Raise your hand if you grew up during a time when the beauty standard that was upheld and reinforced belonged only to a specific type of woman: usually blonde, typically tall, and always very, very thin. (Of course, having big boobs and a tiny waist were also highly praised.)
If you’re like me, there’s a good chance you’ve still got emotional scars from the ‘90s (even typing the phrase “heroin chic” makes me recoil) and 2000s, when mainstream media was more than happy to tell us everything that was wrong with our bodies, all while selling us sh*t that would “fix” or “conceal” those “flaws.”
Even with years of therapy, deprogramming and unlearning diet culture, and the efforts to treat myself and others with the unrelenting kindness we’ve always deserved, I know I’m still holding onto some outdated, baseless bullsh*t from that time period. And maybe you are, too.
As someone who’s not tall and not particularly thin, I can’t be alone when I admit that I’ve spent most of my teen and adult life shunning styles of clothes if I didn’t deem them “figure-flattering,” which is a thinly veiled way of saying “makes me look smaller” or “minimizes” some or all of my body. Maybe you also do this without even realizing it. After all, if you’re of the generation who watched Jessica Simpson get publicly skewered in 2009 for daring to wear a pair of “mom jeans” onstage (yes, even by women), it’s hard not to fall into the trap of thinking that your body only has value the smaller it appears to others.
For years, I stuck only to “skinny” jeans, hoping they would magically make my thick, strong, muscular legs look, well, skinny. They were on trend, so I too would be, even though my stomach always felt sore from a waistband cutting into it and I would slide the pants off the second I stepped inside the house. Instead of apologizing to my flesh for placing it into denim torture devices, I’d say mean things to it, wondering when it would just disappear so I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore.
So, when social media started telling me that the cool girls were wearing wide-leg pants, I simply thought, “Everyone else looks great in them, but they’re just not for me.” But I’m here with an important fashion PSA, and it’s all due to a chance encounter with a hot pink jumpsuit from Rent the Runway for a Barbie screening. My friend, I’m begging you, try the wide-leg pants.
My style a-ha moment came when I realized I had nothing pink enough to wear for Barbie, so I took a chance on a rented jumpsuit. While it was several inches too long (short girl problems, you know), I put on my highest heels and wore that thing proudly. I posted photos on Instagram, and I didn’t edit my thighs to appear smaller or do any other sort of trickery to “minimize” my body.
I was wearing glitter lipstick and a tiara watching arguably the most feminist studio film of the year about one of the world’s biggest pop culture fashion icons, so why the f*ck should I care if my legs or stomach looked small? I’d had enough of trying to change myself to fit some arbitrary and impossible standard I wasn’t made to fit into. The jig was finally up.
Next came wide-leg jeans, which arrived in the form of a cute mirror moment thanks to a pair of high-rise wide-leg denim from Chico’s I was graciously gifted. Sure, they needed to be hemmed a few inches, but they looked great and felt even better. My stomach could breathe, and I didn’t want to claw them off as soon as I could. Your clothes should feel comfortable. I know, what a concept!
I urge you to wear the wide-leg pants and the “mom” jeans. Not only are they cool now, but they are so comfortable, which is honestly all that matters. And yeah, they truly do look good AF on every body type, as Jaime King, professional fashion designer and SVP of design and trend with Maurices, tells Scary Mommy. (Pssst… the brand has both wide-legged pants and denim.)
If you haven’t bought new pants in a long time, King shares how to find your perfect fit. “If someone is new to wide-leg pants, it’s best to start with understanding what size best fits your true waistline,” she says. “That portion of the pants will fit similarly to other pairs of jeans or pants you already feel comfortable wearing. However, the hips and rest of the leg are much more breathable, so you may want to play with your size and see what fits best on your hips. Most wide-legged pants are high-rise, so you may be able to size down depending on where you typically wear your pants.”
The style possibilities are endless with a wide-leg cut, as King notes. “Once you find your fit, you can play around with what you already have in your closet, pairing them with a crop top or flowy peplum top to create the ultimate polished look, or a tapered blazer to dress it up a bit. Tucking in a top will also create contrast with your waist, adding contour to your body’s silhouette. This is especially helpful if you wear a petite length. You want to make sure your waist is more defined if you fall into this body type to not overwhelm your frame.”
“As for shoes, wide-legged pants typically don’t show a ton of your shoe. And while you can wear boots, you may not see all of them. Booties with a heel, or loafers with chunky heels help to accentuate the wide nature and flow of the look.”