Friday, June 17, 2011

How to: Buy Jeans without Crying

Since I’m a mechanical engineer, I basically live in jeans. Any pants other than jeans are usually considered overdressed as I spend my days deep inside fairly large, dirt-covered robots, repairing them. However, you never know when you’ll have a client touring the lab or a sudden meeting with a vendor that’s in town so I still need my jeans to look good. My jeans need to be functional but not make me look like I paint houses on the side.

My problem is that my jeans always wear out quick. I had an embarrassing incident at work a couple of weeks ago when I didn’t realize one of my pairs in rotation had a quarter-size hole two inches south of the crotch. I spent all day walking around with my knees fused hoping no one see it. It was time to brave the mall in a quest for jeans and here are the rules I live by so that I don’t end up sobbing in a dressing room:

Your Body and Mind:
There are certain times you don’t want to try to force your body into a pair of pants that may shake your self-esteem to the core. Say, the previous night you dinner consisted of Super Nachos, a half pound of peanut M&M’s, and a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. Don’t try to buy jeans. If you’ve recently gained five pounds and think you can quickly shake it. Don’t try to buy jeans. You’re on the most bloated day of your cycle. Don’t try to buy jeans. You’re on the most hormonal day of your cycle. Don’t try to buy jeans.

That being said, don’t try to buy jeans if you aren’t mentally prepared for it. Make a plan to buy jeans, don’t do it spontaneously. Finding a good pair of jeans while you’re window shopping or shopping as a form of therapy is a very dangerous idea. Tops, accessories, shoes, those are all safe, but risking your sanity by trying on jeans is just dumb. In order to find a good pair of jeans with minimal amount of pain and suffering, you need to have a strategy.

Your Appearance: 
You need a good foundation in the rest of your outfit before facing the bad angles and horrible lighting in a dressing room. It’s naïve to expect jeans to look good on you when the rest of your look is schlubby. Style your hair, break out your favorite jewelry, and make yourself pretty.

To pick the jeans that will best fit with the rest of your wardrobe, your outfit needs to reflect the majority of your favorite pieces. Wear a shirt that hits you at a comfortable length. I have a long torso and its bad enough when a pair of jeans gives you a muffin top, but it’s so much worse when your shirt is too short and displays it to the world. Also, some jeans look great and fit great, but once you layer a shirt on top, you can see every line of the jeans.

Your shoes should be a height you want to wear with the jeans. If you plan on wearing them dancing in 4” heels, wear 4” heels. I know it sounds dumb to say, but I’ve tried it before. I’ve tried on pants with flats hoping they would be long enough with heels because they were too long in the flats. Nope, a couple of inches too short. Also, as a side note, wear shoes that are easy to get on and off. A horrible experience can be made that much more stressful when you’re trapped in a dressing room, staring down the jeans that crushed your spirit as you rush to try and tie your shoes back up. Velcro, elastic, and slip-ons are your friend.

Depending on which body part of yours does most of the fighting when trying to fit into a new pair of pants, your choice in underwear can have a huge effect. Similarly to heel height, don’t try on jeans in a thong and hope there’s enough room so that the standard cotton bikinis you were all the time won’t show through. You need to know if your jeans will distinguish panty lines, whether they be along your bum from the bottom of the panties or along your hips from the indent of your thong. The thickness of the denim needs to work for you.

The Store:
The biggest revelation I had about how to buy jeans was my choice of stores. From about the ages of 14 to 21, I only shopped at Mervyn’s for jeans. I dreaded everytime I needed jeans. The biggest problem is that Mervyn’s carried dozens of designers and each type fit differently and they never seemed to carry the same brand twice. I would scour racks and haul dozens of pairs into the dressing room because I could be anywhere from a size 7 to a size 13. And on the miraculous chance I actually found a brand or pair that I liked, they had always vanished by the time I returned for a second pair.

My whole experience changed when I fell in love with a pair of jeans at Old Navy. And I went back to get a second pair. And they were still there! So I bought two more pairs. Actually, come to think of it, I’m wearing a pair of them right now. The best thing is that I can go back and know that the jeans that I like will be there.

So this piece of advice boils down to spend some time and find a store that carries one brand of jeans, and only one to eliminate any confusion between brands, that you love. It just makes all future shopping infinitely easier. I know that I can walk into Old Navy, grab couple of different styles in my size, and, odds are, I’ll walk out of there with a new pair of pants or two. Try stores like Old Navy, the Gap, and Banana Republic that carry in-store brands only. Once you find a brand you like, every other shopping trip has become a no-brainer.

Even with all these rules in place, I still managed to walk out of Old Navy yesterday with nothing. I know the cause of my failure though: admitting the truth. I refused to go up a size even though I’ve put on ten pounds in the last couple months. But I’ve told myself that if the weight wasn’t off by the end of the month, I’d go back, suck it up, and face my size fears.

However, I managed to not have a mental breakdown in the dressing room, so it wasn’t a total loss.

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