The winds of change were blowing about me and I had no choice but to embrace them. On three separate occasions, in a one week period, I was told how great Nordstrom department store was for jeans. “I never knew what size I truly was. This sales person really helped me, down to the right style of jean for my body type, “my size 4 friend Alannah gushed after I complimented her on the fit of her jeans. “I took my 16 year-old daughter in to be fitted and they did wonders with me as well, “my size 14 friend Heather said. I next heard two moms discussing the merits of Norstrom jeans fitting at the school bus pick-up. “You don’t even need a personal shopper, same great service.” “My jeans never fit so well,” the pear shaped woman smiled as she showed off a great ass fit.
It’s now or never, I thought to myself. None of my jeans fit well and most of them would be better off in the Goodwill basket. I have a long, convoluted history with jeans. It can be summed up in one sentence. Whatever is in style at the time will not fit my body. This has always been true. It was true when I was a size 4 (my thighs were too big and my waist too narrow). It was true when I was a size 8 (my butt was too flat and my hips too large). Then at a size 10 (no more waist after having children and the addition of love handles). Now I am a size ? It could be an 8, maybe and 10 or a 12, and maybe even a 14. It all depends on the style and brand of pants. I can say one thing though, the pants will always stretch, in the butt and only at my flattest part. Then the pants will bag and sag in that area with the effect of making my butt look like the continent of North America. My butt also looks this size when the jeans pockets are too small, spaced too widely, or too high up on the back of the pants. I will be the first to admit that I have a tummy-waist bump right at the navel. I would love for stylish pants to have a bit of stretch in that area. Mostly so I could save having to spend $10,000.00 on a tummy tuck operation. It doesn’t matter what brand or what size of pants (especially jeans) never do they stretch in area that I need it most.
It is a number of weeks before I am able to enter my local Nordstom store kid free and duly laden with my emotional jeans buying baggage and ready to spend 2, 4, or even 6 hours doing something that I detest. This something would be standing in front of a three-way distorted mirror, my flaccid body accentuated and highlighted by unflattering dressing room lighting. I would like to take a moment to contrast this with how I feel when I am working out. When I am at the gym, completing the regime prescribed to me by my personal killer, I mean trainer, I feel good. Somehow I look good in the mirrors and compared to some of the other people in the work-out area. Why is this? Why is the gym so nice to and for my body and the dressing rooms at any giver retailer so hateful? Maybe it is a conspiracy to make women hate their bodies, but that will have to wait for another story. For now let’s get back to the history of jeans buying emotional baggage.
This being Nordstrom, I am quickly asked if I need any help. I explain that I am in the store to buy jeans and jeans only and would like to talk to a fitter who can help me find jeans-the best jeans for my body type. Minutes later I am introduced to my “jeans fitter, “a petite young thing just out of diapers, I mean just out of high school. She bubbles and gushes about the merits of different jeans. She even suggests that we go over to TBD (a very trendy department in Nordstrom) after I tell her that I do have a pair of Seven for Mankind jeans that does kind of fit. She ignores the fact that this style of Sevens is not longer made and that I got my pair, deeply discounted, at Nordstrom Rack, not Nordstrom proper because they probably wouldn’t fit anyone else but me. She also ignores me when I tell her that I am not crazy about the fit, but keep the damn jeans around because they are high fashion and may prove useful when I need to “look the part.” Sally (I have forgotten her real name, she seems like a “Sally” to me) piles her already full arms with Seven for Mankind, True Religion, Joe’s Jeans, and other designer jeans clearly not intended for my body type. She reluctantly puts some of the more stylish pairs back after I tell her my price limit.
Before I know it, I am in front of the dreaded three-way mirror, complete with the kind of lighting one might find in the bathroom of a rent-by-the-hour motel and ready to try on my twenty-four pairs of jeans. After stripping down to my underwear, I eagerly pull on my first pair of jeans. This size is too tight in the waist. I can’t even button them. This is too bad because they are an excellent fit everywhere else. I quickly grab the next size up in this same style, hoping that this will do the trick and I can be on my way to do something fun with my afternoon. But, alas the jeans are so large in the waist I can just about pull them off without undoing the button and zipper. I try on several more pairs. The waist is either tiny and tight or the waist of the pants sticks out so far from my lower back that one could fit a baby in there.
The hysterical laughter started when I tried on a pair of jeans that were literally three feet too long. Seriously, I could pull these suckers over my feet and use them as flippers! Sally checks in and wants to know how I am doing, she looks at the flipper pants and comments, “Oh, you do have short legs. Normally we would hem those for free, but there would be a charge because they are so long.” Of course, I had told Sally that I am tall through the torso, not the legs. My legs are short. I eyed the rest of the jeans hanging on the wall with suspicion. “If she had missed that bit of valuable and necessary information, none of these jeans is probably going to fit,” I said under my breath. I tried on the back-gap jeans and Sally told me that they would cost about $75.00 to alter. This would be on top of the $165.00 for the jeans. “Why can’t they just make them right in the first place? I mean who really carries enough weight in their lower back to fill these out?” Sally shrugs and laughs. The seemingly endless dressing room session goes on with me hopelessly trying on the rest of the jeans, the first size so tight and tiny that they wouldn’t fit a Polly Pocket, the next size up, huge in all of the wrong places and likely to stretch out more in these wrong places.
Just as I am about to put my trusty Target specials back on and trudge, defeated, out of the store, Sally returns, claiming to have the perfect pair of jeans for me. “They are from the Narrative department. I will go and grab you a pair.” Let me see, I thought, maybe this will be lucky number twenty-five. Then I paused…the Narrative department…hmm…I seem to recall my 70-year-old mother telling me that she had shopped there and thought the clothes were “too old” for her. My suspicions were aroused. However, I do hate to give up after investing all of this time. I decided to give it a shot. Sally returned with a name brand-Not Your Daughter’s Jeans- and a smile on her face. This is good I thought, jeans that won’t fit my daughters, ages 8 and 6. It’s a good, positive step for designers when they acknowledge that grown women are not shaped like little girls. I anxiously tried on said jean, hoping that I would be fulfilled. I pulled the jeans on and attempted to button them just below my navel. Like most women under age 60, I have gotten used to a slight low-rise in pants. Anything else no longer feels right and has a distinct “mom jean” look.
Sally returns asking a little less brightly how these jeans are working out. I show her the problem. She pauses for a moment before informing me that the jeans should be buttoned at the waist. So I do this, they are actually meant to be buttoned more at the level of the rib cage-making me feel corseted. I have subsequent difficulty with breathing and am tempted to ask if Nordstrom supplies supplemental oxygen to customers trying on these jeans. I look in the mirror and note that my while my tummy does look flatter, my thighs look huge. This is because the fabric is so stretchy. The high waist-geek-type buttoning raises the tiny pockets to the level of my lower back. This has the effect of…making my butt look the size of the continent of North America. “Why would I pay this price for a fit that could be obtained at any local Walmart?” I ask Sally. Sally is laughing now. She is clearly relived to no longer have me as a customer, but she is also enjoying the moment. Only as I am leaving the store (empty handed of course) does it dawn on me-Not Your Daughter’s Jeans-must refer to mothers who are 60-70 and daughters who are 35-50. This thought makes me want to cry. “My only option is to dress like an old woman!” I say aloud.
Many weeks later I am in another department store, in the juniors section (everyone knows that the prices in juniors are much lower than any other women’s department) looking for a cheap wife-beater tank top for a costume party when I find the perfect pair of jeans. They are junior sized (funny, I thought that I had outgrown this after I finished the 12th grade), I try on a size in between my too small and too big women’s sizes and they fit perfectly. They cost $40.00-no alterations necessary. Maybe there is some truth to the adage “young at heart” after all.