self-inflicted torture: adventures in jeans shopping

It is common knowledge among my close friends that I do not wear pants. Not only do I not wear them, I legitimately hate them. Most of my business casual work-appropriate outfits consist of skirts, tights, dresses, and leggings. The only pants I consistently approve of are yoga pants, which I probably wear far more often than I should, especially considering that they make me look like a soccer mom on her way to pilates. But I honestly think soccer moms might be on to something, because my ideal outfit is equal parts comfortable and cute, something that yoga pants are, and jeans and dress pants definitely are not. I feel restricted when I wear regular pants; I usually have to wear a belt which makes it worse, and the whole time I’m wearing them, all I can fantasize about is changing into leggings or yoga pants, with my legs all wrapped in stretchy, cottony comfort. When I’m wearing comfy pants, I feel moderately empowered because my legs are not imprisoned in a cage of thick/rough/stiff/uncomfortable material and I’m also not as worried about the lacy band at the top of my underwear making a surprise appearance anytime I need to bend over or make any unusual movements.

There was a time when I thought that jeans themselves were comfortable casual wear. As a teenager, my go-to outfit was jeans and a hooded sweatshirt — I was not a fashionable sixteen year-old. Then, when I became an adult and my daily wardrobe could no longer include jeans before 5:00pm, I abandoned them in favor of more comfortable options in the evenings: yoga pants, sweats, leggings with weird prints on them. That was the point of no return. I had found a new Pants God to worship, and it didn’t have zippers or buttons or a waistband that was too tight when I was on my period.

Lest this blog post sound like the mundane ramblings of a crotchety old woman, I would like to insert here that I have recently begun coming around to the idea of jeans again. This is partially because I like the concept of jeans more than their actual physical manifestation. I think they’re cute paired with any one of my many sweaters. I like them tucked into boots. I sometimes think they make my butt look good. But shopping for them and actually wearing them is a different story. However, the other day, as I began a giant (much overdue) purging of my closet, I discovered that I was in desperate need of a pair of jeans that actually fit me well. All of my pairs were too big around the waist, too short, or too bunchy around the ankles. And regardless of how infrequently I may actually reach for a pair of jeans when I get dressed in the morning, I decided that, as a 24 year-old semi-professional young woman, there was no excuse for me not to own at least one or two pairs of nice jeans that actually fit my ass.

So I did what any mature young lady in need of jeans would do: I enlisted the help of my friends. Because I can’t even decide when to pee without consulting my Google Calendar, I sent my friends Ellen and Kate an invitation that included the phrase “HELP ME FIND JEANS THAT ACTUALLY FIT ME,” and early* on a Friday morning, we set off into town in search of a pair of jeans that would hug my curves, not fall down, and not make my butt look flat. A noble, if somewhat frivolous mission.

Our first stop (after sucking down our morning doses of caffeine at the coffee shop) was The Gap, and as soon as we walked into the store, I was reminded why jeans shopping is so overwhelming: the vocabulary is ridiculous. “What are you looking for?” Ellen asked me. “I DON’T EVEN KNOW,” I cried out, exasperated, as I surveyed the stacks of denim surrounding me. The words listed around the store boasted a cut for every body type, but I didn’t know which one I was looking for. Sexy bootcut? Real straight? Skinny? Super skinny? Sexy boyfriend? It was like trying to order a latte at Starbucks, which, by the way, is one of the most overwhelming processes ever for an analytical control freak like me. I was reminded of that quote from Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail:

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”

Except, in this case, you have to choose your cut (bootcut, skinny, straight), fit (regular, relaxed), wash (dark, light, fancy non-denim colored), size, and length (short, regular, long), and once you’ve done that, you have to try them all on under hideous fluorescent lights, while the fitting room attendant judges you for hauling ten pairs into the room with you because you don’t know what you want and you just want to make sure you’re trying on all the options available to you before you shell out $70 for a pair of pants, and, hopefully, reach that “absolutely defining sense of self.”

What’s worse is that every store decides it needs its own fancy terminology to describe its denim. So, after I tried on fifteen pairs in every size, length, and cut available at The Gap, we moved on. Each store we went into had a different selection, different names, and different sizing. I tried on regular lengths that were too short, and long lengths that were too long. I tried on bootcuts with too much flare at the bottom, I tried on boyfriend jeans that were too baggy in the butt, I even tried on skinny jeans with ugly rhinestones on the pockets. With each ill-fitting pair, I got more and more discouraged. But Ellen and Kate, being the committed, beautiful humans that they are, forged onward. Ellen marched around each store, throwing pair after pair over her arm, and running back and forth to the fitting room, pulling different sizes when something didn’t fit correctly. They told me how things really looked, instead of the way I perceived them to look after standing in multiple fitting rooms, sweaty from changing my clothes so many times, with messy hair and very little self-confidence left.

Eventually, we ended up at JC Penney. Discouraged, I reluctantly tried on a few picks from the juniors section and a couple random pairs from the misses section. Ellen, who at this point had thrown out all the rules and joined me in my little fitting room, was taking things off the hangers and handing them to me, then sorting them into piles based on how they fit.** All of a sudden, I had more jeans in my “maybe” pile than in my “no” pile, and I actually had to narrow down my options! I ended up with two pairs of dark wash jeans, approved by both Ellen and Kate, that fit well AND made my butt look good, and I honestly couldn’t tell you what the actual names of the jean styles are. I just know they fit, and I am the luckiest person in the world that I have two friends who were willing to dig through the skinnies and the bootcuts to help me find the ones that did.

So jeans shopping will probably always give me anxiety. I still don’t know what stores have the best fit for me or how I stumbled upon the couple pairs that I ended up buying, and the next time I go out, I’ll likely be just as clueless as this time. You also probably won’t see me wearing jeans more than a couple times a week (I still love my leggings and yoga pants), but it’s nice to know that my frazzled, sweaty, caffeine-fueled expedition was worth something.

Now just wait until I’m forced to go bra shopping. I’m sure that will yield some more great material.

* 9:00am is early when you work in residence life at a boarding school. Too early, probably, as Kate pointed out: “I don’t think I’ve ever been in town this early. Are the stores even open yet?”
** Because she’s an angel from heaven.

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One thought on “self-inflicted torture: adventures in jeans shopping

  1. I’ve just found your blog….by googling “where are the Jim Halperts?”. Yes. These are the things I Google. I use The Office references way too often to be cool and constantly find reasons to discuss Jim and Pam. I HATE jeans shopping, and procrastinate like a mofo ( yes, I just used mofo in a sentence, I’m THAT cool). I live in the UK, but I’m not from here and can pretty much relate to everything you’ve ever written. Never dated, never been kissed, and am ruined for every man forever because of Jim Halpert. You my friend, are officially followed .
    Also relevant, my name starts with M.

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