This post originally appeared on TueNight.
When I first heard the term “skinny jeans,” my thought was, “oh great, not-for-me jeans.”
I’m not and never have been skinny — or even thin, for that matter. And while I’ll admit that there are times when I’d have liked to weigh less than I have — often for vanity and confidence but more as I’ve gotten older for health and for the joy of my knees not hurting — I’ve never aspired to skinny.
I’m not a fan of the word “skinny.” It describes what I perceive as an extreme state, that in many cases even applies to people who don’t have access to enough food. It’s a strange position, to want to look like what skinny connotes to me in fashion terms. There are many people who are skinny not by choice.
Seeking it? No thanks.
Also, any fashion option marketed as “skinny” probably wasn’t meant for me anyway. The jeans themselves were built for skinny, right? They certainly weren’t intended for the over-size-12 crowd, so I’d just be over here, in the curvy bootcut section.
Then, on a watershed day in some chain store’s fluorescent-lit dressing room, I tried some on. And they worked for me — incredibly well.
I had to eat my not-skinny words.
The fashion magazines tell me that I am an apple shape. I have thinner legs, zero butt and an ample midsection — the kind they helpfully tell me will contribute to my early demise because the fat is unhelpfully smooshing my heart. Regarding the butt, I belong to what I call the flat ass society (FAS for short), which my sisters who know what it’s like to be not-at-all-about-that-bass will understand. The impact skinny jeans had on my body were what I often seek out when trying on pants of any kind: The slim cut with some stretch fit nicely to my legs — not ballooning out and making it difficult to tell where my waist ended and my ankles began. The thighs didn’t gap out. And most wondrously of all, they gave me the optical illusion of an ass.
That was about five years ago now, and I still have that pair, plus several more, including some brightly-colored options that cheer me up on dreary days. The cornerstone of my collection is a pair from Banana Republic that I would wear every day if I could, one of the most comfortable staples I have ever owned that I have requested to be buried in if they’re still holding up when it comes to that.
So here’s the secret that fashion marketers may or may not want you to know, because it sure confused me — you don’t have to be skinny to wear skinny jeans. Also, they will not make you look skinny if you are not, because they are skinny jeans and not magical shrinking jeans. I was a size 14 when I first brought them into my life, I’m a 12 now, and I’m still solid-gold me. The bottom line was that I liked how I looked in them, a not-skinny woman in unfortunately-named jeans. And really, all label hatred aside, that’s generally what I want when I get dressed: To feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, to feel cute, even, to myself. Sue me and my hypocritical skinny jeans.
The name still makes me cringe, much like the term “boyfriend jeans” (because some of us have girlfriends, or boys and girls, or just friends, and don’t care if an article of clothing looks like it belonged to any dude, ever.) I wish they were called something else, but they are not.
So I’m stuck with pants whose name I hate, and the vague outlines of my principles in my mirror — along with an ass that might be an optical illusion, but still looks cute in jeans.