Making grand, public pronouncements is often a surefire way for me to get the universe to tell me exactly how wrong I am. This was the case when I declared that “every day is no pants day” for me in an essay at Refinery29. At the time, I’d purged my closet of all but sweatpants and one pair of extremely comfortable yoga pants that I used to sleep in, after my foray into yoga.
I was convinced that my fashion sense and comfort level meant I was strictly a dresses-and-skirts kind of gal, and for the most part, I still am, except for a single pair of jeans I now can’t live without.
Here’s the story of my love affair with my $29.99 Old Navy SweetHeart jeans, size 12 short.
[pullquote]I learned that feeling comfortable can be its own kind of sexy.[/pullquote]
I was merrily going about my skirts-and-dresses life when I decided to volunteer as a dishwasher at a nonprofit restaurant. The job itself was straightforward, except for one requirement: I had to wear pants, and the only ones I owned were too see-through for my comfort level. So I decided to get the cheapest pair of jeans I could easily find. I dreaded shopping for them, because as a five foot three, curvy, weight-constantly-in-flux woman, I had no idea what size I should wear. I’d been able to fit into everything from sizes 6 to 12 over the last decade, but knew I was probably on the heavier side.
One reason I was jeans-phobic is that I assumed that by the nature of them being pants, jeans would be less comfortable than a skirt or dress. Yet , surprisingly, putting them on wasn’t a struggle. Maybe because I opted for comfort over vanity with a size 12, rather than trying to stuff myself into a 10, or maybe because I’d selected the opposite of “skinny jeans,” but the first night I wore them to my dishwashing shift, I felt utterly at ease.
In the beginning, the jeans were a kind of uniform; I wore them to wash dishes, then took them off when I got home. They were perfect for the job, giving me a convenient place to stash my keys and cell phone and wipe wet hands in a pinch.
But a funny thing happened after I broke in the denim: I started to like it. I had forgotten what it was like to have pockets, and those, more than any other feature, were what seduced me, especially as a traveller. The jeans and dress combo allows me to store my phone in my pocket for handy access, but also keep it hidden. Even in warm weather, once you’re on a plane, it can get chilly fast, and tights don’t always cut it.
Even more than convenience, though, my jeans made me feel safer when visiting cities I wasn’t familiar with. Before encountering a stalker in Dubai, I was much more cavalier about my vacation attire. I wore sneakers to make standing on airport security lines and racing to catch a flight easier, but other than that, I wore whatever dress I wanted. After the stalking incident, though, I started to wonder if jeans weren’t a little bit safer, inviting less scrutiny, making me blend in a bit more. I’m not suggesting that my jeans actually make me any safer, but they make me feel safer, and that gives me confidence when, say, navigating public transportation from Long Beach airport to LAX. I didn’t realize just how vulnerable I sometimes felt in a dress until I made the switch. Once I did, though, jeans have become my go-to travel outfit choice.
Wearing my jeans feels like I’m putting on a kind of armor, like how I often wear a low-cut top or dress but zip my hoodie up over my boobs when I don’t feel like dealing with anyone looking at them. I also learned that feeling comfortable can be its own kind of sexy. I’d made the false assumption that jeans were purely utilitarian, and while they have been, the fact that they really fit my real body, not the body I wish I had, that they have more give than I originally gave them credit for, and that they seem to hug my body and get softer with each wear, to me adds up to making me happy to put them on. I no longer feel like I’m wearing them at someone else’s request, and that has made all the difference.
I haven’t jumped all the way into the jean pool; I don’t know fancy jeans brands and don’t intend to investigate them. I don’t want “perfect” jeans, because if I’m going to drop major dough on a piece of clothing, I want it to be made of something other than denim. Only just one pair of jeans means I don’t slip into wearing them every day; they still have a special purpose, and I’d like to keep it that way.