Ditching Those Stone-Washed Jeans
Fashion reporter Teri Agins answers readers’ questions
Q: I have many older jeans in pale, stone-washed shades that I no longer care to wear—but they still fit well. Are there services that can darken the wash of denim jeans, and are there tailors that can alter the fit of denim jeans to a slimmer silhouette?
- R.T., New York
A: Over the last decade, when deep-indigo “premium denim” jeans became the rage, many people’s faded, stone-washed jeans began to look dated, even passé. Narrow-legged dark denims, by contrast, are now a decidedly dressy sportswear look.
Before trying to give your older jeans a facelift, you should weigh the cost of dyeing and altering them against the cost of simply replacing them. Besides, if your faded jeans have stretched to the point that they’re sagging in the knees and backside, they won’t look modern just because you made the legs narrower.
I consulted John Breining, the owner of Metro Custom Dyeing Service, a New York firm that specializes in dyeing finished garments for many of the top Seventh Avenue fashion houses as well as regular consumers by mail order. For $50, the firm will dye your favorite jeans and treat them to be colorfast, so the new shade won’t run in the washing machine.
The professional dyeing process involves more than just mixing up a desired color like you would with wall paint. Sometimes the firm has to go through a two-step process to dye fabric blends like cotton and polyester, using different chemicals for different fibers, says Mr. Breining. The garments are then washed with fabric softeners, which leave them smooth.
For do-it-yourselfers, dyeing your jeans at home is a cheap alternative that requires some craftsmanship, as well as trial and error, to get the right results. But if you have a target color in mind, you must be prepared for irregular results when you’re dyeing stone-washed jeans, whose shade was uneven to begin with. Whatever bleach or stain or blemishes that were originally on the jeans are likely to show through after they are dyed, Mr. Breining says. The easiest dye shade to achieve with uniformity is black.
For some, tossing out a favorite broken-in pair of jeans is akin to turning your back on a dear friend. So salvage your prized jeans and wear them proudly, as is, or splurge to have them dyed professionally. But with so many dark-denim styles available for under $50, it also makes sense to consider replacing them.