Leggings are pants if I say they're pants

Do you wear leggings all the time, like I do? I love leggings. I love that leggings are mainstream clothing now, because I’ve known for years that they’re the most comfortable, forgiving, versatile bottoms known to womankind. While “athleisure” is not really my style, I do love a good pair of leggings and an oversized tunic on days when I’m tootling around running errands and watching kids. And on days when I’m going to meetings or trying to be impressive, I have dressier leggings and fancier oversized tunics.

But I remember, a few years ago, someone coining the phrase “Leggings are not pants.” And every time I pull on my comfortable leggings, I have a moment of self-doubt. What if I’m inadvertently offending someone by showing off my curves, which are all-too-evident in my leggings? They don’t skim over my lumps and bumps the same way trousers would. My flat butt and round (non-pregnant, hahahaha no way am I doing that again) puku are on full display in leggings. Should I be ashamed? Embarrassed?

I used to work with a woman who was very hard on herself because she her body had changed shape after pregnancy. She used to talk about how slim she was before having kids, and how difficult she found seeing her new body in the mirror. She also expressed fear that her two daughters would hate their bodies, because she was well aware that girls emulate their mothers. Her own fraught relationship with herself was probably influenced by her mother, too. Now, years later, I wonder how she’s navigating her daughters’ thoughts about their bodies as they grow into young women. How do you set a good example when you, yourself, are lacking a positive role model?

Growing up, I don’t remember my mother ever making negative comments about her body. I do remember the mean girls at my high school, though, calling others “fatty” and “thunder thighs”. I remember the boyfriend who lamented that his best friend’s girlfriend was pencil-thin while I was clearly not and never would be. I remember the girl who came back after the summer break having lost so much weight, a rumour went around that she had an eating disorder.

I remember going shopping with a friend, and her trying on the last skirt on the rack and saying it was too tight, and me insisting I could fit into it even though I was at least three sizes larger than she was. 25 years later, I can still see the dubious look on her face as she passed the skirt to me and I shut the fitting room door. I remember trying to squeeze into that too-small skirt, and praying I wouldn’t rip it getting out of it, and calling to my friend, “It fits, but I don’t like it anymore.” Because there was shame in admitting it was too small. A too-small skirt meant I was too big. And too big was, well… Diminished, somehow.

But then, somewhere along the way, leggings became mainstream and started appearing in a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns and they were comfortable. And I loved them. And I wore them until they wore out. I’m still working on a pair of holey old leggings from when I was pregnant with my now-13-year-old, which I only wear when I’m doing something dirty like gardening or mucking out horse stalls (just kidding, I don’t own a horse, I’m terrified of their giant teeth and how do they know where the apple ends and my hand begins and I digress). (Actually, I only wear those holey old leggings when I really, really need to do laundry.)

I have daughters. I know how complicated society’s views are when it comes to women’s bodies, women’s clothing, women’s right to just *be* and take up space. Both my daughters wear leggings and love them. Who am I to tell them that leggings aren’t pants? I myself love my leggings, and I’m gonna wear them, because my body likes wearing leggings. Flat butt, fat puku, and all, this is my body, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Or with yours. Or with your daughters’. Or your mothers’. Wear the leggings.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

Photo by Emily Rudolph on Unsplash

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