Saturday, January 6, 2018

What is the Point of Jeans?

I've tried for years to get with the program. Jeans! Every woman needs a pair! Or several— dark dressy, faded casual, slouchy boyfriend, cropped, wide leg, skinny leg, flared, bell bottom, boot cut... I know them all. I've sold them all. I've tried them all. If jeans had never been invented, I wouldn't be bothered a bit.

We all know how Levi Strauss stitched up the first pairs for gold miners in the 1840s. Cowboys love 'em. Little kids find them practically indestructible. But why do grown up women think we need jeans?

I might feel differently if I ever had a pair that actually fit and were flattering. I do not have a good shape for jeans. As a typical pear, I have a small waist and bigger hips and thighs. I also now have my own built-in muffin top and have not seen a flat stomach since that bout of flu 8 or 10 years ago. The last time I looked good in jeans was here:


I think my older sister's girlfriends looked adorable because their jeans weren't meant to be fetching. Their look was strictly "stolen from the boys".

Nina and Phyllis
Somewhere between 1947 and the Calvin Klein, Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt 1980s,  jeans became a wardrobe staple, more difficult to buy than a bathing suit but guaranteed— if you found the right pair— to be all you would ever want to wear.

Remember those jokes about women struggling to wriggle into a pair of jeans? Who didn't actually try this?

Did this really work?
I grant you many women look great in jeans. Luck of the draw is all. Even if they do, I fail to see how jeans are such an indispensable wardrobe item. Victoria Beckham is beautiful, thin, rich and a fashion designer. I don't think these jeans make her look particularly great. It's as if she couldn't find the right pants for that shirt and picked the first thing available. Ditto the shoes.

The mystique— that women really, really want to wear jeans— still exists, as does my quest to find a pair.  Or did. A few years ago I decided to stop looking. On the rare occasion I need jeans— a hay ride?— I have a pair I can enlist. These are baggy, oversized Citizens that fit at the waist but nowhere else, shored up with a thick leather belt that may have been my husband's.

Now for the elephant in the room. Unless you are going full-out baggy, jeans should fit on the snug side. They are meant to hug your curves without enough fabric to grab and draw you to a standstill. Many of us find as we get older that we've lost circumference in the backside. What used to be firm and fully packed is, well... you get the idea. Here is another instance where clothing designers have let us down again and everyone needs a full-length mirror.


  1. So true...all of it! My problem is I have a thick waist and flat hips. I am like ING j.crew boyfriend in polka dots or patch or embroidery. I really should have them taken in ...tight and behind. I care but I don’t care.
    When we came to America the first things we wanted were jeans, strip t shirts and buster brow closed toe sandals. Our American out fit....yes, also a cowboy hat. Love your photos! Not of VB, tho.

    1. I remember those sandals. I am wearing a pair in the photo above. My mother must have tied that scarf around my neck. She was somethin'.

  2. I do love jeans and always have bought Levis men's 501 shrink to fit. The problem I see now is the quality of denim. Where did the heavy dark ( wash 'em until they fade ) go? I am due for a new pair of my 501s and worry that there won't be a pair to be found. I also have some very old ones with the selvage. For awhile they became "the jeans to own" and quite valuable.

  3. I'm with you--jeans are hard to fit, and I have never found the thick seams comfortable. I'm a seamstress, but the allure of homemade, well fitting jeans doesn't appeal to me either.

    1. Probably the last thing I would ever attempt to sew as well!

  4. Totally with you on this one. I have jeans of course but have never understood their appeal and they are one of the last things I reach for in my wardrobe. As you say they are not that flattering to the pear shape (me), they are uncomfortable (waistband digs in on every pair I have ever owned) and many are stiff and inflexible. Living in Perth Western Australia they are also too hot most of the year.