Things I love: wearing leggings, anything labeled a “cult product,” and an aggressively neutral color palette. Things I don’t love: people who try to sell things to their friends on Facebook, brands that attempt to get women to spend money under the guise of “empowerment,” and bright and/or loud clothing. So LuLaRoe leggings presented me with quite a dilemma.
If you haven’t yet received a Facebook invite to one of their online “parties,” LuLaRoe is a women’s fashion company founded in 2012 by DeAnne Stidham. LuLaRoe offers skirts, tops, and dresses in sizes ranging from XXS to 3XL, but it’s the wildly printed leggings that are the brand’s calling card. With a texture that’s often described as “buttery,” the $25 leggings come in two versions: One-Size (aka OS), which claims to fit sizes 2-10, and Tall & Curvy (aka T&C), which covers sizes 12-22. (There are also kids’ and tween sizes available.) The leggings’ infamous patterns range from simple geometric prints and florals to pizza slices, cacti, Eiffel Towers, and electric blue dog faces.
The patterns aren’t my personal style, but people seem to really love the leggings. According to Racked, “brand enthusiasts contend that LuLaRoe’s leggings are the best in the world. … On eBay, it’s not uncommon to find listings for ‘unicorn’ LuLaRoe leggings that are selling for double or triple their original retail value.” It’s true — I watched a pair with a “unicorn” (aka hard to find) black rose pattern sell for $86 on eBay. EIGHTY-SIX AMERICAN DOLLARS!!!!
But it’s not just the product itself that makes LuLaRoe stand out — it’s the way it’s sold.
Similar to Mary Kay, Amway, and Rodan + Fields, LuLaRoe is a multilevel marketing company (MLM), meaning distributors buy the product up front and then sell it directly to consumers. Distributors are typically encouraged to recruit their own sales forces, earning a cut of those distributors’ earnings when they do. The LuLaRoe website — with a beautiful, beaming wholesomeness that reminds me of the “Nosedive” episode of Black Mirror — invites you to “join the movement.” Not only can you work from home and make “significant income,” but you can “overcome a set back [sic]” and “restore or improve confidence in both your appearance and your abilities” as you work with a team of “confident, empowered individuals.”
After reading about how women go into debt selling Mary Kay, hearing similar stories about other MLMs, and seeing so many different MLM products being aggressively hawked on social media, I am deeply skeptical of this business model. And I lost my shit when I learned that LuLaRoe’s “fashion consultants” front upwards of $6,000 for their initial inventory. And they have no control over that inventory — meaning they might be fronting thousands of dollars for prints, styles, and sizes that they don’t like or expect to sell well. While many women say they’ve made a profit selling LuLaRoe, and I appreciate that the brand seems much less focused on getting your friends to start selling than some other MLMs are, the whole thing makes me verrrrry uncomfortable. (This takedown pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.)
ON THE OTHER HAND…you’re telling me that there are amazing leggings that will maybe change my life? For just $25, which is a lot less than the price of the leggings I love and normally wear? I’m listening.
I couldn’t not try LuLaRoe leggings. Here’s what I learned on my journey down the LuLaRoe rabbit hole.
1. A lot of people love LuLaRoe…and a lot of people HATE LuLaRoe.
Leggings are already a ridiculously fraught subject. People gain viral fame for yelling that leggings aren’t pants, Christian bloggers call them “lustful,” a Washington Post blogger recently not-at-all-jokingly called them “a nihilistic threat” (SERIOUSLY), and panels of grown-ass men debate whether women should wear them at all. Throw in the MLM factor and the over-the-top patterns, and, well…yeah. When I posted on my personal Facebook that I’d just bought a pair of LuLaRoe leggings, someone immediately commented about how ugly everything LuLaRoe is. (WHO DOES THAT? HAVE YOU ALL NO MANNERS? DON’T START DOING THAT ON THIS POST, I AM WARNING YOU.) Apparently, people have a lot of strong feelings about the patterns, and the company as a whole.
2. Turns out, LuLaRoe leggings come in dozens of solid colors, too!
So all of these people are like, “Fuck those bright, tacky-ass patterned leggings!!!!”…but you can VERY EASILY avoid those if you don’t like them! I don’t know why I’m surprised to learn that people on the internet behave unreasonably and without regard for facts, but here we are.
I’ll get to the “how” of buying LuLaRoe in a moment (because HOOOO BOY, IT’S A DOOZY), but let’s begin with what I thought of the leggings themselves. Here are the factors that I took into account: general quality, thickness (both weight/warmth and also whether you could see my actual ass), fit, and how they make you feel when you’re wearing them. And I actually liked the leggings a lot more than I expected to.
3. Great news: You couldn’t see my actual ass!
This process has made me realize that “thick” and “thin” are not universally agreed-upon terms with regard to leggings, so bear with me. LuLaRoe leggings are thin in that they fit very closely and feel super flexible, like a second skin; they are so thin that at first I was nervous that I was going to accidentally snag or tear them, though that was never an issue. They are thin in that the textured surface of my lace thong was too visible for my taste (though it could easily covered with a not-even-that-long top), but the color/details of said thong were not visible at all. They are not thin if thin means sheer, cheap, or threadbare. In the way that even thick tights are still relatively thin, so, too, are these leggings. But! There’s still a slight plushiness to them that makes them feel thick and luscious.
I probably wouldn’t wear them outside to shovel snow in a blizzard, but I think they could handle a pretty cold winter day if you wore them with boots, a warm coat, a hat, etc., and weren’t going to be outside for super long.
4. How well they fit you will depend on your body type. (Surprise, surprise!)
The solid leggings fit my body really well. I’ve found that cheap leggings are often low-rise (WHY GOD WHY), and/or slip down during the day, and/or have a variety of crotch problems. The LuLaRoe leggings are high-waisted, which I love, and they stayed in place, which is SO important from an overall comfort POV. There was no weird drop-crotch sitch, although there were hints of camel toe at times. (Which is only really an issue if you are wearing them as pants.)
As a human who typically wears a size 4 or 6, I can’t really say whether or not the “one size” claim is legit. So I asked some of my co-workers to try them on (both the OS and the T&C) and report back. You can read their thoughts and see photos of them in the leggings here.
5. The patterned leggings are definitely cut smaller than the solid leggings.
At first I thought it was just my imagination, but multiple people trying on multiple different pairs of leggings noticed this too. The patterned OS leggings weren’t too small on me, but the difference was noticeable. (On the other hand, if I hadn’t started with the solid leggings, I probably would have been less aware of this.)
6. I can confirm that the legendary softness is real!
LuLaRoe leggings are hella soft. Like, baby bunny soft. The “buttery” descriptor isn’t inaccurate, though “velvety” is the word that came to mind when I put them on. They are very soft, very smooth cotton and feel sort of…pillowy? However, again, there was a slight difference between the patterned leggings and the solid leggings — the patterned ones are definitely soft, but not quite as soft as the solid ones.
7. I thought the leggings were pretty high quality…BUT there are a few things that give me pause.
I was impressed by the quality of the solid leggings, though I think how other people would rate them would depend on 1) what you’re used to and 2) whether or not you think $25 is a lot to pay for leggings. And after a few washes, they are holding up well.
HOWEVER! The left leg of one pair of brand-new, never-washed patterned leggings I bought was considerably, noticeably shorter than the right leg. And because of how LuLaRoe operates, I couldn’t exactly exchange them — more on that later — though tucking the longer one under solved the problem. My mom pointed out that the pattern was upside down in the orange pair I bought, though I didn’t notice until she pointed it out, and it didn’t bother me. (And it’s not clear if it’s a feature or a bug, TBH.) And you can see here that sometimes the patterns can look wonky from leg to leg.
I also watched some reviews on YouTube posted by people who were very unhappy with the quality of their leggings (and/or other LuLaRoe clothes), particularly the plus-size items. The fit and quality of individual pairs may have something to do with where they were made — according to Racked, some plus-size LuLaRoe enthusiasts report that the leggings the brand manufactures in China and Mexico are “cut more generously than leggings made in Vietnam.”
8. Speaking of where the leggings are made, it’s damn near impossible to learn anything conclusive about LuLaRoe’s manufacturing conditions.
On this topic, LuLaRoe has produced an utterly useless video, and claims that the “production and development that goes into each style, print and design touches the hands of thousands of artists and craftsmen around the world. From Korea to Guatemala, to the US and Vietnam, together we are blessing the lives of over 100,000 families.” And some consultants and enthusiasts say that LuLaRoe’s execs personally vet all the factories to ensure fair working conditions and wages. Which sounds great! But I’m pretty skeptical that any clothing item priced at $25 and churned out at an extremely high rate can be produced ethically, or that anyone working in a fast-fashion factory is a #blessed “artisan.” I did my best to find out the truth about their factory conditions from an unbiased source, and came up empty-handed.
If you’re reading this and are like, “Sweet, I’m intrigued, now let me go order some of these bad boys,” I’ve got some bad news for you: That’s not how buying LuLaRoe works.
9. You cannot shop, or even browse, all of LuLaRoe’s products on their website (or…anywhere).
Instead, you have to browse and buy via one of the individual consultants running their own shops. Most “shops” are just private Facebook groups. (While plenty of consultants do host IRL parties, the virtual shops are really common, and part of what makes LuLaRoe unique, even among MLMs.) But because each seller gets different inventory, and they often only get one of a particular item (and it may not even be in your size!), and the styles change frequently — that’s actually one of their selling points, that everything is “limited-edition” — you’ll still only be seeing a fraction of everything LuLaRoe makes.
10. That said, my first LuLaRoe shopping experience was relatively straightforward.
My friend Dallas’s friend sells LuLaRoe — I’ll call her shop “LuLaRoe by Betsy.” When I said I was interested in trying the leggings, Dallas sent me a link so I could browse Betsy’s inventory. Though Betsy does have a Facebook group, the link was to a site she’d set up through Roe With Me, one of the customizable platforms (not actually affiliated with LuLaRoe corporate) that sellers can use to (kind of) streamline this process. Betsy had OS leggings in a lot of colors, and I wasn’t looking for anything terribly specific, so my shopping experience was very chill.
11. The part where you actually purchase LuLaRoe is really confusing.
On Betsy’s Roe With Me site, there was no “buy” or “add to cart” button — instead I had to click “claim.” Once I was done “claiming” items, I clicked “done shopping” and then was prompted to enter some basic info (including descriptions of what items I’d claimed because the website…doesn’t know?) plus my shipping info. This generated a page that told me I was done…but also gave me the option to click “continue shopping” (?), and the way the site is designed made it look like I wasn’t technically done (???). A few minutes later, I got a confirmation email saying my order had been received, but I think I still could have added to my original order at that point. Then, within a few hours, I received an invoice from Betsy via email. I clicked the link in that email and was taken to a different payment platform where I had to enter my credit card, billing address, and shipping address (again). Then I got an actual receipt emailed to me.
Though it’s convoluted AF, that process is very common. While the exact details might change slightly from seller to seller, the process of claiming the item, filling out a form with your info, waiting to be invoiced, and then filling out your info all over again — this time along with your payment — is just how it’s done with LuLaRoe.
Part of the reason that my first shopping experience was as simple as it was is because I had a friend who knew a seller, and that seller’s shop was currently open. Because that’s the other thing: These online shops are typically only accessible for 24 hours at a time before they are “closed.” They’ll likely reopen in another week or so, but the fact that you can’t just go to the shop and browse and buy whenever you feel like it is frustrating in the same way that a real store only being open one day a week would be. I had to wait two more weeks, until Betsy had another sale (which I learned about via Facebook event invite), to order additional pairs of leggings.
Even more annoying? Most sellers won’t let you browse their inventory in advance of each sale. They hype it up for days on Facebook and Instagram, teasing all the ~~~amazing~~~ inventory they’ll have, but you might descend on the virtual store at the exact moment it opens, only to realize they haven’t added anything new since the last time you shopped. That’s exactly what happened to me with Betsy’s second sale. It was fine — I still bought a pair of leggings, and I hadn’t exactly cleared my schedule so I’d be able to sit at home at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night for it — but it was still a little irritating.
On one hand, I see why the sellers do this. When that second sale happened, the sense of mystery and the idea that other people are all hitting the online store at the same time to look at items with limited availability means people are way more likely to make impulse buys.
On the other hand…holy shit, how annoying!
13. Good news: I discovered a workaround for some of these problems.
After not finding any new inventory at Betsy’s second sale, I started browsing #lularoeleggings on Instagram to see what other colors and patterns might exist in the world. And that was when I realized that all of the sellers on Insta aren’t just selling to their friends; anyone can join their different Facebook groups and shop there. And I realized that a ton of these other sellers were having sales within the hour, so I wouldn’t need to wait a week to be able to see their inventory. So, still flying high on the adrenaline that came from trying to be first to claim items during Betsy’s sale, feverish at the thought of finding the perfect color or pattern, and feeling inexplicably competitive, I joined five Facebook groups (run by total strangers!!!) and had opened approximately 15 new tabs before I even knew what was happening.
14. All of the different ways consultants run their shops are pretty fascinating.
That same night, I watched a woman showing her hundreds of pieces of inventory on Facebook Live, one item at a time, with people claiming things in the comments; the experience made me feel like I’d walked into a stranger’s living room. In a process I’d later realize is probably the most common with LuLaRoe, I navigated several very organized Facebook albums; the first person to comment “SOLD” on the Facebook photo gets the item. Then I hit the jackpot when Dallas found a seller — I’ll call her Stacey — via Instagram who had a staggering amount of LuLaRoe inventory available on her Roe With Me site. Like, 1,200 pieces. And…this was sort of where I descended into too-many-tabs madness. I forgot to eat dinner, and when I finally got around to making food at 11 p.m., I was so distracted by what was happening with all the different LuLaRoe sales, my quesadilla ended up burned on the outside and was cold in the middle. A small sacrifice to the leggings gods, I suppose.
15. If you really care about the exact color of leggings you’re getting, good luck.
Each seller photographs her own merchandise, which means the quality of the photos is…iffy. It can be really difficult to determine if, say, a pair of leggings is a soft, pale mint green or a brighter lime green. Most of the sellers are quick to respond to questions like this, but it’s still frustrating. (And their answers aren’t always accurate.)
But this is actually part of a bigger problem: If there’s a standardized list of colors or pattern names, no one uses them, including @LuLaRoe on Instagram. This makes it extremely difficult to know if the pink leggings you’re looking at are the same ones you saw and liked on Instagram or on another seller’s page, or even to know which colors you’ve already purchased. I know that sounds ridiculous, but after purchasing the pair of green leggings from Betsy’s shop, I legitimately couldn’t tell if I was looking at the same pair of green leggings in Stacey’s shop.
16. I bought three pairs of Halloween patterned leggings, and I fully admit it was partially because I got caught up in the hype.
Not all sellers were able to get the Halloween leggings, which were described as a “capsule collection” and heavily teased and promoted on Instagram. Most of the Halloween sales were “fast fingers” sales on Facebook, meaning the consultant published all their Halloween albums at the exact same time, and you had to be the first to comment “sold.” You could try to claim multiple pairs, but most consultants wouldn’t let people purchase more than three. (This is why I had no way of exchanging the defective blue skeleton pair I mentioned earlier. Sure, I could have gotten a store credit, but why bother? In the hour before each sale, there were typically 50-100 people ready and waiting on Facebook, commenting about how excited they were and trying to get the seller to reveal what prints she had. (Most would not, much to my frustration.) It was some Black Friday shit, y’all.
As I waited for each sale to begin, I had to keep reminding myself that 1) these are just leggings, 2) they are cute but sort of dumb leggings, and 3) they are leggings I’d only wear for a month out of the year. But if we’ve learned anything from Beanie Babies and Pokémon, it’s that so-cute-they’re-ugly-so-ugly-they’re-cute but ultimately useless things that are only available in limited quantities have the ability to make Americans lose all sense of reason.
I thought LuLaRoe leggings were super comfortable, plus I like the colors and think $25 is a fine price for the quality. So, should you buy them for yourself? If you like wearing leggings, see colors/styles you like, think $25 is a reasonable price point, think they’d fit you, and aren’t deterred by the semi-batty but ultimately manageable ordering process, then sure! I’d recommend you check out a out a bunch of different consultants’ shops, opt for the solids over the patterns, and resist getting caught up in the hype of the sales.
As for the MLM aspect…well, if Lululemon has taught us anything, it’s that paying $90 for leggings doesn’t mean that they aren’t made by a company with trash beliefs, or even that the quality will be consistently high. And as much as MLMs squick me out, buying leggings from Old Navy or Forever 21 instead is hardly taking the moral high road. And, of course, there are those who say the sales model is on the up and up, and the only thing that keeps consultants from turning a profit is their own work ethic. So I really can’t tell you what you should do from a moral and ethical POV.
Regardless, going down the LuLaRoe rabbit hole was incredibly fascinating and surprisingly fun. I joined one LuLaRoe group where the consultant’s bio said “I am a Wife, Step-Mother, Terror Financing Investigator, and LuLaRoe addict!” — a sentence I cannot stop thinking about. Even though I saw many, many white consultants, it wasn’t hard to find black and brown consultants, which I appreciate. (And LuLaRoe does a better job than most brands when it comes to including models of color and plus-size women in their sales and marketing materials.) I discovered the LuLaBros, aka the husbands of the women who sell LuLaRoe. (They have their own website, which says things like “I hear this a lot: ‘I’m not sure how I can help her.’ Bro! There are tons of ways you can help. Sure, we may not all be fashion gurus and pattern mixologists, but we have plenty to offer. So let’s talk about some tips.” I low-key love the LuLaBros.) Across the board, everyone was super friendly, polite, and chill, and I never felt guilted into buying anything. I went into this simply wanting to find out what all the hype was about, and came away with seven pairs (!!!) of LuLaRoe leggings and a deeper understanding of a brand and a sales model that I think we’ll be hearing about more and more in the next few years.
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