For example, leggings.
So, I set out to answer the question.
First, I put on a pair of leggings myself. These are pretty much tights but with the feet cut off. The length ranges from just below the knee to midcalf to ankle, and stores are devoting ever more space to them. (Don't confuse them with the thicker "jeggings" — the jean-leggings combo — and unlike jeggings they have no pocket, zipper, button or stitching detail.)
In my test, I spent the day feeling like I was dressed for the gym, not an office. And there was this nagging feeling that something was missing. I know! A skirt. The leggings felt a lot like underwear, with a slight, squeezy Spanx sensation, only not slimming.
Any clothing that clings to the upper leg and, in the case of my leggings, stops mid-calf, has the dual effect of emphasizing the thighs and making my legs look stumpy. Not what I was going for.
But was it just me? To find out, I stopped women wearing leggings and started firing nosy questions.
Virtually everyone began their answers with, "They're comfortable." I agree. But so's a baggy pair of pj's and bunny slippers, but we don't wear those out on the street for all to see.
Others said they wore them to cover their rears under dresses and skirts that are otherwise too short. Huh? Buy a dress that's too revealing so you have to buy a second item to cover your backside?
Quite a few women said that leggings were a frugal, lighter jeans alternative. Others liked the anti-jiggle, girdlelike feeling — as though everything's under control.
And then there were my favorites, the women who agreed with me. "This is a mistake!" said Rosie Rodriguez, a 26-year-old from suburban Chicago, when I asked her about her midcalf black leggings.
Why, then, was she wearing them? "For the same reason that people wear Crocs. You know they're ugly but you see people wearing them and you know they're comfortable, so why not?"
Rodriguez adamantly refused to have her photo taken. "No picture! That's how embarrassing this is," she said.
Many other women, however, were happy to pose in their leggings and extol their virtues. Look at these photos, draw your own style conclusions, then tell me what you think.
Won't give up your leggings?
•Make sure they smooth — rather than cling to — your blobs.
•Check that not a hint of skin shows through.
is better to lengthen the leg.
•For heavier thighs, stick with black.
"I wear them when I wear a very short skirt so my mom doesn't say I look like a hooker."
Daryse Matheus, 18, college student,
"It's one piece and keeps you smooth and nice."
Mariam Hakimi, 66, retired nurse anesthetist, Ann Arbor, Mich.
"I'm comfortable. Not too hot. Not too cold. They look cute with heels."
Raquel Farmer, 18, college student, Chicago