It's All in Your 'Jeans'

The inspiration for this article came from a wonderful friend of mine. She’s beautiful, kind, intelligent, and it’s easy to apply every positive adjective to her. However, at the beginning of this semester, we found ourselves having a conversation wasn’t as upbeat as our interactions normally are. Why? Because we were talking about our body image and weight.

Specifically, we were discussing the weight we’d gained since starting college. Somehow, we’d gotten it in our minds that this was one of the most significant changes we’d undergone since beginning our time at Saint Vincent. In light of increasing in size, we found ourselves neglecting the fact that we’ve both found work study jobs we adore, have become the officers in numerous clubs, and are excelling in our chosen majors.

As we were talking, I found myself getting angry. At first, I thought I was angry at myself for gaining weight, but then I reflected a little further. Instead of being mad at myself, and instead of allowing my friend to be mad at herself, we decided to conduct an experiment.

I went to the mall and tried on a size 8 pair of jeans in 3 different stores, all mid-rise and made of the typical stretch denim/“jegging” material. Like many other women, I HATE shopping for jeans. It’s a real blow to my self-esteem when they don’t fit, and because of that, I find my enthusiasm for shopping for a pair of jeans on par with going to the dentist, cleaning my room, and coming home from a great vacation – it’s always coupled with disappointment and anxiety. Lucky for me, this shopping trip turned out a little differently. Here’s what happened.

The first store I attempted was H&M. I’d never personally shopped for jeans there before, so I thought it would be interesting. At the stores I normally buy jeans from (mostly American Eagle and Target) I’ve consistently been a size 8 for the last 2 years. At H&M though, I was NOT an 8... not even close. The jeans I tried on were incredibly snug around my thighs, and there was no chance of buttoning them. Just for my reference, I tried on a size 12 and it ended up fitting pretty well; it was hard for me to accept needing a double digit size, though. I left H&M feeling pretty bad about myself, but still felt the need to keep going with my little “experiment.”

The next store I visited was Old Navy. I’m consistently a big fan of their affordable prices, adorable sweaters, and racks of cute workout gear. However, I’d never tried on a pair of their jeans. I took a size 8 to the dressing room, and I was still feeling a little discouraged by my H&M experience. You can imagine my surprise when the jeans I tried on at Old Navy were a size too big.

By this point, I was getting angry for an entirely different reason. How can women be expected to love their bodies when they can’t even buy clothes in a consistent size? Our society idolizes the idea of being a size 0, but what even is a size 0? With that in mind, I went into the third and final store: Charlotte Russe. I took my size 8 jeans to the dressing room with no idea what to expect. Charlotte Russe, as a brand, caters primarily to high school and college age women. After researching their demographic, I was shocked that their jeans were the most similarly sized to my current favorites. With such a pressure to be thin on women of high school and college age, I was surprised to find a pair of jeans in this store that fit me in the way I expected.

When I bought a size 10 pair of jeans for the first time, I shed actual tears on my drive home from the mall. I realize now that I can’t be defined simply by a number. It’s something I’ve known all along, but I found myself beginning to making peace with the idea after this experiment. How can I expect myself to maintain a consistent size in a store when the stores can’t even do it? I left this experience with a new mindset. I wish I could say that it changed my body image entirely, but I’d be lying if I did that. I’m the kind of girl who truly believes all women are beautiful, the kind of girl who will yell about feminism and equality until she loses her voice. Unfortunately, I’m also still the girl who feels defeated by gaining weight. I’m still the girl who skips dinner sometimes because she feels fat, but I’m working on it.

The thing that makes me the angriest is seeing the way inconsistent sizing affects my friends. Why should they be looking down on themselves for something as simple as a clothing tag with a number attached, especially when that number varies from store to store? And what is that saying to the next generation of girls? That they need to only shop in stores where they’re a size 0, because that’s what being beautiful is? That if they’re not a size 0 anywhere then they’re worthless? As a society we need to do better: for our daughters, for our friends, for ourselves. We need to perpetuate the idea of being beautiful as we naturally are, instead of the idea that “thin=beautiful.” It does, but it’s not the only thing that does.

The passion that lights up someone’s face when they talk about what they love is beautiful. Laughing so loud that people look over is beautiful. Confidence is beautiful. Working on bettering yourself in whatever ways you can? Fat, thin, underweight, overweight, short, tall, etc.? Beautiful. If there’s one thing you can take away from reading this article, let it be that the way you are, right now, NATURALLY, is perfectly okay.