A Brief History of “Mom Jeans”

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

The 1970s was the decade designer jeans were born, but denim wear really took off in the 1980s. In that era, the style was a moderately tapered leg with a loose top. Unlike current denim, it wasn’t stretchy at all. By the beginning of the ‘90s, the tighter fit was rejected for a loose fit all around. This can be seen in the photos of the cast of the hit TV series Beverly Hills 90210. High-waisted jeans weren’t just worn by moms; even the stylish and rich were wearing them. The high waist made women’s bottoms look longer and flatter.

Middle-aged women seemed to prefer a solid light-blue wash that didn’t have any distressing or fading. They also preferred to wear jeans with extra pleating around the waist and elastic waistbands, neither of which were particularly flattering.

Thanks to celebrities like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, low-rise jeans, in which the waist fell well below the belly button, became the early 2000s’ hottest denim trend. At this point, people still choosing to wear high waists were less fashionable and probably “moms.”

In 2003 that this trend was given a name. Tina Fey and the cast of Saturday Night Live did a Mother’s Day skit where the moms loved jeans like those worn in 90210. As jeans got skinnier, waists stayed low, and the term that Tiny Fey coined continued to be used with a sense of shame and unfashionability.

For a decade, “mom jeans” stuck around as a pejorative term. Then in 2013, stores started selling high-waisted jeans, except this time “mom jeans” were part of the fashion. At this same time, jean styles loosened up and challenged the skin-tight skinny jean.

By 2015, Urban Outfitters was selling a variety of high-waisted pants that became very popular. “Mom jeans” can be seen at department stores from Nordstrom to H&M. Higher waists flatter a woman’s curves and have been worn by celebrities like Kim Kardashian.

And that is the way “mom jeans” went from a shameful term to a style of pants sold to the young and chic across the nation.


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