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mom jeans

noun [plural] informal

a style of loose-fitting jeans with a high waist, often considered unfashionable

'President Obama's infamous mom jeans won't be seen again. The president said Thursday that his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, 'retired' the widely maligned jeans Mr. Obama wore when throwing out the first pitch of the 2009 MLB All Star Game.'

Washington Times 22nd May 2014

As a female of a certain age, and a mum, I'm a big fan of garments which are comfy and can potentially cover even the most generous of body shapes. And it turns out that there's a style of women's jeans which relate especially to me and my peers. Sitting innocently in the wardrobes of middle-aged women across the globe – car-crash casuals for some, timeless classics to others – these stunners are known as mom jeans.

mom jeans have suddenly become rather trendy in recent months – witnessed on celebrities of various ages and even marketed by popular brands

Mom jeans is the informal term now used to refer to a style of women's jeans which have a high waist above the belly button and are loose-fitting, often with excess material around the crotch and legs. Bucking the trend for fading techniques and different shades of denim, these jeans are also characteristically a very uniform, solid blue. Other common features include pleats, tapered legs and elastic waistbands. I'm guessing that most readers, regardless of age, will by now have a good idea of the sort of thing I'm talking about, but in case not, this image link might help.

The expression mom jeans is mildly pejorative, though in a light-hearted, humorous way. This is largely because, since the advent of alternative styles, colours, and a far wider range of options in the jeans world, mom jeans seem pretty old-fashioned. Moreover, they're often considered rather unflattering because their shapeless cut can make the female posterior look unnecessarily large (oh, and by the way, if male readers thought they were off the hook here, be warned that you have your very own version of this fashion faux-pasdad jeans).

However, as is often the way in the world of fashion, yesterday's horrors are today's must-haves, and in a bizarre twist, mom jeans have suddenly become rather trendy in recent months – witnessed on celebrities of various ages and even marketed by popular brands not normally associated with 'mumsy' garments.

The very staple of most modern wardrobes, there's been an explosion in terminology for the different types of jeans on offer over the last couple of decades. There's now a whole gamut of styles, including crop or cropped – cut off just below the knee (and usually worn in the summer), skinny – with very tight legs, or the eyewatering spray-on, which are even tighter. At the other end of the spectrum, more baggy varieties include bootcut – with legs that are wider at the bottom, drop-crotch – which have extra material sagging down between the legs, boyfriend – a sloppy, comfy variety (the term takes inspiration from the idea of a woman borrowing her fella's clothes) and the more generic low-rise – a style designed to sit just below the waist. Different shades of blue are nowadays reflected in terms such as acid- and stonewash.

Background – mom jeans

The expression mom jeans dates back to the late 1990s, but hit the pubic radar more widely in 2009, when US President Barack Obama was the subject of mild ridicule in the media for wearing this style of jeans during a baseball game. The term mom jeans came about because this more generic style of loose-fitting jeans was widely popular until the 1990s, and therefore, for younger generations, deemed to be something that only their 'mothers' would wear. Interestingly, the expression is used both in the US and the UK, even though mum is routinely used in place of mom in British English.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 16th September 2014.

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