Why Dressing in Leggings Helps Me Feel Empowered


(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols)

At the end of last year, I spent four days near Malibu for a fitness retreat with The Ranch 4.0. While many of the guests there had hopped on planes to L.A. from all over the place for the benefits of its legendary workout program and organic vegan detox—and you can bet I was excited to dive into the wellness side of things, too—I was really there to test-drive some activewear. With eight hours of workouts a day (yes, you read that right), including daily 12-mile hikes followed by yoga and circuit training, there was no shortage of time to put some items to the test IRL.

Before beginning the program, I had heard that it was pretty grueling, and I wanted to make sure that the pieces I was wearing would measure up. There were 5:00 a.m. wake-up calls followed by morning stretches, those aforementioned 4-hour hikes, and gym time logging hours of burpees and squats. But for as intense as the workouts were, it was also a luxe experience. The program is based at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village which has its own wellness center, so medical testing and cooking classes and also incorporated into the experience. And all of the hikes were nestled in the hillsides of Malibu and Topanga Canyon which are some of the most beautiful places I've even gotten my sweat on in a pair of leggings.

It was great figuring out which pieces both looked cool and stood up to hours of cardio, and I quickly narrowed in on the items that did. Notably, it was the coordinating crop tops and leggings from Girlfriend Collective, Nike, and Outdoor Voices that passed the test and have since become staples in my workout regimen. But beyond that, the trip completely changed my thoughts on leggings. Sure, I wear leggings all of the time—whether it’s to a dance class or just to throw on to grab coffee on the weekend. They’re really a functional piece of my wardrobe, but it wasn’t until I went on this retreat that I realized how empowered leggings really make me feel.


(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols)

A glimpse inside the lunch spot at The Ranch, where gourmet vegan meals are served.

After climbing to the top of a cliffside in Malibu, I stood there looking over the Pacific Ocean below and remember thinking how proud I was of making it that far and how strong and powerful I felt. And it was the leggings I was wearing that allowed me to move around unencumbered and to hike for hours with ease and make it to the top of that cliff. No bulky layers, no unbreathable pieces, beads of sweat quickly slicked away.

Now, this is in stark contrast to an opinion piece on yoga pants that came out earlier this year. It argued that leggings are too "sexy" and "bad for women," and it quickly became a point of discussion in the Who What Wear office. And here's my take: While I'm not going to tell anyone they must wear leggings, I will argue that they can if they want to—and I hope they feel as empowered as I do when they put them on.


(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols)

Here I am standing on the top of a cliffside in Malibu after an hours-long hike.

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Associate Director, Special Projects

Kristen Nichols is the Associate Director, Special Projects at Who What Wear with over a decade of experience in fashion, editorial, and publishing. She oversees luxury content and wedding features, and covers fashion within the luxury market, runway reporting, shopping features, trends, and interviews with leading industry experts. She also contributes to podcast recordings, social media, and branded content initiatives. Kristen has worked with brands including Prada, Chanel, MyTheresa, and Luisa Via Roma, and rising designers such as Refine and Tove, and her style has been featured in publications including Vogue.com, Vogue France, WWD, and the CFDA. Before Who What Wear, Kristen began her career at Rodarte, where she worked on assistant styling, photo shoots, and runway shows, and at Allure, where she moved into print and digital editorial. She graduated from the University of Southern California, where she studied art history and business, and currently lives in New York.