Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Getting dressed in 2009

There will soon, as promised, be a post on why 'neutral' and 'moderate' are not necessarily praiseworthy qualities when it comes to articles on contentious issues.

That said, a happy medium is the goal in two other arenas: women's shoes and women's jeans.

From what I can tell, women's shoes these days come in two varieties: those which looks like they will give you a foot injury, and those for already-injured feet. One possible middle-ground between the six-inch spike-heeled bootie (I kid you not) and the puffy white tourist sneaker is for women to wear men's shoes (or men's-style shoes, depending the size of the woman's feet), but this choice only works on lanky, straight-up-and-down builds--for such women the look is chic androgyny. For curvier sorts, men's shoes equal frump. I don't know why that is, but it just is. So, no oxfords for me. The paltry middle ground is taken up by ballet flats (elegant, inexpensive, practical, and destined to disintegrate in a matter of months) and Camper (elegant, durable, practical, and here is my checking account, dear Spanish shoemakers, enjoy).

With jeans, the two options are no less extreme: ultra-low- and ultra-high waistbands. The former were the only jeans sold for maybe a decade, whereas the latter - commonly known as 'mom jeans' - are currently making an ironic hipster comeback. Either way is a lost cause. Low-rise pairs allow you to reject hipster irony and (more importantly) to save money by wearing jeans bought in 2002. But, so to speak, they tend to reveal underwear/thong/worse when you sit, as everyone who bought jeans in 2002, give or take five years, or sat in a room with other people during those years, knows all too well. Whereas a high-rise pair that fits properly when you stand will, when you sit, dig uncomfortably. (Pencil skirts, also high-waisted, do not do this. The mechanics are, I think, straightforward.) A pair of high-rise jeans that are comfortable when you sit will, guaranteed, be clown pants when you stand. It's all or nothing.

(The most popular third-way out of the jeans-waist-rise conundrum is of course leggings-as-pants. While these are indeed comfortable, rather than covering half one's backside fully, as do low-rise jeans, they simply cover the whole thing ineffectively. Plus, they are no less of a hipster statement than are mom jeans, and so are perhaps the worst of both worlds.)

Where this was all going: after getting rid of some of the more egregious low-rise and unfortunately flared offenders and losing some other pairs to intrafamilial jeans competition, I found myself left with one reasonable pair... with an unfortunate hole I discovered just before heading off to teach in them.

Not ready to give up denim altogether, I looked around the general NYU area, at probably 0.001% of the shops in that area that sell jeans, or three stores. First, the Calypso outlet, offered a price range for the jeans, not price-per-pair, which is just as annoying with pants as with scones. The minimal selection and mysterious pricing made that a quick trip. Even quicker was a glance at the bizarrely named GStar Raw - attracted to the SALESALESALE signs, I entered long enough to learn that SALE there means jeans are $99 down from $200. Then, thinking the bottomless pit that is the Urban Outfitters sale area would contain the $19.99 answer to my problems, I dove in, but no such luck. I had the classic jeans experience of going up three inches in waist size between the first pair I tried and the last. (FYI: if you try on Cheap Monday jeans, which I don't advise, try them first, so as to have the waist-size change go in the opposite direction.)

This post has a happy ending, or an anticlimactic one, because finding a middle-ground pair of jeans was as simple as going into the Levi's store (up there in dull practicality with Circuit City and Staples) and asking what they had in a doesn't-show-whole-ass style. Amazingly, I was immediately directed to a pair with - get this - a lower waist in the front than in the back. This exists! Not only that, but in steeply discounted (sub-Old Navy, a good rule of thumb) and already-short-length form, saving an additional $10! So, to readers who are short women not keen on mooning everyone else in the classroom or café, highly recommended.

(Once I'm advertising a brand that knows I'm pleased with its products and, accordingly, now advertises on my Facebook page, let me just note that this would be an answer to one of life's great shopping conundrums, if the shot were only of these women seated, because as we all know that's when waist issues tend to arise.)


Paul Gowder said...

Join me, Phoebe, in getting jeans from target. Surrender to the cheap side...

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

What do jeans cost at Target, such that I should be ashamed of my decadence for having spent precisely $29.90 (with no need to spend an extra $10 on hemming--this is key) on this particular pair? It appears I would not have saved money.

Paul Gowder said...

Heh, the internet fails to reveal my secret wrangler fifteen dollar jeans. But I rather doubt target does hemming.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

You... win? For what it's worth, there are often sub-$20 jeans at Urban Outfitters, but they are all of the ultra-hipster variety. (No, I do not want jeans that snap at the cuff.)

I doubt if Levi's does hemming either, but as I note in the post, it has pants in various lengths, so that I can get tiny-person jeans without taking them to the tailor. Often short-people sizes need to be ordered online, which means paying for shipping rather than hemming--if both can be avoided, that's ideal. Uniqlo is the only store I've found that hems for free, but they can be a bit overzealous, leading to something closer to a capri than to a shortened pair of pants.

kei said...

Levi's is interesting--I felt like they sort of faded into the background, maybe as a result of new-but-pre-worn-in denim becoming standard. Levi's don't really sell pre-destroyed denim, I think because the point of their denim is to end up wearing it in yourself. So they kind of didn't sell out, maybe. As of late, I feel like they're still making an effort to stay relevant and possibly even succeeding at it. Their stuff is pretty straightforward and classic, and though initially a bit expensive, as you've discovered, they have good sales.

Moving on to another mystery in denim--what are "cigarette" jeans, and are they different from skinny jeans?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

This is just a guess based on vaguely recalling having seen pants with these different labels, but I think that "cigarette" jeans are less legging-ish, i.e. a very narrow cut, but not meant to cling all spandex-like at the calf. (Bad flashback to trying on the Cheap Mondays.) Google seems to confirm this.

Either of these are better than "boyfriend" jeans, which apparently still exist.

All of these, however, make it difficult to find a straight-legged (i.e. not about to go out of style) pair of jeans that are neither too tight nor too loose.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone even wear low rise anymore? And what makes you think anyone is wearing "mom" jeans aka normal jeans ironically? I love my Urban Outfitters mom jeans. They are like a better version of a boyfriend jean. time marches on. I love Cheap Monday second skin jeans too, but they are not real jeans. Still they are sexy.