Monday, July 13, 2009

Running in Heels, or Why I Hate Shopping for Pants

This will be a short bit of a rant, because I doubt that I will be able to articulate why this bugged me on a feminist level in any sort of a meaningful way. If you happen to be reading, and think you can help me make this clearer, please feel free to comment!

I am on an endless quest for pants. Not just any pants, and not jeans, though that is the cliché. I spend ridiculous amounts of time looking for dress pants that I can wear to the office, and that I can wear, more specifically, with flats. While I work in an office, I also spend a good chunk of my work days walking. As a victim advocate, I am constantly running back and forth between the office, the county courthouse, the city courthouse, the police station, the hospital, and various other sites where one might find a crime victim. This means, that while heels supposedly look more polished and professional, they are never very practical, and they cause a great deal of back pain, foot pain, blistering, and general discomfort. I know that this is not just a problem isolated to those of us who work in offices, as when I waited tables, and later slung coffee, I still needed dress pants to fit the dress codes, but couldn't be working in heels.

Given that a good deal of women in the world must work in pants, and that many of us can't work in heels, why is it so difficult to find pants that aren't a good three to six inches longer than our legs? I am a small woman; I am 5'4", but even the pants that fit on my little frame are much, much too long. And then, top that with the fact that many stores carry a tall line of clothing, or have long cuts (which are inches longer than "regular," which is still inches longer my legs), meaning that these super long legged pants are not even the longest out there. All pants that I come into contact these days seem to be designed to be worn with heels. Or to be worn only by supermodels, and, to be fair, tall, skinny gals need pants, too.

But why can't I find pants that I don't need to hem? I remember reading Susan Faludi's Backlash with utter amazement when it came to the chapters on fashion. Faludi said (and cited studies, if I remember correctly) that showed women's apparel needs were drastically different than what was being offered by clothing retailers. Women wanted practical clothing, and they were given micro-minis and pouffy cocktail dresses. For those who are constantly yelling about letting the market correct itself, it seems that occasionally, the market is far more interested in imposing its own ideas of what people ought want to buy, and in this case, what women should be wearing.

There are petite offerings, but so far, unless I want to go to a store specifically for petite women (and the clothes in those shops are too old for me; I feel like I'm trying on a costume), I have to purchase my clothes online. That means, I can't try them on, and I have to do quite a bit of guesswork, crossing my fingers that when my pants arrive they are the color promised onscreen, and that they actually fit. It's terribly frustrating.

I said this would be short. It was not. Neither is the inseam on my pants.

1 comment:

factcheckme said...

hello...i have the same problem. gap offers pants and jeans that are "ankle" length that are similar to "petite" length. they also have "petite" in some styles. i am 5'4 like you, so this was a nice find. usually pants are eiher a smidge too short (petites) or way, way too long and need to be hemmed. i might end up trying super-flat heels (ballet flats) with petite/ankle length too and see how it goes....good luck!