Archive | November, 2010

I can’t believe it, but I’m wearing…Mommy Jeans

19 Nov

I am looking at myself in the mirror of my bedroom, wearing jeans with a tummy panel. You might be asking, what is a tummy panel? I am asking myself, how did it come to this?

Here’s how it started. As you know there is still a shortage of well-fitting jeans in my closet. Paradoxically, even though my waistline has permanently expanded, most of my jeans are still loose in the waist, and sit low-slung on the hips. We all know what low-fitting jeans mean on the playground – too much is revealed when lifting children up on the play structure or bending over.  I wear a camisole on top almost every day for more coverage, but it is impossible to shake the feeling that I am just one step away from a wardrobe malfunction.

So my search for jeans continues. I challenge myself to find a pair of jeans that fits well off the rack, without alterations. On my last trip to Bloomingdale’s, I came across the brand “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans”. At the time, I passed up because I didn’t want to believe I was a really candidate for Mommy Jeans.  Now that it’s to revisit that prejudice. Turns out, “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans” cost a pretty penny – well over $100.  So I decide to conduct a broader search from the comfort of my own computer.

I am a fan of online shopping, simply because it’s available when I can’t get to a real store. Of course, it’s no substitute for touching and trying on real clothes. But I don’t want to wait until the next time I get a couple of free hours to browse the mall by myself.  (And I have written off clothes shopping with kids – my last mall outing lasted about 45 minutes and ended with my daughter arching her back and saying she “wanna get out, wanna get out” of the stroller after she finished the cookie I bought her.)

So after the kids are tucked away in bed one night, I log on to Amazon, where a search for “flattering jeans” turns up several options including a brand called “Miraclebody”. I am instantly skeptical of anything promising miracles.  The whole idea of “making over” your body with clothes feels a little desparate. Still, the online reviews are good, and they meet my target price range (I find a pair on sale for under $100 – no tax and free shipping) so I decide to give them a try.

I bought this pair of Miraclebody "mommy jeans" on Amazon.

In the world of online shopping, you buy first, and ask questions later. Since I expect there’s a good chance I will be sending them back, I go ahead and order a few other pairs that come up – including the Levi’s 512 “instantly slimming jeans” (with no tummy panel).  The box arrives about a week later, but sits unopened for many days. After all, trying on jeans with a tummy panel is kind of a buzz kill. I can’t decide if I want to like them, or or just send them back on principle. Finally, I put them on. The “tummy panel” is just an extra layer of elastic fabric sewn inside the front of the pants, but it’s completely invisible from outside. It makes me think of the bands you can wear in pregnancy to hold up your belly. I’m pretty sure I’m fine line away from wearing a girdle.

I ask my husband’s opinion about the jeans.  (I don’t mention the tummy panel.)  “Which ones do you think look better?” I ask as I model them one after the other. He glances over and shrugs, saying they both look the same. It’s true, it’s hard to tell the difference between them – same dark wash, same fit – high waist, fitted in the hips and thigh and a straight leg. “Which ones feel better?” He asks.  I must admit, it’s the Miraclebody.  They are made of thick but soft fabric with enough stretch to hug my curves. They easily cover the midsection, and I can comfortably sit and bend. However, since the Levi’s 512’s are half the price, I also decide to keep a pair in capri length (good for summer).

Now comes the most annoying part of online shopping – sending stuff back. Amazon tries to make it really easy – it’s a completely self-service process, no questions asked. Still, I need to wrap up the unwanted jeans in their original package, print a form, tape up the package, and get to the post office. Just one more thing to put on my to-do list. The rejected pants sit in a pile on my closet floor for a few days, until I finally get tired of stepping over them.  It takes me a while to find packaging tape, but after that the process is pretty straightforward – the online portion only requires logging in, clicking on the stuff I am returning, and printing a label. That part is easy because my computer is connected to a printer, but I imagine anyone who does not have a printer at home would be very annoyed that return labels aren’t already included in the package.

Then the package rolls around the trunk of my car for a week or two, until I finally make the time to stop in the post office. I would love to drop it in the blue mail box on the corner, but it’s against anti-terrorist regulations. Since 9/11, you must bring packages weighing over 13 oz to a post office in person. (Seriously, why 13 oz? Is that how much the package weighed that had the suspected Anthrax in it a few years ago?) One time, I ignored this silly rule and dropped the package in there anyway, my postal carrier returned it in person,  sternly pointing out out that I had broken postal regulations. It made me wish that Amazon shipped via UPS – a company which has no problem with packages being left in any drop box, regardless of weight.

Is there anyone that likes going into the post office? Parking is inconvenient and it has the efficiency and cheerfulness of – well – a government bureaucracy. At least I have a time-saving tip up my sleeve: if your package is already stamped or pre-paid, like mine is,  you can skip the line! I learned this from a postal employee after standing in line for 20 minutes with a prepaid box under my arm. The lady that helped me said, “You didn’t have to stand in line for this – next time just walk up and hand it to anyone at the counter.”   So that’s exactly what I do.  I ignore the dirty looks of the people waiting in line who wonder what am I getting away with.

As for the mommy jeans now hanging in my closet, well, I am still ambivalent about them. They fit great, and so far they are holding up well. Still, there is something depressing about wearing jeans with a tummy panel. It’s not quite like wearing adult diapers, but there is that same feeling of geriatric un-sexiness. The high waist is functional, but it also starts to feel bulky when I’m sitting down. Also, I don’t like the stitching on the rear pockets – I think the curvy pattern only enlarges (rather than minimizes) the view from the rear.

A view of the tummy panel inside the Miraclebody jeans.

Probably the more exciting discovery here is the Levi’s 512’s. They have already earned a few compliments from other moms – feel great – and for $40, it’s a pair I’d buy again as a basic, sturdy and comfortable playground jean.

These levi's were a great find for summer. (Don't know too many moms wearing capris with 5 inch platform sandals though...)

The more I shop Amazon, the more I like it – they sell diapers, obscure cell batteries for toys, and of course books, electronics, bedding, and just about any other shopping category you can think of.  Now that I have shelled out $80 for a year’s worth of free 2-day shipping, I shop there more than ever – for my household and for birthday presents to send out of town.  When it comes to shopping for clothes, though, Amazon’s biggest problem may well be its wealth of options; it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and after a while it’s hard to tell one pair from another. In the store, I’d try on ten pairs of pants and come away with one; online, that’s just not feasible. There are only so many mommy jeans that I am willing to try (and return) before I throw up my hands and just go back to trying on jeans at the mall.  At least at the mall, even if I strike out with trying on clothes, I can at least pick up some french bread or a new lip gloss as a consolation prize. When I strike out online, all I am left with is one more trip to the post office.

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Hunting for jeans

4 Nov

Is my body really that unusual, or does everyone else just have a smaller, flatter butt than I do?

This is the question I have to ask myself after my latest attempt to shop for jeans.  Now granted, I have raised my own standards – I will settle for nothing less than 1) well-fitting, 2) comfortable, and 3) flattering jeans. These need to be workhorse pants, able to stand up to everything that motherhood throws at you –  food stains, repeated trips down a dusty slide, and the constant bending over without revealing too much in the plumber’s crack area.  Oh, and I don’t want to spend a fortune for a pair of pants that will be lucky to surive more than a few seasons.

As luck would have it, I finally saved enough points on my credit card points for $250 at Bloomingdales. First stop: Bloomingdales Stanford Shopping Center. I go straight to the “premium denim” section and grab a handful of jeans that look good on the hanger.  Same problem every time: they won’t fit over my hips (and if they do, there is a huge gap in the waist). I guess I have what they call a curvy figure. Exasperated, I consult the sales guy – who prides himself on knowing his designers inside and out. He suggests the Joe’s Jeans in Honey, which do fit better than the others but rest so far below by navel that I feel like I’m going to audition for an Aerosmith video. I’m generally a fan of Joe’s Jeans (my current go-to pair is the Socialite cut) but I decide that I can do better.

Expanding my search, I decide to use up a block of precious babysitting time to trek north to the Bloomingdale’s in San Francisco Shopping Center. There is something about free money that makes me a more adventurous shopper, I bravely browse rack after rack of the “in” jeans right now – skin tight spandex jeans which go by the cozy name of “denim leggings”.  It’s my day to be open-minded, right?  So I take a few into the fitting room, thinking, maybe I could pull these off with a tunic-length top to cover the rear? After just a few unsuccessful tries to zip them up, one pair finally cooperates and I reflect on what I see in the mirror. There is no need to be self deprecating here, but one word comes to mind – bulge. Now mind you, I take pilates classses once or twice a week, and feel pretty good about the shape I’m in. Dieting and losing weight is not an option for me. I realize that denim leggings are just the next generation of skin-tight Jordache jeans of the 80’s. I avoided those then for the same reason – they make women with normal bodies feel fat.

denim leggings make women with normal bodies feel fat

In case anyone hasn't seen the latest trend in denim - here it is: Jean leggings (I'm told they are also called "Jeggings")

After the shock wears off, I realize I need to rethink my strategy.  Back to browsing the racks, I finally make it to the sale section (conveniently hidden way in the back of the store).  Instead of looking for the needle in a haystack, I pick only based on fabric and color, and ignore the size on the label. Instead, I eyeball it. Do those pants look like they will fit over my hips? Great, let’s go.

This story has a happy ending. The secret is, Alterations. I found two pairs of jeans that passed the feel-good test when I put them on, had enough stretch to facilitate bending and sitting comfortably, and flattered my front and back sides. I pinched the gaping waistband with my finger in order to verify that the waist would sit correctly (not too low) if taken in.  (There is nothing worse than sitting in the sandbox with my daughter only to realize that my rear cleavage is showing.)

Still, because they are on sale, I am spending $100 on a pair of pants (including cost of alterations) that feel like they were made for me. It’s certainly not a bargain, but guess which pants I now wear more than any others? Yep, the pants that I altered just for my proportions – they look good, feel good, and welcome my body when I put them on.  I wear them every week – and even though they get plenty of washes, I hang dry them to extend their life, and hopefully will still be wearing them a year from now.

Ha! Victory over denim leggings! After all, why should I struggle trying to fit my body to the pants, when I can make the pants fit my body?

Although I am pleased as punch about this outcome, I’m still holding out hope that someone out there is making jeans off the rack for a body like mine, for less than $100 a pair. If you have any clue of where to look, please let me know. I’m an average height, average weight woman with curvy hips.

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