Why I Won’t Wear Yoga Pants in Public

My daughter and I go to Whole Foods from time to time to get free samples of their deliciously overpriced fare. We go on weekdays in the morning, when other stay-at-home moms are out and about with their children. I usually don’t refer to myself as a stay-at-home mom; when people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I’m “taking a hiatus.” Now that hiatus may turn into 50 years of joblessness, but I don’t care.

I have issues with the term “stay-at-home mom.” When I hear it, visions of yoga pants dance in my head—and not in a good way. I’ve stereotyped my kind into two camps: the Lululemon Camp whose members fritter their days away between tennis lessons, barre class, and trips to gourmet grocery stores, and the Walmart Camp whose members, in between clipping coupons and adjusting their scrunchies, scream at their kids in public and look exhausted.

I’m not alone in this belief. Many people have cast stay-at-home moms as either spoiled and shallow or haggard and barely holding things together. Although these stereotypes are neither fair nor valid, they’re powerful enough for me to take an oath: I won’t wear yoga pants in public, unless I am actually working out.

In recent years, yoga pants have morphed from mere workout wear to a must-have lifestyle product, with top-notch brands like Lululemon seeing its $100+ versions flying off the shelves. Discount retailers like Target and Walmart offer their own affordable versions that attempt to replicate this trend, with varying levels of success.

Stacy London of TLC’s What Not to Wear and style correspondent for NBC’s Today Show says, “A pair of jeans with a zipper and a button takes a nanosecond longer, and it says, ‘Hey, I’m important too. It’s not just about my kids.’ You’re telling your kids you matter, and you’re setting yourself up as a role model for them—that you always need to have a certain amount of self-respect and put a certain amount of care into your appearance.”

Clothes do communicate something about who you are, intentional or not, fair or not. Yoga pants in public are so judged and unfairly associated with stay-at-home moms that I refuse to feed the stereotype, even if I partially believe it to be true.

About Lauren Rambo

Lauren Rambo is a wife, mom, and redheaded stepchild living in Louisville, Kentucky. She blogs at South by Style.

  • http://www.carisadel.com Caris Adel

    I’m trying to figure out what the point of this article is, besides admitting to believing in an unfair stereotype.

  • http://www.amusingmaralee.com Maralee

    Lauren, I’ve appreciated reading some of your posts in the past, but I think this is a misstep. While I am also a stay-at-home mom who chooses not to wear Yoga pants in public, I’m not sure it’s the right thing for us to do to publicly shame women who do by writing about how superior we are to them. Motherhood is a hard enough job without feeling judged in the Whole Foods for what pants we put on in the morning. It’s discouraging to me to run into this kind of an article where we women eat our own for not conforming to a certain beauty standard especially in a place called “Christ and Pop Culture”.
    And if you’re interested in improving the reputation of stay-at-home moms, you might have to start admitting you are one instead of acting like it’s beneath you. I am not nearly as concerned about the heart of the woman wearing Yoga pants as I am about the woman who unfairly stereotypes her sisters in Christ who have devoted their lives to the care of their children. Don’t be that guy, Lauren.

  • http://pekoponian.blogspot.com pekoponian

    Wow. I thought this was going to be about modesty.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    I think with the right rest-of-the-ensemble, yoga pants can be as valid a fashion choice as any and can transcend whatever the broader culture reads into yoga pants. I think if I were a woman, I would probably wear yoga pants from time to time. But just not the public pajama style that seems common in Starbucks on Saturdays mid-morning.

    Also, I think stay-at-home mom communicates differently probably according to region. I don’t think it’s read quite so unfairly here in Orange County and seems, generally, to be a pretty legitimate social choice. Although, here, because of cost of living, it may lean toward communicating affluence—just because it’s difficult to get by on a single income.

  • ESheen

    I did some research on your blog so I could understand you better as a person, Lauren, and to help me not write an angry comment. I think you have a snarky-but-funny tone on your blog, like a fun and fabulous trusted girlfriend that can get away with telling you not to wear something. Unfortunately here it just comes across as snarky- and pretentious, but maybe that’s because I’m from the midwest and I’ve never even heard of Lululemons. You also clearly appreciate fashion, and also appreciate other people expressing their unique style. So I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you intended to write an empowering, “Girls, ladies, you’re valuable, take time to dress nice!” type of message. However, in your eagerness to be understood and appreciated as more than “just a stay at home mom,” you alienated your audience and failed to appreciate and understand that other moms are more than just the type of pants they wear.

  • http://southbystyle.com Lauren Rambo

    Maralee and ESheen (and anyone else who felt the same way),

    I am truly sorry if this came off as pretentious or shaming to women. That is NEVER my intent. One of my pet peeves about evangelical culture is the shaming of women through the overdone modesty issue. Please accept my sincere apology if this was hurtful. It was intended just to be a personal essay about my hang-ups with the term “stay-at-home mom” and yoga pants. Clearly, it communicated something else.

  • http://www.amusingmaralee.com Maralee

    Thanks, Lauren. We all take a risk when we write that someone will read something different than what we intended. I appreciate you clarifying.

  • Kim

    When a woman is over 40, and she has a little extra in the middle, buttoning up a pair of jeans can be discouraging. Yoga pants, which are not nearly as baggy as sweatpants, feel much more comfortable around the waist.

    I’m thankful to God every day for the title “stay-at-home” mom; while wearing my yoga pants.

  • ESheen

    I appreciate it too, and I think I understand a little more that you are just struggling with your identity as a full-time mom, when there are so many ideas, images and expectations out there about what that really is, and some of them are unappealing. I certainly remember struggling to define that for myself.

  • http://FillingMyPatchOfSky.com Erin

    I am not a mom, but I work from home, and quite often I am in running pants. Sometimes I need to run out to the store, and I go in said pants because I do not want to bother going upstairs to change. Times like this, I pretend I am invisible, trusting that this is not the day someone is getting secret footage of me for What Not to Wear.

    That quote by Stacy London is so true—it doesn’t take more time to look put together, if you buy wisely. In the warmer months, I do not care for shorts, so I have several casual sundresses that are the stretchy, pull-over your head sort. No ironing and dressed in 2 minutes. When I wear them, I regularly get comments that I am “always so dressed up.” Makes me laugh b/c I just love the ease and comfort. Somehow we have equated workout wear with the most comfort, and I wonder if we now just have a soft-spot in our hearts for it? I am just as comfy in these sundresses, and it does look like I gave some effort.

  • http://www.lululemonsaleoutlet.com Lily

    I think stay-at-home mom communicates differently probably according to region. I don’t think it’s read quite so unfairly here in Orange County and seems, generally, to be a pretty legitimate social choice. Although, here, because of cost of living, it may lean toward communicating affluence—just because it’s difficult to get by on a single income.

  • jazi

    I don,t know why we should not wear yoga pants in public but my concern is that Are yoga pants comfortable? Of course they are. Do they make your ass look better? Duh … and women know this. Yes, we’re doing that for ourselves more than for men, but let’s not dumb this down and act like the thought never crosses our mind. It’s part of the reason we like wearing yoga pants, because they make us feel good.

    However, are they pants? Nope, still not pants. Of course Lululemon promotes wearing them as part of your everyday wear; they’re trying to sell product. Wearing yoga pants as leggings (socially acceptable) is not the same as wearing them as pants (sorry, not socially acceptable).
    Great post


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