First things first—this is a judgment-free zone. No legging slander shall pass, whether you consider them a wardrobe staple or strictly for the couch. Stretchy pants have always been there for women, evolving from the pedal-pushers of the ‘50s to the aerobics craze of the ‘80s to the plethora of choices we have today. They’ve been a constant in my wardrobe, from my ‘80s childhood to the comfort-driven life I now lead as a work-from-home mom of two young kids. The humble legging lacks the buzzy pizzazz that surrounded coordinated sweats, oversized snuggies and roomy nap dresses during the pandemic—but that’s OK. Leggings don’t need to be cool; they just want our respect. Read on for three odes to the leggings I have loved.
The gateway: Stirrup pants
During my first foray into leggings, they were called stirrup pants because, well, it was the ’80s and they had stirrups. I wore them over bare feet first, then slouch socks, thank you very much. (Every school seemed to have their own rules: at my suburban Catholic school, the actual stirrups were never to be seen.) It was third grade, and while I had the pants in several colours, I coveted the perfect accompaniment—the Peter Pan ankle boot, a must-have of 1987, with faux suede or leather that folded over at the tops. I still remember mine and the outfit I proudly wore when I debuted them at school. A pink and white Fair Isle sweater knitted by my mom, white slouch socks and purple stirrup pants. *chef’s kiss*
The uniform: Dance years
I spent 10 years dancing as a kid. My dream was to make it to Broadway to star in Cats. Leggings helped keep your muscles warm between classes or competitions and were to be worn in a very specific way, modeled after the older dancers (who were all of 15, but to my young eyes, were prima ballerinas). Dance leggings were heavier, woollier and worn rolled down at the waist with the stirrup-footed ends dangling insouciantly at the ankle or tucked into leg warmers. Perfection. I wore leggings with pride. I was an Artist, preparing to perform my Craft. Leggings were my creative uniform, and although my dance dreams never came true, I still dance and still wear leggings to do so. And shhhh—rolling down the waistband still makes me feel like a star.
The comfort zone: Mom life
I was never one to wear leggings as pants. I was firm in my belief that they were only for exercising or relaxing—athleisure before it had a name. Then I became pregnant with my firstborn and, by the third trimester, leggings were my comfy pants of choice. I’ve worn them under my nightie and parka, rushing to drop my kid off at daycare before spending the day with his newborn sister. I’ve worn them with knock-off Uggs and a big ole sweatshirt on rainy cottage days spent watching movies. I’ve worn them to exercise at home during a global pandemic while my kids do remote school, grateful for the endorphins. Leggings have been a stalwart, and as I fold piles of pairs for my five-year old, I’m proud to pass on the leg-acy (pun intended, couldn’t help it!).