Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yoga pants with that extra... nothing

HALLIE EPHRON: To show you how clueless I am about designer yoga wear, when I first read the brand name Lululemon I thought it was pronounced Lu-LU-luh-mon and most likely was a reggae group. Still the news article about their see-through Yoga pants caught my attention.

I thought: Wow, niche market.

I posted something about it on Facebook and before you can say Bob's your uncle, got a call from Amy Mackinnon, editor at our regional Patriot Ledger, asking if I wanted to write an op ed piece about it.

And here, dear Reds, is the result.

At a time when we have far weightier matters to consider -- such as when Twinkies will be back on store shelves -- comes the news of a major product recall. Lululemon has discovered that some of its yoga pants are experiencing a "sheerness issue."

They look just fine in the store. But put them on and do the downward facing dog, and anyone standing behind you can see all the way to Florida (to quote Carrie Fisher on a similarly problematic though not transparent metal bikini).

Looking on the bright side, maybe this will lead to a new yoga pose -- the one you have to assume in order to tell if your wardrobe is malfunctioning.

Who says Canadians don't have a sense of humor? To a customer who wondered whether the defective pants were still in stores, the Vancouver-based company's tweet offered this: "Anything potentially affected has been removed until we asses [sic] them and are confident they are to our standard." One could almost hear the keyboard snickering.

Even Reuters got in on the act with the headline: "Lululemon stock drops as yoga pants expose problem."

No, this is not in the same league with the 1.5 million Ford Pintos recalled in 1978 because their fuel tanks had a tendency to burst into flames on impact. Or the 730,000 packages of Pop-Tarts recalled in 2002 because they contained undeclared egg.

But it's no joke for Lululemon Athletica, Inc. With the recall affecting 17% of their women’s pants and crop pants (according to the Los Angles Times), the company lowered sales expectations. They warned customers that their basic black luon yoga pant, the little black designer dress of the yoga world, will be in short supply for a while at least.

If you're like me you are probably wondering what's luon? What's the deal with yoga pants? And don't these people wear underwear?

Yoga pants -- stretchy pants that don't get in the way when you're trying to perform the Lotus or Heron or Dolphin pose -- have been around for years. Just as there were bikes long before there were pedal pushers, people have been doing yoga a whole lot longer than there have been special pants to do it in.

Lots of companies make them, but the ones from Lululemon are considered the creme de la creme for suburban fashionistas. They retail for almost a hundred dollars and can be found in their own special stores like the one at Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham, four doors down from Whole Foods.

Look up LUON and all roads lead to Lululemon. It's their trademark fabric. Approximately seven parts nylon to one part LYCRA, business articles call it the company's "secret sauce." And no, it's not supposed to be transparent when stretched.

The whole flap took me back to a day in junior high when I wore a pair of white capri pants to school. After the third person said something to me about Lollipop underwear, I realized I was experiencing a "sheerness issue." If there had been someone I could have sued for sheer humiliation, I would have.

But I don't think Lululemon needs to worry about lawsuits. They are making super it easy to return the see-through goods. As they tweeted to one customer: "We're happy to return anything that is sheer. We don't require our guests to be in the garment to make the return." That news must have come as a relief.

So I'm wondering, how many customers are hanging onto their pair of defective yoga pants, hoping it turns into a rare, hard to find must-have like the 1965 Beatles For Sale album with a printing error on the cover?

When my daughter posted on Facebook, "Darn it! I totally wanted transparent yoga pants!" a dozen of her friends piled on. Still, when I went to eBay, looking to score a pair of semi-transparent (when you bend over) Lulemon yoga pants, none turned up. 

I'll check back In a few months when snow will be gone, Twinkies and Lululemon black luan yoga pants will be back on store shelves, and we'll be ready for our next disaster of comparably epic proportions.

 Anyone willing to share their wardrobe malfunctions of the past? Here's your chance!


  1. Oh, too funny, Hallie! I'll bet they do become collector's items. As for me, I shudder to think what I'd look like in yoga pants that stretchy, much less transparent ones...

    In the UK, the similar company is Sweaty Betty. I think Lululemon is much more appealing.

    Wardrobe disasters? Remember those long crinkley skirts? Nothing more embarrassing than catching the skirt in the back or your undies when you've been to the bathroom, then walking out into a restaurant and wondering why people are staring at you and tittering. Fortunately, the undies were NOT transparent...

  2. Well, I’d seen the Lululemon name here and there but, until this little teapot tempest was stirred up, I thought Lululemon was a children’s clothing company . . . . I heard this yoga pants material issue [mentioned briefly] on the news and was rather nonplussed about the whole thing until I read your piece in the “Patriot Ledger” and looked the company up . . . . Who knew the cost of exercise clothing could rival the national debt? I mean, $108.00 for track pants? Really? . . . .

  3. Debs - I DO remember those skirts! How embarrassing...

    And the circle skirts that a gust of wind could send up around your shoulders. A Marilyn Monroe moment.

  4. I bought a pair of Lululemon low rise underwear once.
    I'm not sure why, but probably because the material was soft and I had low rise yoga pants.

    The underwear was too stretchy and I guess too big.
    Because one spring day, when I was walking down a busy Manhattan street, they fell down.

    Did I mention I was wearing a skirt?
    I didn't know what to do, so I stepped out of the underwear and kept walking.

  5. My dear friend who teaches Yoga and gets her yoga pants at Marshalls says they're known for being super durable. So this isn't a publicity stunt, which was my first thought. Last year they had a problem with bleeding dye, especially in hot pink tops. Manufactured in Taiwan and Vietnam, though at that price you'd think they could be made in the USA.

  6. Shizuka, what total class!!!! You so rock!

  7. Shizuka, that's HILARIOUS! Talk about aplomb.

    She turns around, puts her finger to her chin, "Oh. Did I do that." Scoops it up and keeps on truckin'.

    Put it in a book and I'm not sure anyone would believe it.

  8. Joan, that was my thought. A hundred dollars for exercise pants? Can't you pick up pretty much the same thing for fifteen bucks at Target?

    But of course, women aren't buying yoga pants, really. They're buying an aspirational lifestyle prop. Which is why, I think, it's gotten so much press. It's left the whole Park Slope Mommy brigade with their... aspirations hanging out.

    Ross just left the house for work. He said, "I look forward to seeing your lululemons when I get home!"

  9. After we agreed at dinner to further our relationship, I left the young lady in the car to buy a few things in the drug store. Upon returning, I complained how uncomfortable everyone had made me feel -- including giggling and blushing by the young cashier.
    My friend said, "That's because your zipper's down."

  10. And THIS is why yoga pants don't have zippers.

  11. I did one year as a teenager insist on a white bikini. It was fine until you got wet--then it showed ALL your assets.

    Shizuka, my father had an episode like that. His underwear had gotten caught up in his pants leg. Dropped out on the street where he was meeting a friend. He did exactly what you did, scooped them up and kept on trucking.

  12. I've had a sock fall out of my pant leg, but never a pair of undies.

  13. and now I have the giggles.

    I'm about to put on my cheap (I love T.J. Maxx!) black non-sheer yoga pants (the most comfortable pants on God's green earth - I live in them, day and night) and hit the gym.

    And hopefully, if I do have a wardrobe malfunction of some sort, I can do it with as much style and grace as you guys.

  14. I thought lululemon was a character on "30 Rock" when I first heard it.

    I'm with Kaye and Julia. If I can't get it at TJs or Target I don't get it. Okay, sometimes I can find things at a consignment shop but I hardly ever pay full price. Hey, I'm retired and on fixed income!

    Other than the skirt on the panty hose or trailing some toilet paper on my shoe I'm never experienced a wardrobe malfunction. Unless I was so embarrassed I've put it out of my mind forever.

  15. I thought Shizuka just kept walking...even better!

    I've had wraparound clothing unwrap when it wasn't supposed to. I fear I showed some serious side-boob.
    My fave thing about this post though is Julia's comment re aspirational lifestyle props. Uh-oh, do I need to rethink everything I own??

  16. I agree, Ro -- I'm already calling them ASPs... (they bite us in the ego)

  17. Ro, I think your clothing reflects your actual life, not what you want people to THINK is your life.

    Also I laughed five minutes straight at Jack's story. That may have to go into one of our books.

  18. I just got a text from Ross: "Where can I buy lululemons locally? Cause you deserve something nice."

    So obvs. see-through yoga pants aren't a problem for everyone.

  19. Ro,
    I, too, had a fiasco with a wraparound Danskin skirt I was wearing waitresseing at the Eliot Lounge during college It unwrapped, right there with me with a tray of drinks in my hand. Thank god it was crowded and I moved fast.

    I have to admit to owning at least four pairs of Lulemon yoga pants. They are more durable than the cheapies I also buy - and although it's crazy to spend $90 on yoga pants - they do get more wear in my life than an expensive cocktail dress, so it actually makes sense if you are in SUPREME justification mode.

    It's fascinating as a business story because Lululemon's whole thing is durability.

  20. Ro,
    I, too, had a fiasco with a wraparound Danskin skirt I was wearing waitresseing at the Eliot Lounge during college It unwrapped, right there with me with a tray of drinks in my hand. Thank god it was crowded and I moved fast.

    I have to admit to owning at least four pairs of Lulemon yoga pants. They are more durable than the cheapies I also buy - and although it's crazy to spend $90 on yoga pants - they do get more wear in my life than an expensive cocktail dress, so it actually makes sense if you are in SUPREME justification mode.

    It's fascinating as a business story because Lululemon's whole thing is durability.

  21. Wardrobe malfunction? The only one that comes to mind is the time I put a pantiliner on upside down (I was in a hurry.) Of course, no one knew it but me.

    My yoga pants are baggy old sweats. Perhaps if I went to some fancy special purpose yoga academy, I might have to splurge on $15 pants, but at the Parks and Rec class, no one cares.

  22. Great piece, Hallie. I've never worn yoga pants but I have worn bathing suits that become see-through as they get old and I only discover that by accident one day at the gym.

  23. Thanks for flagging the key issue, Hallie -- why such a universal absence of underwear on these poor Lululemon-clad women? Maybe I'm being too much of a lawyer here, but that's contributory negligence in my book.

    In junior high home ec I made a pair of culottes (remember culottes?) and proudly wore them to Sunday Mass. One of the side seams let go as I made my way up the center aisle to take communion. Talk about a lesson in the difference between basting and sewing . . .

  24. Oh, Brenda - on your way to take communion!? Talk about a bolt from the blue.

    And in JUNIOR HIGH? Amazing that you recovered.

  25. Believe me, it gave new meaning to the words "Let us pray."

  26. Well, mine is a little different. I was an underdeveloped 7th grader in junior high; wore a bra I didn't need, but wore it for social purposes--P.E. Back in the sixties these bras had no stretch to speak of. I was getting off the city bus after my school day and noticed my bra was now riding around my waist. The straps had slipped out of the buckles and down it went. To show you how pathetic it was, no one noticed!

  27. Julia, it sounds as though Ross has designs on your assets later.

    So far--hey, not dead yet--I've had all of the above except for losing my panties on a city street. Shizuka, you get the award for most poise! I also all-too-vividly remember a pair of runaway pantyhose during a wedding. By the time the happy couple was going up the aisle together my stockings were down around my knees.

    Remember the 80's and 90's, when we all wore shoulder pads? I had some great foam ones. Whenever there were the nasty, stiff pads in a garment I'd rip them out and use the soft, foam pads, which conformed better to shoulders. Well, one day I kept getting weird looks at a business function where I was the only woman. Later realized ONE (of course) of the foam pads had slipped down, and had created one giant boob.

    A friend also used them, and she worked selling ad time for a local TV station, which was also a male-centric field. One of her shoulder pads fell out altogether, onto the floor. One of her male colleagues pointed at it and said, very unsure, "What's THAT?" She said, "Oh, this?" picked it up, and shoved it back in place.

  28. Oh how I have laughed at these comments. My wardrobe malfunction involved a half-slip whose elastic
    gave way while I was shopping in an upscale supermarket. I kept hitching it up (discreetly, I hope!) trying to
    catch it in my skirt waistband. It finally gave way completely as i was on my way out, whereupon it just fell to the ground. I stepped out of it,
    scooped it up into my grocery bag and kept going. So much for discretion!

  29. LOL, Hallie! Like you, I wonder why no underwear.

    Julia, you're dead-on right with your "aspirational life props."

    Wardrobe malfunctions? My mother was tiny-breasted (a tiny woman) and used pads in her bras. Beck when I was a flat-chested pre-teen (those were the days!), I "borrowed" one of her bras to look grown-up at a local dance. One of the pads worked its way up and out and ended up sticking out through my open collar, as if a middle third breast.

  30. This is all so hilarious...

    Two things: I want yoga pants. Jan,can you help with this?

    ANd my worst WM? Ah...I wasdoing a story about osme swiming thing. I reazlized I had to get into the water, so I ran to the shop and grabbed a bathing suit.

    Very very demure one-piece, black with a horizontal yellow stripe right across the, um, middle of the front of the top.

    Got in the water. Did the standup. Photographer got it all on video.
    Went back to the station to view
    the results.

    Did you know yellow lycra becomes transparent in water? Yeah, I didn't either.

  31. Ah yes, I confess I DID use shoulder pads to stuff my bra. They worked better than kleenex.

    No one's mentioned the inverted bathing suit cup. Had to boink it out by sticking my finger inside. Surreptitiously.

    Ah the joys of being small on top.

  32. Love it, Hank.
    Talk about strategic placement!

  33. A friend once picked me up at the Seattle airport, laughing hysterically. She had stopped at the ladies room first, and then power walked over to the security line where passengers were arriving.

    Someone had run after her, all through the airport, to let her know, stuck in the waistband of her slacks, she was trailing a 15-foot tail of toilet paper behind her.

  34. I just kept walking. I decided to go with a "Who me? No, that's not my underwear" attitude.

    But I think Hank's beats mine.
    Nothing like a on-air wardrobe malfunction.

    BTW: Lucy yoga pants are amazing. Not transparent at all and strategically seamed.

  35. Okay, Hallie... I cannot stop laughing. Have peed my yoga pants twice since starting to read it. Will finish later when my keyboard stops snickering! xoxo

  36. Y'all have made my day. I thank each of you for allowing me to laugh out loud to the point both dogs came to see if I am OK.

  37. OK... I am back and laughing so hard I can't get through the comments!

  38. Hank,
    I will take you for yoga pants. The craziest thing about Lulemon is that that actually hem them for you.
    So the first pair my daughter bought for me from my husband.

    When my husband asked why I wasn't wearing them, I said they were at their tailor being hemmed.

    He said: Your WORKOUT PANTS are at the tailor being hemmed?

    I said, YES, it all makes total sense (but only if you are in supreme justification mode)

  39. Oh, SO funny, Jan! And I LIVE in supreme justification mode.

    Can't wait! Thank you!


  40. I returned from a long day of classes when I was in college. I reached for something-- and felt a breeze -- somehow the sleeve of my favorite dress (this was in the sixties and we were required to wear dresses to class) had practically detached itself away from the dress at the shoulder seam at some point during the day. At least I had shaved under my arms.

    Brenda...I like your legal comment!

    I wear discount store clothes to the gym. They hold up pretty well. Like many here, I only heard of Lululemon when their problems hit the headlines. I think I'd be afraid to sweat in hundred dollar exercise clothing!

  41. My yoga pants are from Target, but I don't do yoga.

    The day my youngest daughter was graduating from high school -- in a white cotton dress -- she walked down the stairs, and her older sister said (and actually not in a mean way, just sort of matter-of-fact), "You know your dress is see-through, right?" MELTDOWN.

    On a blood-red note, google "Lululemon Bethesda Murder" -- I was living in an apartment across the street. It is a story you couldn't make up.

    In that same Bethesda neighborhood, we also had LUCY yoga clothes, which are adorable.

  42. Sigh, the first and original Lululemon is a couple blocks from me in Vancouver. Yep, I live in a neighbourhood full of people wearing yoga clothes on their way to and from yoga, hot yoga, pilates and so on.
    Me I go to the library and my in-the-house yoga pants were bought at a discount store.

    Back in the 1970's in the days of mom's wearing pantyhose and polyester. My mom left the house to go shopping with my aunt. It wasn't until they were home that my aunt pointed out that my mom and a pair of pantyhose dragging around after her, static clinging to the inside of one of the pant legs!

  43. Oh Gaylin… too funny! I have a similar story.

    When I was a 20-year-old newlywed, I had a 15-year-old stepson. We were at the supper table one night when he started to scratch under his arm. He looked up and said he was sorry, but something was making him itch terribly. He pulled his shirt collar forward and reached in under his arm. I could see a smile start to form on his face as he slowly pulled my bra out from under his shirt and said, "I don't think I'll be needing this. Thank you all the same."

  44. Have to wonder if the Zumba teacher slash prostitute wore Lululemons...

    Hilarious story, Reine!

    Oh, Denise Ann -- at her GRADUATION??!

  45. My grand daughter and I (I'm an old grandpa) were at Barnes and Noble for story hour the other day and one of the moms was wearing transparent yoga pants, a short shirt and tall heels. I learned they were transparent when she bent over in front of me to give her daughter the cup of crayons. It didn't seem totally appropriate wear for a bookstore, but hey, I may be 62 but I'm still fully functional so if she needs to show it I guess I can make a sacrifice and take a quick, hopefully discreet, peek....