LulaRoe customers are experiencing buyer’s remorse over “buttery-soft” (read: paper thin) leggings. Apparently they rip easily, and thanks to some super brave social media whistleblowers, we have up-close selfies of luridly colored, legging-covered butt cheeks with rips to prove it.
My problem isn’t with the fact that people are spending $25 on comfortable leg attire. My problem is with the trend that indicates millions of American women now view tissue-thin, garishly patterned leggings as pants. Leggings are more akin to opaque footless tights than pants, but we don’t run around town in our tights, do we, ladies?
Pants are what we wear to work. Pants are what we wear with shirts that only go past our belt line. Pants should make your rear end not look like it’s been jammed into a kaleidoscope or smooshed into a pizza. Pants are not tights that give you camel toe and profile the surface of your thighs like a satellite image of the ocean’s floor.
I’m not talking about leggings worn with tunic-length tops that fully cover your back and front ends. I’m not talking about nice workout attire that you wear with tennis shoes while running errands before or after a trip to the gym. That sort of legging could make you look like you put some effort into taking care of yourself. I even accept that “athleisure” is a thing. But the leggings worn as pants genre of leg attire is not “athleisure.” It’s not even “leisure.” It’s an excuse not to actually get dressed that tragically happens to be “trending” in apparel.
Kim Kardashian Gets Naked In Public, So You Will, Too?
The fact that something is a trend does not mean every single person can wear it well. A young woman insisted to me the other day, “Leggings are the trend, Georgi. Kim K and Gigi and theotherface wear them!” Yes, the trend is toward comfort, one-size-fits-all, and the bare minimum. There are now “One Size” tags on the top racks at Ross, and the bare minimum (a la LulaRoe) sometimes literally leaves you bare.
So in addition to foam flip flops and boots that look like overgrown slippers, we have tight-leggings, “bralettes” that only come in three sizes, and one-size shirts with an unnerving level of stretchiness that must have been achieved with witchcraft. While the minimalist-comfortable look works for models and Kim K, who can get tailored leggings in premium fabrics and are publicly known exclusively because of their exhibitionism, it doesn’t work for most of us.
But apparently women are queueing up to buy cheap, thin leggings that rely on obnoxious patterns to cover up the otherwise obvious curves, lumps, and pantylines. We’ve given up modesty and self-respect all at once, and yes, they are related.
Okay, Pregnant and Postpartum Moms Get a Pass
Many women, especially moms, complain they are uncomfortable in jeans. The fact that they change sizes frequently and bend down to pick up toys and babies a lot means non-stretchy pants or zipper-and-button denim pinch and squeeze and are generally annoying. So, they assume, leggings are the solution. One size? Less hassle, less time at the store, and you won’t need to buy another pair until they wear out.
I understand the appeal to convenience and comfort because I’m a mom, too. It’s true, I wore leggings a lot during the third trimester and postpartum because nothing else fit. But let’s be honest: patterned legging-tights are for toddlers, who look cute in anything. They are not for self-respecting adults who raise children, have jobs, build communities, and keep the world turning.
These garish tights-pretending-to-be-leggings-pretending-to-be-pants are marketed as “fun,” but if you need lurid leg apparel to get a fun fix, you don’t have enough real fun in your life. Buy cotton candy ice cream for your kids. Buy a gag gift for a friend. Don’t buy patterned leggings (unless they’re the gag gift).
Really, it’s not too much to ask that ladies buy solid-colored leggings of sturdier material and shirts that cover their butts as a minimum. This isn’t even about proper fashion, it’s about public decency. Tunics are abundant: just march into your local Ross (or whatever the equivalent is in your region), and pluck half a dozen inexpensive tunic-length tops off the rack. Petite women can get away with dark-wash jeggings with back pockets and faux front pockets for less than the cost of two fast food burgers.
Dressing Well Shows Respect for Yourself and Others
Remember TLC’s “What Not to Wear”? Most of those women chose comfort over confidence, saggy sweatpants over the perfectly fitting boot cut, flip flops over flats. The battle was for confidence and self-esteem, against giving up on your outward appearance just because you felt your inner beauty wasn’t very lustrous or you haven’t taken care of your body as well as you could have.
True, some people have zero fashion sense, but for most women it wasn’t that they weren’t smart enough to dress themselves appropriately, or didn’t have the resources or time. It was that they’d graded themselves an F in the style department and figured trying to raise it to a C was too much effort.
As for real pants, denim manufacturers know we want to be comfortable, and they put quite a bit of stretch in most jean styles just so we all can be comfy while looking presentable. We might even look good. Maybe the pair in your price range won’t totally make up for neglecting your leg workouts, but as long as they’re not skin-tight, you’re pretty much guaranteed to look several degrees classier than you do in LulaRoes.
Stop Celebrating Slovenliness
Like the sarcastic boasting from mothers about how messy their houses and cars are, the legging trend is an indication that people have consigned parts of their life not to mediocrity, but chronic failure. But Americans don’t need to spend more money on clothes. We just need to respect ourselves.
As a society, we should care if people shuffle through Walmart in pajama pants or go out to lunch in LulaRoes, because what we wear affects how we feel, and how we feel not only affects our productivity and discipline, but leaves an impression on everyone who sees us. Clothes are not only or even primarily about us, but about others’ comfort. We should dress to respect the people who have to look at us, which includes creepy old men and hormonal young men and impressionable little girls. Be honest: would you rather to work with the girl in the freaky leggings or the woman in dressy jeans? Who would you rather hang out with? That’s what I thought.
I’m not at war with comfort, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to be snappy dressers (I’m not). You don’t need to wear pumps, dresses, or sweaters that need dry-cleaning. You can wear pants and fitted T-shirts almost everywhere and everyday outside an office setting for all I care. But ladies, have some self-respect and don’t excuse wearing these obnoxious, thin, patterned leggings by saying they’re comfortable or trendy. Join me in a new trend instead: it’s called “public decency.”