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Leggings Materials – What are leggings made from?

Learn everything you need to know about what makes the leggings great in terms of its various materials and combinations that result in different functions and style.

This is a close look at a woman wearing a pair of leggings with sneakers.

Although I have a few pairs of leggings in my closet, there is one pair that I wear over and over again and choose over the rest. Like most of the others, it is a basic pair of black leggings, but something about it makes it a bit more special. It could be that my tummy appears to look flatter when I slip those leggings on.

They also seem to go with everything! Perhaps this is because they fit well and are comfortable to move about in. To find out, I delved into what goes into leggings.

Leggings are most commonly made from a blend of cotton and spandex or elastane or a blend of cotton, polyester, and lycra. Since leggings have become a wardrobe staple, they are now being made to meet the varying needs of the wearer, from flattening the tummy to allowing the skin to breathe.

We all know that regardless of her body shape, age or profession, every woman needs a pair of blue jeans that fit her perfectly and a knock-out LBD. A pair of comfortable, versatile, and flattering leggings is also a must to complete your wardrobe. Read on to find out what material to look for when buying your next pair to ensure that you choose one that will suit your body as well as your lifestyle.

Leggings are made to suit every function and body shape

This is an overweight woman wearing a pair of leggings.

Leggings are no longer reserved for the gym or wear when you are having a lazy, duvet kind of day. There is a pair of leggings to flatter any body shape and suit any occasion. It mainly comes down to what material it is made from.

Leggings are made from a blend of materials

This is a hand holding a clothing brand label.

If you have ever looked at a clothing label, you would have noticed that a few things are listed; the fiber content, the country of origin, the manufacturer or dealer identity, and the care instructions.

It is very seldom that there is just one material used in a garment. And leggings are no different. The highest percentage material is listed first, followed by the next, and so on.

Leggings need to be soft, comfortable, stretchy, well-fitting, flattering, and the list goes on. This is a rather tall order. One material simply cannot tick all these boxes. So while leggings have one main material, they are blended with others. For example, cotton is a very soft fabric and feels great on the skin.

However, it has no elasticity, so leggings made from cotton alone will not give you that stretchiness that is essential for leggings. To solve this problem, cotton is blended with spandex or polyester to create a fabric for leggings that will give you a stylish yet comfy fit.

Cotton leggings are super soft and comfy

This is a woman wearing black cotton leggings and black leather shoes.

If you are on the search for the comfiest pair of leggings to lounge around the house in – you won’t go wrong with cotton. A natural fiber, cotton is arguably one of the softest fabrics and is certain to feel gentle and smooth against your skin. It absorbs sweat and is breathable, so very comfortable to wear during warmer months.

Cotton will have to be blended with other material/s to give it some stretchiness. Over time, cotton leggings will stretch out and lose their shape. Dark colors will also fade over time.

Polyester is the most common material found in leggings

This is a close look at a woman wearing high heels and a pair of green polyester leggings.

The most common fabric used in the fashion industry and for good reason – polyester is extremely durable and forgiving; it does not wrinkle easily and is relatively resistant to fade. Polyester threads are strong, so leggings made from this material hold their shape wash after wash.

Polyester is not a breathable material, so while this may not be ideal in summer, it is a good fabric for cooler months. Leggings made from polyester are great for layering in winter.

Polyester is often blended with other materials to make it softer.

Spandex leggings are flattering and versatile

A woman jogging on the beach wearing a pair of spandex leggings.

High elasticity, durable and shiny, spandex has become a favorite material for leggings.

Also known as elastane, spandex is lightweight, stretchy, and super soft on the skin. Wear Spandex leggings at home when you are looking for something comfy to veg in on the couch. Dress them up with heels and a blazer for a night out.

Leggings made from spandex can easily be worn to the gym or as modest swimwear as it is resistant to water and sweat. That being said, spandex is not a very breathable fabric, so it may get uncomfortable after a while.

Lycra is also known as spandex or elastane

A close look at a woman pulling on the Lycra material of her leggings.

You have probably seen the words ‘cotton-lycra or ‘cotton-polyester-lycra’ on the clothing label of your leggings. So what is lycra?

Invented over sixty years ago, LYCRA®  is a type of synthetic elastic fiber manufactured by and trademarked by The LYCRA Company. Leggings made from fabric that is blended with LYCRA®  are better fitting and durable. Lycra blends are most commonly found in sportswear because this fabric delivers good fit and shape and moves with the body seamlessly and comfortably with no friction or chaffing.

Lycra can also be called spandex or elastane, but only The LYCRA Company produces authentic LYCRA® brand spandex fibers.

Slimming and shaping leggings are made from compression material

Woman wearing a geometric patterned compression leggings.

Need a  booty lift and tummy tuck; enter compression leggings! Nylon and polyester are used to make the compression material of those butt-lifting leggings made famous by TikTok.

Compression leggings are great to wear while exercising because they increase blood flow while you are sweating it out. It is also believed that they help increase endurance, performance, and speed recovery after exercise.

Materials to look for when choosing leggings to exercise is

A woman at the gym doing deadlift exercises while wearing a pair of leggings.

Leggings for everyday wear need to be comfy, and they need to look good. When choosing leggings to play sport or work out in, we need to consider other factors.

While workout leggings still need to look good and be comfortable while you are exercising in them, they also need to fit well so that they stay in place and not get in the way.

How annoying would it be to have to constantly pull up your leggings while in Downward Facing Dog pose during your relaxing and centering early morning yoga routine? Even more so, high-waisted leggings chaffing at your waist during your HIIT workout.

Leggings for exercising should also be breathable, moisture-wicking, and durable.

This is a sweaty woman exercising at home while wearing leggings.

With these criteria in mind, the best materials for workout leggings are synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester. These materials have a great stretch, are durable and moisture-wicking.

A fabric with a smooth and shiny finish will ensure that there is no chafing during activities like running and other high-impact exercises.

Doing yoga and exercising in the gym, lounging around at home or running errands about town, brunch with the besties, or on a hot date, leggings have got you covered.

Since becoming a wardrobe staple over the past few years, leggings have been made from a variety of different materials blends.

To give leggings their stretchiness and to ensure that they fit the body quite snuggly, LYCRA, spandex, or elastane are added to cotton or polyester. Cotton and polyester also have their part to play in the construction of leggings.

When choosing your next pair of leggings, think about what you will be doing the most while wearing them. Think about what you want the leggings to do for you. Pure comfort while you watch Netflix? Shape and lift to give you a more flattering figure? Breathable and comfortable while you exercise? Be sure to read the clothing label, so you know what material the leggings are made from.  


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