Shop ATX: HEM Jeans + AG Jeans

Many months ago I bought a Groupon to Austin's famed denim bar HEM Jeans (<--- beware. Site automatically plays music). It was $50 for a $100 gift certificate but was not good on sale items. Shortly after I got it, I eagerly and excitedly went in. Imagine my dismay when 1- the Groupon barely covered half a pair of full-price jeans, and 2- I had the most frustrating time finding a pair of jeans that fit. I kept telling the salesgirl that I was a size 29 or 30 and that I didn't want any heavily whiskered jeans or cropped jeans. She kept bringing me size 27 or 28 to try on ("They'll stretch!" and ankle length pants that made me look like a cased sausage with a muffin top). Blerg. I left empty handed, a little peeved, and spewing and sputtering that shopping for jeans was way worse than shopping for a swimsuit. This had quickly become my first Groupon regret.
Fast forward to last week. With only a couple more weeks until my Groupon regret was to expire, I went back in, armed with a gift card to help cover the balance. I arrived right as the store was opening for the day and was greeted happily by Aimee, one of the owners. She quickly assessed my needs and immediately started filling my dressing room with her top picks.
I didn't tell her this, but I really wanted a pair of jeans that fit into my new guidelines: made in the USA, eco friendly (denim manufacturing is notoriously bad on the local environment), and a classic style that would last me years and years. I was fairly certain that I would not be able to find a single pair of jeans that fit even one of these requirements let alone a pair of jeans that even fit.
Then-- shut the front door!-- second pair on, the denim angels started singing. I tried on a pair of oh so soft Ballad jeans from AG. Holy smokes! The fit! The feel! They made my flat boy's-like butt look like a lady's! No muffin top or back spillage! And I wouldn't even need to have them hemmed! I gulped a little at the price tag ($178), but I had my $100 Groupon and my $50 gift card, so I was out of pocket $30 that day.

newjeans2jeans: AG Adriano Goldschmied | tank: Old Navy | vintage vest: Blue Velvet | necklace: City Wide Garage Sale | wedges: Cynthia Vincent for Target | hat: Walmart
And here's the part that I really appreciate: these jeans not only fit like a dream, but they are produced solely in the United States using an "eco friendly" process. The wash I chose was not distressed and was made with an eco-friendlier indigo dye. The slight flare makes them a style that is sure to stay in my closet rotation for years.

[More about AG's eco friendly process here.]

Beware y'all. Once you get into the premium denim gang, you can't get out-- not even by a mass beating. My complete jean line-up is as follows:

I've gotten some really good deals on these and for most of them, a lot of wear. The next time I want for new jeans, I'd like to buy second-hand, though. Those are the deals I feel really good about, but I'm convinced that women my size aren't letting go of their jeans. They hardly ever have my size (unhemmed) at Buffalo Exchange. Alas, if I see a good deal new, I jump on it. The good news is that denim manufacturers and brands are starting to wise-up about the environmental hazards of their production (example: GAP just announced their new social responsibility guidelines that included limiting their water waste in denim production). It's been a little easier to shop a little more responsibly.

Question of the day: Who else loves premium denim? What are some of your favorite brands? Those of you who prefer more affordable options, which brands do you feel are the most bang for your buck?