I tend to stick with what works in the derriere department. A few years ago, I clearly remember buying two size twelve pairs of jeans at Old Navy that were comfortable and nice-looking. Now, they’re getting holes in them.
I’m a mission-based shopper. I go solo because other people’s opinions only lengthen the time I must spend in the hellish labyrinth of women’s retail.
It turns out the Old Navy in center city Philadelphia has three enormous shelving islands stacked with jeans. And beyond that, a whole wall covered in folded denim.
And have you heard? Old Navy jeans come in “a perfect fit for every body.” Get ready to calculate the volume of your ass and the vector of your thighs, multiplied by every embarrassing stereotype of the modern woman.
The wall of jeans was divided into two halves, labeled “Skinny” and “Boot Cut.” Then I realized that each of these areas had three sections: Diva, Flirt, and Sweetheart. (How ironic that my writing career doesn’t give me the funds to shop at Express, where pants are called the Editor and the Columnist.)
So is choosing among Diva, Flirt and Sweetheart merely a matter of your personality? (Really capturing the full range of womanhood here, aren’t you, Old Navy?)
I read clues as to which pants I should try.
Diva: “If your waist, hips and thighs form a straight line.”
Flirt: “If you’re straight from waist to hip with fuller thighs.”
Sweetheart: “For curvier shapes with a defined waist.”
But wait, there’s more.
The Super-Skinny Rockstar is “Super stretchy and universally flattering.”
Then I noticed something else. Each pair of jeans was also designated “tall,” “regular” or “short,” piled in no particular order.
To the consternation of the fashion industry, my waist, hips and thighs have never been a straight line. But could I pull off the Flirt? Or was the Sweetheart my fate? Could the Rockstar truly fit me, a chubby journalist with chronic back pain and a fondness for Philip Glass? Since I’m just under five feet, four inches, “tall” pants’ hems puddle on the floor. But sometimes “regular” ones do too, while “short” pants hover awkwardly at my ankles.
I called MIT for help. To figure out how many pairs of jeans I would have to try on, I gave them all the variables to combine: Skinny, Boot Cut, Diva, Flirt, Sweetheart, Rockstar, Tall, Regular, Short, dark wash, light wash, stupid stylish fake-weathered holes and no stupid stylish fake-weathered holes, each type in sizes from 00 to 18. Their best mathematicians are still running the numbers but the possible combinations are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions, and Syria will turn into a commune of flower girls before one woman could try them all on.
But the worst blow of all was the picture that showed three ladies modeling the Diva, Flirt and Sweetheart styles under the “every body” tagline. I looked at it for a long time, trying to discern any differences in the three sets of denim-clad legs and therefore any clues as to which formula I should try. The perfect jeans for every body, it seems, as long as your mother was a gazelle and you have thighs the length of an Olympian’s ski.
When I staggered to the check-out, half the afternoon was gone and I had two pairs of jeans on my arm. I offer these images as vital clues to any woman who might venture to Old Navy for jeans. I set out to find pants to fit my body, but I had no idea how many bodies I actually have.
It turns out that I am a size 16 regular Super Skinny Rockstar.
And a size 12 short Boot Cut Sweetheart.
UPDATE: Well, I certainly didn’t imagine when I wrote this little treatise on jeans that it’d be one of the top-trafficked posts in the whole nine-year history of this blog. Clearly, a lot of people need support on this particular sartorial journey. Join the fray in the comments, or if you liked what you read here, you’ll probably like my current blog, Fiction Need Not Apply.