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The last day of November

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I was stunned when I woke up this morning, was handed a parking ticket by a cop, and realized the date was the 30th. My goodness, has NaBloPoMo really drawn to a close already?!

I figured I ought to go out with a bang, and so, here are some things I've been desperately wanting to write about.

In Defense of Leggings

A year or two ago (maybe earlier) when there were murmurs that leggings and tights would come back in style, I was skeptical, yet secretly overjoyed. I pretended to roll my eyes along with those who scoffed, "What's next? Stirrup pants?" but already I was planning all the delightful ways I would wear them.

Like many women in their twenties, I have very fond memories of my first forays with leggings. I was in middle school and possessed the kind of athletic thin legs which were best showcased by thin fabric laced with spandex and Lycra. I had a pair of green hounds tooth leggings which I swear, I wore at least twice a week. I had insanely colorful psychedelic leggings, I had solid black, fuchsia, and more than a few variants of purple and turquoise. I even had lace ones.

I wore them by themselves with long (and very bright) cardigan sweaters, my father's button-up Oxford shirts, and all these crazy belted layers. I wore them under skirts and felt like a ballerina. I wore them under short pants and felt vaguely colonial (heh, knickers). I wore them under dresses and felt like an acrobat. At that same time, I also possessed some of the greatest and most comfortable ballet flats known to mankind, and there are no shoes in my closet I wouldn't trade to have those back again. (Bright pink! With giant bows!)

Eventually, and much to my distress, leggings started getting replaced by skin tight jeans. It's as if simultaneously and as a generation, we all walked to the other side of the Gap and decided we couldn't live without those dumb pinned cuffs. Awesome kicky layers were replaced with white turtlenecks under sweatshirts, and instead of all my fun shoes, I started begging my parents for the same Bass loafers everyone else sported. Yawn.

For years, I was incredibly bored by fashion. How can a girl really get excited by yet another pair of chinos? It seemed to me that women my age weren't wearing skirts anywhere, and I was really unsettled by the substitution of jeans as the pants for all occasions, since I've never really liked jeans nor found them terribly comfortable.

 

Here I should mention that in my ideal world, everyone would dress like Carolina Herrera or Diane von Furstenberg. Maybe even Coco Chanel. They would bother with the proper undergarments, they'd wear tailored and classic cuts, they'd layer, and they'd be mindful of silhouettes. No more of this flopsy long sleeve t-shirt over jeans with sneakers nonsense.

I realize I am an anomaly, though, in that I don't find "casual" clothing comfortable in any way whatsoever, unless it more closely resembles pajamas than clothing, and even then I'm pretty picky and sure as hell won't wear it out of the house. I like structure. I really like foundation garments. If corsets were regularly available, I'd probably wear them daily. Ultimately, I find constraint to be its own form of freedom.

Enter leggings. The one arena in which fashionistas and I can definitively get along.

I believe women genuinely enjoy showing off their bodies, even when (as in my case) they probably shouldn't. We like wearing things which move and highlight curves, which cling in places and gracefully float over others.

We may not admit it, and we may not do it often, but women get a real thrill out of feeling and looking good sometimes.

I think this is because inside every sophisticated adult woman, there exists a little girl who used to turn her rumba pants backwards to admire the ruffles. And if there isn't, I sincerely recommend getting back in touch with one's innerAngelina Ballerina, as it's a pretty great part of being a woman.

That said, this tendency can be indulged too far. Stripper skirts, excessive demonstrations of side boob, and basically everything Paris Hilton wears would fall into the category of misguided attempts at recapturing one's youthful glee in dressing.

Leggings, if worn carefully, can provide the essential layer of modesty between walking down the street unclothed and shrugging on some dowdy corduroys. They allow a woman to show her legs without overtlyshowing her legs, and they provide an interesting and attractive counterpoint to more voluminous upper shapes.

They do this, however, in an athletic, playful way which co-opts the experience. Whereas nylons and fragile ankles denote the traditional patriarchal view of femininity, leggings and flats form our own version. It is an attitude of comfort, practicality, versatility, independence, and strength. They allow women to wear skirts and dresses, but still run down the street or bend to pick something up without feeling nude. Plus, they keep you a lot warmer than stockings in the fall and winter, and you don't have to shave your legs as often, which, of course, I love (I am a grungy art student, after all).

There is a downside, of course, with which I'm sure we're all familiar. That is, leggings as pants. I will admit, I've done it before in much thinner incarnations of myself, and I still do it sometimes at the gym when I can't find a long enough t-shirt to cover my butt and don't feel like layering on shorts. But no matter how thin a woman may be, it's really never attractive to have one's lady bits on full display. Seriously. I don't need to know the precise fat content of your mons, thank you.

Leggings are not a rationale to wear otherwise-unflattering skirts and dresses.

There is a fine line between sleekly stylish and well, sausage casings.

I think we all know what I mean.

Lastly, I'm pretty confident in saying that no matter how thin you are, white leggings are always a bad idea. Seriously. Just take my word on that.

So, leggings, when deployed carefully and with a generous dose of honesty with oneself, can be a powerful and delightful facet of a woman's fashion arsenal.

(In future posts, I will take on some other contemporary fashion trends in what will likely become one of the more shallow and insipid series I'll produce.)

I hope you all had a lovely NaBloPoMo, and I hope my RSS reader doesn't suddenly drop to zero once you're all free of daily posting. I know I plan to continue posting more regularly, and I hope the experience encourages others to do likewise

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This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on November 30, 2006 10:48 AM.

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