Stop the first ten middle-age women you meet on the street and ask them to name their least favorite item to shop for and eight of them will say “swimsuits.” Bikinis aside (since most boomers haven’t even tried one on since 1989), even one-piece suits have a way of outing your last dozen dieting failures and the 1,496 times you didn‘t get to the gym in the last decade. But in most cases, any onesie from Miraclewear or Spanx will have enough boob lift, butt coverage, and tummy flattening spandex to get you poolside with minimal damage to your self-esteem.
But jeans? That’s a different story altogether. Let’s start with the fact that jeans were originally designed for men. Yeah, those people with bodies that go straight up and down. Calves, thighs, hips, and waist, all the same diameter. (Yes, I know there are women who are built like that. All long legs and slim hips, with equally tiny 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.)
Anyway, for those of us built like women, jeans are a shopping nightmare. Most of us are a minimum of two different sizes, and that’s purely from the waist down. We need to factor in waist size, then our hip (butt) size, and leg length. My waist is an 8, my hips are a 10, and I’m short-legged. If the jeans fit in the waist, the hips feel like an over-tight Ace bandage, and if they fit in the hips, you could fit three friends in the waistband, and by the time I hem my “boot cut” jeans to fit, the boot cut portion is on the floor and they’re now “straight legged.” Needless to say, when I find a pair of jeans that fit, I wear them until they fall off.
And so with not-a-little trepidation, I found myself at Nordstrom, needing a new pair of jeans. I explained to the saleswoman the details of my predicament, and she smiled brightly, opening with “Of course we can help you. So, a size 6?” (Having been in retail for a thousand-plus years, I am 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 8-10,” I replied. “Well, you look like a 6,” she chirped, “but let me see what we have in an 8.” Oh, she’s goooood.
Tiffany deposited me into 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: depressed) in case nothing worked. Yep, Tiffy was a pro.
The first pair were a dark wash, low-rider style. Loved the dark color, but I’m built like a Dachshund. All waist and no legs. “Low rise” on my waist means below my butt-cleavage. I don’t even have to bend over to show it off. There it is, displayed in its 56-year-old glory for all the world to see (some things are just cosmically wrong). I’d be the laughingstock of the 20-something set. Next?
Over the door came the traditional nightmare that fit through the legs and 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 discarded for the next pair, which fit through the hips, but were huge in the waist and had baggy legs, making me look like an middle-aged Justin Bieber.
Then she tossed over a pair of soft blue denims with a textured, brocade-type swirl, “just for fun.” I felt like I was wearing Scarlett’s drapes from Gone with the Wind. Nope.
Next came skinny jeans (we could have stopped right there, but Tiffy insisted I try) that required some enthusiastic hopping and pulling to get up past my thighs and would only button if I laid flat on my back and exhaled (shades of my college days). Since I’m too old to get dressed on the floor, back over the door they sailed.
Our next option look pretty good, but had enough bling on the backside to work as a safety flashlight if my car broke down on a deserted street, and of all my body parts I don’t want to light up like a Las Vegas stripper, it would be that. Keep trying, Tif.
The next pair had a great leg fit (and thankfully, no bling), but the heavyweight fabric, doubled up for the zipper and front pockets, added unwanted and wildly redundant bulk on top of my belly, virtually eliminating anything but oversize tops, so now I look like a chunky bag lady. Yeah, no.
Just as I was ready to concede defeat, returning to my yoga pants and hitting the local Taqueria for a salty margarita and a good cry, Tiffy opened the door, ever-so-slightly, and handed me a soft pair of narrow legged, but higher-waisted jeans in a fabulous bright limey-yellow, rolled up at the cuffs (with a seriously cool rocker-style black-and-white tunic top). OMG. They were perfect. No butt-cleavage, fitted through the hips and thighs, curved in at the waist, and lightweight enough not to add bulk at the tummy. I bought two pair, and I’m never taking them off.
Happily tossing my shopping bag in the car, it occurred to me that fashion experts might frown on lemon-yellow capris in December, but I’m going for it.