Earlier this week, I got to have dinner with a good friend who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since my freshman year at Vanderbilt. She now works in the HR department of a large company, and fueled by wine, dips, and cheeses, we got to chatting about our quirky coworkers. My friend mentioned a fellow human-resource professional and her strong, almost pathological detestation of leggings as pants in the workplace. Her colleague felt so strongly against leggings as office attire that she sent out a company-wide email with images of leggings snapped from various retailers and strongly worded explanations as to why they are not appropriate to wear to work. As one who wears leggings as pants on 90% of occasions in which I wear pants at all (which, in and of itself, is fairly low. Give me dresses, skirts, rompers, maxis, midis. I do not like pants), I was shocked. I am extremely lucky to work in an office that embraces casual dress, and with it, frequent legging wear. Stroking my Jbrand jegging in gratitude, I imagined a life where I could not wear leggings as pants, and grew distressed, frustrated, and finally, downright angry. I would like to posit a fashion theory that will undoubtedly be met with much criticism: As of late 2011, leggings are totally acceptable pant options…with several VERY crucial caveats.
When leggings first became a fashion staple in the 80’s, there was no questioning their purpose. Leggings were pants. Pants that made your butt look really good. Duh.
[Kim Catrall in leggings-as-pants, 80’s style. Woman is FIERCE. Image c/o PopCrunch]
When they re-emerged in the mid-2000’s (I believe my first experience with leggings was sophomore or junior year of high school), leggings mysteriously became articles of clothing to wear under skirts. I distinctly remember my favorite outfit in 2004– a hot pink Abercrombie and Fitch long-sleeved polo shirt, over which I wore a lighter pink Abercrombie and Fitch short-sleeved polo shirt, paired with a denim Abercrombie and Fitch ripped miniskirt over black leggings that rather unflatteringly hit mid-calf. I owned somewhere between 10 and 12 variations of this outfit, which I rotated regularly.
[My favorite outfit, 2003-2005. Does it get any better than this? Sparkly miniskirt with glittery leggings? Ah-mazing. Image c/o The Gloss. Both these items are actually Mary Kate & Ashley for Walmart…a long way from The Row and Elizabeth and James, don’t ya think?]
Thankfully, the leggings of 2011 have come a long way in their progression into pant-hood. The contemporary legging hits at the ankle, and is perfectly acceptable to wear as a pant if the following criteria are met.
1. Opaqueness. Leggings may not, under any circumstance, be see-through. An easy way to avoid translucent leggings is to avoid purchasing your leggings at Forever21. While I have several pairs of leggings from Forever21, I reserve these for the gym, not for everyday wear.
2. Fit. While purchasing leggings that are too tight (how do you know if they are too tight? Two words: Muffin. Top) is a faux-pax in and of itself, I find it equally bizarre when women wear leggings that are actually big on them. Honey–if you are blessed enough to have teeny tiny legs and a minuscule waist, accentuate them, don’t wear garments that make you look emaciated.
3. Shirt Length. While I believe it is ok to wear leggings with shirts shorter than tunic length, there are certainly shirts too tiny to meet the requirements. A general rule of thumb: your elastic waistband must not be visible.
4. Size. This is, perhaps, the most controversial of the criteria. While I thoroughly believe that larger women can look stylish, sexy, and phenomenal, the truth is, they really cannot do so in leggings. A more flattering alternative for larger sizes is dark wash denim pants.
As one who has worn some variation of legging to work 3 out of 4 days this week, I’d like to consider myself in the intermediate-expert level of legging knowledge. A very dark blue square, or single black diamond, if you will. I’m no Nicole Richie, Rachel Zoe, or Intermix employee, but my favorite 3 picks for leggings that can sub as pants are below.
Ladies–whatchu think? Are leggings pants? Share your thoughts, but beware, I am prepared to battle this one out.