by Ranim Elborai

‘Tis the season people. And that mainly means terrible Christmas music is playing everywhere, non-stop.

It also means that it’s time to bundle up good.

Although many women swear by it, I really dislike layering on the bottom. Wearing tights under leggings or trousers just makes me feel like the Michelin Woman.

images-1Photo credit goes to this guy.

During the coldest days of winter, while women everywhere pile on jeans over tights and double sock their feet, I pretend that my legs aren’t cold at all. Having lived a lie for many years, I eventually managed to fool myself into thinking that my legs aren’t susceptible to the  cold.

But yesterday, that house of cards tumbled.

I’d like to share a gem I happened upon yesterday in Primark of all places.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Primark is an Irish mega-retailer (a.k.a. Penny’s over there) with massive stores all over Europe. It operates at the budget end of the end of the apparel market, a tiny notch below stores such as Mango and Forever 21.

British shoppers love them some Primark. If you happen to be anywhere within a 2-mile radius of a Primark, you will encounter hordes of satisfied shoppers laden with massive paper bags. And they will all be flush with the success of having restocked their entire wardrobe for the season with an outlay of a mere £178.

Slashing prices so low means that some corners have to be cut, so I would’t head over there with a purchase of lasting quality in mind. But it is probably a good place to test-run a trendy look you’re not quite ready to invest so much money in.

2695484_Image6Apropos fashion’s current fascination with fuzz, here is a white sweater from Primark that I may have to buy. You know, to see how I feel about fuzz. Image from Aida Domenech’s Lookbook.

It is also undoubtedly the place to go for silly novelty apparel that you really should not be spending money on. I’m looking at you adult floofy animal onesie.

imagesNow, I’m no farm animal expert, but I didn’t think pigs had those kind of feet.

Except that it’s a zoo in there. Inside a Primark, every day is day one of a Harrod’s giant seasonal sale. Shoppers hunting for a bargain just cannot stay away. Mustering the energy to weave through both the pulsing crowd and the mountains of clothes is something I can manage only once a year.a

Yesterday I completed my annual pilgrimage through the horrors of Primark’s aisles.

Today I write to you from the comfort of Primark’s Velvet Plush Leggings.b

Let’s talk leggings.

Sometime around 2005, a pair of Danskin leggings became an indispensable part of my wardrobe. In winters, I used to wear them with baggy sweaters and vintage boots that reached mid calf. In the summers, I wore them with oversized tops and ballet flats. It was an easy go-to look that was both comfortable and flattering (or so I hoped). When the first pair of Danskins began to look a little less than pristine, I retired them for gym use and bought two more pairs that also saw a lot of wear.

8825_1150838970326_4753436_nThe author makes a cameo appearance on her own blog! Wearing my trusty Danskins, a little worse for wear at this point. As you can see, I feel very awkward when people snap photos of me.

But then the teeny dance shop that stocked the durable Danskin leggings up and closed. I was inconsolable. Not to mention idiotic, because this point the realisation that you could still order them online had yet to dawn on me.

What would I do for those days when I was too lazy to come up with an outfit? Or those days when I felt too fat to deal with unyielding, soul-crushing, muffin-topping denim waistbands?

All the leggings other brands stocked were of an inferior quality: they were made with cheap material that either quickly stretched out of shape, or sprung holes in the seams. Or afflicted you with the worst legging catastrophe any self-respecting woman feared — that the leggings you purchased to wear in public are giving every Tom, Dick and Harry on the street a free peep show.

While many onlookers may cheer the prospect of sheer yoga pants, I believe I’m not wrong when I emphatically declare most women are not keen on unwittingly flashing the masses.

Just ask Lululemon Athletica about it. Once high-end activewear’s darling, this company had the gall to sell a pair of US $98 pair of yoga pants that proved to be lacking in *ahem* coverage. Outrage ensued, refunds were demanded, the product was pulled off the shelf, and share prices kept (keep?) plummeting.

lululemon_pants_flickr_lululemon_athletica_iAre your ridiculously expensive yoga pants giving your workout buddies more information than they need? Image from The Active Times.

I retired the legging look for good, although every once in a while I test-drive a new pair, in the hopes that they can fill my Danskins’ shoes.

Today, it’s these Primark leggings.

I stumbled upon them completely by chance. On the outside they look like any other pair of generic packaged leggings — made of something like Lycra, but not quite Lycra, with a minor shine to them. Pretty average really.

But then I took  a peek on the inside of this seemingly innocuous product.

And I found fluff.

Glorious, warming fluff.

The material, dubbed “plush velvet,” is similar to what you’d find on a hideous blanket your well-meaning mother bought for you from Bed Bath & Beyond. This blanket, hideous, yet warming, quickly becomes your household’s TV-watching-blankie of choice. And every house has one of those.

Well, I’m currently wearing such a blankie ON MY LEGS.

labimg_640_20130717-185247The Primark leggings are similar to these, except black and a little less expensive. Photo credit: ModernMummyMayhem.

Now, thanks to these ridiculously fluffy leggings, those days when I stoically ignored how cold my bottom half got are  behind me.

Except on the days when I feel like wearing jeans. Which is most days.

Still, I now have a portable leg blanket, and I’m not afraid to use it.


1) At £6 a pop, these “plush velvet” leggings are very cheap.

2) They are very warm.

3) They are delightfully fluffy.

4) And they are most definitely opaque. I triple-checked this morning.


1) If your nails are at all jagged, the outer material will catch and cause a thread to unfurl. This is easily corrected by snipping the thread but leads me to believe that these babies will have a pretty limited shelf-life.

2) They have to be hand-washed, which is lame. I seriously never hand-wash anything, and always admire anyone who has the patience to indulge in this seriously outdated cleaning ritual. But I guess I have to start hand-washing some time.

3) They don’t have that body shaping quality whereby they compress your thighs, making them appear thinner than they actually are. So, if you are not pleased with the state of your undercarriage, I suggest you try Spanx’s structured leggings. They are a whole lot more expensive, but are warm, flattering, and unlike Lululemon’s wares, I can attest personally to the integrity of this company’s product quality.

Verdict: I will be going to buy two more pairs of these leggings — one for my mom and one for my sis. And sooner rather than later; the lady at the checkout counter assured me they always run out of them as soon as a cold snap comes in.

  1. Word to the wise: avoid the flagship Primark store on Oxford Street at all costs. Weekdays are better than weekends, early afternoon or late in the morning — weekends are never, ever a good time to be out in London’s main shopping concourses.  (back)
  2. I have always harboured some confusion in my mind as to the demarcation between tights and leggings. In the UK leggings are the footless variant that can be worn instead of trousers, whereas tights, and their flimsier cousin, the nylon, are what one wears underneath skirts and dresses. Or so these women claim. In the US, leggings are called tights, and tights and nylons are called pantyhose, opaque and sheer respectively. Yes, my men-friends, it is confusing indeed.  (back)