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Ask a Designer: How Do I Shop for Vintage Jeans?

The founder of the denim label Still Here weighs in.

My dad was a collector of vintage clothes of sorts long before it was cool. He's never thrifted, but he has waited over 30 years to wear a T-shirt from college, or gone decades without touching a button-down because, he claims, he's waiting for it to mature. 

His better-with-age ethos extends to jeans — though instead of collecting dust, like many of his sweaters, they collect dirt and holes after repeated wear. The imperfections and paint stains are what makes a pair of Levi's special to him, a sartorial relic of a life well-lived complete with dogs, daughters and DIY house projects. 

Sonia Beyda Mosseri, founder of the denim label Still Here, has a father with a similar appreciation for aged denim: An immigrant from Egypt, he came to America when he was seven and was given a pair of Levi's that were a few sizes too big in hopes they would last him several years, she says. He ended up wearing them through college. 

Mosseri inherited that very pair when she was five, and still has them to this day. "That was the beginning of my love for denim," she tells Fashionista over the phone, explaining that the ink stains and patches became a way for her father to share stories of his childhood. "I started collecting vintage jeans because I really loved how much memory they held and how it feels like the only piece of clothing that can hold that much value."

After college, Mosseri — who logged hours interning at Rosie Assoulin and for Lainy Hedaya — started painting on vintage denim and was getting a lot of attention on Instagram for her work. Instead of enrolling in a master's program for fine art, she launched Still Here. 

"In the beginning, anytime someone would order the jeans, I would take my parent's car and go all the way to Philly and Jersey just searching for vintage jeans, and I'd paint them special for these customers," Mosseri remembers. 

She eventually decided to do a trade show, where she caught the attention of buyers at Barneys. Mosseri spent the next year learning the industry and making sample after sample to perfect the fit of her jeans. She then used the gift money from her wedding to purchase the label's first production run. 

It's clear the Mosseri is a vintage denim connaisseur. She's nailed the fit, the wash and even that difficult-to-achieve worn-in look with Still Here. So, we turned to Mosseri for her expertise on what to keep an eye out for when you're shopping for vintage jeans — and, of course, where to go when you're on the hunt. Read on for her tips. 


Where to find gently-worn jeans

Despite designing her own jeans, Mosseri still frequents vintage shops in New York City in search of unique denim styles. Her favorites include L Train Vintage and Duo NYC, which she says has "amazing hand-picked jeans" and more affordable options. She also loves Awoke Vintage and David Owens

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Outside of New York City and online, she cites eBay as the vintage denim king. Additionally, she recommends taking a day trip to upstate New York or New Jersey and visiting vintage stores that have been around for 50 years. "They're so unpretentious," she notes. 

Fall in love with the jeans first, worry about the fit later

Mosseri is very petite, so finding jeans that fit her perfectly can be a challenge. A great tip she's learned over the years is to go to the kids' sections. In fact, one of her best vintage finds is a pair of boy's scrunch-waistband jeans from Gap Kids. 

"When approaching vintage jeans, you have to really trust your eye," she explains. "If your eye falls on this incredible wash or a pair with the perfect acid stain on the pocket, but they are four or five sizes too big, my advice is always to just get them because part of the vintage hunt is either how you style it or what you do with it once it leaves the store. Are you going to cut it? Are you going to make them cropped? Are you going to make them into shorts? Are you going to hem them? Can we take them to the tailor and slim the legs?" 

In other words, there are infinite creative ways to rework vintage jeans: "When you see something and you connect with it, don't think that just because it doesn't fit you the way you normally think jeans should fit, that you should not get them." 

Don't spend too much on vintage jeans, especially if you plan on tailoring them 

A huge part of the allure of shopping for vintage jeans is the price. "I shy away from buying $250 vintage jeans because it feels undemocratic and not what the charm is," Mosseri says, adding that you can do so much with a pair of blues, like taking out the side seams. 

A few years ago, Mosseri says she would not spend more than $30 on vintage jeans, but as the stock of vintage denim has dwindled and the value of the bottoms has risen, she now thinks anything under $160 is worth the purchase. Plus, it's worth it from a sustainability angle. 

Mosseri says creamy-white jeans are a really strong trend and color for the next few months, as are light-wash blue jeans. Both styles can work for winter, when worn with a turtleneck and statement boots, or for spring, when worn under a dress. 

"More and more people, especially women are getting more comfortable with not thinking that jeans are as casual as they used to be," Mosseri says. "Our parents have this stigma with light blue jeans, but they're becoming a little more fancy. You can pair it with certain things that will make you look like the coolest person in the room." 

Ahead, shop 11 of our favorite vintage-inspired options on the market. 

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