Denim Hospital repairs old blue jeans

People are passionate for jeans, says Nancy Sinoway

People are passionate for jeans, says Nancy Sinoway of Port Washington--which is why she opened the Denim Hospital. (Oct. 11, 2012) (Credit: Heather Walsh)

There are loads of hospitals on Long Island where you can get a knee or hip replacement and all sorts of cosmetic surgery. But not many offer help for the dreaded "chub rub" (an abrasive thigh affliction).

You can get help for that and more at the Denim Hospital in Port Washington, where Nancy Sinoway, the veteran alterations specialist and designer, has added a new category to her menu of nips and tucks. She's taken on denim, most particularly blue jeans.

For many years Sinoway has dabbled in fixing people's wounded jeans -- the aforementioned "chub rub," where fabric on the inner thighs gets worn away, holey knees, ripped rears -- along with her precision alterations on fancy dresses. But several months ago, she decided to focus on denim by creating a streamlined technique and website -- denimhospital.com -- where owners of battered blues can fill out an admitting form, ship the jeans to the Denim Hospital, get a diagnosis and price and have them back in less than a week.

"I am passionate about jeans," says Sinoway, who wears them every day. "When people find jeans that fit them right, they want to keep them forever," she says. Sinoway's jean repair following has gone national, with customers sending her denim from as far away as California, Massachusetts and Florida. There was even a case of the fraternity house at the University of Illinois that sent a dozen pairs to be refurbished. Blue jean health care isn't cheap -- averaging around $38-$50 a pair, but, as Sinoway points out, "It doesn't matter if the jeans themselves originally cost $250 or $50. People don't care about the price of repairing them. They just want to be able to wear them."

So how does she transform the haggard, threadbare wardrobe staples? "I don't want to give away my secrets," she says, coyly. "But we use a certain kind of thread, backing and sewing machine. It almost reweaves them. And we dye it to match where they're repaired."

Carol Hanfling, a handbag designer from Roslyn, brought in her 23-year-old son's favorite jeans, with a couple of great gashes at the bottom. Hanfling was amazed when she picked up the repaired pants. "I never thought she could fix them. It just looks like a small scar," she said. It cost $50, a bit more than the original price of the Urban Outfitters' pants, but to Hanfling's son -- priceless.

On another day, Elyse Luray of Port Washington, an appraiser, historian and the TV personality from the PBS series "History Detectives," handed over a 15-year-old pair of Gap jeans. A thready hole at the hip pocket revealed her undergarments, and the jeans had a big tear at the knee. "They used to be my going-out jeans, but after a few years, they became my I-wear-them-every-day-jeans," said Luray. The jeans probably cost $25 when she bought them, and the fix was $40. But Luray doesn't care. "I really missed them."

That's the thing about favorite jeans, says Sinoway. "People just want to get them back."

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