I walked into Barneys, and there they were.
Lurking under sweater tunics, hovering above ankle boots. Leggings! They were everywhere! Leggings on mannequins, leggings on racks, leggings on shelves, leggings on salesgirls!
It was the stuff of nightmares.
I fled the building. This trend was supposed to be over. Leggings were in this spring, then they were going to die a quiet death, just as leg warmers had a couple years back. Why wouldn't they die? They were unflattering, uncomfortable, uncouth. As a trend, they were unsustainable.
Yet here they were again. The cockroach of fashion. Not only had they survived, other fashion staples had mutated to accommodate them. Sweaters became longer. Skirts became shorter. The Olsen twins kept piling on layer after damn layer of clothes. I tried to put leggings out of my mind.
As with roaches, you can ignore one isolated sighting. But when they start proliferating, encroaching into more of your territory, panic sets in. Leggings appeared again, this time on NeimanMarcus.com. What were they doing there? Neiman Marcus is supposed to be a store for adults, but here it was hocking leggings paired with $300+ sweaters and Manolo Blahnik ankle boots.
I knew my reaction to the reappearance of leggings was not logical. But that is the nature of phobia, defined as "a persistent and irrational fear of a particular type of object, animal, activity or situation." I couldn't even look at leggings without flashing back to Flashdance and that painful stage of adolescence at which body image is already at an all-time low. For me, that time corresponded exactly with an influx of Lycra-based clothing.
I should have remembered how cool Madonna looked in them. Instead, I couldn't get out of my mind the image of Jane Fonda, whose leggings in her workout videos displayed not one unsightly bump or jiggle. Nevermind that she later revealed she was bulimic at the time. I still needed those legs.
Since leggings didn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, I decided to try a radical solution: immersion therapy. For this, I required leggings and a fluorescent-lit dressing room. Fortunately, there was an American Apparel nearby.
"You're laughing at me!" I cried, when my date and defacto leggings therapist burst out laughing.
"I just can't believe this sh*t is back," he said. "It's like the eighties all over again. Like people walking around with their collars flipped up."
"These make me look fat and short."
"No, they don't."
But my inner Molly Ringwald teen diva was back. "You're still laughing at me!"
"I'm laughing with you!"
I stormed back into the dressing room. Then I bought the leggings.
Though it was August, it had been raining for five days straight. Gloom was the order of the day. Also, black is the new black, so I decided to dress completely in black, including black leggings, so as to better fade into the background in my spandex outfit. I felt as if I'd stepped out of an Ingmar Bergman film.
When I arrived at Ditch Plains to meet my old college girlfriends for dinner, no one even noticed anything different. Keep in mind, these chicks had seen me in leggings the first time around. Do I always look this way? Finally, I pointed out the leggings.
"So? You look fine. You look good."
Admittedly, the leggings did show off my KORS Michael Kors by Michael KORS Kors shoes. We waxed nostalgic about leggings past.
"Remember how the coolest thing ever was to wear leggings under a long blazer?"
"That was totally hot. I wore that."
"It was all because of Esprit and Benetton. The big sweater with the B on it."
"I have leggings now. I wear them under this Urban Outfitters sundress."
"I wore them under a skirt the other day, and this homeless guy called out after me on the street. 'Wazzup, ballerina?!?'"
By the time dinner was over, my phobia had faded. I even looked forward to wearing the leggings again. Anything that can be used to showcase one's shoes can't be that bad. And it wasn't like jeans with zippers at the ankles were coming back in style.
Or were they?