Ever since I was a freshman in high school I can remember coveting other people’s jeans. The way the thicker denim fabric made my friends’ legs look longer, butts look better, and waists look smaller was something I deeply wanted. The look was also so grown up. I would think, “If I could just find that perfect pair of jeans I would be a more sophisticated and outgoing version of myself.” Needless to say, my first shopping trip for new jeans was an important fashion milestone for me.
I soon learned that, even at thirteen years old, my body type was hard to fit for jeans. Even though my size was average, my proportions seemed…well, off. I had muscular thighs and a thicker waist in proportion to my hips than the junior’s retailers decided I should have. There was another limiting factor. My friends had jeans from designer brands that started at around $70 a pair. My parents, with one income and four children, were not going to buy me a pair of pants that cost that much. Alas, my first shopping trip ended in tears. My heart was broken because I wanted to effortlessly slip into a pair of jeans the way my friends could.
Fast forward to today. I eventually grew up and found jeans that fit me. I would love to be able to say it’s effortless, but I still have a unique relationship with those special blue pants.
In my closet are thirteen pairs of jeans. I collect them like the stickers I collected as a kid. From Levi’s to Paige to Madewell to all the Stitch Fix brands, I have amassed quite the denim wardrobe. There are different colors (black, gray, white, camo), different fits (skinny, wide leg, cropped, tuxedo stripe), and different sizes for all my jeans.
Even with all these choices, I find myself avoiding my jeans. Why? I hate to admit that at 36 years old the fit of my jeans still has an emotional hold over me. What if my favorite skinny jeans don’t fit today? What if I never fit into this certain pair of jeans again after having a baby? How is it possible that these jeans fit me yesterday but are squeezing my stomach today to the point of leaving marks?
Every person retains water differently. I also have food sensitivities so my stomach can go from its normal size to pregnant looking bloated in hours. And even though I know that the bloating is the reason I can’t zip my pants I still hear that little (mean) voice in my head telling me I’m fat.
I know I am not alone in this. I have seen women’s closet with entire sections of jeans that they are saving for “when they are skinnier again,” or jeans they use to “weigh” themselves, or super expensive jeans that don’t fit anymore but they can’t bear to let go of “just in case.” When I watch women try on jeans they suck it in and shimmy into them with a wild look of hope and a little bit of fear at what their own inner (mean) voice will say.
It’s time to call an end to it. This is a call to tell that mean critic in your head to shut the h*ll up and begin to nurture the stronger, more reasonable voice you’ve always had. You see, the difference between a thirteen-year-old and an adult is that we know better now. A child believes the critical voice and that her worth is determined by how her jeans fit that day, but the wise mind knows better.
Not sure what that wiser voice can say to overpower the denim drama? Here are some gentle reminders for the next time you or someone you love (maybe even your own daughter) shops for a new pair of jeans.
Lose all attachment that you are a particular size.
I personally have jeans ranging five whole sizes. My actual body is the same size. It doesn’t make sense. Different retailers cut denim differently depending on their location, the stretch content in the jeans, and their ideal client.
You’ll be a different size in a different style.
Even at the same store, you will probably be a different size in a skinny jean than you are in a wide leg, bootcut, straight leg. More evidence that size is just a number.
It takes time to find the right fit.
You will have to try on a TON of jeans before finding a pair that fits well and feels good—like 25 or more. Even then they may not be perfect. More than any other garment, it takes a lot of work to find the right fit in denim.
Don’t be afraid to tailor your jeans.
Sometimes jeans won’t be perfect, so size up so they fit in the hips and then bring in the waist for the perfect fit. Also, hem your jeans to fit your height and desired heel height.
Skip the Juniors’ section
I wish I could go back to my thirteen-year-old self and tell her to go to the Women’s section rather than the juniors’ and try on jeans that had a chance of fitting me. The fabric is cut differently for a “junior” body and the quality is usually less. This goes for actually teens, too. Unless they are very petite, try the Women’s section.
Pay attention to what you like.
Once you find a pair of jeans that works for you, take note of the different styling elements and try to look for those in future pairs of jeans. For me, I know a high rise is important. It helps me feel like my tummy is contained and creates an hourglass shape. I also need my jeans to have some stretch in them. Other women might like low rise jeans with little stretch. The options are endless.
Find alternative outfits.
For those bloated days when I don’t feel like dealing with the denim drama, I find another outfit that makes me feel good. There is no rule that says you must put all your wardrobe energy into jeans outfits. Try a casual dress with a denim jacket and a pair of Converse for a fun and pretty outfit that will make you feel great. Or black moto leggings, an oversized top, ankle booties, and statement earrings for a badass look.
Clothes are supposed to be fun! They are supposed to make us feel good about ourselves. I became a stylist because I know the power a good outfit can have over my mood. It breaks my heart to think of my younger self crying in a dressing room. If I could go back to that little girl right now I would tell her this:
Honey, there is nothing wrong with you. You are perfect the way you are. The clothes are supposed to fit you, not the other way around.