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Is it Fashionable to Wear a Cardigan with Leggings?

Wearing leggings and cardigan in a yoga pose.

Cardigans and leggings were once an unwritten rule of 1980s fashion. During that decade, you would wear a cardigan and leggings everywhere. To school, to work, out to a restaurant with friends, to the movies, while you’re out shopping, the list pretty much doesn’t end.

But is it fashionable to wear a cardigan with leggings in today’s fashion? Is this look hopelessly dated, or can you make it hot and fresh for a trendy modern style?

Why Leggings?

Leggings definitely aren’t a new fashion trend, but they aren’t a retro trend, either. In fact, leggings aren’t even vintage. They’re medieval. Leggings date to the 1300s. And when they first appeared, they were worn by men.

If you’ve ever seen a Shakespeare play or watching a movie set back in those times, you’ve seen medieval dudes running around wearing what looks like pantyhose. That’s pretty much what medieval leggings looked like. Long tunics and tall boots were both worn over the leggings.

For hundreds of years, that’s pretty much what men wore. The leggings were known as hose, and they were thin lightweight leg coverings. Back then, there was no nylon, so leggings were made from silk, linen, and other materials that were available.

It wasn’t until the 1700s that men started to wear pants instead, and in the 1800s, men’s suits really became the thing to wear, and leggings stopped being widely worn by men.

Leggings As Women’s Wear

Standing wearing leggings and cardigan

Women, however, still had their own fashion journey with leggings to make. They adopted leggings in the 1800s, though it wasn’t until after 1920 that women started showing their legs in public, and it would take decades more before it was even legal for them to wear pants in most countries.

DuPont changed the game in 1959 with the invention of lycra leggings. These comfortable, clinging leggings were an instant hit with women and became a popular item to wear under miniskirts and shift dresses, two extremely hot items of the 1960s.

Today, leggings are an everyday part of women’s fashion. They are worn all the time in all sorts of different looks. But the cardigan is one of the most recognizable and well-known of all the frequent fashion partners leggings have had over the years.

Why Cardigans?

Cardigans definitely aren’t a new trend, either, though they are hundreds of years newer than leggings. What’s interesting about the cardigan is that history knows exactly who first wore a cardigan and when and where.

Wearing leggings and cardigan outside with trees

The who was James Thomas Brudenell, who was a commander in the British Army during the Crimean War. England was engaged in open conflict with Russia, who, on one night in 1854, made history. Brudenell was leading his group of men when they more or less stumbled on some Russian soldiers.

The Russians had a clear advantage, but Brudenell led his men forward just the same, straight into harm’s way and straight into a military blunder that became infamous as the Charge of the Light Brigade. This was a famously bad decision that was such an epic failure, Brudenell himself ran straight up to the Russian line, and once he got a good look at them, he turned his horse around and retreated immediately.

He became the laughingstock of England. As the story spread, Brudenell’s dubious claim to fame grew. He became known as one of the worst military leaders basically ever. But Brudenell was also known for something else: dressing well.

He loved clothes. Some say that he loved clothes so much that he used his own money to buy special items for his unit of men so that they looked better dressed than all the other British soldiers. Brudenell himself wore a knitted vest that was very fancy.

Actually, it looked incredible. The knitted design was different from the trendy vest styles of the day, and it stood out. Everyone noticed it, and soon, others began to copy it.

Brudenell wasn’t just a leader in the British military. He was also a nobleman. He was the 7th Earl of Cardigan. So his knit vest became known as the cardigan. Within a few years, people began wearing a modified version of the knit vest with sleeves. This is how the modern cardigan style was born.

Needless to say, the cardigan sort of caught on. By the 1910s, Coco Chanel was designing cardigans for women as high-fashion items. Soon, cardigans were everywhere. And they’ve never really left the style scene. But when it comes to wearing cardigans with leggings, is that a hot look…or something that should have been left back in the 1980s?

Ways To Wear a Cardigan With Leggings

In the 1980s, the coolest way to wear a cardigan was to choose a heavy, oversized design that would go all the way to your mid-thighs. You’d wear a pair of leggings with flats, boots or tennis shoes and you would look amazing. But styles have changed since then.

There are still ways to wear a cardigan with leggings and create fashionable, modern outfits that speak to today’s clothing trends.


Skechers Women's GO Walk High Waisted Legging, Black, XX-Large

Create a casual but chic look by pairing leggings with a fitted T-shirt and a long cardigan. Tie the T-shirt up around the waist in a simple side knot and leave the cardigan open to reveal your outfit. This is a great casual look that works anywhere. Finish it off with sandals to complete the look.


Naggoo Womens Button Down Long Sleeve Open Front Long Cardigans Fall Thin Cardigan with Pocket Khaki, M

Pair leggings with a sleeveless blouse and an open, thigh-length cardigan. Pair this with tall boots and a pair of sunglass, and you’re going to have a glamorous, sophisticated look. This look is perfect for a day out shopping, a lunch date, or just about any other daytime gathering.


Atnlewhi Womens Long Sleeve Button Down Satin Silk Shirts Casual Business Office Blouse Tops Pink

When you want a look that’s professional but also a bit glam, pair a silk blouse with leggings and a cardigan that’s at least thigh-length.

With ankle-high boots, this is a very professional look that still has lots of styles. This is a perfect outfit if you’re going to go somewhere after work or you need to be at a business lunch. Wear the cardigan open or partially open, so your blouse still shows.

It Girl

Auburet Womens Long Sleeve Open Front Cardigan Sweater Lightweight Wrap Tie Waist Oversized Knitted Coat with Pockets Beige White

Go all in on your leggings and cardigan fashion by topping your leggings with a scoop neck T-shirt or tank top. Finish this off with a cardigan that’s at least thigh-length, and belt it at the waist. This will emphasize your waist to make your curves pop and help you maximize your shape.

A pair of tall, high heel boots will complete the look. Top it off with a fashion hat, and you will definitely turn heads everywhere you go.


LICTZNEE Women's Pull On Skinny Jeans High Waist, Stretchy Jeggings Slim Fit Legging, Soft Breathable Cotton Blend, (Light Denim, X-Large)

Jeggings, a white T-shirt, and a cardigan in a bright color will create an outfit that can truly go anywhere. This look works as a casual but stylish fashion for day or night. Finish the look with knee-high boots, and you will have a look that works for any season and any casual event or gathering you’re going to.

Is It Fashionable To Wear a Cardigan With Leggings?

So should you wear a cardigan with leggings? Yes! There are many ways to wear these two items together in styles that look fresh and trendy, and hot for today’s world. You can create lots of different looks and strike a lot of different notes with your fashion when you play around with different cardigan and leggings look.


Standing by a tree wearing leggings and cardigan

Still have questions about wearing cardigans and leggings and putting them both together? Get the answers to the most frequently asked questions about this style combination, and soon, you’ll be able to wear and style this pair just like any fashion expert.

Can you wear leggings to work?

Wearing leggings to work does work well if you style them the right way. A cardigan is just the right way to top off a pair of leggings so that they aren’t too revealing for the office. Choose a cardigan that’s at least thigh-length, so you have plenty of coverage, and you’ll be work-ready.

A cardigan and leggings can be an amazing professional look in a business casual environment.

Can leggings cause medical problems?

Can leggings actually do you some medical harm? If you’ve heard that leggings are actually bad for you…well, that’s for you to decide.

Leggings can cause chafing on the skin. This is sore, irritated skin. Clothing friction can cause this to occur. Skin becomes inflamed, and it’s an uncomfortable situation. Treat this with moisturization and by wearing loose clothing until the skin heals.

This condition can worsen and become folliculitis, which is basically inflammation of hair follicles. This, too, will clear up on its own if you stick to loose clothing and moisturize the affected area.

Other rashes, such as ringworm, can also occur when you wear tight clothing. This is a rash that is caused by sweating while wearing tight clothing such as yoga pants and leggings. You can also suffer from general dry skin, which is itchy and comfortable. Leggings can also cause a yeast infection, which can be treated with over-the-counter creams.

How should leggings be stored?

How can you best store leggings? Start by folding them in half, lengthwise, so that the legs are together. Fold any excess fabric over the legs to create a long, smooth, straight line.

Next, take the legs up and fold the pants in half, with the bottom of the legs touching the waistband. Fold the pants in half again and tuck the folded pants into the waistband. This will make leggings easy to store in a drawer or on a shelf.

How should leggings fit at the waist?

Leggings are made to fit your legs, hip, and backside line a second skin. They’re meant to fit very snugly. But when it comes to the waist….leggings can be a little confusing.

Some high-waisted designs may be difficult to fit properly, but your leggings should not be folded down. Leggings should fit well everywhere, even at the waist. The waist shouldn’t be tight or constrictive on the skin, but it also shouldn’t be loose or sagging. The waist should fit smoothly around the waist without pulling, punching, or gapping.


The Dreamstress – Terminology: the history of the cardigan

The Express Tribune – 7 health problems related to leggings

Lookastic – Leggings with Open Cardigan Outfits

Style Cheer – How To Fold Yoga Pants And Leggings

Who What Wear – The Little-Known History of Leggings