Last week my post on tights not being pants, quite unexpectedly, went viral. It included a photo that I took of a woman wearing a pair of tights as pants and an “Am I wearing pants?” flow chart, that I had not hand in creating, that speaks to the nature of leggings and how they should be worn. Not only was I shocked when this this post went viral, getting more hits in a day than my blog got all of last month, but was even more shocked by the comments some people posted, telling me things like my post was slut-shaming, un-Christ-like (P.S. I am a long lapsed Catholic and don’t consider myself a Christian), and that I had no right to tell people what to wear. Seeing that my post simply advised that a pair of tights aren’t pants and the woman I saw wearing them as such was walking around half naked, I was surprised by these types reactions. Of course, others totally got my point and saw the humor in what I wrote.
The viral nature of this tights are not pants post that I wrote has now tempered, yet the conversation of see through leggings, yoga pants and tights continues to be a hot topic. After Lululemon’s horrific PR blunder when the company’s founder, Chip Wilson, was asked on Bloomberg TV to address the technical fabric mistakes found in their popular yoga pants that caused pilling and sheerness saying that Lululemon pants don’t work for some women’s bodies, there has been a tremendous backlash and the feeling that Chris Wilson’s comments were fat-shaming and trying to push one body form. Since then Chip Wilson has offered an apology on YouTube and the company’s Facebook page, which fell flat with women. I have to agree, the apology was pretty useless.
Yet, having personally watched the Bloomberg TV interview numerous times (especially now that I am forever associated with my thoughts on tights and leggings) and reading a few articles about this Lululemon PR nightmare, I am having a hard time understanding why his comments were blown so far out of proportion and why women are so upset over what he said.
Let me be clear on where I personally stand with Lululemon. The company lost me as a customer several years ago when I went in to purchase a sportsbra. As an avid Bikram yoga practitioner at the time I had been a pretty loyal customer, purchasing their shorts for their wickability and the fact that I could sweat profusely during a 90 minute bikram class and feel less disgusting. However, having a naturally large chest I was totally bummed out when the store only had one sportsbra style at the time that actually fit my 34G chest. It was an ugly style called the Ta-Ta Tamer that came in black and maybe one other putrid color and was completely of of the norm from their other happy, bright and cool styles. Out of desperation, I purchased the sportsbra and wore it. Even though I took care of it properly, and followed the care instructions on the label, the clasps of the sportsbra rusted and fell off after only a few wears. It seems I’m not the only one who had this problem. So not only was Lululemon unable to service me as a customer because of my body shape but they sold me a mediocre product. I have never been in a Lululemon since and I refuse to shop there. But did I take it personally that the clothing wasn’t right for my body? No. Sure, I was frustrated that the company seemed to neglect my body but they certainly weren’t the first clothing company to do this to me. Side note: One day I am going to create a sportsbra company for women with large chests.
Even though my chest is way too big to be able to wear Lululemon’s sportsbras, along with many of their other tops, I still have a hard time understanding why everyone is so up in arms about this whole see-through yoga pants controversy. In fact, given my experience, I wasn’t so much offended by Chip Wilson’s comment that the yoga pants don’t work for some women’s bodies as I was when he said “even our small sizes would fit an extra large.” This seemed like more of an outrageous claim and a total lie more worthy of calling him out for saying. How is this remotely possible?
However, I think part of the outrage has been caused by the expectation of the clothing. Quotes from women in a Chicago Tribune article about these pants had me a little surprised and made me wonder just how fragile the egos of most women are when a company offers clothing that may not work for their bodies. Have we really put our self esteem so deeply in the hands of companies that manufacture clothes?
In addition, watching the entire interview, what Chip Wilson said about the pants was that some women don’t wear them properly, saying that the rubbing of seat belts and handbags could be part of what is causing the pilling problem, in addition to thigh rubbing and saying that the see-through nature of the fabric can be caused by pressure. Having naturally large thighs, in addition to a naturally large chest, I really didn’t take offense to the comment like some women did. There are a lot of things I can’t wear well because of my body shape and many brands whose pants don’t fit me because of how I am built. I don’t take it personally and if I can’t wear a pair of Lululemon pants because my bulbous thighs, well, I’ll just go and spend my money somewhere else. It’s that easy.
What about you? Were you offended by the Lululemon see-through yoga pants controversy?
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We are not blowing this out of proportion. I think the reason people expect more from Lululemon clothing than they deliver is because of the insanely high prices they charge. In addition, I heard almost nothing about the actual interview you reference in this post, and mainly heard outrage from women about his 2009 assertion that women brought breast cancer on themselves by smoking and taking birth control pills in order to be more like men in the workforce. And therefore yoga became popular to reduce stress (and implicitly, the cancer we caused), and therefore his company swooped in to make as much money as possible off those stupid, mannish career girls.
I hear what you are saying but just because a company’s clothing is expensive are we to expect that they fit everyone? But from what you are saying, expensive designer clothing, which is much more expensive than Lululemon should fit everyone as well simply because it is expensive. However, designer clothing, which typically runs incredibly small and doesn’t come in plus size, fits very few women.
In regards to what you are saying about this company swooping in and capitalizing on the benefits of yoga, they’re not the only company out there that offers clothing for people who do yoga. There are plenty of alternatives out there that are far less expensive. The beauty of the practice is that you can wear anything and you don’t have to wear Lululemon clothing. In fact, Lululemon is sort of the antitheses of what yoga is based upon. Yet, do we blame the company for women drinking the Lululemon Kool-Aid and losing sight of the practice and instead wearing their product because it is trendy? It just seems silly to put all the blame on the company itself when the popularity has come from women wanting more to impress other women in their overly priced exercise clothing.
I think this more about context than anything else. There’s been so much emphasis on having a thigh gap lately and this is just one more reminder of how difficult it is to find pants (even stretchy lycra pants!) if your thighs are bigger.
Agree. I think it’s a lot of misplaced anger and frustration and this was an easy target.
I have the body shape they are marketing towards but I won’t buy their clothing because the quality is terrible, especially for the price. (I’m also not a big fan of their palette). The things I read from his interview made me think of a defensive child caught doing something wrong. He refused to acknowledge the problems are real and tried to redirect attention by insulting the complainers. It might be that people are blowing things out of proportion, though. The best response to such childishness is simply to stop giving him our attention…. And our money. We don’t need to rant and rave as well.
Athleta, Lucy, and even Target all have sold me attractive flattering clothes that have stood up to my rigorous workouts far better than the one pair of Lululemon pants I own.
Totally agree, which was my experience with Lululemon as well.
I don’t think it’s blown out of proportion at all. I agree with Becky, instead of addressing real problems with quality, he tried to push the problem onto the customer for not having the right body type or for wearing the garment inappropriately. Please. The deterioration in Lululemon’s quality has been noticeable to those who have been wearing their items for years, and the see-through pants, especially at the prices they charge, are completely unacceptable.
I have a few of their skorts that are good for tennis because the inner shorts stay put, but I won’t be buying any more Lululemon clothing. I may have their target body size, but their attitude towards larger women (who also need exercise clothing), their unbelievably limited return policy, and their latest “it’s the women’s body that’s causing the problem” mistake is enough to send me back to Athleta and Target. Athleta stocks a wider range of sizes at a better price point, with a much more generous return policy.
If Chip Wilson was really trying to blame seat belts and handbags for wear problems with Lululemon items, he needs to get his hands on whatever they use at Target. That stuff is practically bomb-proof, at a fraction of the cost.
It definitely don’t disagree with your points. As you know from this post, I gave up on them years ago when they not only couldn’t give me product for my body but when their clothing fell apart on me.
Here’s the thing — when you are overweight (or as you found when you’re large-chested, just a non-expected shape) it can feel like the deck is massively stacked against you. I’m not even particularly fat I’m just a big person and we all know that big and strong is the last thing women ought to appear as in our society where we ought to be dainty and take up minimal space and not offend the men…anyway. Some companies just go on quietly being exclusionary, quietly making their tiny clothes but they’re not up grandstanding about it, and I just don’t shop there. But when executives come out like the jerk at Abercrombie and the jerk at Lululemon and basically show off the fact that they want to make people feel excluded and like their bodies are wrong, they deserve a smackdown. Because it’s one of those things that shouldn’t be socially acceptable to crow about and that kind of obvious, exclusionary behavior should not be rewarded.
Is the problem the quality, or the fact that some women were buying pants that were too small? I think that suggestion is what offended women. Just like the “what’s your excuse?” mom. Google her if you haven’t heard about her, but basically it’s a photo of a super fit woman with her three young kids and the caption, “What’s your excuse?” She meant it to be motivational, but instead it had thousands of women in a ridiculously defensive uproar.
Here’s the thing – I don’t buy Lululemon clothing. I wear old sports bras I bought from Target five years ago that are still going strong, and Chip Wilson doesn’t sound like the type of person I’d like to financially support. But maybe the problem is the quality of his clothes. Maybe it’s the fact that women were buying the wrong size. Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t provide size appropriate clothing for certain body types, or maybe it’s all of the above. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? If women showed themselves just a modicum of the love and respect they deserve (the love that they, for some completely inexplicable reason, keep asking for from CEOs of multi-million dollar clothing companies), they wouldn’t get defensive. They’d either be working towards achieving the body they want, or they’d own the one they have and support companies that support them.
Ultimately ladies, those are your two options. And they’re both pretty good ones. So pick one, and move on. If we all did this, the Chip Wilsons of corporate America wouldn’t survive.
Well, I found your site because of your viral post, and now it is one of my bookmarked sites. I enjoy reading your posts, thanks!
Yes, I think it is way blown out of proportion but then again, I’m a fit gal who has never had a weight problem and kind of feel like I have no right to complain about anything. It sounds like the CEO made an ignorant comment trying to cover up the fact that his overpriced products are not made well. Pilling and sheering of $100 yoga pants when I have exactly zero problems with my $10 Old Navy leggings, coupled with bra clasps that rust and fall off within weeks insure that I will never purchase anything bearing the name “lululemon”. Thanks for the post (and also the pants flowchart XD).
The best sports bras ever – Title Nine. Designed by active women for active women. Amazing variety to suit every shape and seriously supportive!
Also? These pants weren’t made for everyday use, as women are wearing them, but for actually exercising in! That could definitely contribute to the wear issue.