Are yoga pants really pants?

Yoga pants—that is, leggings but with a higher waist and made of thicker material than actual leggings (sometimes, but not necessarily, with a little flare at the ankle)—are garments that have become a thing, especially during pandemic lockdowns of joy. Wear.

Prioritizing both convenience and movement, they let us have our cake and snacked on it at home as well. It’s no wonder that, given the focus on health and wellness and the day we increasingly wear them, they’ve become an essential part of many wardrobes.

But as the return to work has gained at least some traction, the debate over the actual “pants” of yoga pants has grown. Are they eligible or not? This is partly why they are sometimes called “neck leggings” or “flagging leggings” rather than “yoga pants.” By borrowing the language of the pants, they come close to this category.

But let’s be honest: yoga pants aren’t pants. Pants exist to reshape the body in some way. To adapt it into a different silhouette—straighter, longer, and flowing—in the eyes of the viewing world. To provide a modicum of social protection or camouflage. Yoga pants, on the other hand, are all about revealing the body in some of its glory. Exposing a dead body in the workplace or on the street is a complex decision.

Fortunately, said stylist Tina Chai, there’s a middle ground. First, try to understand what exactly you like most about your yoga pants. Is it the expansion component? elastic waist? The fact that they sit close to the legs but not constrict them? The way they advertise your exercise regimen to the world? Then decide which of these values ​​is most important. Most likely, there is a real alternative.

In fact, the Italian brand name Hi sport He pretty much made his name by offering expensive stretchy pants with a bit of a flare. (They’re called kick pants.) They’re made from a technical fabric and derived from the same genetic material as yoga pants.

Not to be outdone, like brands Aloo Yoga They’ve expanded their offering to include pant-like styles that nonetheless share many qualities with yoga pants (and are more affordable than the High Sport versions).

Wherever you shop, Ms. Chai advised, look for “easy-on pants—no buttons or zippers.” Next, she said, go for a “tightly woven knit that’s compressive so that it gives the pants structure, which makes them flattering, but with a bit of stretch, which makes them snug.”

Finally, for some design oomph, she suggests pairing your yoga pants with a blouse or jacket in the same color for a monochromatic look. “It can take you from the office to a party or a plane, all with a change of shoes,” she said. And maybe a sun salutation or two.

Each week on Open Thread, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can submit to her anytime via e-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.