Wednesday, June 3, 2015

No Holds Barred: In a World of Spandex

By Blair Sabol

Trust me, it won't be global warming or technology that destroys our world. It will be spandex! I have seen Summer 2015 walking on the New York City streets (and in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Phoenix) and it is frightening.

Forget the warm weather excuse of "letting it all hang out."

That has become a "given." Walmart People (the popular viral website and now photo book) of strange people dressed in outlandish vile clothes while shopping the Walmart aisle is NOW in YOUR neighborhood. Or it may even be YOU!
I have always admired USA fashion for originating the concept of sportswear. Nobody did it better than us. But now we have descended into "Athleisure" — which means sweat suits, yoga pants, tank tops, sports bras, basketball shorts, flip-flops, leggings, baseball caps and of course sneakers. This look has become our new uniform even at black tie/red carpet events.
Yes, it's gone global.
I am all for comfort and casual but this has resulted in a level of SLOBBISM that has now become astounding. It seems as if no one cares how they look anymore. Go on any airline of late and the "come as you are" dress code feels like a visual assault. And don't talk to me about how we all "live such busy and active lives. " No one is THAT busy "busy and active " that they can't GET DRESSED. My best New York City pal insists she lives in her workout gear because "the city has become a bio Level Two terror zone and it is filthy and dangerous and you never know when you might need to take off and run ... I need my running shoes and action wear!"
Everyone seems just fine going from their Soul Spinning session or hot boot camp classes and then to brunch in the same baggy "wife beaters" over spandex legging and their tattoos. But at this point the actual ISIS terrorists look better dressed for beheadings in their black cover-ups and black headgear.
Frankly I knew I too had become a victim to this Athleisure look when I found myself in a Lululemon dressing room (pathetic setting to begin with) trying on one of their infamous $125 yoga pants. I haven't actually been in a store dressing room in five years since I have been shopping on line for everything. As a result I have never seen myself in a three-way mirror of late.

Viewing my 70-year-old backside in spandex was beyond shocking. Actually seeing my total body from head to toe from all angles was horrifying. Forget the lighting; even the back of my hair was depressing. I knew that spandex "grabbed" as a fabric but I was not ready to view my every ripple, fold, bulge, groove, lump and bump from that angle. My rear end looked like a hefty bagged filled with old leaves. I fled the store and knew I shouldn't have been there in the first place.

After that experience of viewing my own physical DMZ I now think that along with your annual physical exam everyone should stand in front of a three-way mirror once a year (especially after 40) and TAKE A LONG HARD COLD LOOK! It will change your life. What I decided is that No amount of Spanx can ever rescue anybody. Take a look at Oprah who is Spanxed from her ankles to her chin. We still see her shape and all her skin "spillage" maybe not as bad. But it is there.

The truth is Lululemon merchandise — though the originators of this giant wave of "sweat chic" — is seriously overpriced and in trouble. The entire line lost its way 18 months ago when they were accused of making their leggings in transparent material that "embarrassed" their shopper/wearers during their workouts. The company recalled their designs, fired their CEO and have yet to make a complete recovery.
Meanwhile Dior, Prada, Alexander Wang, Chanel and all the fashion heavyweights got into their own lines of form fitting attire for their own "Athletic-juicing-downward-dogging" markets. Along with their versions of platformed Birkenstocks (called "flip forms") and sneakers. And lets not forget all the colored "Bit" bracelets (tracking everyone's every move — to where, for what?) and The Apple watch (I'll stick to my vintage Cartier Tank watch, thank you).
You can pay anywhere from $18 (Target) to $500 (Chanel) for a sports bra and a pair of yoga pants. And yoga pants have now become the new jeans. Though I live in yoga pants and have for over 15 years (and have been practicing yoga — badly — for over 30 years), I am not proud that this is my "go-to" look, and that I have gone to formal wedding and somber funerals dressed in my "Hard Tail" boot cuts. It is just that I am of an age where zippers and buttoned waistbands are a personal health hazard. I could end up with a blood clot with that kind of constriction.
Yes, this is actually me doing yoga.
I am not thrilled with my closet filled with double racks of only yoga pants. In fact two years ago I went to my dear pal (and fashion guru) Linda Rodin ( to me the most successful stylist and now creator of her new amazing beauty line Rodin Olio Lusso) for her help with my " pant problem." She admitted she was already getting out the skinny "cigarette" shaped-spandex-ankle-length styles and was heading back to her vintage baggier 501 Levi jeans complete with chunky rolled cuffs. The rest of her pants are cut wider now ... and certainly higher. Naturally on her it all looks great, and not too "Mad Men" rehash. She gave me hope.
Linda in her Levis.
But Linda is born ahead of the curve and knows how to play it to perfection for her own DNA. I was left to look for "trousers" in a world of "jeggings" — "jeggings" — what an unflattering concept on EVERYONE. Jeans as tight as leggings? Everyone's knees look bunched. And no one can escape the exploding stomach. What I realized is every pant nowadays is a version of the legging; capri, crops, ankle, peddle pusher ... even shorts.

You do not look like THIS!
And every retailer keeps selling this look based on Audrey Hepburn's own version of "pixie pants" and ballet slippers. The truth is Audrey Hepburn's pants weren't spandex (they were cut narrow and TAILORED). Her body was a "Pixie" stick, and her "ballet slippers" were flat Pumps. Nobody looks like Audrey Hepburn anymore ... least of all in "jeggings."

Here is how EVERYONE REALLY LOOKS (Except an eight-year-old anorexic girl): Every woman has one or two or more "muffin tops" (not just the Walmart People). Every woman has some kind of protruding stomach — unless she has been on a 20-day kale juice cleanse. Every woman has ripples and dents on the back of her thighs (even JayLo has ass creases dripping down to her knees). Every woman has a "camel toe" — and most new "crotch concealing" thong underwear can never fix that issue.

And men don't get a break in this athleisure phase either. They actually look worse. Yes, their suits have gotten tighter (thank you, Thom Browne for making men look like Pee Wee Herman). But actually it is the baggie "crotch-to-knee" basketball shorts (cargo pants should be outlawed), the tank tops with armholes to the waist and please stop already with the day-glo sneakers. This visual has nothing to do with being a Clipper team player. This is still the influence from prison wear and street gangs. Why doesn't Bill Cunningham photograph the "Crips" and the "Bloods" and go to "the hoods" already for real fashion street wear?
So whether it is leggings or jeggings or baggies or crop cargos it is all a nightmare. This isn't "comfort wear.”This is almost bad pajamas ... and I love my pajamas worn for my "driveway appearances.” But as real clothes?! Favorite designer Isaac Mizrahi keeps calling his successful QVC line "Sport Luxe." His "24/7" Spandex pants are sold out constantly. Actually all these are merely leaner "pull-on" elastic-waisted "mommie jeans." Certainly he nailed it for his market!!!
Yours for only $53.67!
MY question remains: Can't we all do and look better than this? How can we rescue ourselves from the fashion SLOB brink? Look at the recent red carpet event at the elaborate Met Costume Ball. So much bad nude body netting and visual showboating in desperation. Next year Kim Kardashian and Kanye West should just come totally naked and call it a day. I am sure Anna Wintour would approve and the viewing public can continue feeling bored and disconnected.
I actually preferred the recent FLO hat luncheon in Central Park. At least the ladies looked classy and appropriate and truly creative. And it seemed and looked so festive! No leggings there. Maybe a few dangerously bare arms (bare arms are another controversial area) But let those ladies have that level of exposure. After all Mamie Eisenhower went brazenly and innocently strapless to all her formals for years and we kind of got off on it.
Perhaps the only ones allowed to get away with true "Sport Luxe" is Fidel Castro who has been in army fatigues and now velour jogging suits for the last 60 years. And then there is Hugh Hefner donned in his satin pajamas. In the end these men deserve a Fashion Pass and praise for being ahead of the times!
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