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Pants Are The Devil's Tool: One Woman's War With Ankle Length

By Emily Cutler | Lists | August 23, 2017 |

By Emily Cutler | Lists | August 23, 2017 |

You might remember a short while back when we discussed one bro’s epic takedown of another bro who hadn’t bothered to stop to consider the inherent sexism of clothing. That did a tremendous job of highlighting why women need to be listened to when it’s things concerning our own bodies (it’s people. It’s because we’re people), as well as clarifying that, yes, women’s clothing is, in general, worse than men’s. Both in the quality of the clothing, and the overall comfort. What that string of tweets unfortunately didn’t explain is that shopping for women’s clothing is. The. Goddamn. Worst.

See, I got a new job recently, and wanted to beef up my professional wardrobe with my first paycheck. Easy enough, right? Couple of pairs of pants, a few professional-but-still-fun tops, maybe a skirt. Just a few more items so I’m not repeating clothes in the same week. What no one ever tells you is that women’s pants are the devil. For two basic reasons:

1) The Fit
In order to be considered fashionable and/or attractive, women’s pants must be a certain level of tight. The tightness specifically needs to be from the waist through at least the mid-point of the butt cheek down the back, and all through the crotch on the front. God bless the poor woman who develops the dreaded polterwang. The issues resultant from this tightness are two-fold: women are not all the same size, and pants almost always are. For those of you who have never had to buy lady pants, let me offer an analogy.

You know how for dress shirts, they need to be fairly tight in most areas in order to avoid looking like a soggy sack of shit who is someone running the country? So you find the shirt that has the correct neck, chest and arm measurements, and usually that’s close enough? Maybe for a fancy occasion, you’ll get it tailored, but usually you’re good to go? Now imagine measuring all of the various elements if that shirt had to cover your genitals. Women would need to have handy the inches of the diameter of their waist, butt, hips and thighs, as well as the length of their butt (yes, that too) and from the top of the jeans to their crotch apex. Like belly-button to ‘gin essentially. They’d have to remember those measurements, and then try to find a pair of pants that fits those measurements within, let’s say, a quarter inch. And unsurprisingly, stores don’t do that shit. If you’re lucky, they’ll offer a “Curvy” vs. “Straight” option. There is no industry standard for this.

“But, Emily,” you’re arguing, because you don’t know I’m loco. “Why not just wear looser pants?” Sure. I guess. I mean, I could point out the inherent bullshit of a system that drills into women’s heads that being attractive is the most important thing, and then demands that they disregard all of the societally based, drilled-in lessons in order to wear comfortable clothes. Or that some women are OK with spending days searching for the perfect pair of pants, because looking good and feeling good about our appearance is a valid thing to want, we would just like to not be considered vain and superficial when doing so. But mostly I’ll just point out that even the “Boyfriend Cut” relaxed jean from the Gap is designed to be tight through the butt. It’s almost universally inescapable.

Also universally inescapable?

2) The Style
No, the style and the cut are not the same. The cut is how the jeans are actually measured and sized. The style is roughly what shape they’re supposed to be in. For the men’s-clothes-wearing members of the audience, this is most likely “Straight” or “Relaxed.” You might get the occasional “Skinny” or “Carpenter” fit, but mostly it’s the first two. The women’s-clothes-wearing members of the audience are wearing the following jean styles: ankle.


I can say safely that an overwhelming majority of the women in the audience are wearing ankle pants because that’s what’s in this season. And when a particular style of pant is in for a season, that is the only thing a store will sell to you.

Are you worried that isn’t a diverse enough selection to satisfy the bottom-half needs of half the population (so, like a quarter of the population altogether)? Don’t worry! Ankle pants can do everything! You can wear them both with flats and with heels! All while stylishly showing off the very bottoms of your legs! And just because you have to wear pants that don’t go all the way down doesn’t mean you’re stifled for choices. You can find a variety of patterns, tightness, length (provided they don’t actually cover the ankle bone) at all of your favorite stores. Banana Republic and sister sites the Gap and Old Navy, H&M, Ann Taylor, New York and Co., J Crew, even effing Target. Basically, if you’re a large chain retailer of women’s clothing, you’re selling these, and only these. (On occasion, some of the stores will throw you a bone, and include “Signature” or “Classic” trousers. These are still tight through the butt, but have a straight or flared leg. The also apparently took all the cloth being saved on ankle pants and added them here, because God Lord are they long. Which means you should probably wear them with heels. Which fuck that.)

And if you, like me, don’t look good in ankle pants? If they make you resemble a British school boy instead of a fashionable French woman? Well, fuck you! Wear them anyway! Until you convince yourself that these pants look great, and are the only pants you’ll ever wear again. At which point we’ll switch it up, and demand you repeat the cycle with an entirely different style of pants! True story, I’ve been through this cycle five times since college. Five entirely different styles of pants requiring five entirely different styles of shirts and shoes to go with it. I know men who legitimately have the same pair of jeans since high school. Not the same size, style or brand, but the literal same pants. And fashion blogs treat them with words like “vintage” and “timeless.” Because what’s the point in make clothing for women that lasts if we’re just going to make you change to wearing bell-bottoms in eighteen months anyway? Amirite? Ahaha. Haha! HAHAHA!

And this is why women wear leggings everywhere.