From The Straits Times    |
michelle, the author, wearing two different pairs of low rise jeans

Credit: Instagram/ @michyvari

I’m sorry. But, no. I’m actually not sorry that I stan your worst nightmare: low rise jeans.

Hip-hugging and booty popping, low rise jeans have been heavily maligned as tacky, cheap and trashy due to its revealing style. First seen in the ‘60s to ‘70s, low rise jeans represented a spirit of freedom as seen on rockstars and hippies. In the ‘90s, Alexander McQueen broke the headlines by making the “Bumster”, a bum-revealing low rise jean that was intended to elongate the female torso.

The Alexander McQueen “Bumster”. Image Credit: Pinterest (left) Solve Sundsbo (right)

From red carpets to shopping trips, it was inevitable that low rise jeans were the default pair as seen on every “It” girl from Britney Spears to Paris Hilton. Fergie immortalised designer denim brands while wearing her ultra low jeans with a long tank top in “My Humps”. During my childhood, almost every YA book I read mentioned “hip-hugging” jeans and I styled my Bratz dolls with low rise jeans and crop tops that can fit a chihuahua.

I spent my teen years poring through tabloids to find inspiration from the stars, who wore the latest denim brands. Whether it was a skinny or a boyfriend silhouette, I used to go to (the now defunct multi-label boutique) Inhabit to find Rock ‘n Republic, Citizens of Humanity, 7 for All Mankind and Current/Elliott to get every single jean I dreamed of.

Y2K queen Britney Spears

Though jeans were a staple, I also bought countless low rise shorts and a denim micro mini at Abercrombie during my trips to LA. My sister also wore low rise jeans from Diesel to Hudson when I was growing up. Hip-hugging was king and it was the default by choice.

First seen in the ‘60s to ‘70s, low rise jeans represented a spirit of freedom as seen on rockstars and hippies. In the ‘90s, Alexander McQueen broke the headlines by making the “Bumster”, a bum-revealing low rise jean that was intended to elongate the female torso.

Hip-hugging and booty popping, low rise jeans have been heavily maligned as tacky, cheap and trashy due to its revealing style.

In university, high-waisted jeans were so de rigeur that I spent my student budget on Nasty Gal’s rib cage-grazing skinny jeans and snapped up vintage mom jeans at Goodwill. I continued to wear high-waisted jeans years after I graduated university until Covid hit. Without a place to go anywhere, shopping for jeans didn’t make sense to me any longer. Being at home 24/7, stocking up on sweats and activewear seemed like the logical choice. Though I took walks to Botanic Gardens and did my workouts via YouTube, I still piled on the kilos as my dad bought takeout almost everyday during Circuit Breaker. Since high-waisted jeans felt uncomfortable to wear when eating at home, I also started to grow bored with the style.

Oversaturated at every store islandwide, high-waisted jeans started to feel cheugy.  Frustrated with the lack of diverse jean options at shops, I decided to dive into my warehouse, where boxes of ‘2000s era apparel were tucked away.

Me wearing a pair of True Religion jeans

When I went through a box for jeans, I pulled out a pair of crisp white True Religion low rise white skinny jeans. Featuring a sequined logo at the butt pockets, it was peak ‘2000s at its finest. While I unzipped, my body tingled. I peeled my bike shorts off, squeezed into my newly found jeans and looked in the mirror. Tightly fitting at the hips with close-cut legs, my thighs and calves appeared leaner. Though it was a little long on me, it made my short legs look like I grew extra inches. I knew from then on, I understood why everyone loved True Religion.

Despite my body type being more compatible with high-waisted silhouettes, wearing low rise jeans made me more confident with flexing my long torso, a feature from my dad. After years of wearing high-waisted jeans with long shirts that I had to tuck in or crop, wearing low rise jeans also made me realise that I could wear my tops full-length without the need to tuck or wear out the cotton whenever I knotted my tees. And when paired with a crop top, I felt just like Britney when I wore it with low riding bottoms.

Here’s me in a crop top and low rise bottoms

One day, I wore a heart printed baby tee with my vintage Rock ‘n Republic corduroy jeans and denim clogs to a coffee shop. I asked a barista to take my pic and when I looked at it, I saw that my body looked more proportionate: a balanced midsection teamed with longer legs and curve-building hips. My long waistline looked natural as the shirt’s hemline grazed at the true waist. 

No matter how many times it was almost canceled, low rise jeans taught me that other people’s opinions on fashion are irrelevant to how you feel about yourself.

When I posted a picture of myself wearing the aforementioned outfit, I was stunned with the amount of positive comments I received over my Y2K inspired look. My crush texted me asking how I was “so fashionable” minutes after I posted. Though I kept on trying to fake a shorter torso in the past, wearing low rise jeans made me appreciate the benefits of having a long torso as it made me see my body at its most natural state. However, the trend had yet to catch on.

At the beginning of this year, I saw paparazzi shots of Julia Fox in low rise jeans dominate my Instagram Explore page. Inspired by her mix of editorial fashion with a DIY edge, I felt compelled to see if I could make low rise jeans an investment piece in my closet. During my last week of vacation in Milan, I went to the Diesel flagship store. Stepping into the temple of denim, racks of jeans were filled from end to end. Since the Italian brand is having its recent renaissance, I grabbed up to 10 denim pieces.

When I tried on every pair at the store, I saw that the most flattering silhouettes were low rise. I walked out with two pairs of low rise jeans, modeled them in front of my mom and to my surprise, she said that they were flattering!

Diesel Girl. Image Credit: Michelle Varinata

Before we had to go to a dinner, I felt like killing time by doing an OOTD shot wearing my newfound Diesel gems: a pair of low rise skinnies and its matching denim jacket, which was modeled at the Spring 2022 fashion show. As I sauntered down the street, two women turned around and a woman who took my photo asked if I worked in the fashion industry. The validation I received from the compliments made me see that even though a trend was “out”, I didn’t need to conform to what everyone else was wearing.

No matter how many times it was almost canceled, low rise jeans taught me that other people’s opinions on fashion are irrelevant to how you feel about yourself. By being empowered about my body, a simple pair of blue jeans brought me to shed my insecurities related to my appearance and not compare myself to others.