Your Genes vs. Your Jeans

by Janelle Harris

You spot them across a crowded sales floor, or maybe a congested thrift store rack. Denim works of art. The perfect pair of jeans, if such a thing even exists. Beautiful cut, lovely wash—even the little rivets have panache. You swoop down on them, terrified another stylish shopper will make eye contact with them first, and scuttle them back to the fitting room, ready to make love to your mirrored image from the waist down.

Except they won’t come up past the middle of your thighs. Or they do this weird creasey thing across your hips. Or they pucker out so far at the waist, you look like you’re a little tea pot, short and stout. There is your handle and there is your spout.

If I never had to shop for another pair of jeans, I’d do two cartwheels, a round-off and a Tae-Bo kick across the mall parking lot. Jeans are a fashion staple, but next to bras (which belong in the seventh ring of hell), they’re my least favorite thing to look for, and sometimes, my least favorite thing to wear. I’ve broken nails trying to zip them up. Flopped back on my bed wrestling into them. Analyzed my hindquarters from every possible angle under the unkind glare of department store fluorescent lighting trying to buy them. Liked the way they fit my legs but hated the way they rode up in the crotch. Liked the way they fit around the waist but hated the way they flattened my rump. Squatted down in them to manufacture some give when they’ve been damn-girl-can-you-breathe? tight.

If you’re a Black woman, you probably have curves. And when you’re a Black woman with curves, you’ve probably experienced the deflating realization that most designers have visions of Angelina Jolie or Kate Hudson dancing through their heads when they strike out to create a new line. But newsflash: for at least the last five years, and probably longer than that, the average American woman has been rocking a size 14. But you wouldn’t be able to tell by the waif-like sizing of most jeans or the obvious lack of models with meat on their bones.

So when Levi’s introduced Curve ID, I snickered. Levi’s? The same brand the white girls in my high school poured their stick figures into? Seems as though the company is having a hard time breaking with their own stereotype. Their most recent ads for the line purportedly for thicker girls only proves their definition of shapeliness is a few stick-thin chicks with gams the size of my forearms. They defended themselves by saying they do celebrate different body types. Alas, those images, few and far between as they are, were relegated to a Facebook page with some 3,000 fans, a far cry from the pages of the print magazines that reach millions of readers. Pity.

Just because you drizzle syrup on boo-boo don’t make it hot cakes (I don’t know. Just roll with me.) And just because you feign respect for the shape of “real women” doesn’t make it the dawning of a new day. Levi’s may know denim and they may know capitalism, but they wouldn’t know a real womanly curve if it dropped it like it’s hot on their conference room table.

Someday soon, as Americans get bigger and more women fall into that “full-figured” category, which, at this point, is more the average than the exception, designers are going to have to kick that old school thinking to the curb that consumers want to see beautiful, but bony models wearing clothes they’re hoping will sell. Marketing studies have shown that women are overwhelmingly more likely to purchase a product if the gal pushing it looks more like them in age, race and, yes, weight. That includes jeans, Levi’s. Then you wonder why the clearance rack is clogged up with so many overstocked size 2s.

Curve ID let me down, and not just because of the ads. I bought two styles online, sight unseen, because they were on sale but they didn’t come close to the one-stop, don’t-look-no-further discovery I’d hoped for. The fit wasn’t all that impressive. So the love/hate relationship with denim marches on and my two little trusty pairs will remain on call indefinitely until I either whittle myself down to an itty bitty number in the lower single digits or stumble on a brand that can accentuate all that I got going on. Since Mitt Romney has a better chance of leading a conga line at the DNC than I do of being a waif size 4, my money’s on the former, not the latter. Then again, there’s always sweatpants.

  • LADreaming86

    The issue I have with jean (and pants in general) shopping is that one designer’s size 6 is equivalent to another designer’s size 11. I own way more tops that I do pants and usually end up wearing the same jeans a lot because it’s hard to find a pair of jeans that don’t fit too tight after being washed.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    DEATH TO THE SWEATPANTS! What in the world?! Girl please don’t let me find you in a pair of sweats. Those things are supposed to be sweating out-meaning working out not parading across town like you some type of high fashion model in them. Now onto the real subject matter. This article has come in the nick of time. I spent 5hours looking for the right pair of jeans! I found none! None. none. none. I was super pissed. and continue to be. They were either stopping short at my ankles. They were either to big in the waist area. I frigging give up. I’ve resulted to not wearing any jeans and resorted to what my forefathers did best, walk butt nekkid!- that is how I am protesting!

    #Occupy Jeans for a woman with a body that only God understands.

  • chanela

    EXACTLY! i just bought a pair of jeans i an 8 (i wear a 7 *stretch*) thinking it would be more comfortable than a 7 since only SOME size 7s fit me perfectly. most of the time i’m too tall for the jeans and its hard as shit to find long jeans in most stores and most 7s dont even go up past the middle of my thick thighs. i was excited as hell to FINALLY get jeans in the perfect style (i can’t stand this modern spishy splashy,blotted,acid washed,bleached type of jeans, i stick to classics) and the perfect color, and seemingly the perfect fit… WRONG! that mess got to my house and i was sooo sad that buying that size 8 was as if i bought a damn 3.

    the place that i buy my jeans online and they fit perfectly EVERY TIME is YMI jeans. i get the “jegging” type jeans though cause like i said before, i wear a size 7 but only if it is “stretch”. i even look at the percentages of cotton,spandex,and polyester to make sure it will fit. they fit great everytime : )

  • Alexandra

    The two things I have difficulty shopping for are bras and jeans. Nothing to do with my genes, but my obsessive search perfection. I hate bad-fitting clothes. It seems like a lot of effort was put into making jeans during the early ’00′s. I haven’t bought a beautifully-faded, well-fitted, stretchy, comfortable jean for ‘tall women’ since American Eagle discontinued their ‘hipster’ and original ‘favorite’ jean fits. I wear a size 8 & 10 and I deal with shopping in stores filled the racks of size 6′s & below. I settled for the only 10 on the rack once, because I loved the design. But when I tried it on I was left with a baggy crotch because it fitted poorly around the hips and was too tight around the thighs. There’s also a lack of jeans for women 5’11″ and up. Companies probably aren’t producing a variety of sizes because its too much money, but they could easily make all of it and more back. The market is there?! I’ve grown to dislike shopping for jeans in general, instead of sweats I stick to dress pants.

  • Alexandra

    “#Occupy Jeans for a woman with a body that only God understands.”

    …or a tailor. But I like it ;)

  • chanela

    girl i feel you! i hate going shopping for jeans and the one you love BEST is full of nothing but sizes 3 and below or size 16. wth!

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    @ Alexander,

    A tailor?! Shoot me. I hate alterations…I really do. It’s either it fits me or it don’t.

  • binks

    First who is the model she is gorgeous! Secondly I agree I hate Jeans/pants shopping in general I have thick thighs so when I buy jeans that is suppose to be my size it either doesn’t pull up over my thighs or fit my thighs but not everything else so I usually stick to skirts/dresses. I consider wearing pants/shorts and jeans a treat since it is rare that I can found a pair I love that fits me properly.

  • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com Perverted Alchemist

    “I frigging give up. I’ve resulted to not wearing any jeans and resorted to what my forefathers did best, walk butt nekkid!- that is how I am protesting!

    #Occupy Jeans for a woman with a body that only God understands.”

    I only have one response for this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCySTWFcnlM&feature=related

  • CurlySue

    Jeans are the g*oddammned devil!! You put them on by huffing and puffing, laying on the bed, and then squatting up and down a few times to stretch them out. Boom! They fit now! Flash forward to an hour later and the waist is baggy, the front part is falling, they’re STILL tight around the thighs and asz and you’re constantly pulling them up. The only thing I hate more than shopping for jeans is shopping for dress pants. Good god, are these things scientifically engineered to look awkard on anyone who has a sizeable difference in their waist and hips? Ugh, just put me in a burlap sack and send me on my way.

  • Jen

    I prefer black pants (leggings or dress pants) to jeans. They’re not stiff and uncomfortable and black is slimming.

  • http://blackonpurpose.blogspot.com/ gryph

    simple solution: ooman guh back inna yuh skirt!

  • Jloveyourself

    Not Your Daughter’s jeans sold at Macy’s, Nordstrom, and The rack! Completely saved my life are made in the USA, owned by women and are perfect for my size 12/14 hips, booty, and tummy. A multitude of colors and styles, full price $100-$120, discount stores $30 – $50. The name is not flattering but if u can get past that your days of crying over jeans are over:)

  • Jloveyourself

    Not Your Daughter’s jeans sold at Macy’s, Nordstrom, and The rack! I have 7 pairs!! Completely saved my life and gave me hope as a fashionista, are made in the USA, owned by women and are perfect for my size 12/14 hips, booty, and tummy. A multitude of colors and styles, full price $100-$120, discount stores $30 – $50. The name is not flattering but if u can get past that your days of crying over jeans are over:)

  • Vee

    I typically have no issue purchasing jeans. I love Ann Taylor jeans I have a boot cut in a size 8 petite, and some others in a size 6 average (slim/skinny fit curvy style) I love the way they hug my curves.

    I also have a pair of skinny leg jeans from New York & Company I bought last April and they fit me like a glove :)

    Now since I am top heavy it is hard for me to find tops that don’t make me look as though I have a muffin top or make my breasts stick out a lot.

  • minna k.

    ”Then you wonder why the clearance rack is clogged up with so many overstocked size 2s.”

    Ok, where do YOU live miss author?? In my world (NYC) overstock is usually a size 10 and up. All of the 2′s are gone by the time things go on sale. I will come to your city.

    @ jloveyourself, i have been curious about that brand. Your good feedback is helpful, i will explore. Thanks. I wear a smaller size and i still have the issues that you mentioned.

    Otherwise yes to taylors ladies. These jeans are an approximate fit. A perfect fitted anything off of a rack (that is not a knitted material) is a fantasy. Levis doesn’t borrow you for their dress forms.

  • Jess

    While I haven’t tried the new Curve ID jean, I do in fact love my Levis!! Let me preface this by saying—I own a lot of jeans–a lot, but my favorites are the two brands that fit me the best–Levis and DKNY. Both can be found at Macys, but the reason that I love them both is that they offer really great fit! They have just the right amount of spandex to fit my booty and my waist, while also offering a nice mid-rise, because there is nothing I hate more than having to constantly pull up my damn jeans every five minutes. The thing that I hate is inconsistency in sizing across the different brands/stores. I have to keep in mind that while I’m a 4 in Levis and DKNY, I’m a 10 in the colored skinny jeans at the Gap, and a 29 in the more expensive high end jeans. My best advice is to be prepared to try on a ton, find one or two brands that work for you and stick with them!

  • apple

    i have trouble finding pants because i have a big ass but a small waist which ends up being to big or being to small to get up my leg.. people like beyonce and kim k can afford tailors for that but i can’t so i usually end up wearing dresses because it covers my ass and body…
    also i think my ass grows month by month which by the second month of the pants don’t fit !

  • Candi83

    I think for every woman, buying jeans is a pain in the butt. I’ve had girlfriends that are size 2s and they hate shopping for jeans. As a full figured woman myself, it’s even worse. I end up buying jeans at old navy all the time. I also go on forever21.com and there’s a half decent plus sized section. Some of the stuff looks very teeny bopper, but the basic jeans fit me well.

  • A

    speaking as a size 6-8, some clothes just aren’t designed for curves i hate finding a good top, but then the bust is too small or bottoms that fit fine apart from being a bit too snug. going up a size sometimes looks a bit baggy and deviates from the whole way the outfit is meant to look.

    I guess I need a bespoke tailor. :-(

  • iQgraphics

    she is something close to perfect

  • iQgraphics

    paper denim jeans were good
    then Peoples Liberation were great but then I couldn’t find them anymore…

    I have some old 7′s that are good.

    I have very wide hips and a big high bubble but. completely pear shaped
    I just wear those kitson cloth jeans now.

    and a good tailor is key to have.
    especially when you have those perfect jeans and you wear a hole in the upper thigh/ crotch area. I get them to put patches in them.

  • September’s Muse

    I know leggings shouldnt be worn as pants but find me some jeans that fit my 27 inch waist and my 40 inch hips or else thats all I feel comfortable in (except for my wide legged jeans :-D). More importantly, forget a booty pop…get me a butt girdle. I cant wait till summer so I can wear dresses and dismiss this nonsense.

  • iQgraphics

    heard that
    Im a 30/44
    we should go shopping together ;)

  • Angie

    I don’t even wear jeans. My ass and thighs are too big for the average jeans on the rack and I don’t have the time or the patience for a jeans hunting excursion. They look nice on other women, but they are soooo uncomfortable to me.

  • Jen

    Wow, I’m 28-40. Envious!

  • Nic

    To the author, I know you this article is clearly only meant to relate to “average” size women, but your choice of words is denigrating. “Real woman” or “real womanly curves” are totally unnecessary words. If you want to criticize the marketing, please do, but don’t discount women, especially black women, who are not naturally curvy or big as not being “real” because they don’t fit your mold. Smaller girls have trouble finding jeans that fit as well, if we can even find our size on the rack. We all go through the same issues! You could have used this article to advocate for different brands that have a range of sizes and styles, instead of harping on the advertising of one.

  • Candy 1

    Last year I stopped wearing gym shoes outside of the gym, and this year it has finally gotten to a point where I am thinking about ditching jeans for dresses, slacks and only a couple pairs of shorts (at least for the warmer months). I like jeans when I can find the right ones, but it is so hard to find a pair that don’t make my butt look like a pancake (I have butt, but it is just a little curvy–not big and robust) and fit my thighs. I am 148 and a size 10 or 11 and no matter how much weight I try to lose, the problem is always there because my proportions stay about the same.

  • Dalili

    LOL @ CurlySue! It’s for all the reasons you mentioned that I hardly wear jeans. I find dresses so much easier to deal with.

  • CaramelBeauty

    You should try “Nt Your Daughter’s Jeans” they have them at Nordstrom’s or try Target their jeans come in every size and shape that there are. They have jeans that fit every shape is what I am trying to say. I used to feel the same way, but through trial and error, I have found jeans that look good on me.

  • CurlySue

    I’m a 14 with a large bust and butt, and a proportionately smaller waist. Standard hourglass. Nothing awkward about my shape really. You wouldn’t BELIEVE how hard it is to find a zip-up lined dress to fit right. It’s crazy. The sizes are all over the place in terms of conformity. They’re big in my waist but barely go above my hips and strain across the ta tas. I’m convinced that the art of making well-fitting clothes is dead. Unless you’re willing to tailor everything you own, prepare to be perpetually pissed off when shopping.

  • http://method2hermadness.blogspot.com/ girlformerlyknownasgrace

    @binks I concur

  • http://www.clutchmagazine.com Clutch

    Hey ladies,

    Her name is Teiko Dornor. She’s a British-born Ghanaian plus-size model.

  • Ok

    “If you are a black woman, you probably have curves.” – ignorant assumption, I’m a black woman and I have no curves. Ijs

  • Kimm

    It’s not just jeans! I’m 16, looking for a dress for my cousin’s wedding and have BEEN looking since like december -_____- I have wide hips and a large chest :/ It get’s so stressful shopping if you’re not 100 lbs or smaller.

  • Candi83

    Have you had a look at asos.com? They have a curve section that’s decent.

  • Kacey

    Someone needs to forward her photo to Levis and let them know that this is what we want to see. If their Curve ID jeans can fit that body, then we know they’re legit!

  • http://eclecticspectrum.wordpress.com Afia

    Exactly. I’m a size 0-2 and I’m not Ms. Curvy. Jeans can be a problem. But I’m tired of black writers treating black people as a monolith.

  • Ravi

    I agree. She is a bad woman. finest model I’ve seen in a minute.

  • binks

    Thanks! But if she is consider plus size then sign me up…lol Teiko’s body is banging ans she just glows.

  • Dalili

    I hear you! I generally avoid lined dresses altogether. My saving grace have been shirt and wrap dresses; those always work for me. I’ve also found some designers work best for my shape and so I stick with those. My friends & co-workers know one of two things happened if am in jeans a) I’ve not done laundry b) I had a ‘rough’ start to my day. LOL!

  • http://www.scandalousbeautyonline.com Erin

    Loved this article! This week I did a blog post on my frustration for finding clothes for work. Most of the clothes make my hip and butt look even larger, and don’t want to purchase 2-3 sizes larger. I purchased a pair of Levi’s Curve ID jeans last year (wearing that right now) and while they look fine on me, I don’t feel like they flatter me. I really don’t want to have to get all of my pants altered. Ugh. Thanks for the great read.

  • http://www.scandalousbeautyonline.com Erin

    I agree! She’s stunning!

  • Bosslady

    I agree ALL black women DO NOT have the same figures. I’m 5ft 11 size 6, and have no problems finding jeans…I’m not sure what the term “curvy” means by your definition, ( to some it means you have hips and a bum, to others it’s a friendly way of saying overweight fat or obese) but I have a feminine shape, bum and hips and DKNY jeans fit me like a glove. I love them. I also like Levi D&G and Armani jeans.

  • MsZMC

    one of my professors is a male and he said he will not go jean shopping with his wife because it’s too emotional and i have to agree. I’m dieting and exercising and jean shopping is what got me back on track after a week and a half of falling off track. I cant find curvy yet stylish jeans anywear! Especially skinny jeans!

  • anon25

    I’m pretty sure the key word there is “probably.”

  • Isis

    I like jeans but hate them at the same time. Urban jeans are made for women with small waists and big hips like the woman in the picture and non urban jeans run small as hell. Ughh its sooo hard finding the right jeans. I have one pair that I love. The rest are ehh

  • Laina

    In reference to comments that all Black women do not have curve, I think most Black women do have curves. It has nothing to do with the size of the woman. Despite an obesity problem in the Black community, there still is a large segment of thin Black women. If you compared their body shape to a white women of similar weight, Black women will tend to have curves in all the right places. Growing up, I was thin, flat stomach and small waist. I always had a difficult time getting pants to fit past the booty. If I managed to get pants past the booty there was the giant gap from the waist. You can be thin with curves.

  • Laina

    I meant curves.

  • Vee

    I agree with this “You can be thin with curves.”

  • Bren82

    Me too! I’m a black woman with no hips and a extremely small behind. Levi’s curve ID actually worked for me. Maybe when they advertise for curvy, they are taking weight into consideration. Curvy 145 lbs is different from curvy 170 lbs.

  • MzDan

    Tip of the day: Look up the definition of the word ‘Probably” before you jump down the author’s throat. lol!

  • Bassabeauty

    PREACH!

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