For our inaugural post on our brilliant blog, I invite you and all of our readers to get into my pants.
Last week, as I was attempting to hitch up the horribly fitting jeans that I've been wearing since about 8 weeks after Maddsy's birth [She’s now 7 months old.], I began an internal war with myself over my horrid, horrid pants. I know they're awful, and I'm always a little ashamed when I put them on, but I wear them all the time (in fact, I bought two pair of them because I so hate shopping and am so confused about how I feel about them) even though they only work against me in the looks department. They are what my brilliant friend refers to as "butt dump thuggin'" and, even when fresh out of the dryer, make it look as if I am smuggling multiple colons' worth of shit in my britches. I am fully aware of how ugly they are, and yet I still wear them because they're utlitarian (cheap! available! comfortable! cover my shameful bits!) and most of my days are consumed with childcare and all its attendant errands and tasks, none of which invite or foster attractiveness.
So, as I pondered my butt-dump-thuggers the other day I found myself angrily arguing against those would insist that I wear flattering jeans about the very nature of what is flattering and why it is important for me to have well-fitting clothes. Questions like these ran through my head as I searched for my ass among the abundance of fabric covering it: Must skinny be a synonym of flattering? What if I like my butt-dump-thuggers? Am I truly required to be attractive all the time, and, if so, by whom and for whom? Are my ugly jeans a subversive act rather than an act of laziness? In other words, is there more virtue in my butt-dump-thuggers than in the effort it would require to find better looking alternatives?
And, because if I knew I wouldn't even be wearing the BDT's in the first place, what ARE the better looking alternatives?
I don't think skinny = fashionable and/or flattering, but I do think clothes that fit well, no matter what the size, are flattering. And we all have to figure out if we want our clothes to be only utilitarian, or if we enjoy playing with a personal style. If you seem to fall on the utilitarian side of things, which makes me wonder then, why aren't you wearing yoga pants? Or cute, old school track pants? Pajama pants, even? (For the record, it is not okay to wear pajamas pants outside of the house.) No matter what you say, I don't believe you when you say that jeans that hang and sag are comfortable. They are not. We have deeper reasons here.
Which brings me to your soul searching questions ...
1. Am I truly required to be attractive all the time, and by whom and for whom?
2. Are my ugly jeans a subversive act rather than an act of laziness?
Also, no. Subversion requires fighting some sort of standard. People wear ugly clothes all the time. In fact, people wearing pretty or nice clothes actually seems to be more of a subversive act these days, if anything.
Personally, I used to dress really well, if at times, better than most. Living in New York does wonderful things to advance a girl's sense of style. Once I had kids, I had to really modify what dressing well meant. I'm a good twenty pounds heavier, and my expensive jeans/MAC counter addiction can no longer be supported by student loans. Also, running after kids. On the floor with kids. Filthy, filthy kids. Ass crack jeans and spine bending heels no longer will suffice. It took me a long time to find my way out of the foggy haze of early motherhood, but when I did, I found that dressing well in flattering clothes really made me feel better about me. Much like working out and drinking lots of water, dressing well makes me recognize that I have a body that I deserve to feel good in, even if it doesn't meet certain (impossible) standards.
I've adopted a very Stacey and Clinton style, and it works really well for me, and I dare say, works for everyone, because, clearly What Not to Wear is always right. Skinny jeans, special edition Chuck Taylors, some sort of shirt easy to nurse in, and a sassy cardigan. The occasional scarf 'cause I'm cold. The uniform looks good, it's super-easy, and it literally takes me three minutes to get dressed in the morning. And more importantly, I feel good about the way I look. Not sexy, or stylish, but comfortable in my body.
3. In other words, is there more virtue in my butt-dump-thuggers than in the effort it would require to find better looking alternatives?
Virtue is a tough word here. Let me ask you this: Do you honestly not feel good when you are wearing clothes that look nice on you? Do you find dressing well is loaded with too many media triggers (skinny, pretty, virgin/slut)?
After a surprisingly long think, I am prepared to answer.
I realized that by "virtue" I mean something more intellectual(ized) than gendered or media-driven. It's just so much easier to couch rebellion in terms of feminism if I'm going to make myself believe it, especially since fashion, dress, and bodily presentation are topics so ripe for feminist critique. Upon some reflection (in a bathtub with some serious bubbles, no less), I realize that I feel that passively (unconsciously and purposefully?) dressing badly makes me feel more virtuous because I then get to say that I am not a person who thinks about or cares about fashion because I have other, better, more urgent, and more intellectual things to think about. Which is bullshit, because I obsess all day long about my ugly goddamn pants instead of those fancy intellectual things that I envision myself thinking about. I mean, the constant thought of "My pants are dumb" must be on the lowest rung of Bloom's Taxonomy just as those who knowingly wear dumb pants must be destined for the ugliest circle of Hell. I tell myself that smart girls don't care about fashion. But, they do! You do! I DO! I CARE ABOUT MY PANTS!
After realizing this, I then thought back to times when I actually felt good about my clothes and how I lived and worked in them. I was surprised to find that those times had not as their commonality my body size, income size, age, body image, or even wardrobe; I was equally satisfied wearing overalls nearly every day of all 4 years of undergrad as I was wearing pricey designer stuff during my last years of teaching. What's felt best for me sartorially is having it figured out. I loved knowing what to wear and how to wear it without having to think about it. I want that again. You call what you wear a uniform, and I want one for myself. The current uniform of BDT's, tank top, and sweatshirt is utilitarian, but it's distracting even me with its Seattle stay-at-home-mom banal defeatism. It's time to find a new uniform.
So, we have a new dilemma of finding that uniform. Talk to me of skinny jeans and sassy cardigans, my mom jeans muse. Also - you can wear Chucks with skinny jeans? Don't you look like Sid Vicious? Or do you look like Sid Vicious in a good way?
I think you've got it. Dressing well for you is figuring out what works best for you. And that is different things at different times. I have a knee-length denim/tank top period of my life that I just loved. Not exactly fashion-forward, or even interesting, but for whatever reason, that summer I wore that uniform every day and I loved it. It felt good on me.
I really believe that all jeans must be skinny jeans and I have yet to be shown otherwise. Jean trends must be followed. I don't think I look like Sid Vicious when I wear my retro Chucks with them (low top, of course). I think I probably look like a suburban mom who once had Sid Vicious poster on her wall when she was fourteen? Other moms do the Chuck thing, too. I have been toBrooklyn and seen our future and well, actually, that's not what they are wearing in Brooklyn, but maybe in the Lower East Side Chucks are still cool.
These are the latest jeans I've bought that have changed my life. Bend over all you want, no ass crack with a rise like that, mama.
Pair it with a scarf, any scarf really, and I am good to go. I'm not saying that this is what you should wear, but we lead pretty similar lifestyles, and it will get you in a good place until you figure things out more specifically you.
So, I guess the Zen saying that when the student is ready the teacher will appear really is true. This officially means that you have to call me "Grasshopper" now.
My current plan is to 1) Stop underthinking my clothing choices, an unusual resolution for someone who generally overthinks everything, including my underthinking. 2) Take myself shopping, a chore so daunting that I generally require multiple texts from home both demanding that I not slink home empty-handed and featuring several photographs of my adorable girls to remind me of who looks up to me. To get this done, I may actually schedule biweekly or monthly shopping outings the same way I schedule other odious tasks like cleaning our spiteful fish's bowl. 3) Report back with future updates, photos, and, let's just run with the giddiness of me getting truly ahead of myself, ideas of my own.
To address the hidden bomb in 2), I was thinking about my girls and my clothing today. I want my girls to be proud of me and to respect me. Of course, this respect will always come with some caveats such as "I really admire Mom, but her inability to hear an unintended double entendre without snickering is super embarrassing," but I truly do not want their admiration to be tempered with the diminution "... too bad she couldn't get her shit together enough to dress herself." Livy's only 3 1/2, so she can't have caught on to my slovenliness yet (crossed fingers), and Maddsy's only 7 months old, so she's just learning what pants are. No permanent damage done yet, but I certainly don't want them to remember me as a saggy-butted slattern. At least, not outside of the home...
High-five, my smart and sassy friend. I know I've said this to so many others, but I'll proudly say it to you now: Thanks for talking me out of my pants.