Incredible shrinking pants

May 22, 2006|By TANIKA WHITE | TANIKA WHITE,SUN REPORTER

What's the skinny on leg coverings this season?

From leggings to cigarette pants to skinny jeans, it's just that: Skinny is in.

After years and years of wide-leg, boyfriend or boot-cut styles, designers and fashionistas have slimmed down the silhouettes for spring and fall, making more body-conscious fits the trendiest of fashion trends.

"If you want a pair of bootleg jeans, buy them now, because skinny jeans are replacing them at jeans shops across the country," says Nicole Phelps, executive editor of Style.com.

By most definitions, "skinny pants" are those that fit the leg snugly and either have a straight leg, with no flare at the hem, or taper near the ankle. Leggings are a variation of the look, but tend to be cropped and made of a thinner material. Think Jennifer Beals in Flashdance.

In fact, skinny jeans and leggings were last popular about the time Beals was - in the 1980s.

"With designers reviving different elements of that decade, from pouf skirts to nipped and belted waists, it was only a matter of time before skinny jeans and leggings returned," Phelps says.

And return they have.

Last week alone, 547 pairs of leggings sold on eBay, according to eBay's Marketplace Research Pro, which tracks the purchasing behavior of 191 million registered eBay users. Also according to the Research Pro, sales of leggings on eBay increased by 54.5 percent between April 4 and May 1.

"It's a catching trend," says Krystal Krpan, a senior at Laurel High School who was shopping for beach clothes last week at American Eagle Outfitters at The Mall in Columbia. "There are a lot of girls in my school wearing them."

Although the trend toward snug leg coverings is catching on slowly among consumers, the appearance of the trend on runways actually seemed to pop out of nowhere.

One day it was all about wide legs and flares, the next, it seemed, leggings and skinny pants were ubiquitous.

"I think it helped when celebrities started wearing them," says eBay style director Constance White. Some of the most fashion-forward of the celebrity set, such as Sienna Miller, Kate Hudson, Carmen Electra and Kate Moss, have been seen out and about wearing the skinniest of skinny jeans and leggings. Nicky Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and even curvy stars, such as Angelina Jolie and Mariah Carey, have embraced the new slimmer look.

"When they were just on runways and in the sort of sub-culture, you couldn't even find them," says White, who had to go to Sweden to find a pair of skinny jeans she loved. "It's only now that you've started to be able to buy them."

In fact, even the most mainstream of jeans shops - the Gap - is selling two different styles of skinny jeans for spring and summer.

Gap style expert Sean Krebs says the look - even though it is on the cutting edges of fashion - is very "all-American."

Still, Krebs says, most women aren't going to want to totally reject the boot-cut styles they've come to love.

"I don't think the boot cut is ever going to go away completely," Krebs says. "It's a very flattering silhouette and a very flattering fit for a lot of different body types. But this is a more fashion-forward customer who wants the skinny leg, for sure."

In Europe, the skinnier styles already have caught on in a big way.

"At least where I was in Sweden, in the city, they're all the rage. They have already been embraced by all body types," White says. "You don't just see the size 4, 25-year-old in them. You see the woman with hips, 35 and 45, poured into these jeans. And they look cute."

Some women may find that [vision] hard to believe. Any fashion trend with the word "skinny" in it must be solely for skinny women, they think.

Wrong, style experts say.

"Let us not forget the reason the legging and the T-shirt was so popular before," says White. "You just put the big T-shirt on over the skinny leggings, and ... that hid a multitude of sins and it was so comfortable."

Avenue, a ladies apparel store that specializes in fashion for full-figured women, plans to offer versions of the skinny jean beginning in August.

"The look is all about long over slim and our customer is no exception to this look," says Susan Fantas, Avenue's product manager for denim. "The jean flatters our women's legs and looks great with flats or tucked into boots."

Some experts disagree.

"Many, many women will not be able to wear these pants," says Dianne M. Daniels, a certified member of the Association of Image Consultants International. "A woman with a more pear-shaped figure won't be as successful in skinny-cut jeans because they will emphasize the difference in her hip proportion as compared to the rest of her body. That can be a very unflattering look. A woman with a straighter figure can wear skinny jeans and/or leggings more successfully."

It is true that, so far, mostly trendsetting teenagers have been the ones brave enough to wear leggings - they love them with cut-off denim skirts and ballerina flats.

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