Leggings become popular on weekends as women adopt a more individualistic style


November 29, 1990|By Catherine Cook | Catherine Cook,Fashion Editor

DON'T WORRY if you can't seem to squeeze into your favorite blue jeans on the weekends anymore. For now, at least, the fashion world has relegated blue jeans to the back of the closet.

Instead, just pull on a pair of black stretch leggings. That little bit of added Lycra will smooth out any extra pounds and the long tunic sweaters happen to be not only the latest in fashion, but also very handy for camouflaging pesky bulges.

The switch from blue jeans into leggings is just one of several changes going on in weekend wear.

The definition of the category itself is shifting, as the traditional distinctions between casual wear and office wear begin to blur.

"The barriers have broken down markedly over the past year. What's acceptable for the office is changing, so there's much more diversification now," says Marjorie Deane, publisher of the trend forecasting Tobe Report.

As women become more confident about their position in the work force, they're experimenting with a greater variety of fashions in the office.

In addition, the sluggish economy is also having its effect on wardrobing changes.

"When there's a squeeze like there is now, you're less likely to buy something lush just for the weekend, the way you did in the '80s," says Ms. Deane.

"If you do, it's more likely to be something that you can also wear to the office on Friday, which seems to be a more casual dressing day for men and women."

The oversized boyfriend jacket is one such versatile item, says Jan Flora, spokeswoman for J. C. Penney. "I bought one in the junior department -- it's a refined blue and black buffalo print that I can wear with black stirrup pants on the weekend, but I can also wear it to work with a black skirt and opaque black tights, and it looks very polished."

Another factor that's contributing to greater overlap between work and play clothes, says Ms. Deane, is the "phenomenal success" of Donna Karan's secondary line DKNY.

The line was originally launched in 1988 with the notion that the executive woman needed clothes to walk the dog in and pick up her dry cleaning.

But when working women discovered that they could finally afford to purchase a piece of Donna Karan clothing, even if it was only the secondary line DKNY, the label was worn as a status symbol to the office.

Since then the line has grown to include a great variety of clothes for any number of dressy or casual occasions.

With the success of DKNY, dozens of other designers have also tried their hand at similar secondary collections.

The greater confidence many women are showing in their office dress also extends to greater variety on the weekends.

"When blue jeans first became important, everybody wore them with a T-shirt and looked the same," says Ms. Deane. "Women are dressing more individually now. They have the courage of their convictions. Now you might see leggings with a big sweater, with a zip-front jacket, with an oversized sweater."

The current whims of top designers are also contributing to greater diversification. When influential designers such as Claude Montana began adding outerwear detailing hoods, toggle buttons and drawstring waists to their thousand-dollar ensembles, there was further blurring between traditional market segments.

"The whole issue this year of 'anorak styling,' or what we're calling 'Take a hike up Madison Avenue," [is evidence of how] outwear looks have crossed over into other categories," says Philip Monaghan, vice president of marketing for Express stores.

The Express is selling a great many stirrup pants and leggings, paired most frequently with drawstring-waist anoraks, hand-knit tunics and long, side-split shirts. Sporty styling has been translated into velour tops and bottoms that customers are dressing up with gold accessories to wear for holiday festivities.

Nobody is predicting the demise of blue jeans as a wardrobe XTC basic, but as a fashion item, it's clearly been eclipsed by the Lycra stretch bottoms.

"Until just a couple of years ago, we were still selling a great many blue jeans," says Mr. Monaghan. "Now leggings and stirrup pants are the major look."

The Lycra spandex stretch element so important to the legging is also becoming more significant in all other aspects of the casual wardrobe, he says.

"It's the denim of the '90s."

Styled by Julia Chance

Hair and makeup by Ross Hurtt/

T.H.E. Artist Agency

Her stirrup pants by Cignal Sport $67,

sweater by Kikit $120. His sweater $95,

trousers $59. All at Cignal.

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