Stretch jeans are so totally invading the denim market.They started to become popular a few years ago and aren’t going anywhere, no matter what “experts” are trying to tell you. I thought it would be interesting to dive into this subject and find out more about all the different kinds of stretch denim we can find today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank C. Jacobs, a true denim expert, for all her helpful explanations.
Stretch jeans are probably the most popular type of jeans right now. But do you know when stretch jeans first came on the market, or who’s making them now? Will stretch jeans look good on you? How much stretch should jeans have anyway? And what’s the deal with jeggings? We’ve got your go-to guide to everything you ever needed to know about stretch jeans, so you can find your perfect pair.
What Are Stretch Jeans?
Stretch jeans are a style of jeans made of stretch denim fabric. Stretch denim is a relatively new type of denim cotton (or cotton/polyester blend) that incorporates a small amount of elastane, a stretchy, synthetic fiber, also known as Spandex, or Lycra, into the fabric. Stretch jeans typically include about one to three percent elastane.
Jeans made of stretch denim material may look like regular jeans, but provide more flexibility and “give” with the wearer’s body movements. Stretch jeans are also generally more form-fitting than jeans made without any stretch in the fabric.
What’s the Difference Between Spandex and Lycra?
Lycra® and Spandex® are different brand names for similar forms of elastane, a synthetic elastic stretch material that’s notable for its exceptional elasticity, strength and durability. Spandex is a trademarked name by the American chemical company DuPont, which invented the material in 1959. The Lycra brand name is trademarked by the company Invista, formerly a subsidiary of DuPont and now part of Koch Industries.
The History of Stretch Jeans
While Spandex was invented in 1959, stretch denim fabric didn’t appear until about 20 years later, and most jeans manufacturers only began offering stretch jeans in recent years.
The first stretch jeans were created and launched in 1978 by fashion designer Peter Golding, who marketed the revolutionary new denim style in ACE, his uber-trendy clothing shop in London’s trendy King’s Road district in Chelsea, which was frequented by the era’s most influential trend-setters, including the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Twiggy and David Bowie.
Golding wanted to create a super-tight, sexy new jean style for his customers. He found the solution in a Japanese stretch denim fabric, which he used to create jeans in a range of colors, from dark wash indigo to black and even brightly colored jeans, in a range of fits including the Rock Fit, Chelsea Cut, 2-way Cut and Original Stretch.
The Peter Golding Stretch Jeans brand was an instant success in England and soon Golding was exporting the jeans to the United States, where they were sold by fashionable retailers including Bloomingdale’s and Fred Segal.
In the 1980s, American brands from Levi’s to Gloria Vanderbilt, Jordache and Calvin Klein offered “designer” stretch jeans for women. The stretch jeans of this era were typically a dark wash, skinny and tight-fitting, and featured distinctive designs on the back pockets to identify the designer. The advertising campaigns for these jeans were unreservedly sexy, focusing on the denim style’s body conscious fit.
Who Can Wear Stretch Jeans?
Anyone can look good in stretch jeans. When shopping for stretch jeans, as with regular jeans, look for a pair that suits your body shape and personal style, as well as considering the stretch factor. If you are between jean sizes, it’s a good idea to buy stretch jeans in your smaller size, as they may become looser after multiple wears. Remember, stretch jeans are meant to fit you snugly. When in doubt, try sitting down. As long as you can do so without discomfort, or worrying about busting a seam, you should be fine in the size. If you’re plus size, you may want to shop for a body contouring skinny jean. Most of the brands nowadays carry jeans for the curvy body.
How Much Stretch Do I Need?
How much stretch you should look for in a pair of stretch denim jeans is a matter of personal choice. Any amount of elastane (aka Spandex) in the jeans fabric will provide some stretchiness and give the jeans a more body-hugging silhouette than regular jeans.
Typically, stretch jeans from the leading denim brands will have from one to three percent elastane (stretchy material), though some brands, such as Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, now offer 4% Spandex in body contouring styles of jeans. When combined with a premium quality, medium weight denim fabric, here’s what you can expect from the different stretch denim jeans available:
1% Stretch: Provides just enough stretch to give you some flexibility and help the jeans hold their shape, without being too body-hugging
2% Stretch: Enough stretch to be very comfortable to sit and stand in, while providing some contouring to smooth your curves
3-4% Stretch: Very form-fitting jeans that offer good body contouring, and feel soft and stretchy to wear
What’s the Difference Between Stretch Jeans and Jeggings?
Stretch jeans are made of a denim fabric that includes a small amount of elastane, and come in many styles from skinny to bootcut and more. On the flip side, jeggings are essentially soft, stretchy leggings that are styled to look like a tight pair of skinny jeans.
Jeggings may be made of a light denim fabric that’s blended with a high percentage of Spandex. Or they might be made of another stretchy, comfortable material like cotton, with no denim in their fabric. Jeggings are designed to fake the look of regular jeans, through details such as faux pockets and printed (rather than actual) stitches along the seams.
How Should I Care for Stretch Jeans?
Stretch jeans should be laundered with care, as with your regular jeans. You can follow the guidelines in our ultimate guide to how to wash your jeans, to keep your stretch denim in good shape.