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How to Style Leggings

Woman wearing leggings

Leggings are a bit of a fashion anomaly. They defy explanation and fit into no category. They are not exactly hosiery but they also are not pants. What are leggings…and how do you know you’re wearing them properly? Learn how to style leggings like a fashion pro and put together amazing outfit ideas that will turn heads and look totally Instagram-ready. 

History of Leggings

The history of leggings really begins in Scotland in the 1300s, where the harsh climate meant that men needed sturdy leg coverings At first, leggings were made to be tough. They were originally worn as two separate pieces. They were made of leather for everyday use and chainmail for battle. Ultimately, the leggings became a one-piece garment with two legs. The fabric used for leggings became much lighter and leggings became a lot more like hose, thin undergarments that were worn under boots.

Person standing in leggings

Leggings were worn almost exclusively by men at this time. If you’ve ever seen a period-accurate Shakespeare play or watched a movie set during the late Middle Ages or Renaissance, you’ve probably seen lots of men wearing leggings. They were extremely popular in menswear for hundreds of years, right up to the 1800s. 

Modern Leggings

Leggings fell out of favor in men’s fashion and during the Victorian Era as men started to wear pants and suits far more frequently and left behind the stylized looks of the past. Leggings would disappear from the style scene and maybe that would have been the end of it. But in the 1950s, leggings made a surprise comeback. This time, they were a part of women’s fashion.

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You can thank fashionista extraordinaire Audrey Hepburn for pioneering the modern leggings that women so love to wear today. Her tight-fitting capri pants set the fashion world on fire and set the stage for the stretchy leggings that would soon follow. Inspired by Hepburn, women began wearing more form-fitting pants that hugged their curves.

It was really spandex that made the modern leggings possible. When this revolutionary material was introduced in the 1960s, all sorts of things were suddenly possible in fashion. By the 1970s, all the biggest female stars were wearing leggings. Back then, they were known as disco pants because they were often worn in bright, vivid colors with shiny finishes. Sometimes, sequins were added. In the disco era, sequins were added to everything.

Leggings are still a big part of fashion today and they show no signs of leaving the style scene. There are lots of different ways to wear them and lots of different types of leggings to try. Start experimenting with different outfit ideas and start having fun with leggings.

Types of Leggings

There are many different types of leggings to choose from when you want to start styling different looks. To try every style, you’ll want to eventually add all these different types of leggings to your wardrobe. 

Person outside in leggings

Ankle Length

Ankle-length leggings are a very standard size. This is a popular type of leggings that you can find just about anywhere. The leggings are meant to fit smooth and close to the body from waist to ankle, following every line and curve of the hips, backside and legs. 

Leggings are considered to be the height of athleisure fashion, so companies that specialize in athletic wear are a great place to start looking for different types of leggings to wear with all your outfit ideas. Champion has a great selection of leggings in multiple colors and patterns. You can find leggings in all lengths here and search for leggings by fit to find something that will work well with your body type and personal style. Champion’s prices are reasonable and there are frequent sales and items on clearance, so you can always wait for a bargain, too.

Athletic

Athletic leggings are made specifically for being worn while working out. They are typically made with lightweight material, sometimes with moisture-wicking fabric to help you stay dry even when you sweat. These leggings are usually very breathable and comfortable, designed to be highly flexible. 

Find a great selection of athletic leggings at Under Armour. Leggings here are available in a lot of different colors and styles. The selection is huge and you can search for different leggings by fit, size, color and a number of other factors to get the exact right pair you want. Under Armour is a well-known name in athletic gear of all types. Their leggings are made to be flexible, lightweight and perfect for sporting and athletic activities of all kinds.

Jeggings

Jeggings are so named because they are a combination of jeans and leggings. They’re styled to look like jeans but they fit like leggings. Jeggings are made with somewhat thicker material than most types of leggings. Lightweight cotton is common. With jeggings, you get the best of jeans and leggings combined in one really sexy pair of pants. 

Shop for all the latest leggings styles at TJ Maxx. This store is well-known for staying up-to-date with all the newest looks and trends. That means you can find all the hot leggings styles here, from cool patterns and colors to different lengths. Pick up a pair of jeggings, shop for athletic leggings or seek out that perfect pair that will look great for date night. There’s a big selection of affordable leggings here, frequent sales that make clothes even more affordable and new stuff arriving all the time.

Knee Length

Knee-length leggings end right at the knee. This is a great length for summer but this type of leggings can be hard to style. Wearing longer shirts, for example, can make your legs look shorter. Lengthen this look with heels or platform shoes that add some lift and extend the foot. 

New leggings styles are arriving at the Puma storefront all the time. There’s a huge selection of leggings here in all kinds of different styles and colors. Find leggings in all lengths and looks here, from casual to military to high fashion styles. Leggings are available here both with and without Puma branding. The prices here are very reasonable and there are always some sale and discount items available, so bargain hunters can search for deals as much as they like.

Leather

Leather leggings are typically not made with real leather, as leggings need to be form-fitting and highly stretchy. The faux leather legging material used to create these pants is glossy and shiny to resemble real leather. Synthetic materials, such as spandex, make leggings much easier to wear.

Leggings made completely out of leather will not be as breathable and may be uncomfortable on skin as a result. Faux leather leggings are more lightweight, stretchy and breathable than the genuine article. Patent leather leggings have a mirror-like shine and will likewise be somewhat stiffer and less breathable than leggings made with a different faux leather material.

Leather is often associated with black leggings but leather leggings can actually be made in any color or pattern. Black leather leggings, however, are considered to be a classic look. Style faux leather leggings with a denim jacket to play with some classic fabric textures.

Carbon38 has leggings in literally every color of the rainbow. Their selection includes leggings in all lengths made with many different fabric types. Search for specific designers, specific styles and specific fabrics to find exactly the leggings you want.

Mid Calf

Leggings that rise to the mid-calf, also known as capri leggings, end above the ankle and below the knee. This is a good length for taller bodies because this style can have a shortening effect on the height. 

L.L. Bean has leggings in a number of eye-catching colors and patterns. Here, you can look for leggings based on leg shape, fit and other features you want. L.L. Bean is a well-known name in fashion that’s famous for high-quality clothing.

Stirrup

Stirrup leggings are designed to hook around the bottom of the feet. These leggings really hit their heyday in the 1980s and have made a more recent comeback in the fashion scene. 

Lululemon has an entire section of different leggings because the selection here is huge. Search for leggings specifically by the activity you’d like to perform, from yoga to super sweaty workouts. Look for leggings in a huge variety of colors and patterns, not to mention different lengths and designs. If you like leggings, you’re going to like browsing around here. Lululemon is known for making high-quality leggings, so you pay for the quality and for the famous name.

Leggings Outfit Ideas

Ready to show off your legs and your style? Explore leggings outfit ideas that put these not-quite-pants to their best use and find ways to wear leggings for almost all occasions in any weather. 

Casual Comfort

No Nonsense Women's Cotton LeggingS

Want to wear leggings but don’t want to show off every line of your body? There are ways to wear leggings without showing off everything you’ve got. Pair leggings with a T-shirt and tie a jacket around your waist. This helps to hide your hips and rear end but still gives you the comfort and stretch of wearing leggings. You don’t have to compromise what you want to wear and you can still hide the parts of your body that might need a little more coverage. A great sneaker finishes off the casual, comfortable look.

Cool Casual

Hue Women's Essential Denim Skimmer Leggings, Black, Medium

Wear your leggings with an oversized T-shirt to create an easy, breezy, casual look. Finish off the look with a pair of dark sunglasses to add a little glamor to your look. This look works beautifully with a pair of tennis shoes. This style is great for running errands and going about your day-to-day business.

Add a little vintage charm to the look with a cropped or waist-length denim jacket. If you want an edgier vibe, try a leather jacket. As a pant, leggings look great with jackets.

Form Fitting

BALEAF Women's Work Leggings Skinny Yoga Dress Pants Stretchy Business Casual with Pockets Office Black Medium

Style your leggings to look almost like a catsuit by partnering them with a form-fitting, snug shirt. This looks best if the shirt has long sleeves. The shirt and leggings should have the same pattern or color to create a smooth look. This form-fitting look doesn’t show any skin but it does display all the lines and curves of the body, which is an extremely sexy look. 

Keeping It Sexy

RUFIYO Faux Leather Leggings for Women High Waisted Leather Pants Pleather Leggings Tummy Control Black Large

Style your leggings with a crop top to show a little skin and a lot of your figure. This is a great casual look that works great with tennis shoes. Add a cropped jacket if you need another layer. This is a classic outfit idea that is fun, sexy and ready for any athletic challenge that life throws your way.

Military

GAYHAY High Waisted Leggings for Women - Soft Opaque Slim Tummy Control Printed Pants for Running Cycling Yoga Army Green Camo

 

Create a military look with your leggings by wearing them with combat boots and a military-style jacket. A slim-fitting, plain T-shirt or tank top works perfectly under the jacket to create that military vibe. This is a great casual outfit with an edge that’s right in line with classic fashion trends.

Posh

HUE Women's Sleek Effect High Waist Leggings, Black, Large

Make leggings look like high fashion by wearing them with a pretty blouse that hugs your figure. Complete the look with high heels or ankle boots and one great accessory, such as a statement necklace or a brightly-colored belt. This will give you a very fashionable, posh look that’s perfect for shopping, a day date or a day out with the girls. Styling leggings to look high end is something the celebs do all the time. If you need a fresh outfit idea, check the hot Instagram feeds and something is bound to pop up.

Professional

Hue Women's Ultra Legging with Wide Waistband - Large - Black

Style a professional look with leggings by wearing them with a matching knit or silk blouse to create a monochrome base layer. Basic black, navy, gray or off-white, if you want to catch the eye, all work well for professional wear. Top this off with a blazer or cardigan in a contrasting color. Finish the look with closed-toe flats or heels. This creates a polished, professional look that works great for office wear, a lunch meeting and anything else you might need to do. The right tops make all the difference when you’re putting a legging outfit together.

Sloppy Chic

Hue Women's Ultra Soft High Waist Denim Leggings Sockshosiery, -black Indigo Wash, Large

One of the most iconic ways to wear leggings is to pair them with an oversized top. This sloppy chic look is probably never going to go out of style because it’s easy, it’s comfortable and it’s cute. To capture it, wear leggings with a long, large sweatshirt or T-shirt that falls somewhat past hip-length. Wear this look with ballet flats or sneakers and a casual hairstyle and you will look totally sloppy chic. 

Sweater Dress

High Waisted Leggings for Women-Womens Black Seamless Workout Leggings Running Tummy Control Yoga Pants(S-M)

Leggings and sweater dresses were made to go together. Wear leggings and a sweater dress with tall boots and a belt and you’ll have a look that you can take to the office, on a date or out running errands in the fall or winter weather. Top off the look with an overcoat for those really chilly days. 

FAQs

There’s a lot to learn about leggings, which are not quite as simple as they first appear. There is a lot to learn about wearing leggings and styling them. That’s why we’ve got the answers to all the most common questions about leggings.

Person stretching wearing leggings

How to style leggings in summer?

When you want to wear leggings in summer, stick to shorter styles such as knee-length and mid-length designs. A sleeveless blouse and strappy sandals will look amazing with shortened leggings and you will definitely look ready for summer fun in the sun. Lightweight, breathable leggings won’t leave you feeling hot and smothered by the summer heat. 

You can also pair your leggings with a sports bra. On very hot summer days, this style looks athletic and cute. You’re ready to run errands, wash the car or go to the gym. Add a tote bag and a pair of sunglasses and you can go do anything athletic to enjoy the summer day. Wear this with flip-flops or tennis shoes, depending on what’s on your agenda. 

How tight are leggings supposed to fit?

If you’ve had trouble wearing leggings before or you think they’re uncomfortable, the problem may be in the fit and not in the leggings themselves. Properly fitting leggings are quite comfortable and easy to wear. So how do you know if your leggings are too tight?

First of all, leggings shouldn’t pinch or pull your skin anywhere There shouldn’t be any resistance when you move or stretch in leggings. You can also tell how well the leggings fit by the area between your legs. If this area is tight or pulls on you at all, your leggings are too tight. If this area is baggy, the leggings are too large. Tight leggings are never going to feel good. But when they fit right, leggings are a great choice.

Leggings should completely encase your lower half in a way that is flexible and comfortable. In fact, it should feel almost as though the leggings are a natural part of you. If they feel any other way, then you must try a different fit.

Can you wear leggings to work?

It is possible to wear leggings to work. With the right style, you can create a lot of great outfits that are professional and office-appropriate. In cold winter months, leggings are a great choice. With leggings, you can still wear short dresses and skirts to the office in winter and keep your legs warm. There are lots of fun ways to experiment with wearing leggings in winter to create fun, fashionable office looks. As long as you’re following the office’s dress code, it’s okay to try different leggings styles.

Do leggings suit your body shape?

Can you even wear leggings? Are there some leggings that don’t suit particular body types? Actually, anyone can wear leggings. You just need t find the right type of leggings for your particular body shape. 

If you’re more of an apple shape, with curvy hips and a thicker midsection, try leggings in a solid color with a mid-rise waist. Avoid printed leggings and stick to one-color designs. A cropped or long style will work just fine.

Curvy hourglass shapes should look for leggings with a high-rise waist. This will help slim the curves and elongate the legs. Both solid and patterned leggings will look good on this body type.

Triangle shapes, bodies that are curvier in the hips than up top, should look for leggings with a wide waist. You want leggings that rise to just below the belly button. Also, avoid cropped styles and stick to longer lengths.

Petite body types can wear low-rise waist styles. Cropped leggings help to elongate the legs to make the petite frame appear taller.

How do you fold leggings to store them?

Leggings can take up a lot of space, especially if you have a lot of them. What’s the best way to fold leggings so they can be easily stored? There are a few ways to manage your leggings but one of the most effective is to roll them. You can still view the pattern and color on rolled leggings but they take up very little space in the drawer. 

Start by laying the leggings out flat. Fold the top two inches or so of the waist down. Now, fold the leggings in half vertically so that the two legs are pressed together. Fold the lower half of the two legs upward. Now, roll the leggings down starting from the top. Turn the rolled leggings over and unfold the waist so it can be tucked around the rolled pants. You can now store the rolled leggings vertically or horizontally in a drawer. 

What types of shoes go best with leggings?

The great thing about leggings is that you can wear them with all different types of shoes. Leggings look great with flip flops, high heels, athletic shoes, boots of all kinds and any other type of footwear you might want to wear. LEggings are fun to style because they are so versatile and there are so many different looks you can create with them. Having fun with different shoe-legging combinations is all a part of that!

What should you not wear with leggings?

There are many different ways to style leggings and there are no rules in fashion, so feel free to play around with your look. The only thing you need to be mindful of when it comes to leggings is where you are wearing them. Leggings are not suitable for a formal event of any kind and for strictly professional conversation events, think twice before you wear leggings. You can pull off a semi-formal look in leggings but your style game needs to be super sharp.

Sources:

Fashion Mingle – 4 Tips and Tricks for Choosing Leggings in the Right Size and Fit

JustLuxe – 6 Things You Should Never Wear with a Pair of Leggings

Style Cheer – 11 Types Of Leggings To Know

Trend Spotter – 10 Best Shoes to Wear with Leggings

WhoWhatWear – All the Coolest Ways to Wear Your Leggings This Summer

WhoWhatWear – The Best Leggings for Every Body Type

WhoWhatWear – The Little-Known History of Leggings