Fashion Masochist

In the debut of our new Web-only feature, Rachel Baker wonders if style is worth sacrificing sanity.

I’m enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon browsing spree when I spot a pair of Superfine charcoal skinny jeans at the Barneys denim bar. Though I’m hardly in the market for more drainpipes—my closet’s already bursting with skinny styles from J Brand, Miss Sixty, and Seven—I rationalize a few reasons to give these a go: I don’t have any in this color gray; Kate Moss owns a pair; they’re on sale. And I’m off to the fitting room.

I emerge with a somewhat altered silhouette and a hesitant smile. Michelle, my favorite Barneys shopgirl offers, “they’re more like…leggings?” with a shrug, finally followed by a nod.

It is unfair to label these jeans “skinny”—they’re in a category all of their own. Scrawny, ultrasnug, skeletal, bony, malnourished even, would all be more accurate. And it’s not that these Supers are too small—it’s somehow the intentional, extreme tightness that makes them so fashionable. I’ve just never felt such, uh, fashion before. (Small breath in, tiny breath out…)

“I’ll take them.”

Fast-forward 18 hours. It’s Monday morning. Should I wear my new Supers despite the heat wave outside? No, I shouldn’t. Do I? Of course, I do.

In theory, I will start the week off right, feeling cool, stylish, and confident by pairing them with a mid-bum-length black tank, lightweight black scarf, and black flats. All very Mick Jagger, which I’m wild about despite the fact that it’s 8 a.m., and the lack of circulation has already caused a stache of perspiration on my upper lip.

The walk to work feels longer than usual, possibly because I can only take half steps. My legs have begun sympathizing with leftover hot dogs that have been suffocated in plastic wrap in the hope of eternal freshness. Except, I’m starting to look anything but fresh—the heat from my throbbing limbs is spreading, wilting my entire rock star look.

A few hours, and a couple of out-of-office appointments, later, I’m beet red with swollen feet, and what I had earlier attempted to pass off as “glisten” is now blatant sweat. I can’t eat a meal because there’s no room inside the denim shackles to hold anything but gerbil-sized snacks. (Might this be how people feel after gastric bypass surgery?)

But despite all of the sweat, chafing, and mobility issues, I receive two compliments on my Supers from two reliable fashionistas by the end of the day and I’m at least one good inch closer to one of my many life/fashion goals: to look British. So was physical pain worth the fashion gain? Bloody right it is.