Stop the first ten women you meet in the street and ask them for their least favorite clothing item to shop for. Eight of them will say “swimsuits.” But, bikinis aside (since most boomers haven’t tried one on since 1989), even well-cut, one-piece swimsuits have a way of outing our last dozen diet failures and the 1,496 times we didn’t get to the gym in the last decade. In most cases, any onsie from Miraclewear or Spanx, if purchased in our actual size and not the size we keep telling ourselves we wear, will provide enough boob lift, butt coverage, and belly flattening spandex to get us from our hotel room to poolside with minimal assault on our self-esteem. If all else fails, there’s always the beloved sarong cover-up. Classy, and covers up everything from the waist down. Definitely invented by a woman.
But jeans? That’s a different issue altogether. Let’s start with the fact that jeans were not originally designed for women. Especially women with curves. They were created for men. Yes, that species with bodies that go straight up and down. Calves, thighs, hips, and waist, more rectangular than hourglass. (I know there are women who are built like that. All long legs, slim hips, and tiny little waists. Just to be clear, I hate those women and we will never be friends. My therapist says I have issues. I’m thinking the fact that I have a therapist pretty much covers that.)
But for those of us with bodies more reminiscent of the soft, squishy curves of Play-doh than the relentlessly straight angles of Legos, jeans can be a shopping nightmare.
Most women are a minimum of two different sizes, and that’s just from the waist down. We need to factor in waist size, hip circumference, and leg length. A waist that is one size, a butt that’s another, and inseam measurements that range from French bulldog to gazelle, can all make jeans sizing almost worthless. My experience? If the jeans fit my waist, the hips feel like they’re wrapped in an Ace bandage. If they fit through the hips, you could stick three friends in the waistband. With a long torso, every style is a low-riders, whether or not they’re labeled that way. I struggled with visible butt crack before anyone but the local plumber knew what it was. Needless to say, when I find a pair of jeans that fit, I wear them until they fall off.
With this knowledge, and not-so-little trepidation, I found myself at Nordstrom, needing a new pair of jeans. I explained my predicament to the perky young saleswoman, and she smiled brightly, “I’m Tiffany. And of course I can help you. So, a size 6?” (Having been in retail for a thousand-plus years, I’m fully aware that you always suggest the next number down when guessing a woman’s size. Get that one wrong and your commission just charged out the door in a huff, never to return.) “Actually, I’m an 8,” I replied. “Well, you look like a 6,” she chirped, “but let me see what we have in an 8.” Oh, Tiffy was good.
She deposited me in the plush dressing room and returned shortly with more jeans than I’ve purchased collectively in my lifetime, handing them to me one at a time so I could try them on at my leisure “without getting overwhelmed” (read: suicidal), in case nothing worked. Yep, young Tiffy was a pro.
The first pair were dark wash low-riders. Loved the deep blue color, but I’m built like a Welsh Corgi. Long body, short legs. “Low-rise” on me means below my butt crack. I don’t even have to bend over or squat down to display my backside hoo-ha, in all its 59-year-old glory, to people who don’t need to see it, ever. Some things are just cosmically wrong. Next?
Over the door came the traditional nightmare (Levi’s 501’s, anybody?). Good fit through the thighs, but cut off the circulation in my hips and had my waist oozing over the top like an exploding Hot Pocket. These were promptly launched back over the door and replaced by a pair that fit comfortably through the hips, but the waist kept sliding down and the legs were baggy. I felt like a middle-aged Justin Bieber.
Then she tossed over a pair of soft blue denim with a textured, brocade-type swirl, “just for fun.” Good fit, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Scarlett’s drapes from Gone With the Wind. Nope.
Next came skinny jeans. We could have stopped right there, but Tiffy insisted I try. They required some rigorous hopping and pulling to get them up past my thighs and would only button if I laid flat on my back and exhaled to flatten my tummy (shades of my college days). Since I’m too old to get dressed on the floor (and it takes too long to get up), back over the door they sailed.
Our next option looked pretty good, but had enough bling on the ass to work as reflective gear to help bring planes to the tarmac. And of all my body parts I don’t want to light up like a Las Vegas stripper, it would be that. Keep trying, Tiff.
Just as I was ready to concede defeat and hit the closest wine bar for a bottle of cheap Cabernet and a good cry, Tiffy opened the door, ever-so-slightly, and handed me a pair of soft, narrow-legged, higher-waisted jeans in a gorgeous charcoal color, rolled up at the cuffs, with just the right amount of seriously cool, rocker chick distressing. OMG. They were perfect. No butt crack cleavage, fitted through the hips, curved in at the waist, with just a touch of spandex to keep everything from jiggling when I was standing still. They had three colors in my size. I bought them all.
I gave Tiffy a hug, and with promises to return again soon, I took my bounty and headed for the closest wine bar. This time, I’m ordering the good stuff.