Phoebe Watt wades into the leg­gings-as-pants de­bate and asks why, if it's so wrong does it feel so right?

Fashion Quarterly - - How To -

There are few items of cloth­ing as con­tentious as the hum­ble pair of leg­gings. Prac­ti­cal for ex­er­cise or loung­ing around the house, wear them out­side of ei­ther sit­u­a­tion and you can ex­pect to be rep­ri­manded by the fash­ion po­lice — maybe even the real po­lice. Okay, air­port se­cu­rity. Okay, an air­line gate agent, as was the case in March when two young cus­tomers of United Air­lines were turned away from their flight af­ter be­ing told their leg­gings were too ca­sual. A fel­low pas­sen­ger live-tweeted the ex­change. In re­sponse, a United rep­re­sen­ta­tive cited the air­line’s terms of car­riage, specif­i­cally its right to refuse pas­sen­gers “who are bare­foot or not prop­erly clothed”. It also clar­i­fied that the women were fam­ily mem­bers of United em­ploy­ees and trav­el­ling for free, so as quasi-rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the com­pany, they were ex­pected to up­hold a stricter stan­dard of dress.

Nev­er­the­less, the in­ter­net was not im­pressed. In­deed, not since 2013, when a line of too-sheer Lu­l­ule­mon leg­gings had to be re­called and the com­pany’s founder mis­guid­edly stated that “some women’s bod­ies just don’t ac­tu­ally work” for the prod­uct, did leg­gings get us so up in arms.

Leg­gings should ‘work’ on ev­ery woman’s body, af­ter all. Free of but­tons and zip­pers and com­posed en­tirely of stretchy fab­ric, it’s their job to fit, and feel good. Whether feel­ing good is tan­ta­mount to look­ing good is the ques­tion that con­sumes many, its an­swer tee­ter­ing dan­ger­ously into body-sham­ing ter­ri­tory.

We’re not about that life — you do you. But much like there’s an in­vis­i­ble thresh­old ap­prox­i­mately 100 me­tres from the beach where your togs be­come undies, we won­der whether, be­yond 100 me­tres of the gym, your leg­gings trans­form too.

It shouldn’t ac­tu­ally mat­ter. No one was par­tic­u­larly scan­dalised when bralettes were hav­ing a mo­ment, and what’s the dif­fer­ence? Well, not much, ac­cord­ing to the in­creas­ing num­ber of celebri­ties, mod­els and It-girls who pre­vi­ously saved their leg­gings for work­outs and long-haul flights (ironic much?) but lately have been pair­ing them with high-heeled an­kle boots and $3000 bomber jack­ets that you know they didn’t sling on straight off the tread­mill (we’re look­ing at you, Hai­ley Bald­win).

It’s worth men­tion­ing that a cou­ple of years ago, such en­sem­bles would have been built around skinny jeans. If this sig­ni­fies that women are tak­ing a stand against re­stric­tive, or­gan-crush­ing cloth­ing and re­al­is­ing they can achieve the same sil­hou­ette with­out suf­fer­ing, that’s some­thing to be cel­e­brated. But alas, fe­male em­pow­er­ment alone can’t re­v­erse the stigma that’s been at­tached to this item of cloth­ing for decades. De­sign­ers, on the other hand, can — and they are. From

Ba­len­ci­aga and Bal­main to Givenchy and

Gi­ambat­tista Valli, high-end fash­ion houses aren’t just en­dors­ing leg­gings, they’re show­ing us how to el­e­vate the em­bat­tled gar­ment from some­thing to sit on the couch in, to some­thing you could sit front row in.

The com­mon theme? Tex­ture. Whether matte, patent or em­bossed, the ul­ti­mate gate­way leg­ging is ev­i­dently made of leather, the ro­bust fab­ric pro­vid­ing the req­ui­site sup­port and cov­er­age to give the il­lu­sion of pants. Suede, se­quins and metallics have all been mak­ing run­way ap­pear­ances too, as have 3D em­bel­lish­ments that serve the dual pur­pose of dis­tract­ing on­look­ers from what’s hap­pen­ing (or not hap­pen­ing) higher up, and com­mu­ni­cat­ing that your leg­gings are a con­sid­ered sar­to­rial choice.

That’s not to say you can’t make magic in a pair of black foot­less tights; Au­drey Hep­burn cer­tainly could. Just make sure yours are com­pletely opaque, and for bal­ance, con­sider the ben­e­fits of an over­sized sweater, long­line cardi­gan or large coat à la Os­car de la Renta. Al­ter­na­tively, pair with a blazer to show you mean busi­ness.

If you re­main un­con­vinced, per­haps leg­gings lay­ered un­der a skirt or dress in an on-trend nod to the early 2000s is for you. Re­mem­ber that full-length leg­gings are in­fin­itely more flat­ter­ing than those cropped below the knee, and that leg­gings pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to look so­phis­ti­cated, not slovenly, if the rest of your out­fit is on point. And one last word of ad­vice: when the elas­tic’s done, so are you.

Matte, patent or em­bossed, the ul­ti­mate gate­way leg­ging is ev­i­dently made of leather

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