Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jeans: the litmus test of fit

Last Sunday was quite nippy, so I wanted to wear my Christmas jumper. Underneath the jumper I wore a navy and white striped T-shirt. First I tried teaming this with a royal blue miniskirt with red tartan leggings, but it looked too busy and choppy. So I tried it with my black cigarette-leg pants. It looked good, but it bothered me that the top was navy while the pants were black. Then I remembered… my jeans.

Now, I hadn't worn these jeans since the ill-fated Collingwood Skipping Club performance at the State of Design festival opening in 2011. They were part of that night's story of crushing humiliation, and I balled them up in a drawer and forgot about them.

But I put them on today, and I was shocked by how ill-fitting they were. I don't think my body has changed too much since 2011, so did I actually wear these terrible, baggy jeans on a regular basis? Prepare yourself for some ugly photos…

This is the best photo. They don't look too bad here. But you can already glimpse…

…that phenomenon colloquially dubbed 'ghost penis' or 'polterwang'. Also known as a pants tent, this is that bunchy, saggy thing that loose pants do in the crotch. It's particularly unfortunate on women.

It was difficult to photograph these jeans well enough to properly convey the horror. In this pic you can see the elephantine bagginess through the thighs and knees. But gentlemen, grasp your manhoods, for here comes the money shot!

Dear god! These are the worst-fitting pants ever! To me they are an excellent illustration of why I never wear jeans.

But a better explanation for why I never wear jeans is that jeans are one of the most difficult garments to fit properly. Unless they're deliberately baggy, they have to fit snugly yet comfortably in the torso, buttocks, crotch, thighs and calves, which is a lot to ask of a mass-manufactured garment when there is such a vast amount of variation in the human body.

This is why jeans companies have partnered with 3D body scanning technologies. Jeans labels and retailers are the most prominent of the participating brands with Me-Ality, the 'virtual fitting room' startup that has kiosks in North American shopping centres.

The idea is that you have yourself scanned using the same Alvanon scanning booths that I experienced as part of Target's sizing survey, and then the software actually directs you to the shops in the same mall that stock your 'best-fitting' garments. Target, too, made it all about jeans; I was offered a time-limited discount off Target jeans for having participated in the scanning survey.

Bodymetrics is a scanning startup that uses the same white light technique as the XBox Kinect. Here, the TechCrunch team road-test the technology in Bloomingdale's:

It's fascinating, though, how coy they are about the process. White light scanners require you to strip down to your undies in the booth, but TechCrunch gracefully evades actually showing the scanner in action.

Based on the scan data, Bodymetrics then assigns you to one of three orthovestic 'body shapes' and recommends the corresponding jeans, which it euphemistically names Emerald (a straight figure), Sapphire (an hourglass figure) and Ruby (a pear-shaped figure).

Marks and Spencer's Body Shape Denim range also sorts you into three orthovestic categories, named after Hollywood stars and dictated by waist-hip ratio. 'Lana' is designed "for a fuller waist and a slim hip"; 'Marilyn' is designed "to follow the contours of an hourglass figure with well-defined waist and shapely legs"; 'Eva' is "for a small waist and curvy hips".

A red flag comes up about how shitty jeans will always look on me when the 'Lana' style is recommended for those with a waist-hip differential of 22cm or under, and my waist-hip differential is 9cm. According to M&S's size chart, my waist measurement dictates I choose jeans four sizes larger than the size recommended by my hip measurement. Which size should I choose, even in this supposedly shape-conscious jeans style?

No wonder my jeans, which I painstakingly tried on in a shop and bought primarily because they did not create a 'muffin top' at the waist, fit me so badly.

As I gesture to here, jeans have become an omnipresent casual uniform – so much so that they're often regarded as 'essential' and 'classic', and culture tells me again and again that I should go to as much effort as possible to find a pair that fits me. I suppose if I cared enough I could get some jeans custom-made, but honestly there are so many other nice things to wear, why would I bother trying to squeeze my body into this particular genre of garment?

This is a prime reason why we should let our own tastes guide our dressing, not external notions of what we 'should' wear. In the end, I put my black pants back on and wore those, even though navy and black don't go especially well together.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Levis does this too - I got measured by their shop assistant, looking at waist/hip ratio, and was deemed 'demi curve'. I then spent the most I have ever spent on a pair of jeans. Luckily I feel they do fit me well, and they are more comfortable than I expected. They're just slightly too short in the leg, a legacy of my impulsivity (they didn't have the longer fit in store, and I wanted new jeans now!).

It is the first time I have bought jeans that fit my hips but don't gape at the waistline.