In Defence Of Wearing Leggings As Trousers
The Debrief: Can everyone please stop being shitty about leggings? They're a perfect acceptable trouser alternative...
‘Who are your fashion icons?’ is a question that I’ve never been asked, presumably because it’s clear that I always want to look like a cross between Grace Kelly and Debbie Harry, and not because everyone looks me up and down and thinks, ‘Um, really? You’re supposed to be aspiring to something, with that look?’
But if you’re interested – and you could at least look interested, it’s the two ladies I mentioned, plus Diana Vreeland, Veronica Corningstone, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and my mum’s friend Auntie Sue.
Auntie Sue went to uni with my mum, and she had a son who liked to let himself into my bedroom and eat my Flower Fairies soaps when we were children. But Sue herself was the epitome of ravishing hotness – she was a sort of Home Counties wipe clean Stevie Nicks, with an eye-grazing, glossy fringe, full, friendly lips and slender, sculptural legs, always clad in practical black Lycra. At five, I thought I’d identified the secret to Sue’s magic glamour. Leggings.
I pestered my parents for leggings in the way that normal children demand bikes and Atari consoles (remember, the year was 1990). And in my black leggings, borrowed black polo top and homemade jewellery, crafted from sewing cotton, tin foil, and oddly, uncracked Christmas nuts, I thought I was the shit. Twenty five years later, leggings are still the one constant component of my wardrobe.
So, when the ultimate bastion of Republican lunacy Fox News dedicated an entire slot to asking dads if it was appropriate for young women to wear leggings, I thought, ‘Auntie Sue would have destroyed you with a single raised eyebrow, laughed and made a gin and tonic.’
Incidentally, they were responding to this video, from a woman in America who has very strong feelings about leggings as a substitute for pants (as in American for trousers).
I am wearing leggings right now. They’re by a US brand called Willow and Clay and the Lycra content is higher than Matthew McConaughey when he’s playing the bongos. They’re so dense and black that I once wore them while some friends had a conversation about how much they hated leggings, and I made strangled sounding noises and they said, ‘They’re leggings!? We just thought that they were a very flattering pair of trousers.’
Practically, leggings have a lot to offer. I have a waist to hip ratio that could kindly be described as ‘old timey’, which makes shopping for trousers less fun than cleaning your own toilet after a house party. But leggings can accommodate the width of my hips and the roundness of my bottom without making me look like a poorly constructed corporate marquee. Leggings are kind.
If you’ve been hitting the kale and doing trainer-based activity, they’ll reward you a thousand times, emphasising a toned arse to the point where you don’t want to leave the house when you could stay in and admire it. But if you’ve been enjoying a festive period – say you’ve had a lovely summer of beer and fried chicken, and you get to October and discover that your winter wardrobe is actively shunning you – your leggings will let you back in.
They’re surprisingly versatile. When I’m on holiday, I plan outfits for very specific occasions, such as ‘I want to pay homage to the heroines of Federico Fellini and stand on some steps in a big hat’ or ‘This is in case we see a celebrity at brunch and I’ve already spilled ice cream on my other pair of silver loafers’.
I fail to acknowledge that I need a look for the one recurring event of ‘Being hungover in the morning and looking for a shop where I can stock up on knock off Euro Fanta’. Roll up a pair of leggings, stick them in your suitcase and you’ll never feel overdressed at the breakfast buffet again. They’re pyjama bottoms you could meet the Queen in.
If the mood takes me, I might posh up my leggings with a Bella Freud jumper, or pirate them up with my red suede thigh high boots. With regular tights, a short, strappy summer dress makes me look as though I’m showing my arse purposefully, like a one woman flashmob.
When I stick some leggings underneath, I can bend over to pick up the trail of belongings that I drop instead of shaking my head regretfully and thinking, ‘Well, I suppose that’s that.’
It’s fine if the dads of Fox News hate leggings. I won’t make you wear them. But I will stay snug, and smug in my stretchy Lycra. Winter is coming. You could do a lot worse than spend it clad in Willow and Clay.
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