Thursday, October 14, 2021

Try-On: Madewell Balloon Jeans

Top: H&M Linen Tee (old, similar in other colors) 
Shoes: Kate Spade Croc-Embossed Loafers (old)

I've mentioned a few times now that I've recently become inspired by the way Amy Smilovic - the founder and head designer of Tibi - describes her personal style and the concept of personal style in general. (She discusses these topics on her Instagram stories and through "Tibi Style Class" live sessions on the brand's Instagram, also available on YouTube. Many fundamental parts of Smilovic's "Creative Pragmatist" personal style and her suggested approach to shopping and personal style are also summarized in this Coveteur article, which Kathy recently shared.) 

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I haven't yet had the chance to sit down and articulate what my personal style is using Smilovic's approach, which focuses on a list of core adjectives. Hers are "Chill, Modern, Classic." (I do like "Chill" and "Classic" for myself, but I think the way I interpret them is a little different than how she does, and I'm not sure either or both would make it onto my list of primary adjectives.) But I do know she has inspired me to think more creatively and expansively about what I might like to wear. I'm slowly becoming a bit more willing to think about designs or silhouettes outside my somewhat conservative and "safe" personal style comfort zone.

Separately, because people have been talking more vigorously for a while now about how skinny jeans may be on their way out for good - finally? I'm actually somewhat surprised skinny jeans remain so ubiquitous; I felt like I was already a late adopter of skinny jeans back when I first started wearing them in college in 2009, and obviously there have been many rounds of different jean silhouette trends in the decade since - I was already becoming interested in trying different, wider-leg denim styles, even before I first learned about Amy Smilovic. 

But because of the no-jeans, more "formal" business casual dress code at most of my workplaces, I simply don't need more than two or three pairs of jeans in my closet. (And the third pair is solid black and exists solely to sneak around the no-jeans rule on casual Fridays, hah!) Plus, because I'm quite short - 5'3'', but with shorter-than-average legs for my height - finding jeans that even fit properly off-the-rack is a major chore no matter what, before even starting to factor in more interesting, wider-leg silhouettes that definitely won't fit all body types the same. 

I've dabbled somewhat with looser-fit straight-leg jeans. In fact, my Uniqlo jeans (old, worn here) are technically straight-leg cigarette jeans. But in practice, I personally feel like most straight-leg jeans still look and feel quite skinny-fit or slim-fit on me. The Uniqlo straight-leg jeans may technically look different from my Gap skinny jeans (similarworn here) in photographs, but they still feel like the serve the exact same function in my wardrobe. When I look at them in the mirror and compare, they both feel like interchangeable slim-fit jeans to me. (It doesn't help that I bought both pairs in near-identical dark blue washes.) 

I think I'd need an intentionally very slouchy-fit or wide-leg design for me to notice they're a different-enough silhouette from my usual to be worth keeping. And I'd also like this new pair of jeans to be in a medium blue or light blue wash to add some variety to my current set of dark blue and black jeans. 

Enter the Madewell Balloon Jeans. Full disclosure, I didn't end up keeping them. Before ordering, I felt like I looked through the entire women's denim selection at all the usual suspect brands that might offer a decently wide range of petite-sizing jeans: Gap, Madewell, Abercrombie (they've completely rebranded since my high school days and now offer a range of clothes that might appeal to adults), and Everlane. I wasn't seeing much of the general silhouette and color combinations I had in mind. These Madewell Balloon Jeans were the closest because they seemed to taper in a bit at the ankles. 

My search is, admittedly, complicated significantly - to the point of possible near-futility - by how much I dislike high-rise waists. Even jeans labeled mid-rise are often a bit too high-rise for my tastes. High-rise pants just don't suit my waist, stomach, and hip area, and they get uncomfortable throughout the day if I drink a lot of water or have a big meal. I probably should have guessed from the Madewell store photographs that these Balloon Jeans were super-high rise, but one reviewer said the rise on the petite ones was too short, and that gave me some hope. 

I ordered the 28P or 28 petite in these Madewell Balloon Jeans - my expected size for my current ~37.5''-27.5''-38'' measurements on my 5'3'' height; I'm also a size 28 in my Gap skinny jeans - and they fit, but were more uncomfortable and snug in the waist towards the end of the day after I ate dinner than in the morning. I find the waistband on these fairly stiff, not that stretchy, and thus, not very forgiving. I get a bit of that exaggerated wide-leg silhouette or barrel shape in these jeans from the lower hip down. These actually are the intended just-right cropped length on me, hitting slightly above the ankle, but my mirror selfies are angled in a way that make the jeans look a bit longer than they actually are. (If you're thinking about ordering these, here are a number of other blogger reviews, including from Elaine, that will also be helpful to look at to get a sense of the sizing.) 

Anyway, I'm not sure what brand I'll look to next in my current search for a pair of wider-leg jeans in medium blue or light blue. I think I actually want something less dramatically wide-leg or barrel shaped than these Madewell Balloon Jeans, but I'm also sort of nervous about ordering those less dramatic styles because I think they might just end up looking more skinny or slim-fit on me, like they're only barely a different silhouette from the jeans I already have. Which would totally defeat the purpose. 

And, ah, did any of you see the recent Atlantic article about how a large percentage of ecommerce returns never end up being resold to the next customer? I should probably have guessed, but because I primarily do in-store returns whenever it's remotely possible - in-store returns account for ~70% of the returns I've done since starting this blog, enough that I still get sort of nervous every time shipping in a return is my only option - I guess I never thought about return logistics much. Furthermore, clothing, shoes, and accessories are pretty much the only ecommerce items I ever return, I almost never send back the home goods, electronics, drugstore items, paper products, etc. I also buy online. I also didn't do any returns for most of 2020 - I did only one in December - though I have done more clothing returns in 2021, some in-store and some shipped. At any rate, that article definitely makes me feel bad about all the returns I generally need to do when shopping for jeans!

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