Lament: Skinnies

I started drafting this post more than a year ago — long before I launched this blog. My feelings about skinnies are decidedly negative, but I’ve had some difficulty wrestling them into a coherent statement until now. After a year of thinking, here it is: Skinnies are not flattering. Let me explain.

Dress is all about proportions and flattering proportions are all about balance. The most flattering pants are very subtle flares or bootcuts. This is because a little modest volume at the cuff balances out the fullest part of the leg. Tapered jeans, particularly if they are low-rise, make one look like Mr. Incredible.
I'm sure if Andrea Palladio were alive, he'd back me up on this
I’m sure if Andrea Palladio were alive, he’d back me up on this

I was reading Slate earlier this week and was excited to see an article titled, Skinny Jeans Are Finally on the Wane. (Hooray?) I thought it would be the epic takedown that I’d failed to write, and was terribly disappointed that the article was actually about the populist will that has kept the style alive for a decade, when the fashion industry has been trying to declare it passe for approximately 8 years. (Note: Here the industry has been acting only in self-interest. Women don’t buy as many new jeans when they like their old ones.)

I was a teenager during the 1980s, when tapered and pegged pants reigned. I had three pairs of Guess 5-button, tapered, ankle-length jeans. I’m sure my mother thought they were awful, but she said nothing because she knew baby had to fail in order to succeed. She does, however, have an expressive face.
I was horrified to see skinnies make a comeback in the 00s. See also Lament: Crop Tops Rise from the Dead. But in an effort to stay current, I have periodically ordered a pair of skinnies from JCrew, dutifully tried them on, scoffed at my appearance, and then returned them.
And then I found a pair that I actually like.
JCrew Matchstick Japanese Jeans
A Miracle! JCrew Matchstick Japanese Selvedge Jeans

You can teach an old dog new tricks
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? If you have enough treats on hand, anything is possible.
Now that I see a photo of myself wearing them, I’m not totally certain, but I think I like them. I even look a little uncertain in the photo.
Further disclosure: These jeans are not super-skinny. JCrew’s truly skinny jeans are called “toothpick” jeans.

OK. Let’s focus on the jacket, which I know I love.
Colorless jacket

Pockets with long twill tape ties
Pockets with long twill tape ties
Little puffed sleeves and epaulettes
Little puffed sleeves and epaulettes

I do, however, have future plans for my new [passe] skinny jeans. I will wear them with this top and similar billowing blouses — which is one role that even I must concede skinny pants fulfill beautifully. It is, of course, another matter of proportion.

Have a terrific weekend!

Jacket: Marc by Marc Jacobs; Blouse: Talbots; Pants: JCrew Matchstick Japanese Selvedge Denim in Emerson wash; Bag: Car Shoe; Shoes: Tory Burch: Watch: Ritmo Mundo

12 thoughts on “Lament: Skinnies”

  1. the title of this post made me laugh when I saw it pop into my inbox, because I am currently wearing super, super skinny, ultra soft, black jeans that I adore. Granted, finding the perfect pair and color of black skinnies took over an hour and multiple rounds in a Bloomingdale’s dressing room with a very patient salesman, but it was worth it. The hardest part was finding a pair skinny enough that they didn’t flare around my ankles so they could fit into booties or work with flats. They are also perfectly black and don’t fade, so I can definitely get away with them at work with a blouse and blazer on more casual days. So this is my defense of the skinny (though I will always love my trouser jeans).

    • I had hoped someone would write a defense! This post is as close to provocation as The Directrice is likely to get. To further give skinnies their due, I should also have acknowledged that they look great tucked into tall boots. Good black jeans are a great find, so congratulations on finding yours!

  2. I felt the same way about skinny jeans/pants until I lost 15 lbs. and was actually able to fit into them. I also found Velcro straps made to hold my skinny pants down while I get into my high boots. So you can teach an “old dog” (me) new tricks, but not with lots of treats, because then I’ll just out grow my skinny pants!
    Like Elena, I’m not giving up my boot cuts and straight leg pants.

    • It is nice to see a lot of diversity in the stores, because I remember in the 80s everything was very homogeneous. So clever with the velcro!

  3. It’s the same sentiment I have for low rise pants… some people should not wear them…ever… and yet, many people with generous muffin tops continue to do so. Matchstick legs? Acceptable. Painted on skinnies? Perhaps with a slender figure – then it IS proportional. That’s what I think. Thank you for continuing to be the voice of reason.

    BTW, the jacket is perfect.

  4. How about you just call those straight-legged jeans? And straight legged jeans are flattering for the well-proportioned woman such as yourself. This I know because of watching countless episodes of “What Not to Wear” with Stacey and Clinton.

    Why do I say they are straight-legged? Well, they don’t cling at your calf and ankle, they appear to hang straight from your thigh.

    They look great! You do like a statement blouse, and these will balance the volume on top. IMHO. But I’m no expert. I’m just a schlub with a thing about French style.

    • I think you are right, Hope. I was wearing them today and noticed that they are loose through the ankle — fitted to the knee and then pretty straight. I just bought a super-weird misshapen sweater vest and I think an introduction is in order. Thank you for the encouragement and for reading!

  5. Oh yes, I remember pegged jeans. We also did the trick where we would fold over the legs of wider jeans and then roll them up …

    I was unsure about skinny jeans at first but I find they are a useful element in my denim arsenal, either to pair with more voluminous tops or to tuck into tall boots (or both). I have also worn them under a mermaid-hemmed shirt dress as an even warmer winter alternative to leggings or tights.

  6. I dislike skinnies on me (short, slim, petite, heavier in thigh than bust), but not in general.

    On the tall and long-legged, with the aformentioned billowing blouse, skinnies are marvellous.

    In fact, I don’t think it’s possible to write off any item of clothing, although some are much harder to wear than others. There’s always someone who wears it well, even puffball shorts, acid-wash overalls and mullets. (Although I’m struggling to think who – point being, I’m continually surprised by what some people can carry off).

    And here’s something you won’t appreciate – I’m with Hope. Those look straight-legged and I do believe they might look a little sleeker on you IF THEY WERE SLIGHTLY SKINNIER!

    Enough yelling.

  7. Interesting thoughts on skinny jeans:) I guess my perspective is a little different. I love a well constructed skinny jean or pant (but always in black for me). Proportions as you say are crucial. Sometime I think it can be a matter of simply acknowledging our personal likes and dislikes. Your jeans looks good, however they read to me more like a straight leg which I see as being more consistent with your general style. Skinny jeans often, not always, seem to work well with a heel and you have a definite preference for a flat or low heel which of course comes into play with the proportions. Good on you for not writing off skinny jeans all together x


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