Despite the proliferation of quality denim brands around the world, there is little emphasis placed on producing women’s selvedge denim. From what I understand, there are three factors that preclude an almost inevitably frustrating search for the proper pair: availability, sizing, and price. However, though it takes some time, there are jeans out there which suit different body types and budgets.
But before diving in, it’s important to fully understand what selvedge denim is. Basically, selvedge is a term used to describe denim material made on old-style shuttle looms, which produce a clean and finished edge which will not unravel (see image below). Selvedge denim is notable for its strength and character, making it easy to recognize for an aficionado.
Another characteristic of selvedge denim is that it is often left “dry” or “raw.” This means that the fabric is untreated after dyeing, allowing fades to develop over time with everyday wear. A key point about dry denim is the fit. When washed, it can shrink up to 4%. But keep in mind that most denim is 100% cotton, so it also stretches to conform to your body type to certain degrees. The biggest mistake one can make when buying raw denim is to purchase a pair that fits perfectly out of the box. They should always be a bit snug to allow room for them to relax.
So why aren’t all jeans available in raw denim from old style looms? The best answer is profit margin. In the mid-20th century, American denim companies ‘upgraded’ to more time and cost efficient methods of manufacturing and exported most of their shuttle looms to Japan. (Fun fact: Japan is now regarded as the world leader when it comes to producing quality denim…)
In any case, there are options available for women in search of selvedge. I’ve curated three pairs which stand out based on the differences in fit and features between them:
1) Raleigh Denim – Davie
The Davie is a great example of American craftsmanship. They are crafted entirely in North Carolina using White Oak Raw Selvedge™ from Cone Mills, which has been producing denim since 1905.
These jeans are mid rise with a straight leg fit. Like all the jeans from Raleigh Denim, they are hand signed and individually numbered.
2) Samurai – Geisha Bootcut
In addition to the boot cut pictured here, these jeans from Samurai also come in a slim straight fit. They are crafted from 16 oz. pink Japanese selvedge (see detail image up top) and dyed with pure indigo. Rather than leaving the denim raw, these are one-wash which means that they were pre-shrunk for sizing. They are after all 100% cotton. That said, one-wash jeans still develop a great deal of character through the fades –it just takes a bit longer. These jeans come with custom-cast cherry blossom buttons and red plaid pocket lining.
3) Studio d’Artisan – 703 Ladies
Despite the ring, Studio d’Artisan is a Japanese denim company based in Osaka. For these jeans, they decided on a low rise and a slim fit.
The 14 oz. Japanese selvedge used for these jeans features both red and blue thread details, which is a nice touch. As one would expect, they are completely made in Japan.