Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Swift Kick in the Pants

In an old episode of Sex and the City, cosmopolitan attorney Miranda invites her bartender boyfriend Steve to a formal event. "So you'll have to wear a suit," she says. "You do have a suit...right?" Having only recently started dating each other, it was a valid inquiry.

"Of course I have a suit," Steve replies. "It's gold."
"Gold?" Miranda asks.
"Yeah...like, corduroy," Steve says, as if implying something obvious.

At this point Miranda's facial expression registers the knowledge that her new boyfriend may not be as up to the standards of current fashion as she'd hoped.

This is exactly the emotion I felt yesterday, except I wasn't judging my significant other. Rather, I was looking in the mirror.

Before heading to the grocery I threw on a favorite pair of jeans and t-shirt. A cursory glance in the full-length mirror caused me to do a double-take. Hmmm...something's weird, I thought. Turning, looking over my shoulder at my backside, turning back around, I scan myself from all angles. Did I shrink? Are the pants too long? I roll them once; no, no, not that. They're not dirty, or wrinkled, or on backwards. They still fit, I don't have muffin top. What the heck? 

I ask my husband. He looks at me suspiciously, trying to guess what underlying issue I'm secretly asking him to dispel, a la do these make my butt look big? "They're fine," he says dismissively.

Finally it dawns on me. These jeans are old. Not in a broken-in Levi's button-fly 501 blues way, but in a fodder for an SNL skit way. Not by any means "mom jeans"; I mean, they're not high wasted, pleated front, and peg bottomed, but they are distinctly of an era past, when denim was faded...really faded. And very evenly colored. I remember that they were deemed "boyfriend cut" by the catalog, but I can assure you that no boyfriend would wear these jeans. I can't remember exactly when I bought them, but I can narrow it down to when I was still single, and I've been married for nine years.

As a means of secondary confirmation I posed a question on Facebook: How old is too old for jeans...style-wise?

Most answers were noncommittal (I'm assuming my friends didn't want to insult me), and a few tried to be funny by referencing designer brands that were de rigueur in middle school (Gitano, I'm looking at you).

When one high school classmate suggested I post a picture on myself wearing the pants so everyone could vote, I panicked. As tempting as it was to relive the teenage experience of having classmates judge my clothing choices again, I declined this option. It occurred to me that had I worn 10-year-old jeans to high school, I would have been laughed right out of the cafeteria.

How did this happen to me? I've always had an interest in, and sense for, current fashion trends. Even when I didn't have money to spend on nicer clothes, I still knew what was hip and I knew what I WOULD buy if I could. I watched Style With Elsa Klensch for 15 years, dammit! But somehow these jeans escaped all of my periodic clothes-purging marathons (probably because I was wearing them each time).

Now that I'm 40, I feel like I need to pay more attention to not falling in ruts. I don't want to be that woman who's 45 and still dressing like she's 25 because that's when she feels she looked her best, but in the end she just looks sadly trapped in the past. Just because something fits, it shouldn't necessarily be worn in public.

(For a glimpse at a pair of jeans I will never...ever...ever get rid of, read I Love the Smell of Bleached Denim in the Morning )


  1. Good post. It's a tough middle ground in our early 40's. We're nowhere near old enough for Talbots, but it's a bit of a stretch to pull off Forever 21. It seems like retailers expect us to just quietly surrender to frumpy middle age with something from Sears, designed to make us look like one of those women in a commercial for cleaning products. It's really easy to just avoid shopping altogether, and to one day suddenly realize you've been wearing the same outdated wardrobe for years.

  2. As the shopping expert that I am I looked very closely at your jeans and they are just fine. They could maybe use an accesory like one of the skinny glitter 80's belts that are TOTALLY back in style now! Maybe you still have one in your closet! And just for the record it's still a bit hard to tell when we can't see the top view of what you are wearing with your high school jeans. It's all about the outfit as a whole. For all I know you are wearing a "WHAM" T-shirt. I love that you blogged about it. You are funny. Rock on jeans!