Sunday, October 29, 2017

The elusive Birkin fit

For the last few weeks, I've had this notion of finding a pair of vintage Levis-or-similar jeans. I'm almost certain I got the idea from the Aritzia website's denim category called "Better Than Vintage." The mere concept struck me as both wasteful (I am 34) and poser-ish (I am also, in some sense, 14). Why not actual vintage, if that's what you're looking for? After all, Instagram is chock-full of French women (such as) in incredibly flattering, by all accounts real-vintage pairs. These women live in France, where vintage US denim has almost got to be harder to find than in Canada, yet they seem to have figured this out.

The plan seemed straightforward enough. I knew, from past trips to vintage clothing stores, where in Toronto the racks full of vintage jeans could be found. And over the course of two recent outings, a brief one to Little Portugal and the Kensington Market, and a more extensive (-feeling) one to Parkdale, I saw them all. OK, not all, but it sure did start to feel that way. I can't say I tried them all on because it was clear from just glancing at them that they would not fit. Not fit, that is, because these were men's jeans. I am a 5'2" woman. While there's no law that says people of my gender and physique can't wear men's jeans, the aesthetic fact is that we cannot do so and have the jeans in question be fitted. The chances are already slim-so-to-speak that a woman my height and general appearance will look like this (or, to put this in slightly more realistic terms, this) under any circumstances, but putting on a pair of large men's jeans seems not to further the cause.

The place with the best selection as well as a useable dressing room was probably In Vintage We Trust, in Parkdale. Even there, they were all too big, except for I think one pair that was too small in the way I remember jeans often being too small in dressing rooms of my youth, before stretch denim became ubiquitous. That is, too small in the waist, hips, etc., but sort of cartoonishly enormous through the legs. A fit that's uncomfortable and unflattering at the same time, and not in the modern-silhouette sense. No matter which pair, what size and shape the circa-1998 label promised, it looked like if Elaine Benes had put on Jerry's jeans.

The fantasy of perfectly-fitting vintage jeans is a complicated one. On some level, it's like all clothing fantasies - about having a flawless-by-society's-harsh-standards physique and looking amazing, especially from certain angles. But it's also a branch of the broader effortlessness dream. The idea is half that you're someone who had all the time in the world to try on evvvvery last pair until you found the one made for your body (that is, a leisure fantasy), half that you just happened upon these ones that fit you great because you're you and you're the sort of person who falls ass-backwards - literally, in this case - into good luck. It goes beyond high-end athleisure, which, while also taking its appeal in part from exclusivity, is nevertheless accessible to everyone under a certain dress size and with $90 to spend on leggings. Finding form-fitting non-stretch pants, with no consistent sizing, is a challenge of another order. Thus the carefree, 'They're vintage!' one is meant to utter to one's Instagram influenced fan base. Easy-breezy.

The unseen effort, I suspect - for there's always some - is that these jeans have been altered. Given that the pseudo-Jane Birkins of Instagram are if anything slimmer than I am, that these jeans fit me wrong in the way that they did suggests to me that these other women are getting their jeans altered. Altered, that is, in width. Not hemmed - nothing so short-person and pedestrian. No, I mean taken in, in the legs especially, so as to fit like the new, stretch-having jeans, while somehow being all-cotton. I have now Googled it and it's apparently a thing. It's not that all the effortless-chic Parisiennes have spent hours in the equivalent of Parkdale (in the Marais, as I wistfully recall) combing through used menswear. Who has the time?

But I think it was the leisure aspect that appealed to me about this quest. The dream wasn't so much the jeans themselves as the afternoon or evening I'd have, trying on as many as I felt like, and stopping for a coffee along the way. Neither my weekdays nor weekends have been conducive to that lately. Imagine having the time to sort through a pile of jeans that made their way to a Toronto vintage shop and find ones that just happened to fit me right!

Then when, yesterday, I declared that I was free to spend Saturday afternoon just trying on all the jeans, all of them if I so chose, I was promptly reminded that trying on a heap of ill-fitting pants is not actually a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Reminded, too, that a jeans quest sparked by a practical-ish need - the fact that my light-denim pair was falling apart and becoming generally unwearable - would not be answered by purchasing a pair of pre-owned pants of any kind. So I full on gave up, de-romanticized the quest for jeans, and spent approximately two minutes trying on and purchasing these, which will do the trick.

1 comment:

Glove Slap said...

I am 5'2.5" and usually find that if a pair of jeans fits my thighs, the hips and especially the waist are far too big. I saw women around town looking FANTASTIC in Levi's Wedgies and became convinced that Wedgies would solve all my problems and make my kinda flat ass look shapely. Sadly, they did not. But right across the street from Levi's was American Eagle Outfitters. In a nutshell: perfectly-fitting jeans (even the length), high waist, no stretch, AND they were like $30. It was a store I'd never even considered (I am 42, and it seemed so teen-ager-y). Give 'em a try, Phoebe!

And beyond that, I used to have Calvins that did me right.

Also, what about the made-to-measure option at Levi's?

And how about that thing where you sit in a hot bath while wearing the jeans, to shrink them to your body?