Jeans and big bellies

Today I am wearing jeans.   This is abnormal.

It didn’t used to be — like many American girls, I grew up wearing jeans.  After college, working at  a major software company, jeans were like a uniform.   I wasn’t one the guys, but wearing the same clothes helped me fit in: jeans,  a t-shirt or sweatshirt, and athletic shoes.  As I got bigger, finding jeans became more of a quest.  Lees, Lane Bryant, jeans with elastic in the back of the waistband.   Years after I’d quit buying “goal clothing” and assuming “I should keep this because it’ll fit when I lose weight”, I still kept old jeans.*

Why don’t I wear jeans much anymore?

It’s partly that they’re harder to find in my size.**  In fact, I had a few years where I could get elastic-waist lightweight denim pants pretty easily, but not 5-pocket (or 4-pocket)  sturdy jeans.  These years also coincided with me taking a meditation class and discovering that I couldn’t take a full breath in the jeans I had been wearing.

I have a big belly.  I know, I know, what a shock.  But I am definitely apple-shaped, not pear-shaped: my belly projects frontward; my waist is larger when I sit than when I stand.   In retrospect, the jeans I wore in high school and college acted like a girdle, holding in my lower belly, and yes, I had a muffin along the waistband (though it was usually covered by my top).   And I got used to breathing mostly with the upper part of my lungs.  But in a meditation class where I’m being encouraged to breathe deeply …. again, the jeans were having a girdle affect.

So as the jeans wore out … I didn’t replace them right away.  I just wore elastic-waist pants.   More comfortable, certainly.   But I’m wondering if the girdle lack over the last few years is also having an effect, in that my belly is drooping lower than it used to and I haven’t gained weight.

Then, after buying a house, I discovered that blackberry vines keep “volunteering” to grow in our yard, and I’m periodically pruning roses and trees and otherwise doing tasks where I really wished for sturdy, thick jeans.  A few years ago I did buy a couple pairs of jeans on sale: a pair of “stretch” midrise jeans from Silhouettes in size 38W and a pair of Lane Bryant highrise jeans in 40W. I’m wearing the stretch ones today.  They’re quite comfortable for sitting,*** but I do periodically have to tug them up while walking.****  But they performed their role of “body armor” while I was scrubbing the deck, so I’m happy.  Next up: blackberry vines. (Or, maybe, lunch.)


*And old bras.  I still keep non-fitting but have found to be comfortable bras, because my bra size changes whenever I make a change to my exercise routine. It also changes with the moon.  Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if it started following astrological charts.

**Especially since the local boutique which carried jeans up to size 44W (Kathleen’s) closed when the owner decided to retire.

***The 38Ws fit fine while sitting but tend to try to slip off while standing. The 40Ws are fine while standing and very tight while sitting. Different manufacturers.

****I suppose I could buy a belt if I wanted to wear them more often…or, say, ask the man of the house where his belt is (his belt, which was originally my belt, but I wasn’t wearing it)…

26 thoughts on “Jeans and big bellies

  1. I feel your pain when it comes to jeans. I have one of the ODDEST shaped bodies. I’m sort of apple shaped, except that I have a pretty formidable butt and hips. My waist is much actually slimmer than it looks because I have a gap between my upper belly and lower belly, which actually cinches in quite a bit.

    Currently I wear Size “5″ Blue Right Fit jeans from Lane Bryant. The first day I wear them they’re great, but they loosen up after a few hours of wearing and start falling off of my hips. Any smaller and they won’t fit over my butt, any larger and they won’t stay up! It’s a quandary!

    Don’t even get me started on breasts too. Being a fat women with small breasts is another can of worms all together.

    Thanks for the links to the pants, my poor roommate has all sorts of trouble with jeans and I think those will be great for her.

    • @Mikuto: Also a fat woman with small breasts! I finally gave in and decided to learn to sew because of this, among other things.

    • Here, Here! Another fat woman with small breasts. For professional wear, I rely on cardigans, unstructured jackets, or button front sweater vests. I can’t find dresses that both fit my shoulders (which are wide) that isn’t too big in the bust and too long in the waist (because I’m short waisted to boot).

      I used to sew, but just don’t have the energy for it any more.

      My problem with jeans is that my stomach is big compared to my hips (typical insulin resistance stomach), so anything that fits around the waist is too big in the hips, and if they stretch out while I wear them, they want to slide off my hips *laughs*. I have the most ancient pair of Just My Size jeans that fit so well, but they are completely worn out. They need to go into the rag bag, but I love them too much to give them up. They aren’t decent to wear out, but I still will wear them around the house.

  2. I get my jeans at a local uniform/work clothes store, They’re the Carhart brand and come in all kinds of sizes, though I haven’t double checked that they go over 44. I also have a short inseam, and they do have ladies jeans in inseam lengths.

  3. Thanks for this post! I struggle with similar issues with jeans and my big bellied proportions and thankfully thus far have managed with a few pairs from the Avenue. They are starting to wear out though and I’m getting nervous! :) I’ve been wondering about the belly drooping thing as well because I am experiencing it too despite not having gained (any or much maybe I really don’t know) weight and have kinda been chalking it up to aging/skin elasticity/gravity. Would any of the Making it Big Jeans work for the purposes you are looking for?

    • Well… I don’t really NEED jeans right now. I have two pair of 5-pocket jeans that I hardly wear because they either fit sitting (and are loose standing) or fit standing (and are too tight for sitting or bending). It’s more “hey, why don’t I wear jeans more … oh right, they never fit.” :)

    • It really doesn’t matter what you wear, your belly sags as you get older. I’m 48 and wore girdles and jeans for years, until around 40 when I swore off girdles, bras, and make-up. My belly sagged anyway. It is a normal process of aging that even thin men and women experience (speaking as a former nursing home attendant who saw many elderly people naked).

      • Thanks for that reminder, Maritzia, that aging & sagging happen to us all, ALL sizes & shapes. My significant other is a naturally lean, athletic man, one of those people who can exercise or not, eat what he likes, without it making much difference to his size & shape…or he was, until he reached around 50. He is still actually a lean, athletic man, but he has discovered, as I also read several places, that, even when his weight was 15 pounds BELOW his football playing weight from high school, his waist gained about an inch with every decade, he, like the rest of us mortals, has been losing some muscle tone & his weight has started to redistribute itself, just as I discovered for myself, even more notably since I finished menopause. Those who would sell us eternal youth & try to convince us that menopause & aging are ‘diseases’ for which they can sell us cures &/or preventions, these changes are normal.

  4. I think we’ve talked before about how you and I are a very similar shape. I have found that I can find jeans if I ferret around a bit for them. My two current favourite pairs are from Autograph, an Aussie plus-size franchise. They’re not too high or too low in the waist, cut generously around the tummy, have a butt that fits me and are good and comfy.

    But yeah, I’ve had a lot of BAD fitting jeans in my time!

  5. Instead of a belt, which I find too annoying, I used suspenders. Not fancy ones but the old fashioned Grampa kind. Keep my jeans where they should be while gardening, etc. Bad thing is, I’ve had them for years and can’t remember where I got them. Sorry!.

  6. I have the same problem. I am short and have narrow hips but a very large, sagging stomach. For several years I mostly wore nothing but overalls because they are incredibly comfy. I’ve pretty much given up jeans all together because when I find a pair that fits my stomach the legs end up being huge because proportionally I have pretty small legs. The last couple of years I’ve been converting overalls into jumper dresses and have found that not having legs in clothing is incredibly comfy and may never go back to pants again. Even in the winter I just layer up in long underwear leggings and stay comfy and warm.

  7. No matter how many times I read the title of this post, I keep thinking it says “beans and jig jellies” : )

  8. My solution to the problem is to buy jeans that fit sitting down and sew elastic into the waistband. It’s easy enough (for a sewer) to make it look like part of the design, but I don’t wear shirts tucked in so no one sees the waistband, anyway.

  9. I am a jeans & tee girl, with lots of hoodies for cool days, & it is a real chore to get me into anything BUT jeans for a wedding or funeral or some such thing. Fortunately, I work at home, so it isn’t often an issue.

    I have been an hourglass most of my life, but with aging & menopause I am now an apple, & my belly is & always has been large for my size, despite many years of doing as many as 1500 crunches daily. I have cerebral palsy & the way I walk tends to throw my belly out so that it looks even bigger. Sizewise, I was always an in-betweenie until I decided to go on my last four-year bout of compulsive exercise about 11 years ago &, in the 7 years since I cut back to my regular 45-90 minutes or exercise daily, the rebound from my ‘exercise diet’, combined with the normal hormonal changes of aging & menopause, have put me into the lower midsize category.

    Jeanswise, I tend to look hard & explore my options & I buy virtually ALL my clothes online, so I can find a lot more than I could around me here in Maine (NOT precisely the fashion capital of the world, but then I am not a fashion maven; I just want to find clothes I like that fit & are comfortable.) I gave us rigid denim many years ago & ONLY buy stretch jeans now. I am finding that I am buying most of my jeans from Torrid or Babyphat these days, & I have recently fallen in love with the jeggings, which have a faux fly, front & back pockets which are faux on some & the back ones are real on others, with the tapered, skinny leg & narrow ankle. These have a full elastic waist, so of course if I ever DO want to tuck in my shirt, I wear one of my pairs of stretch jeans with a set-on waistband. Thanks to the vagaries of women’s clothing sizes, I wear anything from a 20 to a 24 & in the Torrid jeggings or pull-on jeans, I am a 3.

    I am another one who has slim legs for my size, so I was very happy with the arrival of skinny jeans. I did buy one pair of MIB’s new five-pocket jeans, but I only wear them occasionally for dressier outings; they fit well (an MIB size C (20)), but they have bootcut legs, & I HATE bootcut. I stick to my love for narrow ankles on my jeans, despite being reamed quite rudely on an FA bulletin board some years ago for my preference & told that tapered jeans are not fashionable & that they don’t look good on ‘anybody’ & that I must enjoy walking around looking like a human ice cream cone, that I should get with the program & go to bootcut. Well, I told her that I am not into fashion & I like what I like & it’s no one else’s business what style of jeans I prefer, nor is a sign of a character flaw.

    Anyway, I send hugs & best wishes to all who are searching for the perfect jeans to fit their bodies & their tastes. I hope that soon that will be a possibility for all of us of ALL sizes & shapes.

  10. I was just really disappointed yesterday to see that it looks like Lane Bryant is phasing out their Right Fit jeans. Those are the ONLY jeans that fit me well. I’ve got the opposite issue you have–I have a really small waist in comparison to my huge hips, butt, and thighs–and it’s such a pain to find jeans that fit.

    • I’m shaped very much like you, and I was told that they’re not being phased out, rather they’re just changing the sizing on the jeans.

      Instead of being 1, 2, 3, etc, they’re just going to be sized normally, 18/20, 22/24, etc.

      I could be wrong, but that’s what I read. Maybe you could e-mail them?

      • I’ll have to look into that.

        It seems like it would end up being more confusing than the sizing system they have now, though. I wear an 18 in LB’s regular pants sizes–and even then the hips/thighs can be a bit snug–but a 1 Blue in their Right Fit. So I’d have no idea what I’d wear if they went to regular sizing. It seems like it wouldn’t be any easier.

        It’s good to hear they aren’t phasing them out, though! I finally dug my Right Fit jeans out yesterday and was both happy to see how much better they fit than the jeans I’d been wearing–I packed up my RF jeans during my first trimester because I don’t stay a “blue” very long when pregnant, and went with some jeans that are usually too big in the waist, which I kept around to wear postpartum–but sad that neither pair is in great shape and I won’t be getting too much more use out of them.

  11. I have some great Right Fit Yellow jeans also, &, yes, I also have heard that they will be marked with the usual sizes from now on. They do, however, seem to have done away with the classic tapered leg Yellow style which best fit my big-belled, slim-legged apple shape.

  12. I wear a 44 as well and refuse to wear elastic wasted pants because they don’t feel good or in my opinion look good on me. I find them sometimes on Womanwithin.com the last pair I bought were pretty good.

  13. Have you ever paid attention to your bra size in terms of your menstrual cycle? My cycle is what affects mine – I’m about a B cup for 3 weeks, then about a C cup for the 4th. It’s enough that I actually need to wear different bras the 4th week.

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  16. Sounds like the majority of issues we deal with everyday. Finding big jeans is almost impossible for some big and tall shoppers. Enjoyed the article.

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