Rant: Girl pants!

Warning: rant ahead.

Up until now, looking like a girl was never high on my priority list. Neither was it something I particularly wanted to achieve. Let me put this in perspective: my first job was at a horse barn. I would call my mother 15 minutes before I got home so she could put on her containment suit and be ready with the hose when I arrived. My shoes were stored outside in a biohazard container. The fronts of my shirts had a permanent green tinge from horse slobber. And I LOVED IT.

Ten years later, I cut my hair. Very, very short. As was proven the last time I cut my hair into a pixie cut, if I am not careful about my appearance, I am frequently mistaken for a boy.  Not for lack of trying; I favor t-shirts and men’s jeans. You’d see Lady Gaga without makeup before you’d see me with it. I never saw the appeal of going with a gaggle of girls to get my hair and nails did. All that artificial enhancement is false advertising. Like fast food commercials. Or push-up bras. Or this.

That’s still my attitude. But I had an epiphany in the form of a lecture from my mother: looking like a cocker spaniel who’s lost a fight with a weed whacker won’t get me very far at this point in my life. I’m a young college graduate in a transitional period in life with the whole world in front of her and if I want to get where I want to go, I need to start looking like I care about something other than everything else but my appearance.

Plus, what are transitional periods for if not experimentation and self-discovery?

So I began a quest for women’s clothing that
1) Would fit me
2) I'd look reasonably good in
3) I'd feel comfortable wearing.

I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. NO. IDEA.

Let’s back up. It’s not like I’d never shopped for women’s clothes before. But my method was much like how you’re treated when you get a pelvic exam. (Gentlemen, I can’t say this with certainty, but I expect getting a prostate exam is much the same). There’s no dawdling. Nobody browses the merchandise. One does not stop in the middle of the aisle and chat. It’s in, done and out.

But, since I didn’t know what I was looking for, it was going to take some… hunting. And patience. I decided to start with pants, since I knew they would be most difficult.

Dear women’s clothing companies: You are the only entities on this earth who can make a 115-pound girl self-conscious about her body with a piece of cloth. Come here so I can whup you upside the head.

Let’s be honest about this: I understand I have no reason to be self-conscious. I keep my body fit and I eat right. But I am simply not built like the women who are supposed to fit in those jeans. One size fits my waist and hips but the leg hem is about six inches too long. The other size is the right length but in order to fit into them I’d have to remove my entire pelvis and a few feet of my intestines. So what? Either I’m too short or not hourglassy enough. Okay, I say to myself. Before I generalize, I should widen my sample size. Go to another store. Even I know that sizes vary from company to company.

Speaking of that, guy’s pants don’t do that. A size 30 is a size 30 is a size 30.

But I digress. I expected a little bit of variance, but not at ALL in the degree I found. At one store a size 2 came the closest to fitting. So at the other store, I took a size 1, 3, and 5 off the rack (crap, even the numbers change). As it turned out, it wasn’t until I pulled a size 7 on that I felt any degree of comfort at all. I don’t think I need to tell you that I looked like the bastard daughter of a seal and a mermaid as I flopped around the dressing room.

Why does this happen? I have no idea, but the phrase “vanity sizing” has been tossed around on the internet, and this article explains the phenomenon. For those of you who can’t be bothered, the bottom line is that today’s size 6 would have been a size 12 or 14 ten or twenty years ago. There has been no standard of measurement for women’s clothes, so sizes have been creeping up year by year. The result: women feel better about themselves because they’re able to “fit” into “smaller” sizes than they were ten years ago, even though the scale says they gained 15 pounds.

This does NOT make me feel better. This makes me feel worse, because now I have to spend that much more time hunting for a size that fits every time I walk into a new store, and I have to restart the challenge of finding a balance between waist/hip fit and leg length. There is no regulation. There is no standard. There is just chaos. Denim chaos. Everywhere.

I know I’m not the only one. The graph to the left of the text of this article shows exactly what I’m talking about. The article itself is worth a read too. It mentions a new sizing and labeling system called Fitlogic which makes much more sense than anything else out there right now. That’s probably why nobody’s ever heard of it.

Two hours and four stores later, I was ruing the day of my birth and casting longing, wistful looks at the men’s department. I had found nothing, absolutely nothing, that fit. I had come closest with a pair of 7s (short), but made a horrible, horrible discovery. One that would topple the fragile framework of my sanity and self-esteem like an earthquake in a liquor store.

These pants…

Brace yourselves.

These pants…

Are you sure you’re ready?

These pants…

…had no pockets.

I’ll give you a moment to grab your inhaler.

Then let me clarify. It’s actually worse than that, because they looked like they had pockets, but they were in fact sewn shut.

Oh the inhumanity.

I was lost. Struck dumb. Literally, I gaped at my reflection in the mirror. It, as dumbfounded as I was, consternated back at me (yes I just verbed that noun).  How could I live? Where would I put the crap I carry around with me?

That I didn’t immediately think of a purse shows you how far away from the bell I am on the curve.

But then I did think of it, and grumble like an old man. I may have actually said “razzafrackinkidsandtheirstupidjeans”.

I did emerge triumphant, but at a great cost. I’d spent the past three hours systematically and repeatedly jamming my self-esteem into a food processor set to “liquefy”. It took three hours with my dad’s dog, two and a half glasses of wine and half the kitten pictures on the internet to dig me out of the funk.

Perhaps that’s just a function of the place I’m at psychologically, but I still get an arrow of grief through my heart when I reach down to put my cell phone in my pocket… and there’s a half inch of pocket there. So I sigh, hold my keys, cell phone, iPod and purse in one hand, my jacket, groceries and sanity in the other, walk five steps, and drop everything. Guess which is the first thing to crack open and spill its warm gooey contents like a broken egg?

Like I said: grief.

As soon as my hair grows out, I’m going on a men’s department shopping spree. Low loose boot cut guy jeans, I’m watching you.


  1. Kate,the way they are trying to nail you is that you buy the correct waist & pelvic size and then they make it so you have to go get the length tailored,it's all about the almighty dollar!You are one of the most envied women I know because of your fitness & natural beauty.My only solution is that you wear what you want when with your friends,and try skirts when in business situations

  2. I have a similar problem finding pants that fit, although it's because I have large hips and I'm not eighty feet tall. Pants that fit my waist are a foot (or more) too long in the leg. God forbid a short woman have hips and an ass! Anyway. The thing that saved me is a line of jeans called 'Silver' that is carried by Maurices clothing stores. Silvers are sized with...wait for it...it's going to blow your mind...waist and inseam measurements! Actually, Maurices has professional and fun clothing that fits real women of almost all sizes (from eensy-weensy a.k.a. You to totally curvacious a.k.a. Me). If there is a Maurices anywhere near you I would highly recommend you give it a try. The girls who work there are generally extremely helpful. Also, I miss pockets...

  3. Erica St. LawrenceJanuary 20, 2012 at 6:07 AM

    Like you, I have the problem with shorter legs than clothing manufacturers want to admit. That's why I picked up the nifty skill of hand-hemming pants. It's easy and takes only about a half hour (do it while watching tv and it flies by). I recommend you pick up that skill. Also, instead of looking at specific stores, start looking at brands. I don't mean expensive brand name, just what's written inside the pants. Lots of "brands" are carried at many stores, and sizes don't vary within the brand. That's the way I play it, since I have the same problem. Especially now that many stores (like Target) have different jean fits (high, low, skinny, flare), I also recommended finding out which jean fit looks best on you. Go to a Target or Kohls and try on a bunch of different ones. That way, when you go to another store you know "Hey this says flare jeans, but flares make me look fat" or "Hey this says boot cut and that looks great on me!" You know what I'm saying. Sizes vary store to store, but jean fits are generally the same. Of course different fabrics of the same size will hug your body different, so it may behoove you to also see if denim is better than cordouroy or things like that. Experiment. I know you hate to spend the time doing that, but go with a friend and have fun. You played dress-up when you were a kid, right?

  4. LOLZ!!! I loathe shopping no matter what size I am. But your rant was a fun read. :)