I have a decently sized collection of jeans. But even though my pants drawer is filled with 15 or so pairs, only one and a half pairs truly fits – in a way that looks good and feels fucking great. The others, right now, are too big, and do nothing for me. They’re not roomy enough to be boyfriend jeans or chic mom jeans; they don’t look model off duty-ish. They get baggy and stretched out by lunchtime. They just look…uninspired, ill-fitting, haphazard. But they say something about what I’ve held onto: a forgiving, weight-fluctuation-friendly selection of pairs in larger sizes, once better-looking on a larger me. And what I’ve allowed myself to let go of: jeans that I, at some point, stopped being able to wriggle into. Jeans that likely could’ve fit me really well now – if only I’d kept them.
There’s basically a closet that fits me today, and former closets that fit me at past weights, all occupying the same hangers. My weight has fluctuated in the ballpark of 25 pounds since 2010. It’s been pretty consistent, on the lower end of that range, the past three years, mostly thanks to some exercising tweaks (lots of walking and so much Zumba, because it’s fucking joyous), but I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for that unexpected double-digit weight gain. Can these closets coexist peacefully, without making me feel crazy?
Shouldn’t it be okay to swap out my different pairs of pants seasonally — whether that means actual temperature shifts from winter to spring, or different periods or “seasons” weight-wise? Or do they belong in separate timeframes of life (and the corresponding numbers on the scale), occupying the same hangers and drawers for different periods? I wonder these things — and what they say about the complex interplay between my brain, my body, and my closet — pretty often when I’m digging around for a pair of pants to wear, because the current set-up is not working. Sometimes, it seems like this overwrought perspective on jeans (they’re just jeans, after all!) means my relationship with food manifests as holding onto or getting rid of clothes.
One benefit of hanging onto once-fitting clothing is that it’s a constant reminder that the human body changes. Regardless of eating and exercising habits, it’s a complex tangle of physiological mechanisms, and you cannot always control every part of it. So it doesn’t seem that logical, much less financially possible, to meticulously ensure every piece of clothing reflects my current weight and shape at any given time. I’ve worn a range of sizes in the past five or so years — mediums through extra-larges in workout gear, 28s through 32s in my jeans drawer — without drastically changing what I eat and how I exercise, so I know how fickle weight can be.
This is especially meaningful for anyone, like myself, with some garden-variety body image hang-ups to having a completely healthy relationship with food. You’ve already fucked yourself at some point by complicating what could (and, for plenty, is) be a simple activity. Eating can be necessary nourishment – simply squelching hunger. Eating can and should also be a bliss. Or a “foodventure,” as my boyfriend and I call them, which could involve a Detroit-style pizza feast or a gut-busting, five-stop Chinatown dumpling tour. To be clear, I fucking love to eat, and always have; I plan my weekends and plot my next vacation around incredible meals. But my body image hang-ups still linger, and those can complicate the “keep-or-toss” tally of one’s closet.
What does it mean to hold onto “fat clothes” — the shit that was never flattering but at least covered all of your least-favorite body parts up? Well, it can affirm weight loss. (Maybe that's no longer a P.C. thing to celebrate, but many of us still do, of course.) Baggy waistband and stretched-out thighs on a pair of jeans can make you feel like, yes, subtle shifts have occurred in your weight and/or shape. But ironically, it's not flattering. Only in those private moments of states of undress each morning, or in the gym locker room, that’s there fleeting evidence of a changed body. The rest of the world just sees poorly-fitting pants. Buying smaller sizes is about more than replacing old staples: If you’ve experienced weight fluctuations, there's a sense of trepidation. If weight loss is, indeed, one’s goal, could buying smaller sizes jinx things?
Back to that jeans drawer: During a recent closet purge, I swiftly sifted through items, making quick judgment calls about things to keep or ditch – a process I always dread, but end up enjoying how good it feels to be decisive. When I got to a pair of size-32, always-too-long, slim bootcut J Brand black jeans, I stalled. I’d gotten plenty of use out of them, and they were in good shape after years of wear. But these days, they don’t look that great on me. They just look bulky, bunched-up, sagging, always in need of being tugged up or smoothed out. They made the cut to remain in my closet, but not for long.
I’ve decided they belong in a consignment store. If – when – my weight fluctuates, I’ll buy a new pair of black jeans. It won’t prove that I’m a fuckup, have no willpower, or don’t take care of my body. It won’t be some grand philosophical statement about the complex relationship between food, body, and fashion. It’s a pair of legs on the always-changing human body, and if those legs need a new pair of jeans? So be it.