Monday, April 23, 2012

In Defense of: "Mom" Jeans, "Granny" Panties + "High" Waists

High Waisted Denim Love

"But you don't want to wear MOM jeans, do you?"

Said my mom, to me, after a frustrating hour-long jeans try-on-a-thon at our local Old Navy. I had just rejected yet another pair of "classic-rise" jeans that weren't even making a serious attempt at approaching my belly button (or covering the stretch marks), and I was about to cry.

My sole pair of halfway-decently-fitting jeans are falling down and falling apart, and I had searched high and low for a pair--just ONE pair--of jeans that might replace them, even if that meant trying out the skinny jeans trend.

Well, maybe I do want "Mom jeans" (minus the stonewashing and pleating, anyway). Because I'm sick of jeans labeled "high" or "mid-rise" resting five inches below my natural waist. What conspiracy decided that "modern" jeans should sit barely above the hips, requiring tunic-length shirts to awkwardly hide exposed bellies, and belted tops to emphasize a natural waist that could just as easily be emphasized by a well, waistband?

I am perfectly fine with my post-baby belly--stretch-marks and squish and all--because I couldn't begrudge anything having to do with the birth of my amazing wonderful little girl. But that doesn't mean I covet the muffin-top look, and I would much rather the emphasis be on my waist than my belly, thank you very much.

And as a vintage lover, I reject the idea that a low-waisted jean is inherently superior (though it certainly works awesomely for many, of course). Seriously, when and how DID this happen? If you look at any pants or skirt sewing patterns from the WHENEVER up to the 1980s, they pretty much rest on the so-called "natural" waist:

1930s:

1940s:

1950s:

1960s:

1970s:

Oh wait!

Yeah, there you have it--the hip-hugger jean (and that pattern envelope girl is even striking a pose worthy of Tanit-Isis, queen of the low-rise jean!). Perhaps we can blame the 1970s? The natural waisted jean had a brief revival in the 1980s:

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

And then somehow, somewhen--in the 90s?--someone permanently decided that it was more modern to ignore the laws of logic and gravity and figure flattery and decree that natural waists were not only outdated, but UGLY, PASSE, and FRUMPY, retraining the eyes of millions over time until we could not but be horrified and terrified by so-called "Mom jeans." This (admittedly hilarious, thank you Tina Fey) Saturday Night Live video didn't help:

So where does this leave me? Frustrated and jeansless, pretty much. (And that Craftsy Jean-ius class wouldn't work for me, as I have no jeans I'd even want to copy). I even went to American Apparel, but their high-waisted jeans did NOT work for me, and seemed quite a bit more 80s than 40s or 50s:

American Apparel jeans

And speaking of natural waists--what's a girl supposed to wear with her high-waisted jeans, pencil skirts and so on? It's almost IMPOSSIBLE to find cute, reasonably priced high-waisted underthings... in fact, most of these are actually retro swimwear bottoms from Modcloth:

Not Your Granny's High-Waisted Panties

So, readers, some questions for you:

  • How do you feel about natural-waisted women's trousers and panties? Do you think they can be sexy, or do they automatically scream "FRUMP-VILLE" or "80s" to you?
  • Do you have any favorite sources for high-er waisted jeans and panties--or do you prefer to make them yourself?
  • Have you ever been accused of wearing "Mom jeans"?
  • If you DO prefer low-waisted jeans--tell me why?

Update May 2013: Thank you for all the awesome comments on this post. I went to many stores and tried on a number of jeans, and the ones that ended up working best for me were the Not Your Daughter's Jeans Marilyn Straight Leg—they don't hit EXACTLY at my waist, but they are close enough. I did buy one pair full-price, but have bought a few others at deep discount from 6pm.com.

I also ordered a huge variety of different "high cut panties" styles from HerRoom and ended up really liking the Naomi & Nicole Light Control Lace Brief Panty 724, the Rago Shaper Panty Brief With Lace 919 (Made in USA) and the Warner's All Day Fit No Pinching Hi-Cut Brief Panty 5138. The Warner's are the most casual and low-cut of the hi-cut bunch, the Naomi and Nicole are close to the natural waist, the Rago is a bit above the natural waist. All are awesome in their own way!

Thanks again readers!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the ready-to-wear hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for polkadotoverload.com (and quite likely spent on yarn or fabric).

100 comments:

  1. Hi, I commiserate so I had to comment. I have a little girl roughly the same age as yours and I feel similarly to you about my not super stellar middle. Even back when my waist was the smallest part of me and I was super thin, I couldn't do low rise. At the cheaper end, try gap. They have some higher rise cuts (maybe try the long and lean) that are nice. At the higher end, I swear by citizens of humanity amber high rise. Good luck and I think you're a really pretty and pretty thin mama. Be proud!

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  2. We must be looking at different patterns, or I am extremely short waisted, because all of the sewing patterns I have tried lately had their 'waist' band half way up my ribcage!
    While I am in a similar predicament to you with the stretch marks and post baby squishy bits, I'd be happy if I could find pants that hit low enough - just below my belly button a la the swim bottoms in your photo spread.

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    1. I think sewing patterns tend to run higher-waisted than ready-to-wear clothes--it's relatively easy to find natural-waisted sewing patterns.

      I'm actually quite short-waisted--or short-bodiced, anyway--BUT I have pretty long legs and maybe a longer lower torso. So that might explain why most "higher" rise jeans are so low on me.

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  3. High-waisted underthings...very sexy. A little mystery is always a good thing, and if that mystery avoids a muffin-top, even better.

    High-waisted jeans...unfortunately the label "mom jean" is probably here to stay. My theory as to why low-rise jeans rose in popularity? Definitely aided by the rise of the belly-button piercing. I don't have mine anymore, refusing to be one of those pregnant women who would keep it in for 9 months while the skin around it stretched to bursting and insisting that the first thing that happened after the baby came out is that the ring went back in since the medical team took it out on admission to the hospital for the birth. Nope, not me. Back in the day, however, (that is, pre-babies) there was definitely a ring there, and just as definitely, there was no wearing a waistband over it, especially not a thick denim one. Had to be low-rise, flattering or not.

    After having 3 kids, I'm beginning to wonder if I even should wear jeans anymore. Maybe my grandmothers and great-grandmothers had the right idea in wearing dresses and skirts all the time, then again, maybe it was just their girdles/corsets helping them out.

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    1. I didn't even THINK about piercings! Yes, I can see where that would make the low-rise jean a necessity...

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    2. That's funny you should make the comment about wearing jeans at all. I read an essay several months ago about a man who remembered wearing jeans growing up while his dad wore slacks. To him, it seemed the epitome of being an adult, that to leave the jeans-wearing to the young marked a milestone...Me? I think skirts can be much more user-friendly and attractive while hiding some very real problem areas...

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    3. It's amazing how much clothes can be "growing up" milestones. Being allowed to wear my "good coat" to school was a big mark of maturity for me, as was (once I adjusted, and very much in a similar line to the jeans/slacks thing) getting a pair of shoes to wear on a day-to-day basis, leaving sneakers only for gym class and outdoor activities. Jeans never quite had that transition point, but, as a (relative) adult, I do wear mostly skirts, and leave my pair of jeans for activities that really Want jeans (hiking, gardening, etc).

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  4. I've taken to wearing highwaisted skirts and pants. They've had a brief revival here in Australia so I was fashionable for about three weeks. I think the high waisted Katherine Hepburn style pant is very flattering for real women with a waist and hips. As for RTW I found that Levis Bold Curve jeans come higher up in front than a lot of others and actually come cover my rear without gaping.

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  5. I have recently, as in the past couple of years, landed at the same conclusion. I don't think low rise jeans are flattering on most, but my main issue with them is that they sit on my hip bones and I hate the way they rub against them. Not to mention they constrict right where I suffer from monthly bloating or a big meal. I also hate worrying about bending over in them or sitting down in a shirt that isn't long enough to cover my backside.
    I finally decided it was time to draft a pair of pants for myself that fit just how I wanted them. I love the Hepburn style trousers, so that is where I started. I changed the front fly (another thing I am not fond of) to a left side closure with buttons.
    Now my mission is to sew some jeans that are slightly more traditional. I like retro styles, but I prefer not to go the pin-up route. I like a slim leg that can be rolled up, but I don't want to show every curve off. I just stumbled across Vogue 2442 "The Exact Jeans Fit of Calvin Klein" which might give me something to work with.
    As far as finding cute underthings with a high rise, I am stumped. I can't find anything that isn't too expensive--and I am a little hesitant to try sewing them.

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  6. Oh dear. First of all, forget about that 'mom-jeans' label (did you read Gertie's post about high waisted panties a while back?). There are different styles and different body types. For a few years, glossy fashion magazines have been talking about the return of high-waisted bottoms but somehow this hasn't quite materialized on the high streets.
    Personally, I'm not a mom and I do have a flat stomach, however I'm also a (admittedly rather small) classic pear shape and I wear only trousers I've made and drafted myself. And nearly all reach to the natural waist or higher.
    I've tried on low rise skinny jeans in a store once and those felt like they were on the verge of falling down at all time and they seemed to put constant pressure on my bladder. No thanks.
    (as far as I know, it was Alexander McQueen who started to lower-and-lower rise trend. I remember seeing an interview with him in which he told about making a first pair for a show. He said something like: 'usually you try to make the legs seem longer. This time we did the opposite: creating the illusion of a very long torso by dramatically lowering the waistline)

    Of course, 'natural' or 'high' waistlines are hard to do well in RTW. It just adds another variable for fitting (as any seamstress knows, both waist-to-hip ratio and the vertical distance between those point can vary spectacularly from one person to the other). And, maybe a little known fact, women's bodies have been changing due, in part, to the ongoing low rise trend. Look at the hourglass ladies in any vintage magazine up to the 1980's and then look at (young) women in the street. Did you notice the skinny teenage or twenty-something girl with the muffin-top? That's what I'm talking about. Just try to fit a body shape like that into vintage style bottoms...

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Oh, I hadn't seen Gertie's post, but it has a very similar title, "In Defense of Granny Panties" and is excellent, of course!

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    3. I also was under the impression we have Alexander McQueen to thank. I read the companion book to the exhibit "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" and he is quoted as wanting to lengthen the torso. When I read that I said, "Oh, thanks." He was a complete genius at fitting the female form, except for those STUPID PANTS. You can see them here. The wikipedia entry for low-rise jeans also credits him for bringing low-rise pants back in 1996.

      I wear... I hesitate to call them "low-rise"... jeans that don't come up to my waistline, because I have a fantastically long torso and making my jeans hit about 2 or 3 inches below my waist actually makes me look a little more balanced. And because they're tighter than the waist-high 30s and 40s pants I make, if I made jeans hit me at my waist, they would cut me in half.

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    4. oh fascinating! bumster jeans! eek!

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    5. Low rise jeans started because of the whole 90's grunge thing, then the whole raver thing. McQueen didn't start the idea at all. he just jumped on the band wagon early. Kids were already wearing oversized jeans that naturally hit low on their hips. I know I did. It went with the flared and platform shoe thing to make a good proportion. Things change. i love my stomach. but I am just tired of low waists. They are done done done. Low rise boot cut is the new mom jean for me. I sometimes like to wear crop tops with my high rise jeans and skirts, and i love the look of a covered belly button but some abs on display. No matter. They are just better looking pants, and they hit the narrow part of my body. I like Urban Outfitters BDG and Cheap Monday jeans. Although I do like Amarican Apparel.

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  7. Love this post! I absolutely hate the feeling of having to yank my pants up (it's a pet peeve right up there with empire-lines that aren't long enough to actually sit under the bust). For me I have a large high hip which is quite handy for holding things up so I love anything with a high waist!

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    1. Oh, and I'm SO with you on the empire lines... they usually cut straight across my boobs!

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  8. I've been equally frustrated with finding jeans that fit - my natural waist is very high (almost even with the bottom of my ribcage) so jeans and RTW trousers always cut right across the widest part of my tummy. If I find a pair that fits through the rear and legs, they're impossible to button, and if the pair fits in the "waist", they're big enough in the butt to fit another person. I've taken to high-waisted skirts and fitted dresses, mostly self-sewn. Now I feel weird when I wear pants at all.

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  9. Oh, and as for high-waisted panties...I've had some luck shopping in the "shapewear" section. They're usually, like, panties with a "tummy trimmer panel" or something equally ridiculous sounding, but if I go a size up from what the package recommends they tend to be very comfortable and sit just where I want them.

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    1. I have totally done the same thing... I bought one of the Rago pairs in the inspiration board above, marketed as "shapewear" but they're not even slightly tight since I got the medium.

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  10. I actually prefer low rise jeans - they seem to work better for my shape than high waisted ones - but I can't stand skirts that sit on the hips. It's interesting about the undies. I find I have to get special low rise ones from Marks and Sparks to go under jeans!

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  11. Last season I bought a Karen Millen high waisted jeans (this model, I think), a bit pricey, but totally worth it. They really fall on my waist and are flared, very 70's Farrah Fawcett styles - I live in them.

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  12. I just had to comment on this! I almost never wear jeans, just because of this issue. I have one pair, from Lee Cooper (which I'm wearing right now because it's easy for work) but the colour isn't really my thing. I almost wear every spare moment a skirt or a dress but I also have a few highwaist pants, from either Primark, H&M (the modern classic collection) or homemade. But then there's the issue of underwear: if you don't make it yourself it's mostly granny undies that's left and that's even worst than mom jeans! Doesn't it? Good luck with your search!

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  13. I like high waisted wide leg jeans, or low-rise skinny jeans. I don't like the opposite so much. I do like bootcut pants in a lower rise, but even those must hang down straight from the hips - they cannot be hiphuggers of any variety.

    I made my own wide leg jeans - not to bad, since they aren't fitted, but they aren't fancy. I buy regular jeans exclusively from The Limited or J Crew. I'm long waisted, and they fit me better than any others.

    Good luck - I know I hate jean shopping too!

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  14. I don't know if you have Etam in NYC - it's a French lingerie brand. They have high-waisted panties (called culotte taille haute) that aren't too expensive, about 19 euros. You can check out their website. Another French brand - Princesse Tam Tam - also has high-waisted panties, but for 40 euros!

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  15. I'm with you on this. I have one pair of jeans that I wear for practicalities sake and they are far too low but the highest waist I could find in the shops. So I am armed with the Vogue jeans pattern and the Palmer Pletsch jean DVD and as soon as the project on my sewing table is finished I'm going to bite the bullet and make my first pair of jeans. They will be high waisted!

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    1. ooh, how exciting! good luck with your sewing! I also have a Vogue jeans pattern from Sandra Betzina that is at the natural waist, I might try it...

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  16. I've got badly-placed abdominal scars that have required mom pants for the last 20 years.. high waist, and even mostly elastic waists. I should say I don't wear jeans, too fussy and uncomfortable, I make pants with good fabrics. It does not cross anybody's screen for instance that good Italian wool could come with a high elastic waist, I surf on the cognitive dissonance :-). And of course I never tuck anything, but the good side effect is that I can wear shorter blouses without muffin top or worse plumber's crack.

    As to undies, they're a breeze. Jalie. 15-20mn at most. I use the scraps that are too small to make another t-shirt but too big to throw away, which are the majority. And I take the time sneakly after each t-shirt (when the serger is already adjusted) rather than accumulate a pile of dutiful boring sewing. I mostly use 2329 http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/patterns/sewingpatterns.pl?patternid=2856 which is oop but probably what you'd like for now? I'd be happy to send you a few sizes of tracings if you'd like..

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    1. oh thank you for your comments and the offer! BUT no need--I have a Jalie panties pattern I've been meaning to try that is very similar, Jalie 2568!

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    2. Jalie also do a very popular jeans pattern, seen some great versions BUT the jeans dip at the front on the "natural rise" so tall girls end up with exposed belly-buttons *face-palm*

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  17. PS: for instant gratification you still have the 50s style Burda panties still available for download http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/satin-panties-and-bustier-012012

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  18. My comment got eaten, let me try again.

    For high-waist undies, try the boy-shorts at Soma. Comfortable, reasonably priced, no VPL, nice material.

    For high-waist jeans, try NYDJ and Talbots. Also Jalie 2908.

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  19. I have a super short waist, so anything high waisted feels really uncomfortable and makes me look like an elf child or something. After making a few pairs of pants, I came to the epiphany that low rise is normal rise on me. Those are cute panties though.

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  20. I graduated from high school in the 80's, so I remember "normal" jeans that fit around your natural waist. I am nostalgic for those days because I too think they just fit and looked better.

    I have found a jeans brand that is higher waisted. It is "Not Your Daughter's Jeans". Nordstroms sells them, and you can sometimes find them for a reasonable price at The Rack.

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  21. No idea on jeans as I don't even look anymore. But on the undies - I have seen incredibly cute high waisted stuff at swing dance shops. But if you want to make them, there's the aforementioned burda pattern and this Ohhh Lulu pattern I really want to try, the Betty. Both look good to me!

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  22. I feel for you! but I can tell you why I love low-rise waist-bands. I have the body-shape that loves eating a good meal (okay, I know that's not a shape) but would then want to undo the top-button of high-waisted garments. Blech! I'll take the low-risers, but I wish we could both find what we love!

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  23. The waistline and whether it's frumpy depends entirely on the minxy lady wearing them. My husband used to scoff at the high-waisted look, but let's say he's come around to my way of thinking and seems to even prefer it. His opinion on the matter is the only one that (sort of) matters to me. Love those panties you showed, great inspiration for the ones I keep telling myself to MAKE already.

    I used to get a certain amount of funny looks/ gently raised eyebrows about my waistline height proclivities but I just smiled and said "Wait, everyone will be doing it in a few years." And lo, it is coming to pass, even seen occasionally on the streets in The Place Where Fashion Comes To Die.

    I'm probably prejudiced, but I love higher waistlines for the reasons you mentioned... I mean.. The widespread (heh) muffin-top factor alone tells me this is definitely a cut that should just go away... Right? Except Tanit-Isis. She can do whatever she likes. ;)

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    1. It IS true that high-waisted stuff is making modest incursions into the magazines and the shops... there are SOME options out there... but I am excited to sew some of my own with your pants block!

      I highly recommend pantie-sewing, too--I have three pairs and should make more.

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    2. LMAO! Thank you for your permission, Steph. It means a lot to me. ;)

      As for the muffin-top, I suck it up and try to camouflage it with a big chunky belt and, ideally, a long shirt. Not my fave look either, but better (for me) than choking on my pants (seriously, "natural waist" is about 2" below my bust.) This post & comments are so much fun! :)

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  24. I love high-waisted stuff! BUT, my boyfriend hates it all and calls them granny panties and mom jeans. :(

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    1. No no no! I do worry my husband will say the same thing, but maybe not if I put stripes and lace and polkadots on them to emphasize the retro sexy factor.

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  25. First, I have a very short waist to crotch length so "low rise" jeans are actually just below my belly button most of the time, I'm more of a modern jean type of girl (I also feel constricted in high waisted things). But, I don't think there is anything wrong with pants at the natural waist as long as the cut is just right. Like no tapering and definitely no pleats.
    Once I made a pair of red linen pants that sat at my natural waist and they looked awesome, but if I lifted my shirt to show them to my friends (because we were drinking...) they all called them old lady pants. I still like them, just not with things tucked in (too bulky).

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  26. I love high waist jeans but it is a pain to find ones that are truly high waist. After far too much time spent looking I found my most recent pair here http://www.jny.com/Denim/22962160,default,sc.html. They are truly high waist on me and I'm another person who finds it hard to find anything that actually reaches my natural waist.

    As for panties, that's been harder. I would love to find a source for awesome, affordable vintage style high waist panties (non granny style briefs) but for the time being I've been settling for french cut which have a high waist but also a high leg. I saw that pattern for the Ohhh Lulu Betty pattern and I'm thinking that I might try and make some from that at some point but free time is at a premium these days so it won't be anytime soon.

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  27. I like low rise jeans, but figure flattery for me is all about trying to minimise my bum/hips and maximise my bust. High rise jeans do the complete opposite.

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    1. ha, well, we have opposite goals, which explains my love for the high-waisted pants--I'm trying to maximize the lower half to balance out my full bust.

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  28. Also, the concept of finding anything high rise to fit is frankly laughable, with a waist:hip ratio of 0.7.

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  29. I only recently started wearing high-waisted stuff - I have to ease myself in starting with skirts, then shorts, now pants. And I love them! I still get snickers from people about my "mom" jeans, but ehh I've never been one to get upset over someone hating on my outfit so it doesn't really bother me (and you should have SEEN some of the stuff I wore when I was a teenager, oh lol). I love how they define my waist & I think they look great with a crop tops in the summer. The only thing I don't like about high waists is that you pretty much have to keep your shirt tucked in (or wear a crop top). I think untucked just looks really sloppy - and feels weird, especially if the shirt is long & the waistband is really high. I dunno. Low rise is ok, but I pretty much always have to wear a belt to keep them up & then I get to deal with the conundrum of either tucking my shirt in (looks stupid with low-rise) or keeping it out (where it bulges over the belt). First world problems, over here.

    As far as actually buying high-waisted jeans... I wish I could help you there, but I never did find my perfect pair, despite all the vintage shops I trolled. I had to make mine (and they are perfect!) For undies, Ohhh Lulu has a really cute high-waisted panty pattern - http://www.etsy.com/listing/97089672/ohhh-lulu-the-betty-high-waist-panties - that I really want to try. I think she also has a sew-along going on her blog too.

    Oh, and I'm glad the American Apparel jeans didn't work out for you lol. AA is a disgusting company & their clothes are shitty as hell. Ok, done preaching! :)

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    1. Yeah, AA IS disgusting, so I supposed it did work out. I've also been easing into this--it started with pencil skirts, and after a while I made those wide-legged corduroy trousers, and now I want high waists all the time!

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  30. Levi's at Macy's. I have actually been worrying if these were mom jeans, but I was so happy to have pants that didn't ever give me plumber's crack that these jeans are still my favorite. These are the "stomach flattening" jeans, but probably only so named because of the high rise.

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  31. I like my mom jeans, thank you very much! You can always order from LL Bean and LandsEnd.

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    1. I was actually thinking I might do that, I just hate shopping via mail... hmm...

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  32. I am sure the low-rise style has as much to do with profit margins as it does with style. I wish I had some evidence for this, but I don't read trade publications ... but it makes sense, no? On one pair of pants the difference in materials cost for low versus high waist seems negligible, but over hundreds of thousands of pants, it could be a significant factor. This first occurred to me when I noticed a brand of panty I liked started cutting the crotch more narrowly. Ostensibly the same fit over hips/butt, but just a narrower band going between the legs. Yuck.

    And as mentioned above, there are more fit problems with high-waisted pants.

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    1. Ah ha! The conspiracy revealed! That TOTALLY makes sense, actually...

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  33. Yes! I much prefer jeans on my natural waist, so much more flattering for me. I think if you have a waist that is small compared to your hips, a high waste looks best. I'm leaving hip-huggers for the "snake hipped!"
    They are expensive, but Adriano Goldschmidt makes some high waisted jeans that I find very comfortable. They are sewn in America too!

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  34. this was so very highly enjoyable.... (and yes, that model jumped in a time machine and stole tanit-isis's pose. first thing i thought.)

    i lurve high waisted jeans to death. unfortunately ruggy doesn't. what is it about guys, why do they hate on the high waist? it is infinitely wiser to accentuate the natural waist, BECAUSE IT'S THERE, and added bonus, it keeps your pants and skirts up.

    i find that if they don't have a niice wide leg, pretty much an A line leg, they go the way of tina fey.

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    1. BUT guys seem to love pencil skirts--which have the same silhouette! It's so confusing....

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    2. BTW, that Taran pose was hilarious - I thought of her INSTANTLY!

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    3. pencil skirts! ruggy LOVES pencil skirts, wtf?!

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  35. I'm sure it's a case of horses for courses but I'm with you in that the low rise jeans are not good on me. I have 2 pairs of them but they keep falling down and I hate having to belt them up! I'm still trying to work out how high my jeans should really go as the high waisted variety can make me look as though I've got swapped torsos with someone shorter...

    BTW I've never heard people here in Australia talk about mom (or mum) jeans though, so as a last resort you could always emigrate :-). The closest I've heard is Harry-High-Pants - but that's for men who pull their pants too high, which is quite a different matter!

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  36. Seriously in agreement with you here. I am currently pregnant with my third baby, and even though I wore all hip-huggers (really low ones) prior to having children, I haven't been able to avoid the whole muffin-top issue since having a baby. I also hate how you can spend hours and a lot of money trying on a million pairs that only look good on prepubescent girls. So, I am planning on trying to make some after this next baby is born in August. I have been looking at the Wearing History patterns, but am terrified of the thought of making jeans. I know they would have to be just right to look right. Would love to see your results if you decide to make some, or maybe a sew along :)

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  37. I feel like I look better in low waisted styles, but I'm envious of the ladies in high waisted pants...they look so elegant. I feel like high waisted pants my my thighs look huge...that's my biggest trouble zone/ insecurity area.
    I have moved to a mid-rise after having two babies though in an effort to control my left over baby belly. And I agree that a lot of styles in the stores seem to channel the 80's more than the 40's. Good luck in your search.

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  38. Amen, sista! I loathe low waist pants. Why won't the trend die already? I mean, really, I don't need a resting place for my sweet muffin top. I'd like to harness that bad larry in. I'm also a little tactile defensive, so I find myself forever pulling up low-rise pants.

    The same goes for undergarments. Currently pregnant with our second child, I find that everything constantly slips down...I love the maternity unders that you made...I sew but I haven't found a pattern yet. Poo.

    Lastly, I think the type of the high waist coupled with pleats/no pleats and whether or not the leg is tapered is what makes a pair of pants look frumpy or groovy....I keep trying to tell my husband that high waist does not always equal lame.

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  39. It's distinctly possible that I'm wearing mom-jeans right now. I recently bought them at a jeans boutique and I tried on EVERY pair of 28s and 29s in the store, put my clothes on to walk away with nothing (everything was at a 6 inch rise and those were the freakin' high rise things) when the SA suggested I try a pair of "tall jeans". The rise was 10 inches (my preferred minimum). I've actually come to realize that I do have the rise of a tall person, rest of me notwithstanding.

    Now, in the end, I wish I hadn't bought these jeans. They're too big now that they've stretched and, though I was going for a denim trouser, they kind of fail. They're not flattering, particularly, and they are high waisted, so there you go.

    I also love high waisted undies and you can get affordable ones (I hate to say it) at American Apparel - a place I really try to stay away from except for the tights and the high-waisted undies. Freya also does some nice, not high-waisted ones, but mid-rise, that match with its lovely bras.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I know AA carries them but am trying to avoid a bit... and I don't mind midrise, as long as they at least TRY to get near the belly button.

      Delete
  40. High waist jeans are nice for hiding tummy (which I can use), but they are sooo uncomfortable to me. I distinctly remember the misery of having your waistband sit right on your stomach in the 70's & 80's. I really felt like the fashion switch to low waists was a great liberation. I compensate for the lack of tummy coverage by buying a size with a little more wiggle room (to reduce the muffin-top effect) and always wearing a longish top. But it is not always easy to find low-rise jeans that fit me that well now that I'm grown either. I think Old Navy is a bit of a torture chamber of pants fitting. I can never find a good fit there, and I have felt like I might be reduced to tears in there dressing room before myself. I think the pants there are too square, more of a teen fit. I sometimes buy Dockers Curvy Fit because they give you a little more room in the hip and thigh, and just generally look more flattering on me, though usually they are mid-rise.

    So maybe the trick is that the stores should start offering us more quality options to cover all those different body types and preferences all the time. After all, high-waisted jeans wouldn't necessarily be "mom jean's" if they were well designed and cute.

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  41. I agree that I find high-rise (at your natural waist) jeans uncomfortable because of the restriction of my tummy. So uncomfortable to bend over in. Although I don't find my Colette Ginger skirt uncomfortable, perhaps because it's looser below the waistband?

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  42. as a petite, curvy short-waisted girl myself, i HATE low rise and extreme low rise jeans. please, dear designers, i WANT to look like i have exploding muffin top every day of my life AND have the added bonus of having to tug my pants up all day AND find longer tops to hide any accidental crack exposure. yes, that's my dream jean!

    luckily i was able to find a pair of DKNY skinny jeans which has a higher rise (high enough to cver my muffintop, they hit about an inch below my belly button) and a pair 1940's dungarees (similar to wearing history's smooth sailing trousers). i do own that pattern but have yet to attempt making pants, but plenty of other bloggers have. maybe adapt that pattern or taran's beloved Jalie 2908 pattern?

    good luck!!

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  43. Muaha. I feel I should apologize on behalf of all low-rise lovers. /sigh. If it helps, I am still scarred from the trauma, back in the 90s when low-rise jeans were not available (at least in my neck of the woods) of trying to find anything that fit my waist and hips (being a rectangle, my waist size is about three sizes larger than my hips). I used to hack the waistband off my button-front levis, attaining better fit and lower rise all in one, I was that desperate. Of course being 17 with a tummy of steel helped...

    And yes, I *covet* that particular 70s pants pattern! ;)

    As for the Jalie 2908 pattern, one view is "full"-rise (intended to land about 1" below the waist, but if you're short-bodied they can easily reach to the waist), and the flat-bottom drafting might be a good fit for you as well ;). My Jalie 2908s have an extra-low rise, so shouldn't be taken as typical of the pattern ;).

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    Replies
    1. I dunno, from your photos it looks to me like you STILL have a tummy of steel, even after having two kids! You should totally get that pattern... I think it's still for sale on Etsy.

      Delete
    2. I work very hard to maintain that illusion ;)

      Curse you enablers! ;)

      Delete
    3. T: I don't know how you could maintain that kind of illusion. I have a will of steel and my stomach can't even vaguely pretend. And I've had 1 kid.

      Delete
  44. have you seen the Ohhh Lulu Sew along? this link will bring you to the pantie sew along for the Berry High Waist Panties Pattern. They look really cute!

    http://ohhhlulu.blogspot.com/search/label/sew%20along

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  45. You need some Freddies!
    http://www.freddiesofpinewood.co.uk/categories/ladies/6-ladies-jeans

    Marie x

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  46. I definitely prefer my jeans to come up over the stretch marks and muffin top too! But for me, a good mid-rise can do that (again, this must have to do with individual proportions - I am pretty normal of torso but petite of leg). I have a great pair of J Jeans that cover what needs to be covered while still having a cute, current, skinny fit in the leg.

    Pocket placement is key to me. I like a higher waist, but I don't want pockets placed high on my rear end, does that make sense? To me, small pockets located in the middle of the rear scream "mom jean" in the worst sense of the term (well, that, and pleating, of course).

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  47. I don't have any stretchmarks from my pregnancies, but I have had two abdominal surgeries that have left several small scars that I'd rather not show. I find high rise jeans very, very uncomfortable. I made some high waisted shorts recently that were comfy, though. Maybe it's the difference in the give of the fabric. I don't mind mid-rise jeans. I usually have to take in the back of the waist because of the difference between my waist and hip measurements. I absolutely hate low-rise jeans since they would leave half of my ass hanging out... Conversely, I love lower rise underwear. I mostly buy mine at Tarjay, they have a really inexpensive line of seamless ones that I love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true that many high-waisted pants are uncomfortable, but it depends on the fabric and the give like you said--I think high-waisted jeans with a bit of stretch and a tummy panel (i.e. pocketing extending across the front) might still be relatively comfy for me... not sure. Weirdly enough, despite the flatness of my rear I also need to take in the back waist of my jeans because my hips are 10" wider than my waist.

      Delete
  48. I like low rise jeans, but I love the look of high-waisted pants. I don't think of them as frumpy. To me it's a pretty edgy look if you do it right. I've gone both ways, and both totally change my shape -- high waisted and fitted (waist looks tiny!), and high waisted and pleated (legs look miles long and so slender!).

    Do you sew from Burda magazine? I've had great results with all of their high-waisted pant patterns I've tried.

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  49. By the way: not all guys hate high waiste-styles! My hubby loves it, on skirts and on pants. He says it accentuates my beautiful bottom:-p
    And he was almost as excited as me when I said that I wanted to sew a kind of pin up, high waist sailor shorts! It helps maybe that he never saw me with another clothing style;-)

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  50. I gave up wearing pants a few years ago and switched to all skirts all the time because I couldn't find anything high enough that didn't gape.. I couldn't even find mum jeans. But I don't think high waisted pants necessarily are always mum jeans.. its the pleats/elastic waist, the extra room in the thighs and the relatively tight ankles that are just that teeny bit too high that make them so hideous. Just like not all high waisted knickers are granny pants. Its the saggy florals that reach the armpits that you have to keep away from.

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  51. I think the 70's are to blame for hipster jeans and the 80's for the horrible pleated ones Sarah mentions above!
    The only good thing to be said about lower waisted jeans is that when you sit down there's not the whole buckling-up of the fly issue.

    Freddiesofpinewood.co.uk does good retro 40's & 50's style jeans.
    A number of my friends have bought them and they do look great. Didn't suit me though...I have a short rise and not a lot of backside and the Freddies were too long in the front rise particularly. I have been meaning to make my own 40's style jeans for ages. Someone needs to do a Retro Jeans Sew-along??

    Btw there's a free 'Grannie Pants' pattern on my own site should you still be looking for others to try.

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  52. Wow! There sure is a lot of hate for lower rise jeans and the body types they tend to fit well... "only look good on prepubescent girls" "snake hips" "REAL women with a waist and hips"

    I like Tanit-Isis was so excited and relieved when lower rise pants became available. I don't feel any need to apologize for all of us who love low rise. You of the high waists and wider hips have no idea what it was like - before low rise came along - for those of us who have a wider waist and narrower hips.

    My natural waist is a few inches above my belly button and just below the bottom of my ribs. When I was living in the hell of high waisted pants land I had a 28" waist and 35" hips. With only 7 inches difference - those pants would be incredibly baggy on my hips and digging into my stomach. They looked ridiculous and felt horrible. So of course I switched to men's jeans, they looked only mildly better but felt sooo much more comfortable.

    Demand the styles that fit your body with your purchasing choices. If the shops that carry the styles you like don't cater to your body type - either request it from them or keep looking for a retailer that has the mix that works for you. Email/write/call the pattern companies and request patterns with higher waists.

    I doubt this "trend" of low rise pants will go away and I will be very glad as they continue to offer variety in different rises. There is plenty of room in the marketplace for low and high waisted pants.

    Great article Mikhaela! The 40's and 50's silhouette is very flattering for many. If it suits your body type, sew it up and rock it! : )

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    Replies
    1. Veronica, thank you for this! I'm sorry about those comments--of course many women look awesome in and love to wear low-rise jeans! I think those of us who find them really uncomfortable and ill-suited for our figures just tend to get defensive about this since the look that is pushed by many magazines and most retail outlets seems to be super-tall, super-skinny, long torso with abs of steel... and natural/high waisted styles are derided as not just different but UGLY and FRUMPY.

      I'm so interested to hear how relieved you and Tant-Isis were by the advent of of the low-rise jean... I think the takeaway here is it sucks how dependent available silhouettes and styles are on the whims of the market and fashion industry. And it's not just styles of clothing that go in and out of fashion--it's women's figures and what is considered beautiful. So a curvy woman who might have represented an ideal in one era is derided as "chubby" in another... or a slim small-busted woman who would have been the 20s ideal silhouette is mocked for having no boobs in another decade.

      The good news is that, difficult as it is, us sewists have it relatively easy--at least we have the option of sewing clothes in accordance with our own whims. And vintage lovers can choose from the decades that suit them best...

      And all women of all figure types are REAL women, of course!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Veronica. I have to agree! I'm certainly not thin, but I don't have a large difference between my hips and waist, and I'm short-waisted. Mid/low rise pants are a great thing for me too--more comfortable and they look better on my body. I now either lower the "waist" or take the waist-band off of almost anything I make, including skirts, and I find that they fit and hang so much better.
      ~Jen, NY

      Delete
    3. Hear, hear, Veronica! I am slim, with a super long torso, with super long "waist", and remember with horror the 80s, when every pair of pants I bought made a permanent wedgie as the waist migrated up to my natural waist, about 2" above where the patternmakers thought it should be. *shudder* and I *was* prepubescent then!

      When I turned 13 and got more of a, ahem, rear, the problem was even worse, because my crotch length got longer. I switched and wore men's/boys' pants till the low-rise trend came around.

      I made myself a pair of high-waisted trousers when they came in again, and I still don't like them, just because it accentuates the proportional weirdness of my torso.

      But hey, don't hate on the slims, man, it's as tough for us to find clothes that fit as it is for anybody else. If I've learned nothing else from the sewing interwebs, I've learned that every body has fit issues!

      Delete
  53. Frankly, I think real high-waisted pants are tough to pull off--for anyone without prominent hip bones, I mean. A tough choice for those of us with a short waist too. Mom or not, Frumpsville is a real danger!

    Actually, that hip-hugger envelope is probably from the early 70s. By the late 70s jeans were high-waisted bells--sometimes called "French jeans." The back side was very high, sometimes with a buckle or lacing detail at the waist. This led into the high-waisted straight legs in the 80s that were initially tied to the New Wave thing and later, prep. I live through that and I can say that people were much thinner back then, and also less concerned about body shape. I certainly was less padded myself. The 70s high waisted jeans were also non-stretch, which although horribly uncomfortable, tended to have some girdle effect. Still, any belly or hip bulge was hard to hide in those pants. Unfortunately really flat butts were also "fashionable" then, which in my mind, was not a good match with the high-waisted French jeans.

    As for jeans now, I only buy them from Uniqlo now. Their choices change all the time, but there is little chance of entering Frumpsville, whatever the style. I like to keep it simple.
    ~Jen, NY

    ReplyDelete
  54. Levi's 512s. They are awesome. No gape(!!!!!-truly impossible for my to find), very high rise in back, an inch or two below belly button in front, nice leg shape (I have them in boot cut and skinny). I should probably go get some backup pairs before they discontinue them or change the cut.

    I was so over having to wear excessively long tops with jeans, especially since 90% of the time I'm in skirts. My skirts sit at natural waist, so tops that work with skirts are too short for jeans, but tops that work with jeans are frumpy long with skirts. Stop the insanity!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. funny you should say that, I just tried some Levis "Perfectly Slimming" jeans (can't remember number) and they had a nice high rise and fit very well, though the store was out of the wash I wanted. and we have such different shapes!

      Delete
  55. Try on some Gloria Vanderbilt stretch jeans. I love mine, and they don't look like Mom jeans.

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  56. Oh hi! I am the maker of the Betty pattern that is mentioned here :) I personally love super high waist pants and undies as opposed to those that sit at the natural waist (I am very short and find it more flattering). My husband, on the other hand, prefers a "skimpier" look. But sexy is more about how you feel than how you look right? If you feel comfortable, curvaceous, and fabulous, you'll look it :)

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  57. I am 40-something; I don't remember having an opinion when I was growing up. Looking at the pictures, I was certainly subjected to my share of late 70's style hip-huggers in patterns that would make modern eyes weep. Womens pants have been a pet peeve of mine since adulthood. I HATE HATE HATE low-waisted trousers. But lo! Walmart's Faded Glory brand jeans sit just right at the natural-waist for me. I have a slightly long rise besides, so life has been one layer of Dante's hell for me for a while. Mercifully, even after the birth of my twin girls (now age 8) my hips did not spread, so I can get men's "relaxed fit" dress pants for work. Why do women have to put up with this nonsense?

    One of my girls is a nightmare with underwear. She knows what she likes, darn it, and virtually no one makes natural-waisted underwear for little girls. Thongs, believe it or not, are easier to find! In size 6, for pete's sake!! Even as I type, I have the Hanna Andersson website up, ready to pay $6 apiece for acceptable underwear (which she'll grow out of in a year).

    Start a petition. I'll be the first to sign!

    ReplyDelete
  58. I have been looking for some higher rise pants for my 7 year old. She hates mid rise jeans, she says they feel like they are falling down. Knit pants are also made with a lower rise. Its such a pain and there are no options !

    ReplyDelete
  59. I couldn't agree more re high waisted trousers. I've got a long body and my hips aren't all that big - so low waisted jeans and trousers are way too low on me and fall down - there's nothing to hold them up! Wearing a belt is really uncomfortable when I sit down as it digs into the top of my hip bones.

    But generally I think the high waisted, fit and flare look is far more flattering on any shape - they make anyone's legs look longer and hey, who doesn't want long lean pins?!

    I have one pair of jeans that behave - high waisted and flared from French Connection. They're so long that I hardly wear them as I rarely do jeans and heels but you've inspired me to just shorten them and get wearing them all the time :)

    ReplyDelete
  60. I miss pants that are not 3" below my navel!! I bought a pair of Not Your Mother's Jeans recently and love them!! I am working on sewing a pair of high waisted black dress pants now.
    For really affordable natural waisted underthings jockey makes "French cut" cotton panties (http://www.jockey.com/Catalog/Product/Classic-French-Cut-3-Pack) which give full coverage and, I think, are reasonably attractive for everyday panties. My girl friends refer to them as my "granny panties". I have always preferred this cut. They are comfortable and stay where they should. After having twins there is no way my figure would look good in "bikini" underwear!! I am slender but my tummy is nolonger firm.
    I strongly feel that a woman is more attractive and sexy when she wears clothing that fits properly and is comfortable.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I was so happy to see this article. I have been frothing at the mouth over the dearth of high waist jeans over the last couple of decades that people cross to the other side of the street when they see me. A well fitting high waist emphasizes the natural waist and does not give you the dread muffin top. Whoever made the stupid crack about MOM jeans should be taken out and shot with a ball of their own poop!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only wear high rise. IMO the only flattering jeans. People will come around, no worries. But I threw out every pair of low rise and even mid rise. And I am not buying them no mater how good the fit or the pattern. No thanks to low rise anything.

      Delete
  62. imo, manufacturers have realized that it's easier to fit pants to women if you eliminate the entire top and waistband. just imagine that! no waist sizes to contend with. very few rise lengths. the same pants can fit a variety of body types as long as the hips are the same size. on one woman the top of the pant can be 3" to the natural waist and on another 4". how sweet is that for the manufacturer? forced, once again, into designers and manufacturers easy way out

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  63. I have to second the Levi's 512s jeans. They're getting harder to find and I think they're phasing them out, but they're the only jean to fit me perfectly. I am a short hourglass with a 10in difference between waist and hip and these are the only jeans to not leave a huge gaping hole in the back. My ideal is the Petite Medium, but my area Macy's stores never have them, but they do have them in the Short that fit almost as well. I stock up whenever I have money and there is a sale going on.

    ReplyDelete
  64. I don't wear jeans at all; what am I a farmhand? It took me forever to figure out that when pawing through racks of clothing, the shorter the zipper, the lower the rise. That cut down on the trips to the dressing room. I think it is a conspiracy - short zippers are less expensive for the manufacturer, and Capri-length is less expensive to manufacture, too - less material.

    And yet the retailers can charge the same prices they always have for "pants".

    It's a mystery to me why middle aged-women subject themselves to those ridiculous pants, pulling at them, hiking them up constantly, with the big, unflattering patch pockets on their backsides.

    When I on a pair of tailored pants with a normal waistline, I look 15 pounds lighter - and not having that knot of denim digging into my crotch and the pants clinging for dear life to my hips make me infinitely more pleasant.

    ReplyDelete

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