Leggings have been touted on must-have lists as one of the surest ways for a woman to announce that she is acutely aware of this season's...

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Leggings have been touted on must-have lists as one of the surest ways for a woman to announce that she is acutely aware of this season’s fashion trends. They identify her as someone who keeps track of hemlines and silhouettes, probably has at least one subscription to a fashion magazine and may have, upon occasion, even put her name on a waiting list for a particularly desirable handbag.

The fashion industry desperately needs this trend-conscious shopper — even as it mocks her.

Leggings were revived about six months ago when designers debuted their fall collections. By August, stores were well stocked with leggings for fall. They were prominently featured on Saks’ “Want It!” list of items. Hue brand leggings were $18. At Barneys, one could buy $195 cashmere leggings.

And yet, one would have been hard-pressed to find a single high-ranking fashion editor or retailer at the runway shows earlier this month wearing a pair. A fashion director in leggings? Are you mad?

By the time the fall collections arrived in stores, industry insiders had not only ceased being charmed by leggings, they had started to gently malign them in conversation.

Why? Beyond the fact that they can be profoundly unflattering on the wrong figure, in the wrong proportions and with the wrong skirt, dress or tunic, they are also too obvious. From 50 paces they shout: TRENDY.

The problem wasn’t that the streets were clogged with women wearing footless tights, miniskirts and ballet flats. The problem was that insiders expected leggings to be omnipresent. They had been hyped as the dominant accessory of the season.

The few who have worn leggings have done so judiciously. It looked more like duty rather than desire. One editor at the runway shows apologized for them: “I packed the wrong pair of tights!” A retailer excused herself from wearing them by saying, “Oh, I wore them the first time they were in style.”

It is always instructive to inspect the audience at runway shows. They are filled with some of the most stylish men and women anywhere (although there are also no small number of fashion victims, as well). It is intriguing to see how quickly they embrace a trend, but more telling is how fast they leave it behind. (Which designers do they tout in the pages of magazines? Balenciaga. But which do they always seem to have on? Marni.) Trendiness can be measured by what one chooses to wear. Style is determined by what one chooses to ignore.