OPINION: In exciting news for anyone born in the 1990s, the 2000s are back. Also, in horrific news for anyone born in the 1990s, the 2000s are back.
I’m a newly minted 30-year-old, so this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve witnessed fashion cycling back to that of my childhood. For the most part, it’s a bit of fun. It’s sweet to see today’s teenagers enjoying flip phones and cargo pants. It’s fascinating to see Crocs being worn with pride and not with the deep shame of a disgruntled dad making a fish and chip run. I hope Gen Z likes jelly bracelets as much as I did and enjoys the satisfying squish they make when you chew on them. Oh, what a succulent, forbidden snack.
I discovered my passion for fashion flipping through the pages of Girlfriend magazine. It was a cultural awakening. A magazine that dared to ask, “what if children spent money on things?” From look books, to face mask recipes, to where you should or shouldn’t put tampons, it was a game changer for little me.
I found joy in exploring fashion trends from the safety of my bedroom, without having to brave the fluorescent lights and brutal angles of the Myer change rooms. I developed an emo sk8ter style that both delights and haunts me. You cannot tell me that the chunky highlight in my side fringe was not the height of sophistication. I thought I looked like Avril Lavigne, when in truth I looked like a sassy, suburban aunt. But I was the brassiest auntie at that backyard barbecue, damn it.
“Y2K fashion” as it has been dubbed by Gen Z, is personified by bare midriffs, chunky heels, and excessive lip gloss (the cosmetic that is the biggest waste of money ever to exist, it’s the perfect product for the person who enjoys their mouth being sticky and tasting like a plastic bag for two minutes).
But there’s one Y2K fashion staple I may never grow into: the low-rise jean.
Let me be clear, if people want to wear uncomfortable pants that make their tummies cold, go for your life. If you enjoy existing in a permanent state of imminent-wedgie-based fear, have at it. But these pants never quite fit me. I think they are a horrible item of clothing designed to chafe at your most chaffable spots. I am a soft and squishy being. I demand my clothes gingerly hug at my curves like a cherubic baby in a toilet paper commercial.
And it’s not just the discomfort I find affronting. Celebrities such as Alexa Demie and Kim Kardashian have bought back the “whale tail” (a visible g-string worn above your pants). These glamazons can easily pull it off, but if I did the same, I’d look like a real Moby Dick.
Personally, I’m a fan of “mum jeans.” They’re a pant designed to bundle up your pelvic floor into a charming clump, like a fleshy origami swan. Because I like my jeans like I like my Triple J presenters: as high as possible. If I could wear jeans that go up to my nipples every day, I would. I’d save heaps of time getting ready in the morning with my all-in-one jean overalls (or joveralls).
It is a well-known fact that millennials are terrified of their stomachs. Our collective list of fears goes: climate change, belly fat, and making a phone call. The next generation of teens has luckily been born into an era where we see positive representations of happy, successful, fat people. We see people with larger bodies winning awards, selling out stadiums and rightfully taking up space. We have a hell of a lot more work to do, but this representation did not exist at all when I was younger. We were given the same Dove Beauty ad each year and were told to be grateful.
I was born into an era of egregious body-shaming. Trinny and Susannah ruled the wardrobes of every mum with a ruthless contempt for the female form. Are you a pear or an apple? We were told to compare our bodies to food that we should never eat. Wearing a horizontal stripe was unforgivable. Letting people know you had a stomach was inexcusable. Unless you had the washboard abs of My Humps singer Fergie. Just what was she gonna do with all that junk inside that trunk? We can never be certain.
I have a strained relationship with my body. Personally, I find the notion of self-love exhausting. You mean I have to put effort into liking myself? Me? The person responsible for all of my shortcomings?
I was a huskier child. It would be unfair of me to claim that I was plus-sized, but I was a size 14 and a short-ass. To put it in Tyra Banks America’s Next Top Model terms, I was “fiercely real.”
The first time I went to a gym in my teens, a buff instructor pinched my belly fat between tongs and stretched it out in front of me. He would have torn it off if he could have. When I took off my shirt in front of a guy for the first time, he laughed at my stretch marks. He asked, “what are those?” He’d never seen anything like it. He wasn’t prepared.
To me, low-rise jeans are like that personal trainer. They pinch at our tender bodies, forcing us to compare our fleshy forms to an overrated ideal. In wearing these denim bum hole dusters, people will assume you are trying to make a bold statement about size, as opposed to just wearing pants. These pants are the embodiment of what it means to occupy a feminine body: that you exist to be perceived by others. But the question remains. If not for tiny jeans, how can I learn to love my humps. My humps. My lovely, lady lumps.
It was a young person who changed my relationship with my belly. Her name is Belly. My younger sister, one of my favourite people in this world, caught me on a particularly bad body image day. Not being one to mince words, she grabbed my stomach and said “look at your cute tummy! Look at these beautiful, little organs. Keeping you alive. You need these. This is a good belly.” She is also a good Belly.
So now when I wear my high-rise jeans, I’m not trying to make my stomach disappear. It is a push-up bra that brings my guts front and centre. My mum jeans aren’t hiding my body. No, they’re giving my little organs a hug. And they remind me that while the journey to self-acceptance may at times have a low rise, it’s a big waste of a mind to mind a big waist.