Recently, my teen daughter and I bonded for a few hours at the Top Shop flagship store in London. It’s 90, 000 square feet and five floors of fashion goodness, and a rarity in that it pleases both teens and moms. (You enter and the “Hallelujah!” is involuntary.)
While perusing the spring trends, I stopped dead in my tracks. There, on a mannequin, was a crazy, awesome sight: “mom jeans.” In other words, high-waisted jeans with tapered legs, in a stone-washed denim rinse. Urban Dictionary says “mom jeans” are worn by the “40 +” crowd and manage to showcase any bodily flaw the wearer has. It describes the possible outcomes of wearing them:
“The butt will be compressed so it doesn’t stick out, it will instead be pushed to the sides, making it look far wider than it actually is.”
I didn’t get to gaze at the Top Shop mom jeans long, for I got “the tug.” The tug is a silent yet physical “Come on!” that 14-year-olds do when they are embarrassed you are even considering trying something on.
The jeans reminded me of a pair of beloved Gap jeans — high-waist, light rinse — I wore to death in the early '90s. Pictures show me wearing them on various vacations that my husband and I took before we had kids. At the time I didn't consider them high-waisted and I recall them being flattering to my petite figure. But pictures don’t lie and I accept the irony that I was wearing mom jeans well before I was a mom.
Of course despite their name, Top Shop’s Moto Blue Mom Jeans, which they’ve been carrying since last year, aren’t really targeted for moms like me, who have worked hard (read: popped out two kids) to develop a midsection worth covering. Same goes for “The Mom Jean” at UrbanOutfitters.com, which oddly shows them on a midriff-baring skinny-minny model, who doesn’t look at all maternal.
While I knew those jeans would never work for me, I could picture them on my daughter, whose lean, lanky figure looks great in just about everything. I reasoned to her that they aren’t any different than the high rise cutoff jean shorts she made — from Gloria Vanderbilts she found at a thrift shop — and wore all last summer. (Granted, she was so literal in the “cutting off” of those shorts that they hardly had a backside, so there was no chance of “butt compression,”) But with her signature "double-no" — a shake of the head combined with an eye roll — I knew it wasn’t to be.
While mom jeans were off of my teen’s radar, she liked plenty about the 90s trends throughout the store, from plaid and crop tops to babydoll dresses and overalls. In the end, we bought her a plaid skirt and vintage Coke sweatshirt, and me a top and some plaid leggings. The experience was filled with flashback moments for me, made sweeter by the thought that maybe our fashion history had converged: mine from my post-college days of the early '90s and hers at the start of high school.
Back home, we are seeing '90s trends all over the mall and on our favorite shopping websites. And I have a hunch this might be my break-out year, the year she finally pays me the ultimate compliment by shopping in my closet.
For while I did not hold on to my Gap mom jeans, I did save my favorite Gap overalls. They are not just your everyday cowgirl-style blue denim ones — they are ivory denim and super soft due to so many washings, given they used to be my weekend uniform. (What? Rachel wore them on Friends. So did T-Boz, Chilli and Left-Eye of TLC. Don’t go chasing waterfalls, baby.)
We both recently tried them on. On the daughter, they are adorable. On the mom, well, they aren’t all loose and baggy, but they still fit.