Tres Cheek: The Denim Mystique

blue jeans
B Scene co-owner Ilana Kashdin, left, helps shopper Claire Thibeau, 16, at the Potomac store. (Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 16, 2005

First of two articles

At a boutique in Potomac where denim dreams come true and almost no one is bigger than a size 10, a woman flags down a salesgirl and confides a terrible problem.

"You don't have a butt?" asks the salesgirl, Mandy.

"Like, at all," the woman says.

This is as close to an emergency as you can get in the premium-denim world. From the rows and rows of bluejeans, which stretch to the right and left, from floor to ceiling, Mandy pulls a pair of Rock & Republic's with high back pockets, designed to magically lift and shape all that is droopy or flat.

There are nearly 30 brands here at B Scene: jeans with small pockets and big pockets and specially angled pockets, jeans with close-together pockets that make a wide butt narrower, jeans with no yoke to make a butt extra round. There are rhinestoned and embroidered pockets to call attention to your butt, and plain pockets to make your butt disappear. Everyone has a different theory about how to solve the world's butt problems.

"There's so much controversy," says Ilana Kashdin, who once planned to be a doctor and now co-owns this boutique, where she studies the anatomy of denim and the derriere.

Whether you're paying $145 or $520 for premium denim, you want to get the butt right. It's the second thing every woman looks at in the mirror, but it's the first thing she cares about. She does that half-twirl, her back arched and her head craned around. If the jeans are right, the experience is transformative, like putting on a magic cloak.

She says, "Oh. Muh-god."

For a while we were stuck in a dark place, our jeans tragically utilitarian. We bought them in stores decorated with hay bales. We fooled with acid washes and elastic waists. We had poor pocket technology. We had no choice.

Then came beauty, so much beauty. (And status, too, but we'll try that on tomorrow.) Now we are clad in the sanctified denim of the 21st century, a pragmatic, pioneer material made decadently new. From our perfect behinds, we can see the future.

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