"I like to joke that I haven't grown an inch—vertically, horizontally, from my boobs, butt, belly, or feet—since the seventh grade. But the truth is that I really haven't. The clothes I wore in middle school still fit me, which makes for great fun whenever I make a trip home to my parents' place in Minnesota, and play Time Machine Dress-Up with the myriad cropped Wet Seal cardigans, wide-wale corduroys, and pointy-toed vintage pumps that my wardrobe used to be comprised of. I've kept nearly everything vaulted away except for one pair of label-less jeans that I still had in heavy rotation up until recently.
"When I first found them in a thrift shop in Bloomington, Minnesota, the jeans were a saturated lapis-blue, flared enough to be considered acceptable by middle school standards, and $15, which meant I could afford it with my $4/hour babysitting income. At first, I wore them with long blouses to hide the lack of ostentatious pocket adornments that could be found on the buttcheeks of every girl at school, but I slowly grew to appreciate its austerity. No ass whorls, no braided belt-loops, no purposeful rips or fades…no bullshit. In high school, its un-brandedness drew the attention of some other girls who also cared a little about fashion. "It's vintage," I'd answer. "I got it at a thrift shop." The shred of cred this garnered me was probably the impetus for the subsequent inflation of my sartorial ego, and—thank god—later down the line, my self-esteem.
"Come college, the pants went through two drastic alterations. As I reinvented myself as a free-spirited, coquettish type, I took them to an off-campus tailor who chopped them up into skinny jeans. When one pant hem got caught in a thorny tree branch on a particularly special night years later, I asked the same tailor to shorten them six inches, allowing me to wear them while studying cross-legged, dancing in makeshift basement parties, snuggling in bed, and climbing the occasional tree—all without nuisance.
"After graduating, the jeans had the texture of downy cheeks. The color had faded to powder-blue, with a gaping hole in the knee, a fraying waistband, and sprinkles of tiny holes and rips from less-than-careful wearings. In NYC, I found that I could pair them with pretty tops and vertiginous heels just like the girls I saw in the street style photos I clipped online. Though I initially felt like everyone could tell I was a pauper dressed in the prince's clothing, I grew—like always—to feel good about the new, grown-up me. The jeans were like my version of armor, though they were so paper-thin by then, I started handwashing them once every few months with hand-soap.
"The jeans tore last winter as I crouched in a KMart basement to look at paper towels. The rip was a fatal one: From the inner-thigh, along the inner edge of the left back pocket, and ending at my waistband. I tied my sweater around my waist and went home. A haphazard needle-and-thread patch job turned into more damage, and so I folded them up, and stuck them in the back of my armoire. I don't wear them anymore (for decency's sake), and have since replaced them in my wardrobe with a pair of two of fresh denim. Even so, I'll miss those jeans that let me experiment. They might not fit Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel, and America Ferrera like that other magical pant, but they do fit all zillion versions of myself."