I am on a quest!  For jeans without stretch.

Last week I found myself in a bit of a panic because my last pair of 100% cotton jeans has reached its last days, and I haven’t been able to find a pair to replace them.  I’ve known the end was approaching for a while now because the denim in the seat of these favorite jeans of mine has begun to whiten and look threadbare, the way it does just before it breaks open. I’ve noticed that there are lots and lots of strings appearing around the hems, and that the top of the waistband has separated from itself in places, like when an envelope has been slit open.  “Can I get away with wearing them today?” I ask myself every time I see them hung, freshly laundered in my closet, all soft and cute and smelling like Tide. “The kids wear jeans with holes in them every day!” I say to myself, rationalizing.  I know, though, that I wouldn’t let the angels wear jeans like these jeans because of the risk of the seat splitting.  Knee holes are okay. Fanny holes?  Not so much.  But… there are no fanny holes yet, so I give in to my urge, and I wear them, just one more time.

The final challenge to my denial came the other morning while I was flipping pancakes for breakfast.   Angel #2 walked by and stuck her finger in the small hole that has begun just above my right back pocket and said, “I can see your undies mom, time for new jeans.”

Here’s what I have to say about that:  NNOOoooooooo!

I love those jeans.  I really really love them.  We’ve been through a lot together, my favorite jeans and I.  I bought them three babies ago at the army surplus store in the next suburb over from where we live.  They were a little loose and a little stiff back then, but I loved them anyway.  That’s just the way new jeans were back in the olden days.  They fit me pretty well back then, even though I was a good deal straighter from waist to knee than I am now.  Now, they fit me even better.  I am fifteen pounds heavier (and almost fifteen years older) than I was before I became a mother, and curvier, and yet my 100% cotton Levi’s somehow adapted to my changes. They are still long enough.  The waistline still sits at the perfect place, just below my belly button without binding.  I don’t have to worry about my unmentionables being seen.  My favorite jeans are a little more snug, to be sure, through the hip, then they were in the beginning, but they still fit like a glove.  They magically evolved with my gradually changing figure.  They molded to my new body and met my needs without question. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that?

They were very dark blue when I bought them, and as time went on they took on the beautiful patina that actual cotton denim does as it gets washed and dried and worn and folded and hung.  Some threads faded faster than others, and what resulted is a soulful cross hatching of a hundred different shades of indigo.  If you look closely, you will see that some of the threads of my favorite jeans are still very dark blue, some are white, and there are threads every shade in between.  They have character, and depth.  They are a work of art.  Who wouldn’t fall in love with that?

Besides, my husband likes the way I look in my favorite jeans.  I’m usually wearing them when he wraps his arms around me at the kitchen sink and whispers that I look nice.  Seriously, who wouldn’t fall in love with that?

I can’t seem to fall in love with stretchy jeans.  I actually hate them, but stretchy jeans are all there is to buy these days, so I have to own them.  I must have ten pairs of stretchy jeans in my closet that won’t work because they don’t feel good or look good. Even though I’ve had some of them for years, they are all essentially new because I never wear them.  I opt instead for my favorite pair.

The thing that drives me most crazy about stretchy jeans is the problem of the seam that runs down the outside of the leg.  They look great in the dressing room.  They are sleek and sexy and hold in all the things that need to be held in, but as soon as they are washed, they betray you.  Something about the water or the heat of the dryer causes the outer seam to turn itself over at exactly the outermost portion of my hip, which causes an extra little lump. You know what doesn’t make a woman happy?  An extra lump on the outermost portion of her hip!  It reminds me of the time I dated a funny, handsome, kind man who chewed with his mouth open.  It’s a small thing that shouldn’t matter, but I just can’t get over it.

In addition to that, my stretchy jeans grow as I wear them.  If I have the bad luck to have to sit down while I have them on, I have to hitch them up every fifteen minutes for the rest of the day. The only way to avoid this is to buy them a size or two too small, which has its own problems, like the inability to breathe, and wedgies.

Stretchy jeans don’t fade right either.  The color they are when they begin is the color they stay, except that after a few washings, they begin to look like you store them in the half-full bag of your vacuum cleaner. Dusty. They look dusty.  What’s worse, they pill.  I’m not sure why, but my stretchy jeans all end up with teeny tiny white balls clinging to the knees and seat.  It’s not particularly attractive.

So I went to the mall, and asked in several stores if they carry 100%cotton jeans, to no avail.  One sales girl, who truly was trying to be helpful, suggested to me that I should shop in the men’s department.  “Why not look?”  I thought to myself. “I had a pair of men’s jeans when I was first married, and they were great.” I walked over there and sure enough, all the men’s jeans were made of 100% cotton!  Hey, no fair! Why are men allowed to wear jeans that feel and look good while we can’t?  But…I put the sexism of it all aside, and tried on a few pairs.  I’m sorry to report that it didn’t work.  Wearing men’s jeans might have been a good option twenty years ago, when my shape was more super-model and less mother-of-three, but my now hour glass figure won’t fit into a pair of straight-up-and-down men’s jeans anymore.  They were funny looking.  I went home from the mall empty handed.  I was starting to get frustrated. 

When I got home, I googled “100% cotton jeans for women.”  I was directed to about a thousand different websites, so I spent several hours shopping online.  I did not find one pair, not a single offering, of jeans made of only cotton.  Still no cotton jeans.  My frustration grew.

 I tried to alleviate it by firing off an angry email to the Levi’s website  explaining my predicament and listing the reasons why stretchy jeans are terrible, and that I would like a pair of 100% cotton, midrise, straight leg or boot cut, dark wash jeans, size six, pronto.  A few minutes later I received a friendly email from a sales rep at Levi’s.  I felt a little flicker of hope.  She said she always enjoyed hearing what customers had to say, and that Levi’s did in fact carry 100% cotton jeans.  The flicker grew a little warmer.  Attached was a photo.  I clicked to see it, and the flicker was immediately extinguished.  They were “low rise skinny jeans.” I started to laugh.  Low rise skinny jeans are worse than just funny looking.  They are ridiculous. There’s no way I could pull off the look.  I’m forty-six years old, and low rise skinny jeans are just not very flattering to a grown-up woman’s body.  Heck, they don’t even look that great on tall, slim, young women.  From the back, the combination of the tight thigh and the low waist create a pocket in the rear end, causing the wearer to look as if she has a loaded diaper.  Also, if I wore this style, I’d have to invest in a few long shirts to go with them, because you could see my crack if I didn’t.  Could someone please tell the fashion industry that at my age I deserve a little dignity?  I obviously didn’t buy the diaper-shaped crack-showing jeans. The email exchange hadn’t helped one bit to alleviate my frustration; it made it worse. 

That night my husband told me that he had found cotton jeans on the internet for me.  They were midrise, straight leg, just like I’d been looking for, so he ordered a few pairs.  I was so excited that I kissed him right on the mouth in front of the children!  I didn’t know how he had done it, but he had found me some jeans!  Hooray!  Three days later, the UPS man dropped them on my front porch.  I ripped open the plastic bag, and I tried them on. Fabulous!  I thought they fit beautifully, and my husband said he liked them, so we pulled off the tags and threw all four pairs in the wash.  Neither of us had bothered to look at the tags.  Big mistake!  Guess what?  When I pulled on a new pair still warm from the dryer, the seam had turned over!  They didn’t fit or look like they had before we washed them.  The jeans had been billed on the website as 100% cotton, but they weren’t.   They were 1% elastine, whatever the hell that is.  I couldn’t return them because they had been washed. My clothing budget is gone for now, and I’m even more frustrated, if that’s possible.

To add insult to injury, I received another email from Levi’s just this morning.  In it they announced the “introduction” of 100% cotton jeans for women!  They are exactly what I wanted.  Now I’m beyond frustrated.  First of all, I think the friendly sales girl from Levi’s could have earned my business for a lifetime if she had only told me to wait, that they were bringing back their cotton jeans in less than a week.  She had to have known.  The whole thing feels a little underhanded.  I can’t reward them for being sneaky by handing over the money for two more pair of jeans, can I?  Second, they are $78 dollars each.  Is it just me or is that a little high?  Can someone tell the fashion industry that $78 dollars is a little high for a stay-at home mom?  I would feel guilty spending that amount of money on a single pair of jeans.

You wanna know a secret?  I’m not proud of this, but I really want to buy those jeans.  But no one needs a fifteenth and sixteenth pair of jeans, do they?  Plus, I’m always telling my daughters that we should buy what we need and maybe just a little bit more, and anything else is wasteful.  “How many video games/t-shirts/stuffed animals does one little girl need?” I say to them over and over. I can’t turn around and buy more than I need, can I?   

And so, I will end my quest here.  I will stay away from the mall and the internet, and I will try to patch my favorite jeans.  I will iron-or maybe stitch down- those stinkin’ bumpy seems I hate so much, and I will wear the jeans I have, until I wear them out.  I just hope it doesn’t take fifteen years.