I like to say that my personal style can be described as effortless. When looking through my closet, you’ll quickly notice that slip-on ballet flats, flowy skirts, and flattering dresses are my go-to clothing items. I also like to rock my fair share of yoga pants. I’m so fond of these stretchy, adaptable basics because I can dress them up or down depending on my mood and — most importantly — I can pull them over my legs by myself.
This may seem like a weird accomplishment to prioritize, but I have a chronic illness. Specifically, I have fibromyalgia — a chronic disorder that impacts muscles and nerves, causing intense pain and weakness. Being able to claim even the smallest bit of self-sufficiency is worth noting.
Being diagnosed with such a persistent and intense condition has rendered me legally disabled. My disorder comes with some good days, but there are also times when the most basic act of self-care is impossible. There are days when my husband has to dress me, when all I can do is remain in bed dressed in my pajamas, when I struggle to find an ounce of strength to brush my teeth or wash my face.
I could spend my life that way, but I don’t want to. I have children to care for and a great, big world to explore. Not being able to hook my bra or pull up my pants isn’t going to stop me from that.
So, to counter my limitations, my personal style strives for effortlessness — not because it’s enviable or chic, but because it’s what I need to do to maintain some sense of autonomy.
Unfortunately, some people are not so keen on my fashion choices. In fact, the practice of wearing yoga pants in general has come under attack. In an op-ed posted on NYTimes.com, one editor flat-out ridicules the yoga pants and the women who wear them.
The writer — Honor Jones, senior staff editor at The New York Times Opinion — condescendingly lays out her opinions for why yoga pants are so bad for women. Citing different reasons such as the current social climate around sexual harassment and the billion dollar fitness industry, Jones expresses her distaste for what she see as frivolous “skintight, Saran-wrap-thin yoga pants.”
In the piece, she also calls for the return of sweatpants, explaining that no one looks good in them, which is even more reason to wear them. Despite their lack of aesthetic appeal, Jones insists that they are a much better option than pants that “threaten to show every dimple and roll in every woman over 30.”
(As a woman over 30, let me just say that I make my dimples and rolls look damn good.)
What Jones fails to see is that, though sweatpants are comfy and she personally feels that we shouldn’t wear yoga pants just because we think “they’re sexy,” her opinion on other people’s clothing choices kinda doesn’t matter.
Jones also makes light of the unspoken rule that women shouldn’t criticize how other women dress, equating that rule to belief in the problematic idea that “who we are is how we look”:
If I allowed myself to look how I really feel — often aching, constantly tired, anxious, and full of self-doubt — it would make me feel even worse. It would make me feel defeated by my illness.
Yoga pants provide me a way to look how I want to feel. Every day, I have to walk a thin line between being able to function independently and not looking like a total slob. Besides being disabled, I’m also a fat woman, so that opens up a whole other level of difficulty and criticism of my body. Yes, I could live my life in sweatpants, but I shouldn’t have to.
I should be able to wear my yoga pants with boots and a tunic. Or ballet flats and a tank top. Or sandals and a kimono. Or whatever else I want! Just because my body has its issues — whether because of my chronic illness or my weight — it doesn’t mean that I should have fewer options when it comes to dressing myself to boost my self-confidence.
And it isn’t just women like me with extraneous circumstances who should be allowed to wear yoga pants without someone feeling the need to comment. Anyone should wear yoga pants if they want to. What you wear or why you wear it is nobody else’s business.
I miss my skinny jeans, but I don’t miss being unable to pull up my pants after going to the bathroom. My chronic illness may force me to choose between form and function, but surrendering to a forced life of sweatpants is just not happening. Sure, I’d be cute in whatever I wear, but I’d rather wear what makes me happy.