Liquid leggings, sported by Posh Spice, Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan and Ashley Olsen, among many other celebrities, have replaced the skinny jean as the newest buzz item. Fashion imitators, however, should beware: wearing this item of clothing can be deeply embarrassing, as Jacinte Faria, a Toronto interactive Web producer, knows only too well. She has three pairs. When she wears the leggings, her friends tease her, saying she looks like she’s wearing Superman’s tights. “They say I’m crazy. They call me ‘No-pant Faria.’ ”
When Mosha Lundström Halbert, 22, a fourth-year University of Toronto student and freelance fashion journalist, wears her skin-tight pleather leggings, she too gets attention. People have stopped and asked, “Are your pants leather?” To which she replies, “No, they are even tackier than leather, they are latex.”
Liquid leggings have a number of names: they are also called lamé, rubber, glossy or leather leggings. The material looks like extremely thin, very shiny leather, although it tends to be synthetic, like pleather, lamé, or vinyl. According to a posting by a New Jersey blogger named Ysolt, the pants reflect light “in this weird way” that “catches your attention no matter what.” Some men have complained about being unable to stop staring at body parts covered by liquid leggings, says Ysolt: “Then you’d get caught staring, but it was totally unintentional.” Faria has caught a lot of men staring in this fashion. It’s understandable, she says—the leggings make her behind look like “a highlighted apple.”
Toronto hair colourist Nicole Barbosa wears black liquid leggings to work, and says she usually receives lots of compliments when she does. But because she thinks her behind is a little larger than she’d like, she combines the leggings with longer shirts and sweaters to hide any bits that stick out.
Bits that stick out aren’t the only downside to the shimmery new leggings. Wearing a skin-tight, crotch-hugging, unbreathable material can be sweaty and uncomfortable, says Faria. The leggings can also ride down in the crotch, bunching up in all the wrong places, says Miranda Purves, an editor at Elle magazine in New York. Or they can rise too high, giving the wearer a wedgie. Either way, they require constant vigilance. Then there’s the noise they make. Lundström Halbert says they squeak and squelch when the synthetic material rubs together.
Cleaning them can also be a problem. The shiny material is often made of a knit fabric coated with a polyurethane or a similar synthetic coating. When the knit stretches, the plastic part just flakes off. Some brands are not machine washable either. (Since they aren’t breathable, regular cleaning is important.) Lundström Halbert says even handwashing can damage them. Her “impractical and gross” solution was to turn them inside out after wearing and spray them with air freshener.
Since the material is so fragile, the leggings wear out quickly, says Lara Ceroni, an online editor at Elle Canada. She bought a $50 black pair for a holiday season party. While they looked great at the start of the evening, she says, they got increasingly scuffed as the night wore on. By the end of the evening, they looked tacky and cheap, and so scratched that her friend was able to scrawl his name on her leg with his nail. The next day she bought a new pair for another party, but the second pair looked just as bad after a single night. Ceroni has now given up on pleather leggings completely. “Is it worth it?” she asks. “I would say no.”
Lundström Halbert took very good care of her glossy leggings, but they still lasted only a month. The lamé peeled and rubbed off. After a few weeks, she took the leggings back to the store, which gave her a discount on her next purchase. She bought two more pairs, but the material damaged just as quickly, so she has now given up on pleather leggings and bought real leather ones instead.
Liquid leggings may be the latest fashion must-have, but don’t expect them to have longevity, says Emma Grosberg, a Toronto-based wardrobe stylist. It will likely be one of those trends that’s increasingly hard to understand once the moment has passed, she says. “In the future, we’ll probably look back and say ‘Oh my God, I was wearing plastic leggings in public. What the hell was I thinking?’ ”