Dear Asking for a Friend,
My sister wears leggings all the time — you know, the black body-hugging ones? Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think they belong in the gym — not grocery shopping, and certainly not at family dinners. Am I being too stodgy?
Signed, Prim and Proper
Dear Prim and Proper,
Your sister showing up to family dinner in yoga pants is hardly a sign of disrespect — after all, these days, we’re all practically living in sweats or leggings. And let’s be honest, given everything that’s going on in our world right now, our wardrobe hasn’t really been the focus. Now that many of us have traded in dress pants and fancy shoes for 24/7 comfy clothes for more than a year (active pants were one of the top-selling items in Canada in March) you raise an interesting point: are there time-and-place — and heck, style — rules for what we wear outside of the house?
Well, the answer is yes.
First of all, let’s be clear. Not everyone looks good in leggings. And lots of people love to hate them.
The Daily Mail called them “notoriously difficult to pull off thanks to their unparalleled ability to highlight the upper thighs and tricky-to-tone expanse of the lower torso in a most unflattering manner.”
Culture critic Fran Lebowitz once told Elle that yoga pants were ruining women, saying they were “just another way of being in pajamas,” advising that natural beauty is required: “So if you’re naturally beautiful, wear what you want, but that’s .01% of people. Most people just aren’t good looking enough to wear what they have on.” (For the record, she also shared her thoughts on men in shorts: “There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade.”)
That said, leggings are still one of the most popular articles of clothing. In fact, wearing the comfortable, body-hugging clothing like regular pants was one of the biggest trends in 2020. But there are some rules if you want to pull off this style of dressing successfully, such as avoiding shiny fabric, skipping underwear with visible lines, and saying no to fabric with animal prints and geometrical designs.
And there is more than just style to consider. Remember when athletic apparel retailer Lululemon made headlines after it was discovered its popular Luon yoga pants were a little see-through? Yikes. That may be a little more than your dinner guests bargained for.
Certainly, leggings don’t have a place at work, or weddings. As for dinners, whether leggings count as appropriate really depends on the occasion, according to Myka Meier, etiquette expert, founder of Beaumont Etiquette in New York City, and author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy: A Five Step Method to Mastering Etiquette.
“If at an informal family meal at home, it may be appropriate to wear them,” she says, but at a formal restaurant or for a special meal, leggings might not be the best choice.
Then there are the health implications of wearing leggings all the time: think, ringworm. Sweating while wearing leggings can make you more susceptible to this gross-sounding fungal infection, dermatologist Joshua Zeichner told The List. Long periods of legging wearing also put you at for butt acne, chafing and harmful bacteria that’s found in crevices where the skin touches itself.
But this isn’t about the risks of leggings, it’s about whether or not your sister should wear them to dinner. According to clothing retailer Lands’ End, leggings are never formal — so they are a no-go for celebrations. It’s also noted that “some people think wearing them without a shirt that hides your derriere is one of the gravest fashion sins.” So as long as your sister is keeping it casual — and covering her butt — her love of leggings is probably not worth much of a debate.
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