Is It Acceptable to Wear Leggings As Pants?
I love leggings and find myself reaching for them all the time. I got into a big debate with my sister though about whether they are in fact pants. She thinks they aren't and I, of course, think they are. The more we talked to people about it, the more we realized that no one seems to agree. Can you clarify for us? - Vanessa, MississaugaIt's funny that you ask this question as we prepare to enter a new year, leaving 2018 firmly behind us. It's been an interesting trip around the sun - to say the least. Pot is legal now and Harvey Weinstein no longer runs Hollywood. Some things remain the same, however: We are still talking about whether leggings, which have actually been around since the 1700s, are considered pants.Let's enter 2019 with some much-needed clarity - it's the least we can do after the crazy year many of us have had. Yes, leggings are certainly and definitively pants. It's not up for debate."Our current definition is 'tight-fitting stretch pants, typically worn by women or girls,'" explains Charlotte Buxton, who is associate editor of The Oxford Dictionary, and literally writes the book on these types of hot-button issues. "As this includes the word 'pants,' this does suggest that, by definition, they are indeed pants, and can be worn as such."Buxton is no stranger to these types of definition scuffles - she was called to comment "when Jamie Oliver caused outrage by putting chorizo in a paella." (Spaniards were in a tizzy about the inclusion, suggesting instead that his recipe be more appropriately called "rice with stuff in it.")And the discussion of carbohydrate-rich comfort food actually points us back to the most fundamental truth about leggings: Sure, they are pants, but they are comfy, stretchy pants that should only be worn to eat paella while streaming Mind of a Chef or to the gym to atone for a weekend worth of Netflix-and-chorizo."We describe how words are actually used, rather than how we think they should be used," says Buxton, when I ask about the process of actually defining a word. "We do a lot of research on the word in context using our corpora - huge databases of real-world English that allow us to analyze words and their meanings." In the case of leggings, the evidence was clear. "They haven't reached the realm of business attire quite yet," jokes Buxton, who herself usually reserves leggings for trips to the gym. "From our corpora, we can see that some of the most common items paired with leggings are T-shirts, trainers or sneakers, hoodies, and sweatshirts, which all seems to support your assumption that they are primarily casual attire."Thank you, Ms. Buxton.It should now be clear to anyone celebrating their moral victory ("I told you leggings were pants! Viva athleisure! Tonight, I wear them to the opera!") that the definition is not a benediction. The fact that they are appropriate outwear doesn't mean that they are appropriate everywhere. Here's a simple cheat sheet since it's the holidays and being a bit lazy feels right: Wear them to the gym and to walk your dog. Do not wear them to work, to brunch or to anywhere you wouldn't feel comfortable wearing sweats. No one is fooled into thinking your leggings are just a pair of really slim cigarette pants - we all know they are merely skinny sweats.The fact that leggings are absolutely pants also crucially means that you should be expected to use the same consideration as you would when purchasing trousers: Seek out good quality fabric and proper fit. An elasticated waistband doesn't absolve you from trying them on before buying - and skimping on quality (which usually goes hand in hand with skimping on price) means that they'll wear thin and be embarrassingly sheer, which I think we can all agree should not generally be a desirable descriptor of pants. Not all leggings are created equally, and not all leggings flatter all shapes. Even though you're only wearing them to the gym (for at least the first few weeks of January before we decide that lying on the floor pretending to do Pilates while watching Jamie Oliver make paella on TV is probably satisfies your resolution to be buff), invest the extra time to find the rise that flatters your waistline and the crop that makes the most of your legs. After all, we're entering a new year, so let's show off the best of ourselves.Shop the adviceThe right way to wear leggings is as chic gym wear:Bogner top, $230, sportinglife.caThe Constant leggings, $55, aritzia.comAdidas shoes, $110, adidas.caNike coat, $355, nike.comLululemon bag, $158, lululemon.comSend your pressing beauty and style questions to Kathryn at .