Do you remember this scene in the 1967 film “The Graduate”?
New college graduate Benjamin encounters a friend of his father’s at a party. The friend pulls him aside and says, “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics.”
That advice may have helped college grads in ‘67, but the world we face today is very different.
In light of the raging global pandemic, and the stress it’s placed on all of us, I now have two words for you. Elastic waists.
Many of us have recently begun wearing clothes with elastic waists.
On June 26, The Wall Street Journal noted: “The Covid 15 Have Made Our Clothes Too Tight.” Reporter Suzanne Kapner clearly outlined the problem. “People spent the spring sheltering at home in sweatpants, perfecting banana-bread recipes and indulging in pandemic-induced stress-eating.” And while most of us have escaped Covid-19, we haven’t escaped the “Covid 15”—the weight-gain pushing Americans into “roomier wardrobes.”
Hence the widespread adoption of elastic waists.
Many shoppers have jumped on the scale, been horrified, and concluded that they needed to buy new clothes to fit their new shapes. One woman, unable to zip up her pants, got on her scale. “Holy moly,” she told Kapner, “I gained 11 pounds in three weeks.”
Kapner cited more evidence: First, Google-searches for “elastic waist” have spiked. Further, body-measuring apps have reported a jump in people choosing looser fits to accommodate their new profiles. As the CEO of one such app observed, people are “sizing up” because they’ve gained weight. Less active and more confined, they’re “eating more, either out of stress or boredom.”
In light of this phenomenon, some retailers are increasing orders of clothes in bigger sizes. They’re also painfully aware of something else: the rise in returns because of size-changes. Returns have probably doubled in the past three months, according to a software company that processes returns for over 200 brands. And when customers order a clothing item (in their former size), and it needs to be exchanged for a larger size, those retailers who offer free shipping and free returns find that all of these additional returns are eating into their profits.
This move into larger sizes and elastic waists doesn’t surprise me. I long ago adopted wearing pants with elastic waists. Not all of my pants, to be sure. But many of them.
It probably started when I was pregnant with my first child. As my abdominal area began to expand, I searched my closet and came across some skirts and pants with elastic waistbands. I discovered that I could wear these throughout my pregnancy, adding extra elastic as needed. I bought some maternity clothes as well, but the pants with those stretchy elastic waistbands allowed me to avoid buying a lot of new items.
Over the years, I’ve continued to wear elastic-waist pants, enjoying the comfort they afford. (Yes, I also wear pants and jeans with stitched-down waistbands that fit me.)
I can understand why there’s a new emphasis on buying elastic waists in lieu of bigger sizes. A bigger size might be OK for right now, but you probably hope to return to your former size sometime. Elastic waists are exactly what they claim to be: elastic. That means they can expand, but they can also contract.
Both women and men can benefit from wearing elastic waists, at least until they’ve shed the additional pounds they’ve recently acquired.
Many women have traditionally turned to elastic waists because they don’t have the typical “hourglass” shape women are expected to sport. They have what’s been called an “apple” shape, with a somewhat larger waist measurement than most women have. In the past, they might have purchased clothes with a tight waistband and then had a tailor make the waistband bigger.
But right now, tailoring clothes is almost impossible. Who’s leaving the safety of home simply to find a tailor to alter a waistband? The pandemic has put such tailoring out of reach for most of us. And if an elastic waist makes it unnecessary, it’s saving you the trouble and expense of seeking out a tailor.
Men with expanding waists have also benefited from elastic waists. The popularity of sweatpants and other casual wear with elastic waists for men are proof of that.
I recognize the role stress is playing in our lives right now, and it’s pretty obvious that we can attribute some weight-gain to the increased level of stress. So, to avoid buying more and more elastic waists and/or bigger sizes, we need to reduce stress as much as we can.
The advice we’ve all heard for a long time still holds, and it probably applies now more than ever. At the risk of sounding preachy, I’m adding a few new tips to the tried-and-true list. (Feel free to skip it if you think you’ve heard it all before.)
- Be more physically active. Please remember: You don’t need to go to a gym or even do vigorous workouts at home. Simply taking a fairly fast-paced stroll in your neighborhood is good enough.
- Avoid fixating on TV news, especially the bad stuff.
- Watch distracting TV programing instead (this includes reliably funny films like “Some Like It Hot” and “What’s Up, Doc?” if you can find them).
- Play music that makes you happy.
- Connect with friends and family by phone, email, or text (or by writing actual letters).
- Give meditation a try, just in case it may help you.
- Try to follow a diet focused on fresh fruit, veggies, high-fiber carbs, and lean protein.
- Curl up with a good book. (Forgive me for plugging my three novels,* but each one is a fast read and can take you to a different time and place, a definitely helpful distraction.)
Although I admit that I’m still wearing the elastic waists I already own, I’ve so far been able to avoid the “Covid 15” that might require buying new ones. What’s helped me?
First, briskly walking in my neighborhood for 30 minutes every day. Second, resisting the lure of chocolate as much I can. Instead, I’ve been relying on heaps of fruits, veggies, popcorn, pretzels, and sugarless gum. (My chief indulgences are peanut butter and fig bars.) It’s as simple as that.
Maybe you can avoid it, too. Good luck!
*A Quicker Blood, Jealous Mistress, and Red Diana are all available as paperbacks and e-books on Amazon.com.