By LINDA DYETT
I’m taking a long, hard look at Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (you know…the goddess of love standing on her half-shell). Or rather–I’m seeing her face, blown up and maneuvered over the knee and thigh of a pair of polyester-elastane stretch leggings, her golden tresses cascading down the other leg. This is but one example among the hundreds (no, make that thousands) of pairs of graphic, photo-printed stretch leggings now bombarding the market. Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon? Check. Mona Lisa? Check. Jackson Pollock? Check. Magritte, Kandinsky, Dali, Vermeer, Van Gogh? Check. Plus Einstein, Democrats, Republicans, gorillas, porcupines, kumquats, Coca Cola bottles. Not to mention the Covid circle backsplash symbol and one particular individual, in the news right now–a scientist whom I’m saving for the end of this column.
Just google anyone or anything plus leggings, and you may well find it.
What is happening here? Despite the glaringly obvious impediment of not having a flat surface to display images that were intended to be flat, printed legwear is replacing message T-shirts as the most communicative and exciting fashion statement out there today. It may be sacrilege, but this is a way of having fun with iconic images. And it’s an affordable adjunct to the big, bombastic, pile-it-on print trend that’s overwhelming fashion lately. It also suits the disruptive, everyone’s-got-an-opinion times we’re living in. I suspect that while still enduring the Corona crisis, we all have an intense desire to communicate with one another about our likes and dislikes—even if wordlessly, with our masks on while we’re walking down the street.
The idea is to wear these stretch leggings as alternatives to the usual jeans, chinos, harem pants, wide-legged trousers, etc., etc. I also see them showing up as a base layer beneath a slim or flowy skirt of any length, with form-fitting sweaters, loose-fitting tunics, oversize blazers, and, for those who can get away with it, crop tops. They look especially current paired with clashing patterns, and under filmy dresses. Perfect examples: Paula Gerbase’s superlative nylon-polyester variegated, rib-stitch Skins collection; and Et Tigre’s sheer black organza Jayme dress.
And strangely enough, these ornate leggings—and their neck to ankle variants, catsuits, which are gaining traction right now– are somehow figure-flattering for all varieties of legs–scrawny legs, fat thighs (that can’t pass the pencil test), pigeon toes, bow legs, knock knees. Draping, say, Rembrandt’s brooding self-portrait or a William Morris toile on an upper thigh? Miraculously, the busy design and explosions of colors divert attention from anything perceived as a figure flaw. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the surface and the message, not the shape of the leg.
These items confuse the line between innerwear and outerwear, and could readily be featured in lingerie shops. After all, they qualify as second skins.
Here are some of my favorites:
As per my description at the top of this article.
Red Bubble Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Leggings Designed by Art History
Jon Baran Picasso’s Three Musicians Leggings
The sheet music, the harlequin pants, the clarinet—this Cubist celebration of art finally gets to swirl around a pair of legs.
LoveCreatArt William Morris Brer Rabbit leggings.
Inspired by Medieval textiles, paired birds are situated amid fantastical foliage. A hypnotic allover pattern.
MyMeikaGe E = MC2 Leggings designed by 3 Starfish
Einstein’s equation: Mass, energy and associated scribbles in black and white, as if on a blackboard. Because … why not?
The next three items are leggings with matching stretch tops. For those who dare.
Colville abstract harlequin print stretch leggings
The wearer will look like an Afro-Aztec design-come-to-life.
Souk & Sepia Thistle Yoga Leggings front & back view
A pile-on of variously sized pink, green, and orange rectangles. Here too, matching tops—bomber jacket and sports bra—are available. Think 2020s power suit.
Burberry Vintage Check Leggings
Yes, that iconic check, in a tighter than tight style that has fun with the once-stodgy British design house. Here, as well, various matching tops are available.
And now we have my two favorites—neck-to-ankle print catsuits. These zip–up one-piecers not only celebrate the human body, but transform it into an all-over print design. To me, they are an entirely new approach to dressing up or dressing down. Innerwear as outerwear.
Marine Serre Logo Print Catsuit
An utterly unembellished optical stunner displaying the designer’s signature crescent moon print. The fearless will wear it with sneakers or spike heels for dinners out.
Farai London Mai Catsuit Designed by Glimmersmith
All-enveloping swirling yellows and greens. Even the neck is covered. This one is almost a full-body tattoo. Lounging around doesn’t get any better.
And finally …
buithuctrang34’s Dr. Anthony Fauci leggings
Here’s the scientist. The immunologist and president’s advisor was bound to become a copy-able meme.