidden details. Buy what pleases you.

Want to see the details of each pair?

It’s funny because, other than shrinkage, 7 For All Mankind pretty much didn’t have any complaints.

I think that one of the biggest issues was the pairs they chose to review. When you grab a pair of super distressed jeans – like the Lucky Jeans they chose – they will be DISTRESSED. I would have preferred that they chose to compare:

1. Old Navy
2. Lee/Wrangler (something like that)
3. Gap
4. Levi’s
5. Lucky Brand (a non-distressed style)
6. Anoname (at $110)
7. DL1961 (at $150)
8. 7 For All Mankind (at approx. $160)
9. Current/Elliott (at $220)
10. True Religion (at $240)

I think this would be a better test of quality increasing at price points.

What about you… how do you feel about this review, and what – if anything – would you change about it?

Love,
JP

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

birdie May 13, 2010 at 10:13 am

I want someone who knows denim – NOT Consumer reports – to do this. I’d like to know how they truly stack up, wash for wash (but please don’t dry them!!!) in various price ranges. I’m totally on board with your denim picks too (I’d only add Diesel).

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Jaime May 13, 2010 at 10:40 am

Ugh… I knew I missed one of them!
.-= Jaime´s last blog ..Would You Wear: Half-Pant Shorts? =-.

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Laura Conell May 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

As a consumer, I have to say third-party reports can’t help me as the #1 consideration in buying jeans is: “how do they make my butt look?”

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Sonya May 13, 2010 at 10:37 am

I wonder if they dried them too, and did they use hot water to wash? Those are big no-nos and don’t think they’re the experts to test denim. When I try on Old Navy denim, I want to cry because my butt looks TERRIBLE. I wear a size 27 and and love James Jeans, Anlo and Citizens and feel that they are most flattering for me. There is definitely a difference, Consumer Reports.

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rae May 13, 2010 at 11:38 am

This overlooks the fact that he true value of a garment is in the cut and fabric technology as much as it is in the construction. There is a reason that women shell out $200 for Hello Skinny Jeans and brands like DL1961 or J-Brand who use the X-Fit/4-way stretch fabric. And seriously, I hear WAY more women complain about jeans “bagging out” than I hear complain about shrinking. I guess the point of my story is that Consumer Reports didn’t really get to know the consumer before preparing its report…

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Jaime May 13, 2010 at 11:40 am

Rae, I should have just let you write the post. You beat my cleverness by like one million. :)
.-= Jaime´s last blog ..Would You Wear: Half-Pant Shorts? =-.

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Renae May 13, 2010 at 11:44 am

I am not totally feeling this Consumer Reports study. I do think they should have tested more brands and I am also not sure of how they “tested” them. I never put my jeans in the dryer and I wash them in cold water to keep the color better. I also think they should have gone with the difference in how the jeans look on you. I, too, look horrible in Old Navy jeans (they do nothing for the derriere), but put me in a pair of Rock Revival jeans (one of my favorites!) and my butt looks great! I think in “most” cases you get what you pay for and I want what makes me look best, not just going off a Consumer Reports study.

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sandy May 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

My hub John says the same thing about CR, only regarding cars. He reads all the car mags, and says CR doesn’t report on cars the way they should. I’m sure it’s the same for denim, so I expect a lot of responses to this article.

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paula May 15, 2010 at 7:24 am

I agree – really lame study.

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Kristy May 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

Cut and fit is the #1 deal breaker/maker for me and they didn’t even discuss that!

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Sarah August 9, 2010 at 8:32 am

With regard to lucky jeans and the true religion jeans,
who wears the zipper in the up position? How is that a deal breaker for these jeans? This study sucks.

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bridesmaiddresses May 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Do not get your girls wear a plain white bridesmaid dresses.
http://www.fashionbridalgowns.com

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