We’ve all slept in this morning and I’m still groggy from my 453rd straight night of bad sleep thanks to children. With less than 15 minutes to get everyone dressed, fed and out the door, I stagger into my closet and there, in a pristine line, hang my beloveds: Twelve (or so) pairs of black leggings.
I grab a pair—any pair, it really doesn’t matter—and a T-shirt, and I’m instantly dressed, without having put any real thought into it. Which is the point. I don’t have time to think, and yet I don’t want to look like my four-year-old dressed me (I let her do that once, with unfortunate results. It involved a California Raisins sweatshirt).
My treasured collection of leggings has come to me from all over: Target, Costco, Joe Fresh, my mom’s closet. Some still have that “new leggings” smell. Others are 15 years old. Each pair seems to have been woven with magic fabric that gives them lifelong wearability. (Which is perfect, because I would rather get dental surgery than go shopping for new clothes, so “lifelong wearability” is a fashion must).
My leggings are always there for me. It doesn’t matter how many times in a day that a) someone spills yogurt on me, b) someone sneezes yogurt on me, c) I sit in yogurt, d) I decide I’m covered in more dog hair than I’m comfortable with. My never-ending rotation of black leggings allow me to wear the same outfit all day long, while actually changing nine times.
I can move between “sporty” (I’m really going to the dollar store, but I’ll let you think I’ve come from Pilates), “casual” (add cute flats and I’m ready for Costco) and “dressed up” (thanks to a pair of tall boots, I’m ready for my 2 p.m. interview). See how busy my day is, and how versatile my leggings are?
And unlike those traitorous jeans, they always yield to my body. There was a time when my hips were lithe, my stomach taut. Denim and I once saw eye to eye. These days, I’m thankful for nylon-lycra blends and high waists. They hide all manner of secrets.
I remember back in my 20s, when I was single and carefree and had an enviable wardrobe of cute and stylish (insert smaller size here) clothes, I had a roommate whose disdain for leggings shaped my perception of these wardrobe necessities. “Tights are not pants,” he scoffed at a gaggle of teenagers walking out of our local café in black leggings and crop tops. “I know, right?” I slurped into my iced latte.
Oh, how wrong we were.
Leggings are pants. And anyone whose hips have grown and shrunk and then grown again thanks to pregnancy, or maternity-leave boredom eating, or general aging, knows that leggings are pants by virtue of them fitting an endlessly changing body.
Anyone who has spent their days crouching, bending and squatting, being sat on, spat up on and slept on, knows that leggings are pants by virtue of them being comfortable enough to allow you to survive a long day of looking after children.
Anyone who hates change rooms knows that leggings—which often come in the wonderfully simple sizes of S, M, L—are indeed pants by virtue of always being the right size, no matter what store you buy them from.
They’ve become my uniform, and on days when I go from chef to chauffeur to nurse and dog walker all before my 2 p.m. deadline, they’re my saving grace. I would buy them in bulk if I could.
Maybe one day I’ll retire my collection, or pass them on. One day I’ll venture back into a change room without needing a stiff drink. Perhaps I’ll even leave with a new pair of jeans.
Until then, every morning, I will groggily look at the clock then shout, “We’re late! Everyone downstairs,” stumble into my closet, and grab the first pair of black leggings I can find. And of course, any pair will do.
This article was originally published online in February 2018.