October 24, 2011

Dressing up yoga pants

Probably no article of clothing in the SAHM wardrobe is as reviled as the yoga pant. For some reason, people have complicated feelings about them. I don't really understand why. I am a longtime aficionado of the yoga pant. I work at home; I have worn yoga pants for years. I wore yoga pants on the regular, even before I ever dreamt of becoming a mom. And so I've picked up a tip or two for dressing up yoga pants, making them look less like pajamas and more like real, honest-to-goodness clothing. Today I am feeling generous, and so I will pass on these tips to you. Are you ready? OK then.

The first rule of dressing up yoga pants is that you don't dress up yoga pants.

If you do a google search for "dressing up yoga pants" you will find pages and pages of suggestions for adding things like blazers and high-heeled boots to complete the look. I caution you against doing this. You will not look hip, or chic, or like you are not wearing yoga pants. You will look like one of those kids' books, where you can flip the pages and make the doctor wear clown shoes. You will look like you are playing a game called "can anyone guess I am not wearing ACTUAL PANTS?" (HINT: we can, girl. WE ALWAYS CAN.)

The thing to do, instead, is to let the yoga pants be yoga pants, and build an outfit around them. It will not be an outfit you can wear interchangeably with other outfits. If you're going to a WOH job, or to dinner with friends, or church or a DAR meeting or a night out at a bar? FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, wear real pants. But if you are going to spend your day running after kids and crawling around on the floor and doing school drop offs? You can still look cute and chic.

Here are my strategies for making this work.

1. Pick a non-yoga yoga pant. By which I mean: don't get one with obvious athletic details. Unless you plan to use the pant for actual athletic activity. You want your fabric to breathe. You don't want seams in weird places or a sheeny butt. You want something cotton, with stretch. Something like the slim flare yoga pants from American Eagle:

2. Wear a shirt. (Duh). But I mean: a real shirt. Not an oversized tee you yanked from your husband's drawer. Nothing with the name of an athletic sportswear manufacturer; no gigantic Nike swoops. Not anything made of running material, unless you are trying to fake the "I've just been to the gym" thing. (Or you have actually been to the gym).

The key is to treat the yoga pants the way you would your favorite pair of old, worn in jeans, the ones you had in high school and that still fit, the ones that feel like velvet from the dryer. You wouldn't wear them out to dinner with friends with a silk-chiffon blouse. You'd toss on a cute cotton tee. Preferably with some sort of detailing to keep it from being too plain.

Right now, my go-to shirt to fulfill this requirement is the pintucked burnout tee from the Gap:

There are some really cute sweatshirts out there right now, but I'd save them to wear with jeans. Pair them with yoga pants and the whole things gets very sweatsuity, very fast.

2. Wear real shoes, too. By which I mean: not running shoes. Or Uggs. When in doubt, go for ballet flats, but be careful to choose a pair that's casual (No patent leather, no sequins, no calf's hair or Tory Burch logos). This doesn't have to mean boring, though:

Chains = not boring.

Pop of yellow = also not boring.

Do you have a pair of Chuck Taylors? If not, I highly suggest investing in a pair. They come in literally every color/shade/permutation under the sun and are probably the singlemost important item to keeping yoga pants looking cute and fun instead of sad and boring.

3. Add a bold accessory. Nothing dainty or flashy. Stay away from glittery or iridescent and focus on bright, bold, primary colors. Think about something like this:

A necklace like this is an outfit maker--throw it on with a plain white t-shirt and suddenly you look like you know what you're doing. A necklace like this and mascara can make a hospital gown look like it cost $178 at Anthropologie.

Helpful hint: I like to keep a necklace hanging on the front doorknob so that I can drop it over my head on my way out to the store, the library, or playgroup.

A scarf immediately adds depth and interest and texture to an otherwise drab outfit and draws the attention toward the face in the same way a bold necklace does. I like this circle scarf from American Apparel because it doesn't have loose ends that hang down in your soup (or the baby's blowout diaper, depending on how your day is going).

Bonus points: It also looks like it would be really great for breastfeeding. Score!

4. You're going to want a cute jacket. This rough tweedy number is mine.

The Ann Taylor catalog people have dressed it up here, but trust me: it works great with a more casual look, too.

5. Wear your yoga pants with confidence. Repeat after me: There is NO SHAME in yoga pants. You are a mom: you run around all day mashing bananas, gluing macaroni to cardboard, wiping up snot and poop and puke. Nurses do some of these things, and they're allowed to wear scrubs. And orthopedic shoes. In public. And nobody bats an eyelash.

You should hold you head high. If there's one thing I've learned in my nearly 30 years on the planet, it's that you can get away with a lot if you act like you're the shit. You've followed my rules, you're wearing cute shoes. So don't mind the haters. They're just jealous of your boob scarf.

How much do you love your yoga pants? What are your tips for making them work?


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