In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I have always counted myself as a card-carrying member of the latter group, with the odd exception for such activities as running and yoga. However, that was then. There is probably no single item of clothing that causes as much disagreement as the humble legging. People are generally divided into two camps: legging lovers and legging loathers.
I have since had a sort of…let’s call it a “legging epiphany”, based mostly on the research I have to do for my job as a fashion writer. As it turns out, as with so many other things in life, leggings are one of those things that are as good or as bad as you make them, and fit and styling have everything to do with the overall look.
The following tips are some fool proof, real-life tricks of the trade that I have discovered in my fashion field research. These simple tips make excellent guidelines on what to wear with leggings and how to choose a pair to buy, whether you’re trying them out for the first time, or a die-hard fan with multiple pairs in your wardrobe.
1. Materials matter when choosing leggings
No matter how well a pair of leggings may fit you, if they are made of inferior fabric, they’re probably going to end up looking cheap. Thin, heavily lycra-based fabrics with a lot of stretch tend to thin out when stretched to capacity, and can reveal a little too much about what you are (or aren’t) wearing underneath.
A cheap pair of leggings may also look shiny when stretched to capacity, putting emphasis on parts of you that you would rather the world not linger on.
To avoid this all too common pitfall, look for fabrics that are luxe and opaque, especially when stretched. Fabrics that are blended with cottons, silks, and modal usually offer more feel and opacity, and leggings that are styled as trousers (think “jeggings”) and have actual sewn-on pockets and button closures are always the best choice.
Jeggings tend to have that little extra material in places that tend to see the most stretch like the rear and crotch areas.
Choosing an unexpected material is also a good idea, provided the material has enough weight for it to appear expensive. This season, leather leggings (either real or “leather look”) are still very much on the scene, and make an excellent choice provided they are not too shiny or tight.
Jacquard or other brocade-type leggings may also be a good option, but be aware of the fact that the bolder the pattern of the fabric, the larger your bottom half is likely going to look.
To style a pair of luxe leggings, try pairing them with an oversized white or chambray button-down, and a boyfriend blazer, moto jacket, or oversized sweater and boots. The idea here is to use the legging as a layering piece, and build upon it, creating a multi-layered look that has depth and texture.
2. Fit is essential if you want to look good
Before we go any further, I think it’s important to note one thing; leggings are not pants. No matter how well a legging might fit, it is not meant to be a substitute for a proper pair of pants.
If you really want to wear that cropped top or that pair of platform stiletto heels, you’re better off choosing a pair of skinny jeans, or risk looking a bit cheap. There, I’ve said it.
With that in mind, you want to choose a pair that fits just right; looser than a pair of tights or pantyhose, but tight enough to hug the body and provide a slim line.
Leggings also should not bunch anywhere on the body, and should be extremely comfortable, allowing for complete freedom of movement. A legging should maintain a body-conscious fit over the length of the entire leg.
If you find that they are a bit tight in the calves, and a bit loose in the waist, or even just a fraction “off” in any other way, abandon them for another option; if they’re a bit off in the dressing room, it will only get worse once you are going about your daily life.
The only way to really know if a pair of leggings fits you properly is to try, try, and try. Be your own worst critic when assessing the fit of a pair of leggings. Try them on as you intend to wear them, layering up in the dressing room to see if they will work with your existing wardrobe. Do a few deep knee bends, sit down, and move in any other way that you might in your day to day life.
Make sure that the leggings don’t slide down when you bend over, causing you to have to continually hike them up throughout your day; not a good look.
3. Always check your rear view mirror
Really, tip number three is an extension of tips number one and two, but after much thought, I came to the decision that it was just too important not to give it its own space.
Let’s be honest, there isn’t a single one of us that has not, at some point, found themselves standing behind someone at an airport or grocery store, who was wearing a pair of leggings that gave us…let’s say, “too much insight” as to what is going on underneath the leggings.
Whether that includes the fact that you favor thong underwear or perhaps need to replace your leggings with a pair that is not visibly straining at the seams, this kind of revelation pretty much always falls into the “too much information” category.
Assuming that you have attended to the concept of proper fit, you still have a bit of due diligence yet to do. What you wear underneath your leggings is of great importance. Even if you are planning on layering a tunic-length or other slightly oversized top over your leggings (and I hope that you are), it’s a good idea to make sure that you are wearing a foundation garment (that’s fancy-speak for underwear, gals) that leaves no trace as to its presence.
Avoiding the dreaded “VPL” (visible panty line) in a pair of leggings is the difference between looking chic or cheap, so make sure to have a few go-to pairs on hand that work under your form-fitting clothes.
Need a recommendation? Lightweight, microfiber boy-short undergarments are actually one of the best ways to avoid unsightly panty lines, and are about as comfortable as they come. Choose a pair in a flesh-toned shade if you’re worried about anything showing-through, although if you’ve paid attention to tip No. 1, it won’t be a problem.
Leggings may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a recent convert myself, I can attest to the fact that when done correctly, they are a versatile and comfortable option that doesn’t necessarily have to look undressed or sloppy. Using these simple tips as your guide, you can avoid many common legging pitfalls and give yourself yet another wardrobe option in your sartorial arsenal.
Although black is not the best choice for hot summer days, it is a classic color, very easy to combine and good for almost any occasion. We chose a classic ‘Biddi’ tunic/kaftan by ACNE (available at farfetch.com). It’s long, light and very summer-friendly.
Tunics are my favorite summer items. They are usually very light, meaning they are comfortable, especially for surviving the super hot summer temperatures.
Outfit Idea 1
This is an everyday black and white outfit. It’s very cool to pair this tunic with leggings, and I personally love this particular pair because of the unusual print that spiced up the whole outfit.
The shoes are Giuseppe Zanotti – but watch out, these are for the brave ones only, since they have a very, very high heel. Accessorize with an everyday black bag, a cool necklace and a nice pair of sunglasses.
- Prada Large Saffiano Lux Shopper (flannelsfashion.com)
- McQ by Alexander McQueen Printed Leggings (farfetch.com)
- Giuseppe Zanotti Black Shoes (couture.zappos.com)
- Hematite Multi Heart Charm Necklace (torrid.com)
- Madewell Han Kjobenhavn Timeless Sunglasses (madewell.com)
Outfit Idea 2
Pairing black with light pink, peach and nude can look very romantic and girly. That’s why I chose a pair of Victoria Beckham skinny jeans in this amazing light pink.
You can accessorize with a matching tote and a cute necklace. Don’t forget the spring/summer accessory – sunglasses. This cat eye shape is very big this spring.
- Kiara Large Cat-Eye Sunglasses (ocshades.com)
- Victoria Beckham Cropped Power Skinny Jeans (donnalda.com)
- Dolce & Gabbana Textured Leather Tote (net-a-porter.com)
- Steve Madden Women’s Karisma Ballet Flats (endless.com)
- Gerbera Garden Necklace (katespade.com)
Outfit Idea 3
This could be a combination of the first two outfits. We took the idea of printed leggings from the first one, and borrowed the color palette from the second. These great Alexander McQueen leggings have the cutest baroque print, and they look amazing with the super comfortable Vivienne Westwood flats.
However, the accessories steal the spotlight once again. These earrings are great! Very unusual, one-of-a-kind, cute, romantic – to cut the story short, I love them!
- Alexander McQueen Lace Print Stretch Leggings (net-a-porter.com)
- 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Messenger (shoplesnouvelles.com)
- Vivienne Westwood Earrings (zeberka.pl)
- Vivienne Westwood Melissa Flats (cureuk.com)
- Marc Jacobs D-Frame Acetate Sunglasses (theoutnet.com)
Outfit Idea 4
Spring and summer are all about gold and silver. Shiny details make every outfit special and memorable. In this case, we are keeping the clothes simple – a black tunic and cropped boyfriend jeans.
Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? Well, it gets very hot when we pair it with this amazing one-of-a-kind clutch, the fabulous YSL golden necklace and a pair of breath-taking Charlotte Olympia shoes.
- Adriano Goldschmied Cropped Boyfriend Jeans (calypsostbarth.com)
- Black and White Stripe Snakeskin Small Envelope Clutch (luluguinness.com)
- Yves Saint Laurent Purefly Gold Tone Necklace (net-a-porter.com)
- Charlotte Olympia Sacarpin Dolly Raffia Nude Pumps (farfetch.com.br)
Outfit Idea 5
And now, it’s color-blocking time! Wear this tunic with a nude shorts and some super high Ruthie Davis peep-toes in a great summer color. Accessorize this look with a cute bag, a pair of sunglasses and a long locket necklace.
- Alice by Temperley Libre Shorts (harrods.com)
- Ruthie Davis Shoes (ruthiedavis.com)
- Gold Coast Meadow Purse (katespade.com)
- Lion Head Locket Necklace (jcrew.com)
- Ellery et Graz Sunglasses (offtherunway.com.au)
Cover photo: http://www.cuyana.com/
The best way to wear them is with super long shirts, dresses and skirts. Still, leggings are not the best option for every occasion. They’re very casual, comfy and look best as a part of an everyday outfit. Before we even begin, we have to be clear about this – leggings are not pants, so don’t treat them like pants. They can look very chic, but only if you pair them right.
Leggings and Tunics
Leggings look great with long shirts and tunics. Make sure the tunic you choose is long enough, for it should cover your hips and derriere.
If you like printed leggings, be careful not to overdoRolex Submariner Replica Watches it. Wear printed leggings with simple shirts, or choose a colorful shirt and a simple pair of leggings.
Tight leggings look very cute with ballerina flats; choose a pair in a bright color to create the perfect summer look. Accessorize your outfit with an everyday bag and some jewelry.
- Patrizia Pepe Lace Leggings (harrods.com)
- Henrik Vibskov Tunic Shirt (farfetch.com)
- 3.1 Phillip Lim 31 Hour Two-Tone Leather Tote (net-a-porter.com)
- Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Dream Calf Flats (mytheresa.com)
- Ellery et Graz Sunglasses (offtherunway.com.au)
- Movado Luno Sport Bracelet Watch (nordstrom.com)
Leggings and Dresses
Leggings can look very chic with casual dresses. If you choose leggings in a dark shade, pair them with a dress in a bright summer color – fuchsia, red, blue…
If you’re going for a cool, punkish look, choose leather or faux leather leggings. Pair them with some matching items – studded moccasins and a leather tote bag.
Don’t forget your statement accessories – a multi chain necklace and a cute ring.
- American Vintage Kismet Dress in Fuchsia (the-dressingroom.com)
- Sandro Paneled Stretch Leather Leggings (net-a-porter.com)
- Jeffrey Campbell Elegant Stud Loafer Black Leather Shoes (jildorshoes.com)
- MICHAEL Michael Kors Bedford Medium Dressy Polished Leather Bag (nordstrom.com)
- Multi Chain Necklace (bombayfashions.com)
- Eddie Bordo Pentagram Coated Ring (net-a-porter.com)
Leggings and Skirts
Pairing leggings with skirts can seem predictable, but it can be very effective. Choose a simple black skirt and leggings, a top with a fun print and a nice colored blazer.
Accessorize with a color-blocking bag, ballerina flats and a piece of jewelry. This outfit is simple, very comfortable and, most importantly, effective!
- H&M Skirt (hm.com)
- Therapy Stirrup Leggings (houseoffraser.co.uk)
- Wildfox Mustachio Dirty White Tank (coggles.com)
- Pale Blue Boyfriend Blazer (topshop.com)
- Givenchy Orange Antigona Envelope Clutch (ssense.com)
- Marc by Marc Jacobs Enamel Disc Stud Earrings (piperlime.gap.com)
- H&M Ballet Pumps (hm.com)