A Sparkling Vintage Life

yoga 1964I have long been lamenting the decline of feminine, pretty, modest clothing for everyday wear. Writing that sentence feels more than a bit hypocritical as I sit here writing in my worn jeans and seen-better-days T-shirt.

Still, as often as possible, I grab the opportunity to drape on my substantial frame something pretty, or at the very least, modest and inoffensive. Sometimes I succeed; other times I don’t. But it’s a goal.

I own a pair of yoga pants. I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to wear them out of the house. And I don’t think I ever will. But many of you are gutsier than I. What do you think about yoga pants–go-to wardrobe staple? Best left in the gym locker?

This article in Christianity Today caught my eye today, saying in part:

“Among Christians, these form-fitting pants get wrapped in the modesty debate, most recently with a viral post from a blogger sharing her conviction to stop wearing yoga pants and leggings. Then came responses with treatises on freedom and morality and lust and modesty culture. And defenses. And cynicism. And hysteria. And spite.

And here we are, fighting about yoga pants.”

While I wasn’t aware that a tempest was brewing with such vigor, I’m not surprised. I remember a conversation I once had with a mother who was defending her teenage daughter’s choice of attire (sweatpants with the word “Juicy” splashed across the rear, if that gives you an idea of how long ago this conversation took place). The mother said that she saw nothing wrong with it, as long as her daughter “had the figure for it.” I tried to convey that body shape wasn’t really the issue–modesty was. What message are we conveying to the people around us through what we choose to wear? I said we couldn’t insist, on the one hand, that men treat women with respect and dignity, while at the same time doing everything in our power to attract a different sort of attention. She looked at me with pity, as if I were a relic from another time. Which I suppose I am, but that in itself doesn’t make my observations any less true.

It’s been a long time since I, ahem, “had the figure for” just about any body-conscious fashion. But even if I were svelte (why does no one ever use that sophisticated term anymore?), I don’t think I’d feel comfortable showing every line and curve of my anatomy to total strangers, as is too often the unfortunate results of yoga pants.

It was every thus. Apparently, appropriate dressing of the female form has been a hot topic since the caves.  I found this admonition in a book of advice to young women, published in 1793:

“The art of pleasing belongs to your sex. This is not only a natural desire, but you seem to be particularly endued with those powers which are necessary to its gratification. The beauty of the Person, improved also by the embellishments of Dress, is an attraction too fascinating to be overlooked. [Ladies] were formed to please and to captivate, but at the same time, it is expedient that you should know the extent of your influence, in what manner it should be directed, and what are its proper objects.”

In other words, be aware of the effect that your clothing is having on other people. There is a place and time for yoga pants, and quite possibly that place and time is your own home. Or the gym. Or your car, driving from home to gym and back. Period.

In a book directed to parents, written in 1911 by E. B. Lowry, M.D., expands on this idea:

“Girls do not realize what kind of an impression they make upon men by their clothes, actions, etc. An eminent lawyer said to me recently, ‘Why do you not tell girls what real men think of them when they appear on the streets with painted faces, peek-a-boo waists [shirts], and thin, silk hose worn with shoes more appropriate for the ballroom?’ If girls imitate the demi-monde [underworld] in their dress, they must expect to be treated accordingly.” Dr. Lowry goes on to say, “Extremes of dressing naturally attract the attention of men, and the girls feel flattered and continue in their course, not realizing what impression the men really get. Then, when the man makes the advances that her manner of dressing has led him to believe he can make, she feels insulted and resentful.”

But that’s his problem, right? Yoga pants are not meant to be enticing. They are meant to be athletic wear. And they are comfortable, which is the very most important thing in choosing what to put on every day.

Or is it?

Where do you come down on the yoga-pants question–yea, nay, or yawn?