How One Pair Of Jeans Changed How I View Myself

by Jodie Layne

This week I did something so unexpected, so strange and out of character for me, that even my mom and boyfriend couldn't believe it — I bought a pair of jeans . For probably the past six years or so, denim has only encapsulated my lower body for two days in total, when I wore a pair of my boyfriend's old skinnies. Then I decided that I still hated wearing pants and the embargo was back on. With the exception of one pair of yoga pants that I wore to yoga class, I've worn jeggings, leggings, dresses, and skirts exclusively. Winter, summer — all seasons, I refused to let my legs be encased and restrained. I live in an area of Canada that is referred to as "Winterpeg, Manisnowba" and sticking with my preferences in the flurries and snowstorms has required a good bit of commitment to my hatred of pants.

So, let's go back to these jeans. I'd been thinking about trying some denim for a while, enticed by the prevalence of the denim trend this spring season. Growing up as a country girl, denim's always had a place in my heart and I've managed to work it into my wardrobe through dresses, shirts, and jackets; but I was beyond ready to mix it up. The look of a tucked shirt or a bodysuit underneath a pair of jeans was enough to help me work up the courage to even try on a pair. I was ready to find the darkest wash, skinny, stretchy jeans in the place that most resembled jeggings and try them on. Hey, baby steps right?

I tried on a pair of black DKNY jeans that I didn't realize were heavily boot cut and immediately took them off. I tried on a pair of William Rast jeggings that were passable, but not actually jeans so I figured that they didn't really count in this clothing adventure to try new things. Fine. Then I pulled on a pair of jeans that I thought were cute but had absolutely zero expectations of — a pair of dark wash Makers of True Originals boyfriend jeans with a little distressing in the knee. They slipped on a little too easily and when I looked in the mirror I was completely freaking out.

This was like an episode of The Twilight Zone: I loved them and I loved the way that they looked on me. I paired The Jeans with at least three different tops and still liked them each time. Not only was I seriously digging how cute they were on me, but I was actually really comfortable in them.

I pulled them on the next day to wear to a self-care workshop that I was leading. With my slouchy striped top and low-top sneakers, I was digging my look that felt casual but still pulled together. When I went for tea with my mom on that Sunday night, I wore The Jeans. On Monday, when I didn't actually leave the house at all, I wore The Jeans with the excuse that I "just wanted to break them in a little bit more." In reality, I realized that I'm so enamored with these pants because they are helping me love and see my body and my style in a different light than I had while I was wearing all of those skirts and dresses.

My decision to stay away from pants was a conscious one and my hatred for them was very well-known. I felt like they were too restrictive to my ample thighs and hips, and that they also ended up looking too casual or sloppy — I feel you, Eva Mendes. It was a time when I started flirting heavily with the line between straight and plus-sizes and was also learning to reclaim my femininity as a positive thing after years trying to be as un-girly as possible.

Growing up with all of your closest classmates as boys, playing sports, and then living in a granola hippie snowboarding town was all sort of a recipe for feeling like "feminine equals frivolous." Getting into feminism and body positivity helped me realize that the penchant I had for wearing muted tones and no makeup and the reputation of not "being like the other girls" was a good old-fashioned case of internalized misogyny.

Practically speaking, though, finding pants that fit my body and its proportions was incredibly difficult, frustrating, and made me very self-conscious. If I could fit into a size M in dresses, why I was I barely squeezing into those size 14 Roxy jeans that I'd wanted? Once I was finally in a pair of pants, either the waist or the butt didn't fit quite right and the legs were almost always too long. They's exaggerate the parts of me that I most wanted to hide, making me feel uncomfortable and the exact polar opposite of confident in the process.

I was 19 years old and definitely not in a place to shell out for alterations to every pair of pants I wanted to wear. To hide the ill-fitting waistband, I'd wear an incredibly oversized shirt or sweater and walk around slouching self-consciously all day. It wasn't a good look.

I started wearing dresses and skirts almost exclusively and eventually just let go of pants altogether. And I felt so much happier getting dressed — like wearing traditionally feminine styles forced me to put a little effort into my daily routine and embrace my femme-ness. I liked the way that the skirts hit me at my natural waist and created an hourglass shape. I loved how the dresses I wore skimmed over my hips and stomach, hiding the parts of me I wanted to pretend were invisible. Wearing dresses and skirts was an easy way to feel feminine, polished, and body-positive with comparatively little effort.

By presenting myself made up and in a dress, it allowed me to control what parts of me others saw and enforce my feminine presentation as I gained weight from my health condition whilst trying to handle it with various types of hormonal birth control. It remained as such, as PCOS caused me to grow more hair on my face and abdomen, not to mention hormonal cystic acne. To me, it said: "I am not letting myself go! I will do whatever I can to still be cute!" I equated dressing down or dressing casually to be "not caring" about what I looked like, especially as a plus-size woman. I felt like I had something to prove and that being fat was something that I had to be ashamed of and make up for. While I still identify as femme, I know that there are tons of different ways of expressing that and that there's nothing wrong with wearing skirts and dresses every day.

Choosing to embrace jeans again, and more relaxed boyfriend jeans(!), is a sign that I'm growing more comfortable with my body and exploring different aspects of my own style. I wanted to wear jeans, but never gave myself permission to. I wanted to wear crop tops and sleeveless shirts without sweaters, but didn't feel like I could. Despite advocating for everyone else to wear what they feel like wearing, I felt like I was the exception to that rule. Guess what? I'm not.

Can a person wear a tent dress without using that as a method to hide? Yes! Can you wear jeans and still feel gorgeous? Absolutely. Am I still "acceptable" in whatever I choose to wear? Undoubtedly. And knowing that is more important than any outfit I'll ever put on.Images: Author; Giphy