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Critic’s Notebook

Lululemon yoga pants recall reveals Lulu rage

Lululemon yoga wear and accessories are trendy and fashionable, but pricey.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Lululemon yoga wear and accessories are trendy and fashionable, but pricey.

Who knew that Lululemon was the Gwyneth Paltrow of the yoga-clothing world? Beloved and be-hated, resented for exuding an upscale, in-your-face vibe, yet revered for essentially the same reason?

In case you’ve been doing a downward facing dog since mid-March and missed the big news, Lululemon recalled a batch of its black yoga pants when it emerged that they were see-through. But ladies’ thongs weren’t the only things that were revealed. The recall itself uncovered, or at least brought to the forefront, what can only be called Lululemon rage.

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Not unlike Starbucks and Whole Foods hostility, Lulu rage comes both from people who say they would never, ever, ever (to quote Taylor Swift) buy the company’s pricey products — but also from the customers themselves, many of whom feel they have no choice but to drop $98 on yoga pants and $58 on short-sleeve T-shirts because the quality is (generally) so good.

What’s going on? How can a nation be enslaved to a line of pricey yoga pants, particularly when yoga’s supposed to be spiritual, not consumer-driven?

Jean Fain, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist who herself briefly fell under the Lulu spell, says many women feel the “silent pressure” to dress like their peers, and if you go to a certain type of gym or yoga studio, that means Lulu.

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Fain belongs to a boutique gym in Belmont, and found herself at a Lulu store trying on some yoga-nista wear.

“I tried on some stuff but I didn’t look as cute as everyone else,” she said. “Maybe I tried on the wrong things.”

Standing in the dressing room a shame spiral threatened — but Fain quickly reminded herself that she’s the author of the “Self-Compassion Diet,” and exited the store -- credit card and ego intact.

I e-mailed the Lululemon media relations office to give them a chance to respond to public hostility, but while they thanked me for “reaching out,” they weren’t able to get back to me in time for deadline.

I sometimes think that Lulu makes products just to taunt detractors who sneer that it’s more a lifestyle brand than an athletic one. And yes, I’m talking about the $128 “Vinyassa to Vino Bag,” described on the website as the perfect tote to make the “transition from class to glass as easy as possible.”

Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.
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