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Apodaca: A weighty issue that isn’t often discussed

A lineup of the high-waisted, denim skinny jeans at the 7 for all Mankind store.
A lineup of the high-waisted, denim skinny jeans at the 7 for all Mankind store, one of the participating stores in StyleWeek OC at Fashion Island.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

For the past several months I have been writing about some of the biggest, most pressing issues of our time: Climate change. An epidemic of hate. The opioid crisis. Inequality. The offshore oil spill. COVID, COVID and more COVID.

So for my next weighty theme I decided it was time to address another matter that threatens to upend life as I’ve known it.

I don’t know what to do about my skinny jeans.

There’s a stack of them in my closet, taunting me, teasing me, testing me. I’ve ignored them for a year and a half of slouchy, elastic-waisted living. Now we’re told that it’s time to put our big-girl pants back on, and I don’t know exactly what that’s supposed to look like.

Are skin-tight pants completely out of fashion now, or should I try to squeeze my pandemic-padded thighs back into them?

For me, this is a top-priority problem. If I can’t figure out what to wear for any given situation, everything else just falls apart. Call me shallow, brand me as materialistic, I won’t argue. My life only makes sense if I’m wearing a cute outfit.

Yet herein lies a contradiction. As much as I love fashion, I can’t pretend that I even remotely understand it.

Yes, I’m well aware that I’m being manipulated by an industry that — no surprise here — just wants to sell me stuff. That’s why the “must have” pieces of each season actually change almost daily, and why I’m bombarded by pop-up ads with unsubtle messages like “‘I have too many black boots,’ said no one ever!”

I get that I’m being played for a sucker. And I understand that my purchasing choices have consequences beyond my own selfish desire to look good. The apparel industry is notorious for exploiting low-paid labor and for wreaking havoc on the environment.

The recent spill off the coast of Huntington Beach offers another glimpse at how much influence the fossil fuel industry has on public policy, writes Daily Pilot columnist Patrice Apodaca.

I do try to take these factors into consideration, favoring brands that promise to treat workers fairly and operate more sustainably. Still, the guilt nags at me.

On top of all that — the transparent brainwashing techniques, human rights violations and terrible environmental record — do the fashion powers-that-be have to make it so confusing? And occasionally, also humiliating?

We’re encouraged to express our individuality through fashion. But really?

It took me a long time to embrace the skinny jean trend. Peeling them on and off is taxing work, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for the commitment to body-hugging couture, even if the well-made pairs did have the booty-enhancing properties of Spanx shapewear.

Once I commit to a look, though, I am all in, and that’s exactly how it went with skin-tight pants. Dark wash, light wash, black, brown, white, even corduroy — you name it, I got it. I should have known better. Clothes lover though I am, far too often I’m behind the curve style wise, which is never the place anyone who cares as much as I do wants to be in the fashion world.

Worse still, my overripe enthusiasm has led me to some spectacular misfires, like the time I was so eager to wear a new fall ensemble — wool skirt and sweater — that I blithely ignored the fact that autumn in Orange County can be hellishly hot. By midday I was so feverish and itchy I almost lost my lunch.

Another memorable fashion fumble was underscored when I attended a “tacky” themed party and was awarded first prize for tackiest outfit. I had worn a dress that just a few years earlier I had considered to be the essence of chic sophistication.

What had I been thinking? The dress was covered in multicolored, golf-ball-sized polka dots, for crying out loud. I conjure that uncomfortable memory whenever I get a little too sure of myself and am tempted to venture into more adventurous territory for my wardrobe.

There have been plenty of other ridiculous looks that I have willingly embraced and for which I’ll be forever embarrassed: big hair and leg warmers in the 1980s, shoulder pads in the 1990s, and denim on denim with studded belt in the 2000s leap to mind. For anything prior to the ‘80s, I plead the stupidity of youth.

I will no doubt fall victim to the whims of fashion again. After all, the apparel industry is also adept at recycling and rebranding old styles, convincingly marketing them as cool modern updates.

Sweatpants have transformed into joggers. Culottes are the ancestors of today’s skorts. Baggy jeans have been repackaged as relaxed fit or boyfriend jeans. Today’s flared leg pants are reminiscent of the bell bottoms of the past.

Don’t even get me started on waistlines, which are up, down, somewhere in the middle, I don’t know. Just when I think I’ve got the elevation right, it changes again.

As always I’m running behind the fashion pack, trying to figure out where it’s going. I’ve been thinking lately that I might invest in more high-waisted items. But then I read that hip huggers are coming back.

Heaven help us.

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