Vintage Meets Visionary


February 2023


They’re not like regular mom jeans. Our new 501® ’81s are like the most perfect thrifted mom jeans you could find—but without the hours of rummaging. And since it’s the 150th anniversary of the 501® Original (aka our first-ever denim), when it came time to determine what sort of fit would be worthy of release during this time, we refused to settle. Keep reading to find out the 501® ’81 origin story, fit specifics and the range of finishes. As you’ve probably sussed out, the ’80s are involved so get excited. Everything comes together to create a radical pair for past, present and future.


When envisioning the future of 501® jeans we thought why not go back to the beginning? So we did. We headed down to Levi’s® Archives and, very carefully, with gloved hands, we pulled out the very first 501® jeans designed specifically for women and originally released in 1981. Then, we started taking notes.

“What better time to celebrate and reintroduce this fit?” says Tara Mahar, Levi’s® Women’s Design Director. “Also, the fit itself is really cool. It's for anyone who's always looking for that perfect vintage mom jean.”

And if you study the 501® ’81 closely, you can see some retro attributes borrowed from the 1981 original—like smaller, higher back pockets and a heavier-weight, marbled fabric.


the fit itself is really cool. It’s for anyone who’s always looking for that perfect vintage mom jean.

Tara Mahar, Women’s Design Director



With the highest rise and most tapered leg in our 501® family, we describe the 501® ’81 fit as “mom jean-esque," because while it’s high waisted and tapered like other mom jeans out there, “there are nuances that give it more attitude,” says Tara.

“It’s a little nipped in at the waist, a little curved at the hips and there’s a higher rise in the back for a pitch that slightly dips in the front,” she explains. “It’s very of that era–feminine and flattering.”

Curvier body types will appreciate the waist to hip ratio. And higher back pockets = perkier butt, just saying. Finally, the leg stacks more than cleaner, neater tapers you may’ve seen on other mom jeans. “I feel like the difference is that the ‘81 is edgier,” Tara says. “With the fabric and button fly and all the beautiful 501® details, it’s a true vintage jean feel.”

With the fabric and button fly and all the beautiful 501® details, it’s a true vintage jean feel.

Tara Mahar, Women’s Design Director


Not only did we swipe fit inspo from the Archives, we also looked at washes and aftereffects.

“These finishes are an ode to the ’80s and what we were actually doing at the time,” says Tara. From an
off-the-rack-vintage-inspired indigo to pink garment-dye to railroad stripe (that woven-in raised jacquard texture), all these ideas came from real ’80s Levi’s®.

With garment-dye, the process usually starts with bleach or an ecru—but we started with denim. "The icy denim with this pink on top was also a throwback to the ’80s,” says Tara. “Being on the 501®, we wanted to keep the finishing iconic. And that type of overdying with this very feminine color felt empowering.”

So there you have it! Those are our 501® ’81s. With a fit so authentic they'll never go out of style. And the quality? So good these perfect vintage mom jeans can become your keep-forever pair.


Shop the entire 501® family online and in stores. For styling tips and outfit inspiration, follow us on Instagram and TikTok. Then tag @levis and #LiveinLevis to share your Levi’s® style with 
the world.