On Jeans & Trying to Expand My Horizons.

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I’ve been wanting to write a post on jeans for a while. On how I’m evolving away from skinny jeans. Ha. I guess that would qualify as wishful thinking. You see, it all started a few weeks ago when I saw the shot below, part of the “Fabulous At Every Age” series in Harper’s Bazaar. “I’ve been a skinny jean devotee for way too long,” I thought. “I must try harder to expand my horizons… with respect to jeans.”

several women in various types of jeans from Harper's Bazaar magazine
In Harper’s Bazaar April issue.

Most of my jeans are skinny. Skinny cropped or skinny full-length. I have one pair of bootcut. And a pair of white, straight-leg jeans. Most of the time, when I’m in pants, they’re jeans. And when I’m in jeans, they’re usually skinny. But every so often I try to shoe-horn myself out of the skinny jean rut.

In 2014 I read an article on how jeans were going out of style and wrote a post called The End of Jeans. In that post, I declared I was moving away from skinny jeans and hopefully away from low-rise. I envisioned myself, after a brief shopping interval, slouching around in a pair of high-rise, loose-fit, distressed jeans. Ha. Instead, I shopped until I nearly dropped. Found that high-rise jeans were indeed making a comeback; let’s all praise the denim gods on that one. And I went home with a new pair of high-rise skinny jeans.

In 2017, I read that numerous fashion prognosticators had been pronouncing for a couple of years that the skinny jean was dead. So I again attempted to expand my horizons, with respect to jeans. And look for a looser fit, maybe a cropped loose-fit. Ha. Ha. I wrote a post about that quest as well. But to sum up for you, I went looking for something like these, see below.

woman in distressed, ill-fitting jeans
Elly May Clampett has nothing on me.

Liz and I fell over laughing when we saw me in these. Laughter, guffaws, and not a few expletives. The expletives were from me; Liz doesn’t swear like I do. Yep, I went shopping for a loose-fit, possibly cropped, distressed jean and came home with the dark-wash, full-length, skinny jeans below. Even when you shop with a list unexpected things happen.

woman sitting in a red deck chair wearing Helmut Lang jacket, Gap short-sleeve tee, Paige High-rise jeans, Paul Green suede flats.
Sigh. Back in skinny land once more.

Then last year out of jean boredom, I tried to update my old Current Elliot bootcut jeans. I usually wear them with a short jacket and boots. But I tried them with my old Max Mara navy suit jacket, a white shirt, and my Stan Smith sneakers. Plus a silk scarf that I bought in Montreal in the early 2000s. I like this look. It updates the bootcut jeans a little, and gives me a chance to wear my MM jacket, and that sweet little scarf. And then, for a while, I confined my horizon expanding to looking for wide-leg, plaid, cropped pants. That didn’t pan out like I hoped either.

Max Mara jacket, Lafayette 148 shirt, Current Elliott jeans, Stan Smith sneakers, Holt Renfrew scarf.
My new-ish, old-ish look.

Which brings me to this year, to last week, and my ongoing quest to broaden my jean horizons. I spent an afternoon with Liz at Nordstrom to make a start on my spring shopping. I didn’t have a list. Instead, I just wanted to see what I could see, browse, and keep my options open. I thought I might find a bright suit, or a bright top or sweater (orange or red, maybe), or a jacket, and maybe something to expand my horizons with respect to jeans. I am nothing if not persistent, folks.

When I spied these Frame army-green, cropped pants on a mannequin, I loved them. But, sigh, they did not love me back.

First of all, as I have experienced in the past, they were much shorter on me than on the model above. Too short. And my ankles are much skinnier than the model shown here. See my Elly May look above.

I carry all of my extra weight above my hips; in fact, I don’t really even have hips. When a pair of these pants fits me in the waist, they are too baggy in the butt, and in the hip. They make me look even bigger around the middle than I am. In short, they draw attention to my weak point. Namely that middle-aged middle. They are simply the wrong proportion for my body.

Liz and I were disappointed with them. And she expostulated, “If you, as tall as you are, can’t wear these. And me, as short as I am, can’t wear them. Then who can?” “Good question,” I said.

But I think I have the answer. Besides all those tiny twenty-year-olds, I think anyone who has a trim waist can wear these. I don’t think you have to be skinny, just not apple-shaped like me. And not short-waisted with all of your weight above your hips and long skinny legs. Ha. That’s because these pants need a slim-fitting, tucked-in top, just like the model is wearing. You don’t want to wear a long, untucked top with them. The pockets will be hidden for one thing, and a loose top will add too much bulk to your upper half. And if you don’t have long legs, a long top over the cropped pant will make your legs look shorter. Really, a high-waisted pant with a top tucked in always lengthens the leg. Unless you’re me. In which case you want to avoid the tucked-in thing. At all costs.

You know, we all have our style challenges. And when we dress to suit our bodies, we minimize them. I try to wear narrow, but not tight, tops out over my jeans. Not long tops, just long enough to make my middle-age middle look like it’s not there. A few years ago I found a Rag and Bone tank that skimmed my hips and fell away from my body in the front. It was perfect for me. I rarely wear a top that is tucked in. Mostly because, as I said, I carry all my weight above my hips, and I am VERY short-waisted. 95% leg, as Hubby says. Tucked-in tops make me look like a ball on a stick. Seriously.

I wore a variation on this outfit to my book club supper last night.

Let’s go back to that shot from Harper’s Bazaar, shall we? And the “anti-skinny jeans” as they call them. Most of those looks I’d never wear. Except for the straight cut jeans on the left. Sofia Coppola looks lovely too, in her blazer, straight, cropped jeans, and cross-body bag. But then again, she always looks chic and polished. But the others look silly to me. Especially Gigi Hadid in her slouchy, faux “I’m just regular people” look. Especially since she has on bejewelled pumps, and I’m pretty sure that checked shirt is Burberry.

So, I’ve been foiled for now, my friends. But I’m sure that my quest for broader jean horizons will continue. Mostly because I’m getting tired of my skinny jean look, as much as I like it. I saw lots of different styles of jeans in Aritzia the other day, some high-waist, loose-fit Levis that I may go back and try. I’m a great believer in trying and trying and trying on. But I have to be in the right frame of mind. When I’m cranky I never buy anything. And our ongoing non-spring has definitely made me cranky.

Still, the writing is on the wall with respect to my search for wide-leg cropped pants that suit me. I’ve tried many, many pairs, and come to the conclusion that since I can’t change my body type I’ll have to abandon that quest. Similar to my search a few years ago to find boyfriend jeans that would stay up, and not slide down over my hips. Or where my hips would be if I had any. Ha.

You may have had very a different experience with expanding your jean horizons, and finding suitable wide-leg cropped jeans, or boyfriend jeans. This is just my experience, and my very non-expert opinion. The only thing I am an expert on is fitting my own body.

And as you can see, sometimes I’m a slow learner even then.

Let’s hear from you, my friends. Any jean conundrums in your life lately?

Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeThursday Favourite Things#ShareAllLinkup

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50 thoughts on “On Jeans & Trying to Expand My Horizons.”

  1. Exactly my experience…short body, long legs…was so happy when I found my first pair of lower waisted jeans back in the ’80’s…
    I have a pair of Paige denim “Hidden Hills “style that is a wide leg boot cut style that works and my white Gap “Real Sraight”
    are good …I have tried those wide leg crops many times and they just don’t work…

    1. I wore Paige Hidden Hills straight leg for a couple of years and then couldn’t find them anymore. I must try the agap ones you mention on my next foray to the malls. Thanks.

  2. Always find buying jeans a challenge and those wide leg cropped pants definitely need a shorter more fitted top to look good. I am also trying to break out from the skinny jean mode and for summer it is easier but in winter they are the best to wear with boots. I have a pair of skinny EF pants that are warm and are great when it’s really cold in winter but otherwise I have run out of ideas for winter pants wear.

  3. I love jeans but sometimes they’re hard work . So many pairs tried on & rejected . I like the cropped ones in the magazine best but would wear them a little shorter in summer . Skinny jeans don’t suit my body shape – long body & short legs . I recently bought some black denims , quite wide but straight & cropped which I’ve admired on others & have worn them with long black socks & black nubuck ankle boots . They seem to look ok with a three quarter length coat & long cowl neck jumper but a new silhouette takes some getting used to . It’s interesting to see you analyse the proportions that work for you . I just seem to look in the mirror & say ‘yes’ or more often ‘no’ without proper analysis .

    1. They are hard work sometimes… make that all the time. Unless you have a good salesperson who you can tell in detail what you want and she will say… “Oh, you need this pair or that pair.” I get so frustrated trying to interpret the description or the style name. Actually that’s why Nordstrom is always my first stop. Not because of the store but because of Liz. The black look you describe sounds very chic, Wendy. Next time post a picture, huh?

  4. I do love that photo of you in those cropped jeans. Jeans and I have had a tricky relationship since 1973 and I think I have finally won. Women’s jeans aren’t for me. I now shop in the men’s department of a certain European chain. Cheaper, simpler, straightforward. And no silly embroidery on the pockets. Buttons not zips. Proper pockets. I am now a chap. Bung ho!

  5. I am built similarly to you, and am also weary of skinny jeans. I just ordered, and now must return, two pair of wide legged crop pants from J Crew that got rave reviews. The only jean I have found that fits other than my old Madewell skinnies are the J Crew Vintage straight. They have been introducing them in various washes and hem finishes since I started watching them, and I have been pleased with how they look and wear. Boyfriends slide off me too, so frustrating to try and branch out and be foiled by my shape. You look fantastic in skinnies, so many people don’t!

  6. Ann in Missouri

    LOL! Oh, Lord! Which crowd / jeans to fit into?

    I’m SO NOT built like you. I fantasize about having your long legs. I’m 5’5″ and have “peasant legs.” i.e., thick knees and thick calves. So you can see how much I’d love it if 1970s flared or even 90s boot cup jeans made a serious comeback.

    My favoritest jeans in my closet are a pair of Levi 501s that I fringed the bottoms of three winters ago. If I were forced to travel in a single outfit for months carrying only a small backpack, I would wear those jeans every day. They just make me feel good and a little like Debbie Harry back in the day.

    And given my body shape, boyfriend jeans DO work for me.

    A final thought … white jeans have become a friend of mine. Didn’t think they would, but they snuggled up and said, “I like you. Please like me back!” I gave them a chance, and they work with a sweatshirt or a faux Chanel tweed jacket.

    Then, of course, there are black jeans in any shape and length that never leave the rotation in any season. Because black.

    You do you. I’ll do me. And we’ll be fine. 🙂

    Ann

    P.S. I’m back home after wintering for three months in New Orleans. Oh, my gawd! That’s a whole other story. 🙂

    1. It seems that most of us love our bottom half and hate our top half or the other way around. I always yearned for a long trim waist. Or even waist at all.
      P.S.Welcome home, Ann. I’d love to hear that “whole other story. 🙂

  7. Hey Sue,
    I think we have similar body shapes…it is frustrating. I have had success with J Crew and Liverpool. I think the boyfriend jeans look attractive in pictures but on me forget it!! I have worn the same black and blue jeans so many times they are faded. Time to update the jeans and the style. It never ends eh!
    Robin

    1. I tried J Crew a couple of years ago and couldn’t find a pair to suit me. Partly that was because after a couple of pairs, I gave up. The sales staff were really good at pointing where stuff could be found but not helpful at all. Funnily enough that location is now closed.

  8. I have a completely different body type that poses fitting problems. All my weight is in the tummy and hip area, with thin and rather short legs. Jeans that fit in the waist and hip area usually have very full legs which look strange on me! Also, I do not have a butt! So I usually stay away from jeans. I bought a nice pair of black pants NYDJ that fit really well due to the spandex content. Not jeans, but then, it is too hot here in Florida to wear jeans most of the year! I do wear a lot of capris since it is too hot.

    1. I’ve had NYDJ pants, slim leg but not skinny at the bottom. Great with boots. But of course jeans that work with boots … are not what you need at all:)

  9. I too tried the wide cropped look— looked nifty in the dressing room fueled by oooh I am trying something new!! To spouse kindly enquiring why my trousers looked like that. New look I said!! But lasted only two outings. I embrace my yoga jeans — dark wash skinny sigh.

  10. Loved this post! I am built like you if you exaggerate each feature. (Really skinny legs and ankles, really short waisted, really carrying everything in my middle). I never have and never will look good in any jeans or pants that aren’t very slim to skinny. I’ve finally realized that trying to change that is as useless as trying to change the colors that look good on me. I’ve found my silhouette and now focus on finding other ways to look updated. You always look wonderful! Are you sure you want to fix something that isn’t broken?

  11. Not tall. Not thin. Not worn jeans for many a decade as I’ve never found a pair that suits me. As I am already “cropped” in height, that style is not a good look for me in any fabric. The HB photo can only be described as a fail if they were trying to convince one to change their style. Sophia Coppola is the only one in that photo who came away with any dignity, though the straight look wasn’t totally horrible. You look great in skinny jeans and the new/old boot cut, but I understand you’re wanting a little change, so best of luck with the hunt.

  12. Hi Sue,
    Thank-you, for your posts. I have not chimed in so far, but I find your perspectives and introspection entertaining. And, I love it that you continue to strive to look good in our clothing! It gives me ideas, and support in my own journey.
    One thought that constantly comes up for me is, ‘I am not 20 any more’; not even close! I have pretty well given up on finding age appropriate, fun to wear clothing here in North America. Occasionally I find a boutique that inspires me to shop. Some shops in Italy cater to fashion conscious, mature women. It sounds like a long way to go for a shopping trip, but the clothes are classic-great! I feel that I can wear them year in and year out. It goes without saying that Italian style is years ahead of N.A.. A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of cropped skinny jeans and a pair of cropped, green, ‘baggy’ pants. The cropped baggy pants came with a short top. They look good! I too have to carefully watch my expanding waistline; the cropped baggy pants are snug in the waist. So far, so good. Well, not 20 something fashion model good, but good enough for me. ?

    1. I was so heartened by what I saw on the streets of Rome last year. Ordinary women older than me looking polished and pulled together and modern, but not as if they were trying to be young.

  13. I’ve never been a big fan of skinny jeans, so I don’t have too many. I do have the expanding middle thing, so high waists are not my friend, mid-rise is perfect. You may do well with a less full leg (straight?) since your legs are so slender. I’ve recently found some modified joggers (cargo style/not elasticized all the way around the ankle) that work well. Best of luck!

  14. I really like you in your skinny jeans. I am not quite 5’3” and yes, frustrating as I have an hourglass shape and get the waist gap. Also I have to have a lot hemmed. I have liked the cut off the bottom look, saves me $$ and you inspired me to cut off my wide leg white jeans. Unfortunately I gained weight and they don’t fit!!! Goals though. I really liked that look and not my norm at all. Watching the snow melt today. We got the Texas dust with this last snow storm and now my windows are filthy! My parents have been without power going on 5 days now. Spring has to arrive soon?

    1. I tried some faded, raw hem jeans the other day, and decided that I will cut off my old Citizens of Humanity jeans this summer. They are pretty faded and almost on their last season, so I’ve nothing to lose.
      P.S. My goodness, where do your parents live? We were without power after a huge ice storm years ago… for nine days… in January. It was NOT fun.

  15. I love this post! We share so many similarities. I’m 5’9” with really long legs. I live in jeans, but finding good ones is the bane of my fashion existence. I’m a little tired of skinnies, too. Bootcut and slim straights are looking good to me now, but getting them to fit is such an effort. I laughed out loud about your “ball on a stick” description. Thanks to menopause, I now have “cantaloupe belly” (looks like a cantaloupe half is glued on just below my belly button)! I’m fine from the front, but the side view…. Adding the bulk of a thick jeans zipper placket doesn’t help. Pull on brands like Jag are too short. Keep us updated on your progress, knowing that we’re laughing and commiserating with you!

  16. I love jeans! How can we not love jeans! Blue jeans, black jeans, ripped jeans – well not those so much. Now about expanding horizons – my only stylistic expanding horizons these days have to do with my widening ass – but getting back to your point, I can’t say that I care for those cropped leg deals that, as you say, have and Ellie Mae Clampett look. (Great for a laugh though!)

    I like Jean shorts, too, though I’m not sure I will be able to get away with them this summer, or many more summers here after. Nevertheless, denim in all her age-inspiring variations (including jeans jackets) are pretty enduring in their wearability and versatility if you ask me.

  17. This is for Susan — oh you lucky, long-legged thing, you!

    Maybe we should get together. At 4’11” tall (on a big hair day) and with lilliputian legs, what I have to cut off on the bottom of even petite jeans (or roll up… and roll up… and roll up) is pretty laughable. Perhaps you could use my remnants?

    ?

  18. I find the wide leg cropped pants look silly – on anyone. I really don’t understand that look. So many people wear skinny jeans and just don’t look good. But, you look great in both skinny jeans and boot cut – stick with what looks good on you.

  19. I still love my skinny jeans mainly because I find them easy to style. I also have Gap girlfriend jeans which I find a better alternative to boyfriend jeans as they are a slim fit through the leg. I would love to find some wide leg jeans that look good but have yet to find any that I would wear out of the dressing room. I guess it is a trend I will have let pass me by. I will enjoy it on others.

      1. patricia blaettler

        I second ‘girlfriend jeans’ from the Gap. My 20 yr. old daughter said “where did you get those???” I love them; easy to wear, kind of on-trend.

  20. At this age, I prefer to be easy and just stick to what looks the best and is the most comfortable on me. You look good in skinny, both ankle and longer, and also boot cut. Change things up with the colors and washes if you want, which is what I do.

  21. My daughter got me started on Paige Nellie coulotte jeans. I’m medium height so they are not real cropped on me but they are wide leg. I think they are terrific!

  22. Hi, first time posting on here….but have just read and really enjoyed this post you’ve wrote for us.
    I am a similar shape to you, but think I carry a tiny bit more weight on my tummy….needless to say buying jeans is a nightmare !
    I have a couple of pairs of skinny jeans and one pair of boot cut and like you really feel I need to up my game and change my look as I keep hearing the mantra ‘change is good’ !!! But I think you fabulous in the jeans you wear and I think the ones I have are the best I can do ( under the circumstances of my shape !) Have tried crops plus 7/8th length ones and feel that I am wearing jeans that have shrank in the wash ….oh dear …do I keep looking ?

    1. So nice to hear from you, Karen. I love first-time commenters. Several of the cropped pants I’ve tried this past year have had that shrunk in the wash look. They hit at just the wrong place for me. It’s so easy to tell if pants should be shorter, not so easy when you need the extra length. So I unzipped the pants and pulled them down a little to see if that small bit of extra langth made a difference and it did. So I had both pairs let down, just an inch which made a surprising difference. Of course if they’re “raw edge” jeans that wouldn’t work.

  23. I love your points! When skinny jeans came out I was sure fashion had made a big mistake. Alas, a fashion colleague told me, “If anyone should be wearing skinny jeans, it’s you.” I knew she was right. Like you, I try other styles but your shape is my shape and it’s challenging. I do wear flares and boyfriend jeans, some straight. I get bored with skinny ones but I do realize they are a classic in my wardrobe. Loved your post!

  24. Karen Erickson

    Skinny jeans are my go to but I am so tired of jeans bagging out in the butt on the first day of wearing. What skinny jeans did you bring home in this post?

    1. I was foiled in my search when I wrote this post. I have two pairs of Paige high-rise skinny jeans which I still love, and a pair of AG as well. But I recently found a pair of Frame bootcut which totally suit me.

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