As you may have noticed from my recent swimsuit posts focusing on vintage and high-waisted styles, I have something of an obsession with a high waist in general. With my long torso, muscular short legs, and big waist to hip ratio, a high waist is so much more flattering on me than the low-rise pants that have been perpetually in style for the last decade.
High-waisted pants and shorts make my legs look long and slender, and don’t give the dreaded muffin top or plumber’s butt. I’ve been on the search for the perfect high-waisted denim shorts for maybe three years. I found one handmade pair on Etsy that are amazing, but they’re just too expensive at $165.
I also tried a pair from Bettie Page Clothing a couple years ago, but even though they were billed as “high-waisted,” they most definitely were not. They were mid-rise and gaped in the back of the waist. But then last week, I walked past an American Apparel store and something in the window caught my eye. When I went in, there was a whole wall of nothing but high-waisted denim shorts (officially, “High-Waist Cuff Short”) in lots of colors and even some wacky prints (like watermelon!).
I’ve tried high-waisted jeans from AA before and they were horrible. They flattened my butt, gaped in the waist, were skin-tight on my calves, and basically made me look like a sausage. No thanks! But I’m so desperate for this shorts style that I tried a couple pairs anyway, and miraculously they fit really well!
With my 29″ waist and 41″ inch hips, I tried sizes 29 and 30. The 29 was spot-on and the 30 was visibly too big. There was even plenty of space for my thighs and butt. So they fit true to size as long as you’re considering your actual waist measurement.
The shorts are a little expensive at $58, so instead of buying in person, I went home and signed up for the AA mailing list to get a 15% off coupon. I ended up ordering the dark wash and what they call “Medium Stone Washed Indigo White Hickory Stripe,” aka very pale blue with white pin stripes. The dark wash is 100% cotton with no stretch and the striped ones are 77% cotton with 21% polyester and 2% spandex.
Now, the shorts are a little shorter than I consider ideal. They basically stop just under the butt cheek. For me, if I can feel a draft on my butt when I bend down or sit, then shorts are too short. But luckily, the big cuff could be easily taken out to lengthen them. The cuff was only sewn in place in four little spots (front, back, and inner and outer thigh).
I used a seam ripper to pick out the stitches on the outside first.
Then I pulled apart each side of the cuff and picked away at the threads on the inner layer, taking care not to accidentally rip out the single seam.
The inseam was just under 2 inches long when I started, and undoing the cuff made it just over 3 inches. A small difference, but enough that I feel more comfortable. Here are shots of the striped ones before and after:
And a full length shot of the finished shorts (with the BiuBiu Portofino top in 38 bb/bbb):
Those dark dots on the front (and back) are, unfortunately, permanent. It was a tiny bit of dark blue dye under the spot where the cuffs were tacked in place. I don’t really care, but if they bothered you enough, I imagine a carefully placed drop of bleach would fade them. I did iron the shorts on the hottest setting, but the crease from the old fold is still pretty visible. I suspect it’ll take a few wears and washes to remove it completely.
With the high polyester and spandex content, the striped shorts are really comfortable, and seem to be bouncing back from the old cuffs quite nicely. The dark wash ones are much heavier and not stretchy, so they didn’t turn out quite as well.
The cuff creases are much more obvious since the fabric is thicker and did’t respond to the iron as much. Additionally, the bottom half of the cuff is flaring outward. I’m hoping this will fade with more wears and washes, or I might put a dart in the back of the legs. The biggest issue, though, is that throughout the day the heavy fabric bunches up at the bottom of my butt, which makes my rear look a little warped and basically feels like I’m wearing a huge menstrual pad.
It’s not terribly flattering, but again I think it’ll form to my body shape better over time. 100% cotton denim is quite stiff and unforgiving when it’s new.
Speaking of 100% cotton denim and high waists, I was recently introduced to the British brand Freddies of Pinewood. They make the most amazing vintage reproduction jeans you’ll ever see. I’m planning on ordering two pairs in the near future. I’m just waiting for one style to come back in stock in my size, and their customer service already told me they’ll be available next week at the latest. Stay tuned!