Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A banal, gender-specific, New York-specific anecdote

After a rough few days of reading as fast and carefully as I can, of putting a massive mess of papers in my apartment into working order, and, of course, of returning more library books than I can carry comfortably in exchange for an even bigger heap, I was ready for a treat. I was all set for that treat to be one of these, but I was feeling lazy. (Call it the 'Lack Initiative to Make Cake' diet.) So a pile of books and I headed to Uniqlo, where these - still $10-off! - became mine. It's tough from the image to see what they look like on, so I'll have to post a picture at some point, but they're more pantaloons than harem pants - in fact, they're not harem pants at all, because they lack the dreaded and comical dropped-crotch. Nor do they much look like any of these - more like a $19 version of these. Still, they are definitively silly and trendy. Which was very much the point - the molten chocolate cake of clothing.

Like I'd imagine most adult women, sometimes I think I look good; sometimes pants that are supposed to fit are too small, hair that was supposed to be one way is another, and I'm not pleased; but most of the time, I'm thinking about something else (current preoccupation: contemporary relevance or lack thereof of the Dreyfus Affair - thinking about it but not sure re: posting on it). I was not feeling especially glamorous this afternoon - I'd paired a GAP black nightgown-dress with a pale pink ballet-type long-sleeved wrap shirt; a tan trench coat; black leggings; and black oxfords, all which was well and good before the backpack and tote bag entered the picture. But the pants fit surprisingly well, and I thought, huh, not bad!

I then got on line to pay, with a mixture of delight at getting something fun and guilt at spending an unnecessary near-$20. Then I turned around. Behind me were not one, not two, but three models, and not the tall-and-thin-so-they-can-do-the-runways-but-nothing-special-in-person type of models, but the sort that do to all women around them what Uma Thurman did to Janeane Garofalo in that terrible movie that time. One was in the Estonian 16-year-old ballerina mold, another the fresh-faced all-American blonde closer to my own age and thus probably towards the end of her career, the third a dark-featured (Brazilian? Portuguese?) cross between a model and a movie star. I should mention that they were each approximately eight feet tall. The momentary high from finding a pair of flattering pants? Gone, just like that.

To make matters worse, shortly after this encounter, I saw a woman of modelesque proportions in the very same pants I'd just purchased.

Granted, I still got the pants, and am still thrilled with them. I'm convinced that I would be altogether undisturbed by my non-resemblance to models if I lived somewhere where there weren't quite so many of them, particularly in places where I shop for clothes. Le H&M Chicago me manque.


Dana said...

I don't think I've ever seen a model in real life. I think I might be entirely taken aback by someone so tall, and if not preternaturally pretty, then preternaturally sullen-looking. Most models are just clothes racks with good bone structure, i.e. canvasses for Dick Page's makeup wizardry.

I once saw Renee Zellweger at a grocery store in Los Angeles though, buying whole wheat bread and yogurt. She was quite skinny, and that's when I understood her reported "size 6" to mean "European size 6," or whatever, but I still bought my Lucky Charms anyway.

I have given up knowing what size I am, because I'm apparently an XS now at Banana Republic (where, 5 years ago, I was a M), and a size 8 at H&M, which, once again, shows the difference between "European sizes" and US sizes. What's weird is that when a mass market label brings in a slightly more upscale line (Target's Go International; Gap's European Collection), they actually specify "European sizing," to indicate that it runs small.

PG said...

I'm sure I must have seen some models just by dint of living in NY; I just don't often recognize them as such. For one thing, if I see skinny young foreign women in my neighborhood, it's at least as likely that they are tourists as it is that they are models. But I've never had the experience of buying the same thing anyone like that would be buying. I look at those peg leg pants and am pretty sure I'd look the way my mom did in the pictures of her pregnancy with me. Both models and tourists seem to avoid Ann Taylor instinctively.

Matt said...

What would have made me avoid those pants, if I were a woman buying pants, is the thought that pants the poof out in the hips are going to make many people look big in the hips, and not in a good way. Maybe they look different when they are on someone, though.

As both of my sisters are tall and thin (even after having had kids- one is about 5'9", the other I think just barely 6', just a hair shorter than I am) and my wife is fairly tall (about 5'8" or so) tallish women don't stand out much to me unless they are really unusually tall- more than 6', but that's to the point where it's hard not to look gawky.

Phoebe said...


Some models look sullen. These did not. Nor were they simply tall and thin - traits that might be enviable in and of themselves, but when I see a woman who's both, I don't tend to notice. These three were simply stunning, no photoshop necessary.

As for dress size, I'm thinking they might need the negative numbers, as some of my clothing from there is in the smallest sizes they make.

PG and Matt,

It's sweet you're concerned, but for whatever reason, these pants did not, at least from what I could tell from the not particularly forgiving Uniqlo dressing-room mirrors, make me look big-hipped or pregnant. I tend to think this has something to do with my build, but far more to do with the fact that the pants are cut to be very flat in the front, not poufed out in the front as pleated pants often are.

Many women (myself included) make the mistake of thinking 'narrow-cut' means 'slimming', whereas a straight-up-and-down look tends to be the very same one that cuts into the hips in the least flattering way. Maybe the answer lies in cuts that actually expand where women expand.

Matt said...

oh- I'm not "concerned"- I expect you have a better idea of what looks good on you than I ever would, and even if I didn't like how something looked on you I can't imagine why you should, or would, care. It was just a remark about how the pants looked to me and what I'd think seeing that.

Phoebe said...

Right, which was why in my response, I attempted to make a broader point about the possible advantages of this style for women generally.