Dark Denim Jeans

This request came to me from a coworker today - let's call her Miss Dark Denim for the sake of anonymity:

"Lisa, I'm looking for a new pair of jeans...so far I've checked out Levi's, the Gap, Below the Belt, etc. etc...but I haven't found the right pair that I wanted! Any suggestions on where to get a pair of dark-wash jeans (that hopefully aren't too long since I keep on finding ones that fit ok on top but need to be hemmed on the bottom)? Thanks!"

Ah Miss Dark Denim, a girl after my own heart! I love dark wash jeans because they're a lot more versatile and respectable than lighter washes: they can be worn in casual workplaces or for going out, or dressed down for weekends. The only downside I've found to dark wash denim is the colour does tend to rub off on light fabrics. Until the excess dye washes out of the jeans, try not to sit on any white couches and be careful when pairing the jeans with a light-coloured trench or winter-white wool coat.

It sounds like your search has already taken you to a couple of good jeans spots with no success. For everyday wear, I've had great success finding dark wash jeans at Old Navy and Banana Republic. Both places carry jeans with 30" inseams , but in my experience searching for these jeans is like looking for the Holy Grail: the 30" inseam jeans sell out the quickest and are difficult to find unless you order them online. If you factor in the cost of shipping and any duties and taxes, it might be a lot cheaper to buy the regular inseam (32") jeans in person and have them hemmed.

Here are a couple of options that could work well for you:

Old Navy "The Sweetheart" classic rise boot-cut jeans in Dark Authentic, $29.50. I actually have these jeans, and I have to say that for the price they aren't bad at all. (True story: I went into Mantique wearing these jeans once and tried on a T-shirt in the fitting room. When I came out of the fitting room with the T-shirt on, one of the sales girls exclaimed, "That shirt fits so well, and those jeans look so good on you! Which ones are they?" She'd basically confused what I was wearing with the more expensive denim that Mantique sells.) The fit is nice, although "boot-cut" is a misnomer because these jeans are pretty slim through the leg and feel more like straight-fit jeans once they're on. They also stretch out quite a bit (which I blogged about here), so if you try them on and find you're between sizes, opt for the smaller pair.

Banana Republic petite classic dark wash bootcut jean, $78. Banana Republic is known for their polished yuppie aesthetic, which might explain the relatively classic styling of their denim line. A quick look through the petites denim section of the website yielded these dark denim wonders, but they have other styles in dark washes as well. If you go the Banana Republic route, I suggest going to the Robson location and carefully browsing through their second floor sale section; that was how I found my BR dark wash skinny jeans.

If you're willing to shell out a little more dough, these brands are worth a shot:

Lucky Brand denim Mimosa wide-leg pant, $120. Wide-leg jeans are a hot style right now, and this particular pair is also pretty work-appropriate because its fluid lines mimic the styling of classic wide-legged trousers. For the summer, dress them down during the day with cork wedge sandals, and dress them up with sky-high patent leather platform heels at night. You can find Lucky Brand jeans at the store of the same name in Metrotown.

Rock and Republic Kasandra Satisfied Intent Blue jeans, $238. R&Rs are definitely on the pricier side of the denim spectrum, but they look so damn good. It's like their designers have tapped into every woman's desire for a pair of versatile dark wash jeans that make their legs look thinner and their butts look better. If you go for a pair of dark wash R&Rs, beware: of all the dark wash jeans I've ever bought, these ones had the worst excess dye problem. Until they've gone through the wash at least 10-15 times, don't wear them with white coats and don't sit on light-coloured upholstery. Also, I've found that while the pair I bought fit just right in the dressing room, the waist has since stretched out by about an inch or so and I now have to wear a belt with them...something to consider when you're trying them on. In Van, Rock and Republic jeans are available at Aritzia.

Off the top of my head, these are a couple of other places around town where you can look for jeans if you haven't already tried them:

  • Mantique

  • Mavi Jeans (they used to have one in Yaletown, but I think the closest location to our office now is Gastown)

  • Off the Wall

  • Bootlegger

  • Jacob (very classic trouser-like dark denim styles...check the Robson location for the best selection)

  • RW & Co (ditto)

  • Guess

  • Buffalo

  • Parasuco Denim Cult

As for the hemming issue, I've always had to hem my jeans. Consider hemming an investment: for less than 10 bucks at most alteration places, you can get your jeans hemmed to the right length for you and look like a million bucks! If you've already paid $100+ for the jeans, the least you can do is pay a bit extra to get them hemmed.

That being said, here are a couple extra tips for how to prolong the life of your jeans:

  1. Before bringing them in for hemming, wash your new jeans and throw them in the dryer on tumble low at least once. That way you won't end up with too-short jeans.

  2. For dark-wash jeans, flip them inside-out and zip and button the fly before washing, and wash them in cold water to prevent fading. Ideally, you should also use a liquid detergent rather than powder because it's less abrasive on dark fabrics; try Cheer with Colour-Guard.


  1. Wow! Thank you, Lisa. :)

    These are uber helpful tips. To start off, I am thinking of checking out the first two places you mentioned (old navy and Banana Republic). Again, really appreciate the tips.

    Miss. Dark Denim ;)

  2. You're welcome! This was a fun post to write. I'm glad you found the tips helpful.

  3. i totally just splurged on two pairs of gorgeous dark denim. no one does it like bluenotes haha.

  4. I completely forgot about Bluenotes - silly me, considering one of my friends works there.

  5. haha goodness I wonder what type of Bluenotes jeans she bought! It's pretty sad but after working there I now recognize all the girls' jeans by their pockets. Note: the Kylies have a nice dark wash and cut, though myself, I favour the Morgans. Oh god, I am sad for plugging our store so shamelessly.

  6. Much thanks to Lisa for her suggestions (and for actually accompanying me to BR! =D), I was able to get a perfect pair of dark-wash Banana Republic jeans for 50 bucks! Ok. So there's more to the story-- I got the pair of jeans for $100 but was able to, a week later, get a 50% off price adjustment! Woot!

    As of now, my only worry is that I might stain some white couches or my beige trench. =P...but other than that, I'm extremely happy with my new jeans.

  7. To be honest I especially love dark denim jeans especially after a few wash loads. The best thing about the dark denim is that is goes great with anything, whether it be a cami or a nice t-shirt.


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