October 7, 2008

Katie Holmes and Those New Peg Legs

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Unless you have personally received a 700-billion dollar bailout — and while you are waiting for Wall Street’s bailout to “trickle down” — you (and I) should probably not be buying very many new clothing items. So, as promised, here is a new way to wear pants you already have: tight-rolling.
When I say new, I don’t actually mean new; not to quash your nascent fashion creativity, which I hope this column is fostering but, as they say, everything old is new. And in this case, we’re talking ’80s-excellence old. This cuffing technique is also called a French roll, farmer roll, pegged leg and who knows what else, and is probably best associated with another ’80s favorite: acid-wash jeans.
So what is it? It’s basically a method of shortening your jeans such that the bottom becomes tapered or tight — hence the name. Like most trends in fashion, this has a function; tight-rolling better ensures (but does not guarantee) the cuff will stay up, and get rids of the waggling, hanging cuff that results from rolling up wide-leg pants.
This style had basically faded into oblivion until fashion-darling Katie Holmes stepped out in New York in early September with her relaxed, boyfriend-style jeans tight-rolled to showcase a pair of beautifully crafted Balenciaga high-heel sandals, sparking a trend and bringing both fans and critics to voice their opinions.
I realize that as a columnist, this space is normally reserved for my own excellent witticisms, but I came across so many gems while researching this trend, I feel the need to include them. One commentator on whowhatwear.com asked, “Could Katie look any more like a late-’80’s Calvin ad?” while a respondent on infodaily.celebuzz.com found the style so ridiculous, she equated them with other fashion faux pas, saying, “Personally, I’m waiting for elastic-waist-and-ankle sweatpants to become socially acceptable.” (Umm, hello? Have you walked around a college campus?)
According to one woman who’s been living in Japan, the Japanese have been doing it since last December, and she predicted on missbehavemag.com, “If [the Japanese] are doing it now, it’ll hit the States in a few months.”
And right she was. Stateside, Amanda Peet and Rachel Bilson have been spotted in them too, but Katie Holmes is basically bringing this trend back single-handedly. She was seen (gasp) in the same pair of pegged-leg jeans multiple times in the same week in early September. While I must admit I would usually be a bit scornful of this, I don’t blame her at all — I tried them out while writing my last column and fell absolutely in love — I had to exert some serious willpower to not wear them again ’til last Thursday. I’m telling you, like any new thing you try that just feels “WOW,” it’s addictive.
This is not something we’ve seen on the runway; although the times are a changin’, jeans tends not to be featured in high fashion. Same goes for specific ways to wear something that’s not related to the construction of the garment. But I would assert that this trend in jeans is related to the baggy pants that I featured last column;,a sort of do-it-yourself in denim. (This same technique can be applied to almost any pant, actually! Or achieve a similar silhouette by tucking into boots and letting fabric billow out the top.)
Who should try it? Well, if you’re short, especially in the legs (like me), or have generous hips and thighs (also like me), convention would say probably not you; the cropped length will make your legs look shorter and the extra fabric at the hip will make your thighs look bigger. But I say dash convention to hell: if it feels good, it is good. There are always days when even trusted favorites don’t work, so getting dressed is all about feeling it out. And, if you don’t like the way it looks, you can always unroll the jeans and voilà! That’s one of the reasons I would caution you to acquire a pair that you want to wear in general; you’ll also get more use out of them.
So, I know that by now you are practically foaming at the mouth with expectancy, dying to know: “How do I tight-roll my jeans?!”
It’s quite simple actually: take the bottom of your pant leg and fold it in half so that all the fabric is hugging your ankle. Make it tight! Fold once, fold again. You can vary the height of your cuff according as you wish — or cuff more than twice — but the more you cuff the bulkier it gets, and large cuffs don’t really work. I’d stick with the one-to-two-inch range. Wikipedia’s “Tight Rolled Pants” article states that, “The use of safety pins [is] key to a good roll, but to the experienced tight roller they can be achieved without them.”
The best kind of pants to use for this is a style widely referred to as “boyfriend” jeans. Basically, they are pants cut straight through the hips and loose throughout. The pair I’ve been using is a pair of men’s Levi’s carpenter jeans I picked up for breakdancing, and they work really well. So, hit up target men’s, thrift shops, and any (boy) friends, and try it out. There are new women’s styles that are cut to mimic men’s jeans without some of the problems like extra fabric in the crotch. I’d like to start experimenting though, and I’ll encourage you to do the same; what about high-waisted pants? My regular ol’ flares or bootcuts? How wide is too wide?
Before you start experimenting, let me warn you about some issues I was forewarned of and have already experienced: The lengths of the two legs will never be the same, and they will fall down. These are both extremely annoying, but I suppose, with increased expertise, the frequency with which they occur will decrease.
Basically, you can wear the fashion with anything you’d wear your other jeans with — just be mindful of proportions and the look you’re trying to achieve. I’m loving this trend 100-percent, but for fair-and-balanced reporting, let’s just review the technique with the help of a post on missbehavemag.com: “Step one: fold over. Step two: roll up. Step three: look like a pegged-leg pirate hooker.”
Next time: fall is upon us. A look at what’s new!