Blogging has taught me so much. About confession, about persistence, about the Hail Mary of creative writing.
And that I wear my pants too big.
Perhaps I should say, wore my pants too big, in the past tense. Because I recently took 8 pairs to the tailor, and started buying a size smaller than ever before. This isn’t very interesting, in and of itself. Headline. “Breaking News: Middle-Aged Californian Woman Wears Pants That Fit.”
But it was kind of interesting to deconstruct. Because maybe you too may have a quirky or unconscious sartorial habit, one that does not serve you well. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to leave bad choices behind without a little analysis.
Turns out my baggy pant syndrome had two root causes.
Comfort And Discomfort
In my 30s I developed terrible sciatica. I spent a year, when my son was 2, lying on the floor because sitting hurt too much. You can imagine this went over really well in business meetings. In those days, pant waistlines happened to cross, directly, the L5 vertebra that was causing my problem. Impinged nerves hurt even more when bound. A lesson for life.
But nowadays we can wear our pants at the hip. As it turns out, if my pants are tight at the hip, they leave my unquiet nerves in peace. Even so, not until the young J. Crew saleswoman cajoled me on the open floor, “Yes, really, that’s how they should fit,” could I give up my bag and sag.
The other cause of my baggy pant syndrome was more difficult to tease out. I spent some time thinking about the issue. As one does, right? Wearing flares, one day, I stared into the full body mirror in the bathroom at work. Good thing nobody came in. Why, I wondered, even when I had found a way around vertebral punishment, did I prefer this silhouette? Why choose volume when all feedback suggests sleek?
It dawned on me that I was trying to balance my shoulders. I have very broad shoulders, something discovered when I was measured for a college theatrical getup. “Oh look,” called out the costumer, “You have the biggest shoulders of everyone except the tennis captain.”
On the one hand, baggy pants encourage proportional harmony. But my choices weren’t primarily about aesthetics. In my heart I have always felt that my bulky shoulders make me look like a man. Alternatively, and this is a question beyond the scope of my particular skills, I felt masculine and pegged that feeling to my skeleton. Who knows?
When I tell you I have always felt bulky, I don’t mean fat. Not since my days of graduating from college, coping with anxiety via an eating disorder, have I felt fat. But I feel sturdy. Not feminine, not girlish. While I did feel like a woman, especially after I had my babies, in my set of cultural aesthetics womanly is not the same as feminine.
So when I wear loose, or wide-legged, pants, I feel just feminine enough. The implications stretch out across a blue horizon. We will gesture in their direction, for now, and imagine orange light at sunset.
It is appropriate to ask, “Why no dresses then?” We’re taxing my capacity for self-understanding, but it’s hard to wear comfortable shoes with dresses. And I suppose I have a secret fear that my skirts will blow up over my head. What? You never worry about that?
So I could set out on a therapeutic course. Or, I could buy smaller trousers. Which is the kind of solution Sturdy Gals are apt to prefer. I made the tailor’s day, 8 pairs of pants draped over my arm, shoes in a paper bag for heel height, 30 years of body image trailing disconsolately behind.
Do you have a sartorial quirk, with buried roots?