Sunday, August 30, 2015

The quest for "mom shorts"

It has recently come to my attention that "mom jeans"—that high-waisted, narrow-legged, light-washed style that was once the (ample) butt of late-night sketch comedy—are now cool again.

Naturally, I did not figure this out because I am so keenly attuned to the pulse of modern fashion that I could detect the exact moment when mom jeans stopped being something that Milennials wear ironically to undercut the very idea of fashion itself and started appearing in mainstream stores. Nor did I read about this everything-old-is-new-again trend in Vogue or Elle or any of the other $6 glossy magazines in which a picture had better be worth a thousand words, because they probably don't contain a thousand words altogether from cover to cover. No, I made this discovery by Googling the phrase "I like my mom jeans" and stumbling on a New Republic article all about what a modern, trendy sentiment that is.

The fact is, you see, that I never stopped wearing mom jeans, even when doing so made me the target of surreptitious finger-pointing and snickering. That's because when it comes to fashion, I'm like the stopped clock that's right twice a day: I just keep wearing whatever I personally like, and eventually it comes back into vogue again. And on my high-waisted, pear-shaped figure, pants that sit at the natural waist are actually the most flattering style, as well as the most comfortable. Of course, it wasn't possible to find these in stores during the past ten years, when the juniors department took over the whole floor and the only jeans to be found were so tight you couldn't sit down and so low-slung you didn't dare bend over. But thanks to the Lands' End and L.L. Bean catalogues, which have been carrying the same styles for over 50 years, I was able to keep wearing my comfy jeans until I suddenly found myself on-trend again.

Unfortunately, it would appear that this old/new trend in jeans does not extend to shorts. I recently found myself in the market for new shorts after one of my three trusty pairs of thrift-shop walking shorts wore out beyond repair, leaving me with only two decent pairs that were often both in the laundry at the same time. So around June, I started looking for a new pair of decent walking shorts—ideally, something with a modest length (say, just above the knee), an A-line shape, and a waist that fit around my waist.

This turned out to be a fool's errand. My local thrift shop—there is only one—didn't appear to have any shorts at all, and when we went thrift shopping in Princeton for our anniversary, I couldn't find any in my size. Next I tried, in close succession, Target, Marshall's, and Burlington, and I found that the only shorts on their racks had inseams no longer than four inches and waistbands that barely covered the hipbones. Apparently, the kind of shorts I had in mind were "mom shorts"—a fashion no-no that was off-limits to mainstream retail.

So I turned to the great marketplace of the Internet, which is supposed to have everything. And maybe it does, but what it doesn't seem to provide is any way of finding it—at least not if "it" happens to be a pair of mom shorts. I Googled countless variations of "women's walking shorts" in vain. I searched the websites of every clothing retailer I could think of, including Amazon.com, to no avail. Even my trusty Lands' End and L.L. Bean let me down; they had shorts in styles I'd find acceptable, though $40 a pair is more than I'd planned to pay, but as it was now August, every single pair was either completely sold out in my size or available only in colors I would never wear. The one promising-looking pair I found at Sears.com—which I ordered in two different sizes to make sure one of them would fit—turned out to be okay in the hips and thighs, but waaaaaaaay too big in the waist. In fact, they fit much better on Brian than they did on me; he said a pair one size smaller probably would have fit him perfectly.

Fortunately, on our trip to return the shorts to Sears, we succeeded in tracking down some shorts on the clearance rack in the Lands' End section. They're a pull-on style, which isn't normally to my taste, but they're comfortable and not overtly silly-looking, and at this point I feel like that's really all I can hope for. And since they were on clearance, I only paid about $10 for them. So those, with the two pairs I have, should tide me over until the weather cools down. (We also paid a quick visit to the Goodwill store in East Brunswick, even though we've had little luck there in the past, and found one pair that, while they didn't exactly fit, looked like it could possibly be altered to fit. But my first attempt at this alteration wasn't very successful, so I'll postpone that story until I've managed to come up with a workable solution.)

Of course, it's not clear how long this fix will last, since the new shorts are based on Lands' End's sport knit pants, a style that, in my experience, wears out in a matter of months. And the old pairs I have are pretty badly worn already and have already been patched more than once. So while these three pairs of shorts can probably get me through the remainder of this summer, it's not clear whether they'll hold up through next summer. But who knows—maybe by then, "mom shorts" will be in style, and I can just pick some up at any store I like.
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