Joanne Palmer: Skinny jeans and penguin watching |

Joanne Palmer: Skinny jeans and penguin watching

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

The last time skinny jeans were in style, I split mine on a dance floor in Niles, Ill. It was in the early '80s, and I was executing a bold move on a disco dance floor when I heard an unmistakable sound that could mean only one thing — it was time to go home. As discreetly as I could, I disappeared off the dance floor and into my car.

I was sad to retire those jeans. I bought them in Paris, where I had been working as a "jeune fille au pair," or nanny, and I naively thought those pants made me look like a chic, petite French woman. They were black corduroy and so tight I had to lie on a bed and hold my breath to zip them up. Once in, it was impossible to exhale fully as it felt like the entire lower half of my body was squeezed into a tourniquet. I frequently spent an entire evening talking in a squeaky voice that sounded like I'd just inhaled helium because I could not breathe. At the end of an evening, my legs would have imprints of the pant's seams running up and down them.

Despite the fact that they were excruciatingly uncomfortable, those were my go-to jeans, and I wore them every chance I got. I had some short lilac boots I wore with them and some oversized sweaters that hid the muffin top those jeans created.

At that time in my life, I was willing to suffer for the sake of fashion. I willingly would mince around in shoes that didn't fit if I thought they looked great or zip myself into a dress that, while stylish, didn't do much to flatter me.

I don't have that problem anymore. For the first time in my adult life, I actually like everything in my closet. This never has happened. I have cleaned out, given away and gotten rid of all the mistakes, impulse buys and clothes for fluctuating weight. I donated or consigned bags of castoffs until my closet felt airy and big. Gone were all the clothes I saved "just in case." These clothes took up the majority of my closet.

Just in case I attend a black-tie event, just in case someone comes to visit who needs a ski jacket, just in case I need to go to Antarctica to look at penguins, just in case someone calls with a last-minute ticket to the Academy Awards. Um, hello! Earth to Joanne. Get real, girlfriend.

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The first few times I opened my closet door, I thought I had been robbed. There is nothing in here! But there was. What was in there were clothes I loved, clothes that were comfortable and clothes that actually fit.

My clothes fall into three categories: Dog-walking clothes, work clothes and exercise wear. The good news is that exercise clothes and work clothes often are interchangeable. Yoga pants are so stylish that with some creative accessorizing, I can wear them to the office. I have one black dress, no skirts and no high heels. Everything in my closet can fit into two totes.

Clearing out the clutter has cleared out my mind. It's easier and faster to get ready to go somewhere because I can see everything in my closet and find it.

As for skinny jeans, well, after considerable thought, I've decided I don't need them. I will hang on to the memory of wearing them rather than trying to fit into them again. And if anyone invites me to penguin watch in Antarctica, I'll happily buy something new for the journey.

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