So after a year of starving myself and exercising like a mad woman, I have lost most of my Tamoxifen weight and am back in my regular size 26 jeans—considered a 2 by most standards, sometimes a 4. I still have some more weight to lose and a lot more toning is in order (when did my knees start to sag?) but progress is progress. So to celebrate, I decided to take myself shopping for jeans. And I am here to tell you, right here, right now, as God and the salesgirl at Nordstrom are my witnesses, if you are shorter than 5 ft. 7, weigh more than 100 lbs. and are over the age of 40, jeans shopping is only second to bathing suit shopping in terms of total and utter demoralization. I am certain there is a special ring of hell devoted to denim designers and to the architects who created the fitting rooms at the Nordstrom in Union Square in San Francisco, where I spent yesterday afternoon.
Picture if you will, a small, airless cubicle with a three-way mirror and fluorescent lighting so deplorable that it actually gives you cellulite across your cheekbones. I will not even discuss what it did to my thighs. At home, my room is flooded with unforgiving sunlight and my mirror is huge, wide and stretches from the floor to ceiling—it is as horrifying as it sounds. But not anywhere near as horrifying as the set up in the Nordstrom fitting room, where I tried on 30, yes 30, pairs of jeans yesterday. So here’s the good news: my size actually fits, and in some cases is even too big, except in J.Brand. I couldn’t even get one leg into one size up much less my own size. Bastards! Now here’s the bad: Not one pair, not one stinking pair, looked good on my 4 ft. 11, 108-lb. body. In fact, most pairs looked so terrible that the salesgirl, may she burn in Hades forever, suggested I try a line for more “mature” women. Mature? Why don’t you just call me, “M’am” and poke me in the eye with a sharp stick? I wanted to tell her 28-year old sadistic self to kiss my once nearly perfect now slightly sagging 46-year-old ass. Instead, I tried on the damn jeans. These were desperate times. Turns out the smallest size pair was too big, and they rise so high the waistband practically came up under my neck. I guess I am “immature”... take that! bitch salesgirl!
So here’s what I’ve learned from my devastating day at the mall:
Whiskering sucks and everyone does it: Vicious denim companies market this technique as “strategic fading around the hips and thighs for a slimming effect.” Are you kidding me? It is basically painting wide white horizontal stripes around the fullest parts of most women’s bodies. Whiskering actually makes me long for the acid-washed technique of the 80s, and trust me, I never, ever thought I’d say that. Seven for all Mankind seems to be particularly guilty of this transgression. It also has this extraordinarily unflattering practice of making the thighs lighter than the rest of the jeans. In fifth grade art class I learned that light brings things forward and dark causes them to recede. Did the designers at 7 not learn this? How many women want to emphasize their thighs?
“Curvy Fits” are for hourglass figures, not fuller lower bodies: Now this seems like a contradiction. But it’s not. I have a muscular build so my thighs are not tiny. Before I got weak and fatigued from this breast cancer treatment nonsense, I could leg press more weight than some of the guys at my gym. But “strong” legs do not put you in the “curvy” camp. While the Seven for All Mankind Kimmies curvy fit was passable (except for the frigging wash), the Joe’s Jeans Curvy Honey jeans were the stuff nightmares are made of. I did not fare any better with any other styles made for “curvy girls.” Curvy styles of jeans are for women blessed with tiny waists and rounded hips, butts and thighs. They are not for straight, athletic types. Funny that I have an athletic build considering I was always the very last person picked for a team in gym class. Actually, that’s not so funny. And is it just me, or does the term, “bootylicious” make you want to punch someone in the face? Just asking.
Big pockets equal smaller butts unless they are long, then it’s best to not check out your rearview: I’ve read many times to look for more generous pockets on jeans if you want to streamline your butt and tinier ones if you want to emphasize it. But what’s with the extra long pockets that actually fold underneath the crease? Is this just happening to me because I am short? The effect is stunningly awful. It makes your posterior look long, low, and wide. Paige Denim and Hudson Jeans seem to use this pocket style a lot.
Mid-rise jeans are the devil: Ok, Ok. I stand corrected. High-rise jeans are the devil. If you want proof, just take a look at Demi Moore in About Last Night or re-watch any John Hughes film. So I guess mid-rise jeans aren’t as bad. And they are good for concealing muffin-tops. But they seem to make the lower body assume epic proportions. Now granted, super low rise jeans don’t do anyone any favors. But a nice, mid-low rise (low-mid-rise?) is the most flattering for me. And just see if you can find that.
Stretch is something to be taken lightly: Since I’ve moved to the East Bay, it’s made me crazy that the hipster boys all wear these super tight skinny black jeans that are ridiculously snug in the leg yet somehow baggy in the rear (I know I sound like my grandmother.) Well after slithering in and out of all of those denims yesterday, I realized that too much stretch is to blame. It allows you to easily wedge yourself into super-tight jeans. Somehow the stretch sort of hugs your thighs (which if the jeans aren’t the wrong size can be flattering). But super stretchy fabric just can’t seem to maintain its shape around your derriere so your jeans look tight and baggy at the same time. Meanwhile, the jeans feel so comfortable you don’t realize how dreadful you look. With their stretchy fabrics, Paige and Hudson do slim the thighs, but man they bag in the butt. Citizens of Humanity is another butt-bagger, plus it does that horrible whiskering thing so it is off the table.
Bootcuts and flares are not slimming: I love the way boot cut and flare jeans look—so ‘70s rock star. And to me they work the best with any shoes since they don’t buckle over the tops, like straight legs and skinnies do (don’t get me started on skinnies.). Plus, they look great with my Puma California’s. You would think since both styles are fuller in the lower leg, they would balance out a body with a fuller upper leg. Not so. I learned yesterday that flares and bootcuts are actually cut narrower in the hips and thighs than other jeans and taper at the knees before fanning out. Jeans that taper at the knee are about the least flattering thing I can think of (pegged ankles are pretty bad too) unless you have super sleek, long legs. And if you do, God bless you. Straight legs are more forgiving in the thighs, don’t taper at the knee and don’t constrict the calves like skinnies. They literally run down the length of your leg in a straight line. But unless you hem them slightly shorter than I would like, they bunch up over your footwear and they don’t work at all with wide shoes like my Pumas. They look ok with Converse sneakers (especially the high tops), ballet flats, sandals and ankle “Beatle” boots. Yes, I admit to having several pair of Beatle boots and Converse All Stars (though I am iffy about wearing them).
I wish I could tell you that I had better luck with Current Elliot, True Religion, Big Star, Jag, Jolt, AG and Blue Essence, or that my trip to the Lucky Brand store in the same mall was fruitful. But at the end of two hellish hours of mortification and self-flagellation, I was pretty much s#it out of luck. It turns out, though, that the answer to my prayers was, as Dorothy would say, “right in my own backyard”-- a pair of faded, not whiskered, totally untrendy, stretch-free straight legs from J.Crew that I had stuffed in the back of my closet when I put on my Tamoxifen weight. Well those babies fit now, and even if I can’t wear my Pumas with them and run the risk of sanctifying the hipster movement by having to sport them with my Converse, I have at least one pair of jeans that look good on me. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.