People who know me know that, while I’m a fairly enthusiastic spectator of fashion, I’m only an occasional consumer. There are several reasons for this: I’m poor; I hate shopping; there’s no reason for me to dress up; I’m set in my ways and tastes; and most of what’s “hot” is just plain ugly. To subdivide further, I hate shopping for a few reasons: I don’t have much free time, and I sometimes have expensive tastes. In the case of jeans, I have expensive needs. I’m short and petite, but, let’s say, not boyish. I have tried to wear many, many pairs of lower-priced jeans, but I’ve finally resigned myself to the cruel truth that the only ones that don’t make me look like a denim-covered sofa cushion are the “premium” jeans, so called because of their admittedly lovely and flattering cuts and because of their shameful price tags. Those price tags have kept my wardrobe small and well-worn.

This past weekend, I realized I had not added to my small collection in more than a year, so while my other half was browsing the record bins at his favorite store in Princeton, I went around the corner to the town’s main upscale clothing store. At this point, I should mention that I also hate shopping because I’m easily overwhelmed by too much merchandise. A nice young salesman found me staring blankly at the stacks of jeans and helpfully loaded me up with the sizes and brands I specified. I went into the dressing room and tried on the first pair and stared at myself in horror. I had wriggled into the same evil garment that has been straining across the butts of hipster fashion victims for the past year or so: skinny jeans, that horrible stovepipe-legged revival from the 80s. I realized that every pair of jeans that this guy had handed me were the same cut.

I looked down at the price tag. $194?? I stepped out of the dressing room to get a better look. Under the harsh lights, I looked like a puffy inverted triangle. “Those look great,” the salesman cooed. I raised an eyebrow at him and went back in to try another pair. No luck. Even though they “fit,” i.e., I could pull them on and fasten them without breaking a sweat, they all added 20 pounds and shaved precious vertical inches from my frame. Finally, I shuffled back over to the salesman (the jeans were also about 6 inches too long). “Do you have any bootcut styles?” He pursed his lips. “I think customers got really burned out on those last season,” he said. “Maybe you could try one of the trouser-cut styles.” Oh, hell no. Did this guy just offer me MOM JEANS? Stack after stack of overpriced jeans, and my only choices were heroin-chic or matronly? I kept staring up at him. Finally, he admitted they had one style of corduroys with a slightly flared leg opening. I tried them on. Nice, slim leg, well-balanced opening, not overly “distressed,” normal-sized pockets, etc. I don’t care if they screamed 2005, this was what I was used to. Sold. I’m sure I disappointed the guy with my non-fashion-forward taste, but if I’m paying more than $100 for casual pants, there’s no way in hell they’re going to look like leggings (another tragic fashion revival from my teens). At least he got his commission.

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