I’m not sure there’s any garment in the American womans’ wardrobe more hotly contested, admired, or worn than jeans. They are rich with cultural significance and comfortable, too! One word you will hear me use a lot when it comes to clothing is versatility. One might argue there isn’t a single more versatile item in a wardrobe than jeans — you’ve heard it all before — they can be dressed up! dressed down! you can clean the house in them! you can wear them to work ! (careful, ladies….that’s what we call advanced fashioning). But truly, the workhorse of a modern woman’s closet warrants significant discussion.
Jeans even have nicknames: the Mom Jean, Bell-Bottoms, Hip Huggers, Boyfriend Jeans, and the much maligned Skinny Jean (more on that in a minute). Let’s just notice for a moment that clothing names either refer to their fit/cut (Bell Bottoms, for example), or a woman’s reproductive/marital status (Wife Beater, anyone?). This is an important clarification since really when it comes to jeans, FIT, which is determined by cut, should be your only concern. The WASH of the jean, otherwise known as the color, is ALWAYS secondary to the fit. A well-fitting acid wash jean would win out over a dark wash Mom Jean any day.
It’s probably a good time to introduce the concept I refer to as KYB. Know Your Body. Notice I didn’t say hate your body, complain about your body, change your body, adore your body, or deny your body. Know. Your. Body. As it is today, not 20 dollars and 20 pounds from now. Knowing it and loving it are two different things. Self esteem and body image are sure to be a topic I come back to, but for now and when it comes to that moment in the fitting room when the lights are blaring on your thighs and you’re pulling up jeans to see if they zip…..just knowing your body’s shape and knowing how jeans are cut may help you find a match.
You have likely seen the charts in the September issues of many Fashion Magazines. You are asked whether you are pear-shaped (a little), boy cut (kinda), curvy (nope), long-waisted (wait, what?) thick-thighed (depends what time of the month), long-legged (so I’ve been told, do you come here often?), and on and on. It is the time of year when Gap puts them on promotion, Levi’s runs a new ad campaign, and you are officially being courted, ladies. The problem with those charts are that no woman has just one flaw (or one feature). What if I am long-waisted AND pear-shaped? Huh? What do I do then, Mr. Jean Manufacturer (oh you just know it’s a man)?
This is also the time of year new styles that are trotted out for us to decide upon. When Skinny Jeans came around a few years ago, I declared loudly to my fellow fashionista friend, “No. I will. not.” I was wearing the jean of the moment, the wide leg trouser jean. In a second, I decided there was NO WAY IN HELL I could squeeze my post-baby-north-of-40 body into anything called a Skinny Jean. But here’s the rub. Skinny jean refers to the fit, yes? But what it’s referring to is what’s happening from the KNEE DOWN. Tapered Leg Jeans would have had us all running for the hills, Narrow Leg — too descriptive, not alluring. J. Crew tried so very hard with their “matchstick” and “toothpick” jeans, great names, but which is wider, a matchstick or a toothpick? I’ve already lost interest.
I have a compulsion to at least understand each and every trend that comes along, for no other reason than I love Fashion, I’m a curious sort, and I believe strongly that until you try something on, you have no idea what it will do on your body. Trying on and falling in love with the Gap Always Skinny Jean was a shock I won’t soon forget. I tried many styles on that fall, as their designer Patrick Robinson had launched new fits and washes using Japanese Denim from mills that supplied companies selling jeans that cost upwards of $150 per pair. As it turns out I am not Long & Lean, but on the weekends for running errands I am Real Straight.
The search for the perfect pair of jeans…well there isn’t just one, and might I suggest a jean wardrobe? Skinny jeans, with their narrow leg, are perfect to tuck into boots without the bulk. They also look great with a fuller top and a high heel. Wide leg jeans, in a dark wash, are the perfect casual Friday work pair. Boyfriend Jeans, with their slouch and rolled cuffs are great for hanging out at home or running around do unglamorous things. The important point here is that within each style of jeans there is a pair that will fit your body well. I promise.