High school isn’t often characterized as a fun time, but those years were tumultuous for me in a very specific way. Long story short: I skipped two grades, so I was only 12 when I started ninth grade. While most of the people around me had already gone through puberty, I had yet to experience what it meant to have a “changing body.” When that uncomfortable coming-of-age moment finally arrived in tenth grade—I was 13 going on 14—my self-esteem went downhill, fast.
That year, I got my first period and ballooned in size to about 300 pounds. I suddenly went from being baby-fat chubby to being firmly in the plus-size category. (It would take me years to learn that I was dealing with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition that can cause heavy periods, acne, infertility, and—yes—weight gain.)
Of course, this meant my entire wardrobe changed, especially when my J-cup boobs continued to grow in. Before this moment, I hadn’t really thought about clothing that much. As the middle of five children, I often wore hand-me-downs or stuff my mom picked out. I didn’t really question whether something looked good or made me feel good.
As I struggled to understand what felt like a completely new body, I realized that clothing now existed in two categories for me: clothing that made me feel good about myself and clothing that didn’t. I spent the better part of that year trying to figure out how to make myself comfortable and confident, or at least mitigate some of the feelings of self-doubt and extreme self-consciousness that had become the norm.
It seemed like a really bizarre and dramatic thing to do: Can a person really just stop wearing pants? It turns out you can, and it can be life-changing.
I tried different color palettes. I tried incorporating different accessories. I went through a scarf phase. But I eventually realized that the only factor that had a noticeable effect on my mood and confidence was whether or not I was wearing pants.
I told my mom this in passing and she finally said, “Well, why don’t you stop wearing pants?” It was such a simple solution, but I truly had never considered it before. It seemed like a really bizarre and dramatic thing to do: Can a person really just stop wearing pants?
It turns out you can, and it can be life-changing. Towards the end of tenth grade, I officially decided to break up with pants. If it didn’t work out, I figured I could always go back to wearing them—it wasn’t the type of decision I couldn’t undo.
Though it took me a minute to realize it, I really do hate pants with a passion. I hate the way they make my legs look short compared to my torso—picture Danny DeVito dressed up as Mr. Potato Head. I also can’t stand the feeling and sound of fabric rubbing together between my thighs. But beyond all that, I’m just never physically comfortable in them.
In the time since I first swore off pants, I have been inspired to give them another shot. Each and every time, however, the experiment has ended with me crying in a changing room. Maybe it’s psychosomatic—I associate a difficult period of my adolescence with a type of garment, and that brings up anxiety. Or maybe I’m just not the type of person who was meant to have an extensive denim collection or swan about in high-waisted trousers like a French girl.
So to this day, 10 years later, I wear dresses and skirts exclusively (aside from pajama pants and workout leggings). Yes, it’s an unconventional choice and it somewhat limits my outfit options, but ultimately, it makes me feel good about myself and my body. My ban on pants is basically the Marie Kondo philosophy in action: Fill your closet only with the things that spark joy and leave the rest.
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