Monday, 19 November 2007

The Return of the Leggings

Sometimes there is one pressing subject which just won’t go away no matter how many lunches you attend. For the past month only one topic of conversation has been nagging my friends and me over our bottle or two of Vouvray at midday, even extending late into the evening on the phone and into the next day’s emails. I would like to say our concern was focused on the threat to free speech, rare white whales, and how to make a Molotov cocktail, but when it comes to the lunch ladies it’s all about footless tights, or leggings.
“How old is too old?” was the first question which needed solving. As women who wore them the first time around, in the late 80s, we have fond memories of slipping on a pair of leggings with a big baggy fluoro T-shirt and dancing around the lounge to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. We also loved the lycra numbers to team with our leotards at the Les Mills Jazzercise classes as we high kicked it to It’s Raining Men. And it took me years to let go of my stirrup leggings which made me look like a cross between a show jumper and a ski jumper, which I rather liked in that jolly hockey sticks way I could never really pull off. It was fun, it was easy, it was when we had slim legs and not a dimple in sight.
The thing about leggings is they are one of those nightmare hybrids fashion often challenges us with, just to see if we’ll go there. They aren’t tights, nor are they trousers. They aren’t bicycle shorts, nor are they skinny leg pants. They’re, well, tights with the bottoms cut off and I have a nagging feeling they were invented for amputees. I can just see the Fashion Gods hooting their socks off as they shout: “fashion victim” down at us mere mortals.
“But they’re a great insurance for when you wear shorts and short jersey dresses,” someone suggested. The thought being that a layer of black lycra will hide the inch of flab which has planted itself on our thighs since we were in our 20s. Which seemed like a good theory until we realised that it all came to a nasty end at our cankles (when your calf blends into your ankle) and our wrinkly old chicken’s feet revealed themselves in all their puffy, ageing glory. We surmised that there was a high chance we would look like a brood of chickens dressed up as superheroes.
Then I attended a presentation designed to tell older women how to look after themselves and discovered to my horror that the only thing older women seemed to be doing en masse was wearing leggings. It wasn’t a brood of chickens it was a whole shed full of them squeezed into every superhero outfit you could imagine. I reported back.
“What about just ¾ ones then?” came the ladies’ response.
My friend bought some. She was going to give it a go. She looks as good as she did in the 80s so we decided she could be the first.
“So have you worn them yet?” I inquired a week later.
“Yes…” she said with just enough of a pause to indicate she was only telling me half the truth.
“Outside?” I persevered.
“Well no, but gosh they’re comfortable,” she responded.
At another lunch there were some ¾ leggings and my friend and I made inquiries of their wearers. Did they think this was a look better suited to the young? we inquired rudely.
“God no, why should they have all the fun!” was the response.
Spoken like a true feminist thinker. Why should we care about what we look like at our age, we have the right to do and wear what we like and they’re just so damn comfy.
In the end I handed over the casting vote to the most stylish people in my universe, my children. I appreciated their diplomacy, while wondering where they got it with a mother like me, and listened carefully. Their findings are that older women should stick to proper black tights with feet in them but if I was determined to restore an item of clothing from my past the 70s maxi dress is probably a safe bet.
I have one, and I’ve worn it, but not outside.

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