It's no longer strange to see a woman "of a certain age" wearing jeans. We wear them out to eat, to shop, and even to black-tie events. We wear them with flip-flops and stilettos. What is strange is that I remember a world without bluejeans. When I was a teen, pants for women were slacks - cotton, wool, or corduroy. Jeans were for little boys and cowboys.
All that was about to change quickly. The "required clothing" list for a Colorado summer camp I was to attend in 1966 included "three pairs of bluejeans."
Lots of research and many phone calls later, my mother and I were directed to a store under the "el" tracks south of downtown Chicago.
Store? It certainly wasn't Marshall Field's. The changing room was a supply closet filled with mops, buckets, and other cleaning supplies. Polyester deliveryman shirts, waitress aprons, and chef pants were piled high on huge wooden display cases. Floor-to-ceiling shelves overflowed with clothes for public employees, service workers, lumberjacks, and yes, even cowboys.
I bought a pair of stiff dark bluejeans and spent the entire summer breaking them in the same way Westerners had done for a hundred years - byriding horses in them.
It would be another 10 years before I learned about shrinking them to fit by taking a bath while wearing them, or softening them with bleach.
In a few short years, "jeans" were available in lots of permutations. I spent my college years wearing bluejean skirts when pants were prohibited at faculty meetings and meals. I skied in bluejean bell-bottoms. And I recycled my bluejean overalls into an overall miniskirt, which my daughters have now worn to '70s parties. I've impressed them with my uncanny ability to patch and hem - essential to any committed bluejean wearer.
It's been a while since I zipped up my first pair of jeans. Since then I've broken in my fair share of Calvins and Donnas and even Giorgio Armani designer jeans. I've gone through zipper-fly fronts, button flies, even jeans with maternity- paneled fronts.
But I always seem to return to good old-fashioned bluejeans - straight, faded, above the hipbone but below the waist (which is about a whole body part away from where most young girls are wearing them now).
Imagine my surprise when, faced with having to replace my permanently ink-stained bluejeans recently, I ventured into a neighborhood jeans emporium.
Walls of bluejeans surrounded me. What did I want? Slim fit? Pencil Cut? Stretch Boot Cut? Long and Lean? Loose Fit? Classic, Flare, Stretch, Tinted Vintage, Low-rise Boot Cut, Dark Authentic, Sandblasted, Light-faded?
Whatever happened to "blue" jeans?
I wasn't looking forward to replacing these old friends of mine. They had seen me through a lot of gardening, cooking, hiking, and living.
So instead I just put a patch over the ink stain and called it a day.