As we approach the full swing of summer here in the northern hemisphere – a summer that promises countless social possibilities with the widespread delivery of vaccines – my summer wardrobe and I are ready for patio dining, music performances in the park, and bike rides with friends once more. My summer wardrobe hasn’t evolved much in the last two years. It’s a little lighter, a little trimmer, but is mostly comprised of familiar favourites I’ve had for years. One piece that I’m not totally happy with, however, happens to be one of the few “pandemic purchases” I made in 2020: a pair of olive green tencel pants.
Purchased from: Tentree, 2020
Material: 100% Tencel
Wears counted: 23
Last spring was a stressful period and like everyone else, I wanted to take comfort in soft fabrics. This pair of wide-leg pants was an online purchase and the first clothing item I bought during lockdown. Far from a reckless, impulsive buy, I carefully considered the purchase for weeks before pulling the trigger, though in retrospect, my desire to shop was undoubtedly influenced by the anxiety of isolation. I made outfit boards to see how it would mesh with my existing wardrobe. I researched the brand and deemed it worthy of my consumer dollars (it was also conveniently on sale). I did everything I should have done to ensure that it would be a wise addition to my closet, yet after a year of wears, I am coming to regret this purchase.
The pants are high-waisted and elasticated in the back, in a cropped culotte style. The material is tencel, which is soft, easy to care for, and lightweight. They’re incredibly comfortable and cooling, making them a good option for lazy, summer days. Unfortunately, there are some features of the design that make these pants a wrong fit for me. On first glance, the pockets seemed nice and wide, but they are awkwardly shallow. This means that pocketable things are constantly threatening to fall out, from my keys to my phone. The wide-leg pant shape is one that I enjoy, but is not very practical for biking as the extra fabric in the legs can get caught.
As for the fit of these pants, despite having a wider leg, the fabric falls straight down the sides so that from the front, it appears like a pair of regular straight-leg pants. Unlike my linen culottes, they are missing the volume and drama – the extra fabric feels like it’s pulling down my narrow frame, as opposed to creating visual contrast. Since I bought them a year ago, these pants have also stretched out, from being a bit tight to quite loose and slouchy in an unflattering way. In fact, I noticed some other strange things after the first wash – the way is waistband is sewn makes the fabric bulge out a bit in front, as opposed to sitting perfectly flat. In the back, there’s some bunching in the elastic that looks messy. Finally, the material wrinkles like crazy and not in the artsy way that I can tolerate with some of my linen pieces. Admittedly, these are nice to wear at times, but the sloppiness doesn’t quite match the “dress my best” ambitions I aspire to live up to.
I was initially drawn to these pants because I thought they would be a more stylish and heat-friendly alternative to sweats and leggings. There’s this rule of thumb out there that you should be able to make three outfits with whatever you’re thinking of buying. In my opinion, unless you’re a proud outfit repeater (which I’m slowly evolving into), it better be ten. Because I’m a nerd, before buying these pants I went into Photoshop and played around with different outfit combinations. The muted green colour goes with a lot of tops in my wardrobe – white, cream, navy, black. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really go with me. I never had much of this army, olive-y green in my wardrobe and now I know why: the colour is not my best – it makes me look a bit sallow in some lighting. The loose fit paired with this earth tone also gives me a bohemian, hippie vibe which I can appreciate on other people, but doesn’t feel true to myself.
Still, over the past year, I’ve worn these pants many times, mostly at home. While most of my planned outfits did work – these culottes + an oversized navy button down felt like a cool take on a pyjama set – I noticed that I didn’t really enjoy wearing flowy, soft tops with flowy, soft pants. I realized that I preferred pairing my silky, boxy summer tops with harder-textured bottoms that have a bit more shape, which probably explains why I used to wear thick, uncomfortable jeans in the summer. I’ll also add that trying to tuck a slippery silk tee into these baggy, tencel pants was like trying to handle a live fish with Vaseline in my palms.
Even with foresight and due diligence, these culottes did not work out as I had hoped. It’s not the worst garment I’ve bought, but as I continue to cultivate my particular sense of style, I’m trying to get away from acquiring things I feel “meh” about. As the city opens back up and I’m seeing a lot more well-dressed people on the sidewalks, I’m excited for a summer of good outfits and not of wearing the same, slightly sour-smelling house dress for a week. I do intend to keep these pants around for one more season before deciding if I should give them away or relegate them to loungewear, where their comfort and sloppiness is accepted and appreciated. Looking back, if I could have tried these pants on in-store, I doubt I would have gone with them. In a way, they are a relic of that strange period last spring, when we were grappling with so many unknowns. When boredom and stress drove people to bread-making and tie-dyed sweatpants. At the time, these pants gave me the comfort I needed and the encouragement to put on some damn pants before jumping into my third Zoom call of the morning.