Stirrup Pants and Skinny Legs

Personal story ahead!

This pretty little picture of nostalgia found its way onto my newsfeed the other night:

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I’d love to know who these super fashionable people are – he of the Canadian Tuxedo, she of the stirrup-printed blouse, flat dress shoes triple play.

Short answer: Yes.  Yes I did.

I was a skinny child.  Not necessarily tall by any standard – I’m 5’4,” and have been since I was almost finished with sixth grade.  When stirrup pants were fashionable a few years earlier, they were the best pants for me to wear, besides leggings.  Legging I love, loved them then, love them now.  I still wear them, even though I’m not toothpick legs anymore.

I was convinced as a kid that stirrups could not possibly have been popular, but they were.  When your legs are super skinny, buying pants is an ordeal.  I remember having several pairs of stirrup pants in the early 90s – especially pink and black.  They actually fit better than leggings which were a little baggy saggy around my ankles.  Not that it stopped me from wearing leggings, but these I dreaded.  I am so glad they went out of style!  By the time they went out of style (I think I was in third or fourth grade by then), I wore leggings frequently.

I look at these and think about how unflattering they are, and it, of course, takes me back to the other questionable clothing styles young kids were forced into.  Corduroy pants?  Had them.  Those little blouses with stripes and a patch that was heart balloons or flowers?

You know, like this?


Sans glasses and huge hair (for me), this was how we were all dressed in the mid-to-late 1980s.  In fact, I had those purple pants in first grade.  Our parents thought we were cute, and most of us were probably not daring enough to object to the clothes on our backs.  I know I wasn’t.

I refer to that look at “Kids R Us Chic,” because until the beginning of sixth grade, that was where I shopped.  I remember dreading going to Kids R Us for clothes shopping, because I felt like going there was teasing me with the promise of “R Us” and it not involving toys.  The Dream Machine was my favorite part of the whole trip (a giant fortune telling machine), but the shopping?  Not so much.


I love clothes shopping these days, but when I was a kid, fitting me into clothing was difficult.  Being a little taller than average at the time, and super skinny made buying jeans difficult (hence those awful stirrup pants!).  Buying clothes in general was probably difficult.  By the time I was in seventh grade, I was my adult height, but weighed 107 pounds (for context, I currently don’t weigh 107 pounds).  5’4″ and Not 107 Pounds looks totally different than 5’4″ and 107 pounds.  You know, like much skinnier.

I had finally convinced my mom (or maybe she was finally convinced?) that I was too old for Kids R Us, even though I probably still fit in their clothes better than I would clothes from anywhere else.  So, we went to JC Penney (or Sears, I can’t remember which one) for jeans.  I was now in the largest girls’ size there was…16.  I remember wanting different jeans – most of my classmates were in Juniors sizes, or smaller adult sizes.  I was in seventh grade and still shopping in the girls’ section for my jeans!  I know no one was looking at what brand of jeans I was wearing, but I hated wearing stuff from the girls’ section.  The horror!  Those size 16 jeans fit ok for a little while, but eventually, they got to a point where I sat down and you saw too much ankle.  And the socks pulled up to cover those ankles.  I love these types of pants now, they’re in style.  At the time, this was an unintended side effect of having to wear size 16 girls’ jeans when you were too tall for them, yet too skinny for anything else (again, the horror!).  I endured the winter in these jeans – size 16 girls’ shorts fit me great that year.  No worries of too short pants anymore!

So, by the time eighth grade started, I had gained a little weight, and some hips to go with it.  I finally had a “figure.”  My mom has said that once I was almost fourteen years old, shopping was much easier, because she worked in a department store and could take me there to buy their jeans – size four…in MISSES!.  I actually loved those jeans – they fit great and looked amazing (and just the tiniest bit of ankle!).  Between that and Arizona jeans at JC Penney, jeans were awesome.  And when flares became stylish in high school, I loved those even more, because…no ankle!

These days, buying pants isn’t a chore.  I love straight leg jeans (ironic, I know!), and I know what size I need and what works best for me.  No more guesswork, no more grumbling about needing new jeans.  Finding a good pair is much easier these days.  Oh and no more girls’ department clothes – that ship sailed 25 years ago!

And (thank goodness!) no more stirrup pants, though I did a Google search and…

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yeah, what’s old is new again.  And not always for the better.

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