23 In Wardrobe Wellness

The orchid jeans that just about bit the dust

J.Jill orchid colored jeans

Discovering these jeans in a glorious orchid color


Ooh, look at those jeans. Aren’t they so happy? Orchid or lavender or lilac colored anythings bring an instant smile to my face.

Really, you have no idea how much I love this color.

On my first visit to Stockholm (2003?) when I did makeovers on women over 40 for the magazine, Tara, I had some walking around time. Being a paper freak I went into a store full of notebooks of every size and color and bought this one in lavender. The gold color of my office walls is maybe blowing this image out but believe me, every blessed page is lavender.


Orchid is so soothing

This color lifts my spirits


To flip me into a better mood if I’m in a rough one, all I have to do is pull out this notebook and inhale the color. Calms me right down.

This Mother’s Day my girls gave me that orchid colored bud vase by Heath Ceramics. I keep it at my bedside. It sends me off into pleasant dreams at night.

And what about those pieces of orchid colored fabric that are sitting on the notebook? Oh darlings, that question will be answered. All you have to know now is that this is a story about love, lust, unrequited love, separation, desperation, heroic efforts, battles nearly lost, but through it all comes redemption. It doesn’t have a perfect ending, but it has the right ending.


Our (s)heroes journey begins

Last February 26th, we were on a shopping trip with my client Sue and we were in J.Jill. Erin and I do what we always do, comb the store for what we think will work and then head to the dressing room. If a client needs a different size I step back out on the floor and pick it up. Somehow the moment when my eyes spotted a pile of orchid jeans was caught on camera. It wasn’t until the client left that I actually let myself go back to that table edge and take in the full orchid experience.


Orchid jeans at J.Jill

The very moment when the relationship began


Love at first glance? Oh yes. Did I snatch them up and bring them home that very day? Oh no. I admired them but left them in the store. I’m an indigo denim girl. Would I really wear orchid jeans?

And then I thought of them…and thought of them…night after night. I posted a pic of them on Facebook and asked you guys for advice. “Should I buy them?” Readers said yes, readers said no, one reader said, “I’d cut off the hem” and another reader said, “I’d buy them and bring them home and never wear them.”

Two weeks later, I bought them, brought them home, and never wore them.

Why? Je ne sais pas! My mind tried to come up with answers.

Maybe they’re too bright.

The weather we’re having isn’t in synch with orchid jeans.

If I put a color with them I’ll be a walking carnival.

Do I want everyone staring at my bottom half because the color’s so eye-catching?

How will I bring attention to my face?


The orchid jeans go back

Every day that goes by that I haven’t had an urge to wear a new purchase makes me less and less committed to it. In time I folded them up and put them in the black bin in the trunk of my car. It’s a bin for emergency reading and writing materials, a first aid kit, and anything that requires an errand. Returning these jeans would be an errand I’d tackle one day when I was in Marin.


Orchid jeans to be returned

The orchid jeans are now in the errand pile in my trunk


It’s amazing how many days and weeks went by with no time to stop by J.Jill to return orchid jeans. The one day I did have time I realized I didn’t have the receipt with me. I found it at home and added it to the pocket of the jeans for next time.


The car carrying the orchid jeans faces potential disaster

Another few weeks went by and near-disaster showed up. I was heading out of Sonoma on Highway 121, which has one lane in each direction and winds through vineyards. It was raining. My windshield wipers were going as fast as they could trying to keep up. All of my attention was on the road. A large white van headed toward me in the opposite lane. Our headlamps were six feet from each other when two things happened simultaneously. The driver swerved to the right in front of me flying down the ditch. My car and windshield got pelted with gravel from the shoulder of the road as he flew through a vineyard going 55 miles per hour. For a moment the rain and the gravel blocked my view. There was nowhere for me pull over and stop.

I looked in my rear-view mirror and watched the van speeding like a bullet before turning over on its side. Two cars going in the van’s direction pulled over. Thank God, there was help.

With the force and suddenness of everything that happened, I knew in my heart of living hearts that if the van had veered left instead of right, I’d most likely be dead on impact.

Did I need to tell you that dramatic part? Well, yes, because then you’ll understand what must have happened next to the orchid jeans.

My car headed to the body shop a couple of weeks later for repairs. For eight days those jeans were in the trunk. (Or were they?) When I got my car back I knew I had to take care of this return pronto. Thank goodness for J.Jill’s generous return policy.

If you’re not completely satisfied with your J.Jill purchase, we’ll gladly accept returns of merchandise that is unworn, unwashed, undamaged or does not meet your quality expectations within 90 days of the original purchase.


Returning the orchid jeans, finally

At last, I’m returning the jeans at the Village Shopping Center. I popped the trunk and pulled them out and gasped. They were riddled with black marks. It looked like the orchid jeans had been on the Sonoma Raceway track and a race car had done wheelies on them. It had to have happened while my car was in the shop. It wasn’t a little bit of damage; it was a lotta bit of damage. I folded them back into the tattered black bin (yes, it was damaged too) and headed home.


The redemption part

These jeans were never going back to J.Jill. They weren’t going into a landfill either. We’d come too far for that.

I pulled out the OxiClean.

OxiClean for stains

OxiClean to the almost-rescue


I did what I’ve successfully done with stains. I dissolved some Oxi into warm water and let them soak, for hours. I had every confidence that the stains would be out soon. That night I pulled them out of the water. The stains were still there. I decided to let them soak overnight.

The next morning I pulled them out of the water and there were the stains. I scrubbed at them with my knuckles and they got a little fainter. I stopped before my knuckles were bloody.

I called for Russ. “Honey, when you’d get stains on your clothes from bike chains, how would you get them out?” “I don’t know how to tell you this Brenda, but they didn’t come out,” he said.

That only gave me more fire in my belly. I was Lady Macbeth. Out damned spots. OUT!

I decided to rinse the pants and start over with a new batch of OxiClean. There wasn’t much left in the box after I measure it out. Russ said, “You might as well add the rest.” So I did.

I went another round. When I pulled them out twelve hours later the stains weren’t all gone but I decided it was good enough. Actually, the color seemed softer, dustier, more like my notebook. I reread the directions. “Some stains require repeated or longer treatments. Adding more OxiClean powder than directed increases the risk of color loss.”


Trimming orchid jeans

Orchid jeans get their hems trimmed off


The happily-ever-after

I do believe my frantic efforts to save the orchid jeans resulted in color change. I washed and dried them and then followed the advice of one that Facebook friend. I cut off the hem on each leg and let them fray. They were softer, more faded, and more relaxed. Now I was (seriously) wearing them five days in a row and getting compliments every day.

People are saying, “Oh my gosh, your jeans are so cute!” and “Brenda, I just want to run out and buy orchid jeans!” and “You’re going to single handedly bring purple back wearing those jeans.”


J.Jill orchid jeans

Orchid jeans enjoying a hot day in Sonoma


Orchid jeans with Dries Van Noten jacket

Single handedly bringing orchid back


We were back in the closet with our client Sue last week putting together summer outfits when I wore my orchid jeans again. Erin spotted the faint stains down near my ankles. She said, “Mom, you have a little something on your jeans.” My heart expanded. I have so much love and appreciation for these imperfect, I-did-my-best jeans. Those little marks that I couldn’t get out? They are evidence of a meaningful relationship where I worked bloody hard to save a pair of jeans I’d decided to let go off. Some things are just meant to be!


Orchid jeans in work outfit

Orchid jeans go to work


Dear friends, what items of clothing have you worked hard to save? Was it worth it? Do share!


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  • Reply
    July 10, 2018 at 5:21 am

    Now that’s a story for the books, Brenda!! I’m such a fan of colored denim. In fact, the 3 of us styled a post around them earlier this year. And even my mom (who is 80) has a pair of jeans that are a little brighter than yours. I think they add some playfulness to our outfits, and who doesn’t need that?

  • Reply
    T J Starr
    July 10, 2018 at 6:24 am

    Darling BK what a brilliant story. I am SO glad you are alright and I guess the jeans are a happy reminder of that near miss and how fortunate you are to be wearing them… They do look spiffing on you. I have never fought hard to keep something like that, but I am learning more and more to alter my clothes (like what you did by trimming the hems) and run them in on the sewing machine to fit better and make them more tailored. I have found new love for pieces I was going to replace, just by sitting at the machine for 30 minutes and altering/repairing/sewing buttons back on. I will keep the Oxi idea in mind for pieces that are a little too bright in the future. Xxxxxx

  • Reply
    July 10, 2018 at 6:26 am

    A very engaging story, Brenda. You were determined and unrelenting in your rescue mission. Obviously those jeans were meant to be worn by you.

  • Reply
    N. Pattillo
    July 10, 2018 at 8:37 am

    I’m glad that the accident was not more serious for you!! And I do have one story about saving my yellow sparkly Chico’s blouse! I really loved this blouse and was devastated when I found a tomato sauce stain on the front, in full view!l Now, I normally don’t really try to clean tomato, but this blouse was worth the effort!
    I’ve never used Oxi-Clean so I used vinegar, tiny drops of Dawn liquid..soft toothbrush and after several days of treatment..It was gone!! My sparkly yellow blouse is great!

    • Reply
      July 11, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Yay! Tomato can be a tough stain sometimes. Dawn is also great as a stain and spot remover. I’ve mixed it with a little peroxide to lift stains.
      Fels Naphtha soap and an old-fashioned scrubbing board is good, too, if the fabric is sturdier.
      Glad you revived your beautiful blouse! Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Penelope Chandra- Shekar
    July 10, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Goodness, what an adventure you and your jeans had! Thank goodness, you both emerged unscathed or close to it. Now, lavender is my happy color too. My dressing room and bathroom are painted that color and yes, I own these jeans!

  • Reply
    July 10, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    What a story for the book of Life. I tried to return a top recently, only to find out that the return policy had changed and had to keep it. I love the orchid jeans on You.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Years ago a friend who had lived in India gave me a long and wide (maybe 8″x5′) sheer white shawl/scarf embroidered all over in delicate white chain stitch. She told me it was the type of thing often worn at weddings and special events.
    It was very beautiful and obviously had been very expensive, so of course I wrapped it carefully in tissue and put it away until “later” when I had figured out how I might want to use it.
    Oh gosh, that “later” turned out to be almost 20 years. After all that time the shawl had turned a dirty, dingy yellow.
    I took a chance and soaked it in OxiClean and cool water for a week, with daily rinses and changes of OxiClean solution.
    In the end the scarf was returned to its soft white color. There was no color to actually bleach out of it, so I was lucky.
    It now serves as the airy canopy of a four-poster twin bed and makes me happy every time I look at it.
    Moral of the story–use the beautiful stuff right away and take pleasure in it! There might not be a later. Or there might be a garage where weird things happen to beautiful fabric! (What do you suppose happened there?!)

  • Reply
    July 10, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    I love lilac and orchid as well! Find the colors soothing and uplifting.
    Glad your story had a happy ending!
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    stephanie ashworth
    July 10, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    Before this story I had noticed these yummy jeans in one of your pics. I had another friend wearing colored jeans with a white linen shirt. Both of y’alls outfits had me eyeing some dusty pink jeans today. I am going back tomorrow pronto! Thanks for the idea!

  • Reply
    July 10, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    I think OxyClean is MAGIC! I love the effect of the frayed no-hem! I had a hand-painted sweatshirt many many years ago that was so gorgeous that once it had reached its lifetime limit for apparel I worked it into a pillow!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2018 at 12:56 am

    What a great story! So glad you saved this lovely pair. I often will go through a lot to save something I love. White blouses will go through days of soaking and scrubbing until stains are gone. I have embroidered tiny flowers and leaves on plain cotton knit tops that have stains or pinholes — they often look better after. Really cute shorts have had waistbands enlarged, removed or elastic added. I feel really excited when I can extend the life of things I truly enjoy. It’s odd to me that I will not put any effort at all into other items that look good but somehow don’t make me happy.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2018 at 7:56 am

    You are such a gifted story teller! Those jeans are scrumptious. The fact that they are triple distressed makes them very endearing, I can see why you put them on full wardrobe rotation–it makes me want to go run over a pair of my jeans (but, seriously, what *did* those mechanics to???)!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Oops “do???!

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    July 12, 2018 at 12:38 am

    I have loved these on you in earlier posts, before I knew this story ! firstly, thank God you are ok, after the near crash!!! And , those jeans are angel jeans ! a talisman, and beautiful. take care precious. sending love from Ozx

  • Reply
    Jacqueline UK
    July 12, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Nothing to say about the jeans but Brenda, I am so glad you survived.! With love

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    July 12, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    I love your writing and when you came to the accident, I seriously put my hands to my mouth and leaned in to read every work carefully. I was worried! OMG! I’m so glad you were okay. Your jeans look outstanding on you and I love that you frayed the hems. You are such an amazing writer and stylist!

  • Reply
    July 12, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Great story! I took a risk on some frayed hem aqua jeans this summer and I LOVE them. It’s amazing how many things they go with, and like you, they garner compliments every time I wear them. I love the lilac…it’s your color!

  • Reply
    Carol S
    July 13, 2018 at 12:50 am

    Glad you are loving the orchid jeans. For some odd reason, for a very long time (40 yearsish), I love orchid and pale yellow together. Perhaps they are complementary… Don’t know. Hugs

  • Reply
    July 13, 2018 at 4:20 am

    The only thing better than lavender jeans are hot pink ones! I had both until I lost 25lbs and have been unable to replace them but my sister is still wearing them and gets compliments every time she wears them! Love your stories.

  • Reply
    July 13, 2018 at 8:55 am

    The Lavender jeans are keepers for sure. Could you share information on the sandals
    You are wearing with the jeans. You wear them often on your posts.

    • Reply
      July 13, 2018 at 9:16 am

      Yes, these Campers sandals have become my go-tos all summer! I have them in black also. I believe it’s just campers.com if you want to check them out!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 9:59 am

    I’ve tried hard to same favorite knit fops from J.Jill and Loft that develop tiny holes in them (always in front in a conspicuous place). My idea (saw it on Pinterest later) to buy a scrap of the same or approximate color fabric and iron it to the wrong side with Stitch Witchery tape met with varying degrees of success. Mind you, this rarely (or maybe never) happened to any of the tops that WEREN’T my favorite! Sadly, I’ve had to get rid of classic pieces I loved.
    I, too, am lovin’ the frayed jeans trend. Made some out of a pair of white jeans I had.

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