Untitled Document Angie Meenan is a denim devotee of the highest order.

Her closet is filled with rows of Paper Denim and Citizen of Humanity jeans that cost upward of $150.

She pays the big bucks, and gladly, for their vintage washes, trendy stitching and ability to lengthen legs and define derrieres or perform some kind of body magic.

But on a recent afternoon, Meenan, 34, was spotted wandering the aisles of Target with a pair of Levi Strauss Signature jeans, on sale for $19.99, in her cart.

"They’re cute, and you never know," she says, stroking the vintagelike back pocket embroidery.

With designer denim hitting $250 a pair, value brands are wooing women by mimicking some of the high-end trickery at a lower price. Sometimes $230 lower.

That trickery: Stretch-denim that hugs all the right curves. Fading on the thighs (for a slimming look). Fancy embroidery, a hot trend. Frayed pockets. Hand-finishing, such as grinding and sanding, gives that worn-in look as if they belong to your carpenter boyfriend.

"Most of the jeans companies are hip to what’s going on," says Leah Feldon, fashion consultant and author of five books including Does This Make Me Look Fat? "You can get the same fit and quality denim for a lesser price."

But how do they compare with your precious Sevens? Lisa Sherwood is doing her own investigation. The sales associate’s closet is filled with the full range, from Levi’s to Vintage Rebels.

Sherwood has watched the denim market explode. Premium labels sold in her store, such as Paige, are releasing a range of jeans to satiate every type of customer.

That way, she says, customers who don’t want to spend $165 on a pair of jeans can still get the prestige of the Paige label, and Paige can get into that market.

Shoppers and those in the denim industry attribute the glut to one thing: More wearing occasions. Jean Friday has become Jean Wednesday and Thursday. When the sun goes down, jeans are the quintessential "going-out" staple. And if Karl Lagerfeld knows anything about fashion, you can even pair jeans with Chanel blazers.

Jeans are an American classic, Feldon says, and they’re also a trend that is people-driven, rather than designer-driven.

"Designers who made high-end clothes started noticing that people didn’t want to take jeans off because they were so comfortable," Feldon says. "So they started making them."

© 2005, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.