Fashion Masochist: Ultra-High-Waist Jeans

Trend forecasters say this latest denim style is on the up-and-up. Rachel Baker bravely takes it to the extreme.

THE EXPERIENCE As a denim addict, I can’t help but crave the newest styles. (Skinny? Conquered it months ago.) So when Riccardi owner Riccardo Dallai tells me he’s stocking the Next Big Jeans—the ultra-high-waist cut—I’m sold, sight unseen. The peeping thong brought on by the superlow of recent years bores me, and I’m not alone: This fall Scarlett Johansson walked the runway in an up-to-there pair by Imitation of Christ, and local retailers including Jean Therapy, In-jean-ius, and Dress are reporting healthy high-rise sales by brands like Earnest Sewn, Shagg by Sally Hershberger, and Salt Works.

At Riccardi, I wriggle into the “Eiffel Towers” by Swedish line Cheap Monday. I begin zipping…zipping…still zipping…and finally reach the top of what seems to be a mile of fly (it’s actually just under a foot, hitting at my bustline). I parade out of the dressing room to the accolades of Dallai and crew: “Wow!” “I love it!” “Looks awesome!” Turning to the mirror, I expect to see Scarlett; instead, it’s Steve Urkel. When I announce that I’ll take them, the crowd seems thrilled but a little shocked, whispering congratulations (or were they condolences?).

Outside the walls of fashion-forward Riccardi, reaction to the footlongs is, well, less positive. I repeat to myself You are ahead of the curve as I traipse into the office. “Cute jeans!” says an ad exec, but it’s the only compliment of the day. Most others are amused, as if I’m playing around; some avoid eye contact altogether. “Those are awful!” one editor exclaims. Another adds, “No offense, but those are so wrong.” For laughs, my boss calls me into a meeting to model the footlongs for the executive VP and other higher-ups.

I tell myself these poor souls are just painfully unfashionable. After all, these are the Next Big Jeans—right? But when I strut the look on Newbury Street, strangers offer similar reactions: giggles, finger-pointing, and a handful of “Hey, look at that girl’s jeans!” By now, I feel more fashion victim than fashion plate.

Meanwhile, it’s becoming impossible to ignore a more troubling development: I’m beginning to sag. The legs and seat are still tight, but by noon the front has been stretched out by routine sitting and standing. High jeans may be in, but my lunch-lady pooch is not. I’m constantly pulling, rebelting, unbunching. Functional speed bumps I’d written off as worth the fashion—like longer bathroom trips—soon turn into relentless annoyances.

THE VERDICT It’s doubtful I’ll make the footlongs a weekly wardrobe staple—not after a trustworthy group of editors and friends unanimously deemed them so unflattering. But that’s not to say I’m going back to throwing thong. This season’s more reasonable styles allow junkies like me to scratch the new-denim itch—while leaving Urkel at home.