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A Guide To Wearing Leggings With Style

Steph Simpson Update on 25-06-2017
A Guide To Wearing Leggings With Style

No longer simply reminiscent of 80s spandex and athletic wear, leggings are well and truly in style – and it looks like they’re here to stay. This is probably because leggings are a wonderfully versatile piece of clothing, giving far better coverage (and sometimes comfort) than tights or pantyhose, but more freedom of movement than trousers and jeans

They are pretty much a staple in every girl’s wardrobe, due to their functionality and versatility. They have proven themselves to have serious staying power, and it’s not hard to see why.

It might seem surprising, then, that the question of what to wear with leggings, or indeed how to wear leggings still crops up from time to time. It's likely that the confusion about how to wear leggings probably stems from the fact that we have trouble defining them in the first place.

Are they tights? Are they pants? And what about jeggings, while we're at it?

It can be difficult to discern what fashion rules apply when wearing a pair of leggings. And the fact that they can be worn in so many different ways sometimes seems like it only complicates things further. 

There are a few style tips to keep in mind when you're building up an outfit with a pair of leggings, but first - let's take a look at the some of the different styles, and start off by getting the basics right. 


A young, pink-haired woman wearing night sky printed leggings, a black tee shirt and fedora hat
Source: Amy Valentine

Types of Leggings

I very broad terms, leggings are a type of tight, stretch trousers that are usually pocketless and similar to tights. But despite this very basic definition, there are actually a number of different types and styles on the market:

• Full-Length Leggings - Arguably the most popular type of leggings, these are a full-length variety that finishes just above or below the ankle, similar to a pair of footless tights

• Calf-Length Leggings - Sometimes known as 'capri leggings' this type of legging is just what it sounds like; a legging that reaches calf length. It sits below the knee and can end at the mid-calf, meaning it’s a great style for gym attire or to be worn in warmer seasons

• Stirrup Leggings - This legging style features a loop or ‘stirrup’ that hooks under the arch of the foot and prevents the legging from riding up.They are great worn with boots for this reason.

• Footed Leggings - These are a type of legging that encases the foot, so it means that they’re often mistaken for tights. However, footed leggings are far thicker than tights and can actually be worn in a similar way to trousers

  Knee-Length Leggings - These are shorter than calf-length leggings, usually sitting just below the crease of the knee.

These are some of the basic types of leggings - referring broadly to the length of the leg. But the list does not end here; you can get high-waisted varieties, low-rise, slashed, split-knee, above-the-knee and other cuts and styles, so it's worth noting that this list is by no means the limit of your options. 

Now that we've taken a look at the most popular types of leggings, you'll probably already have a good idea of which sort will complement your body type and the types of clothes in your wardrobe.

A picture collage of three female models sporting different types of black leggings; black capri leggings, full-length black leggings and stirrup leggings
Source: Pinterest

How to Wear Leggings: Dos and Don'ts 

We’ve established that leggings come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes. Whether you want them to be a simple element of your look - similar to a plain pair of tights or other legwear - or if you want them to be a statement piece of your wardrobe, there are a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to wearing leggings.

Do Look at Sizing

Because leggings are often confused with tights, it can be tempting to simply pick up a pair, assuming that one size fits most. But this isn’t generally a good idea, because leggings aren’t as forgiving as tights or pantyhose, and often don’t stretch quite as well. Therefore, you should always look at the sizing chart before you buy.

A blonde model wearing black skeleton print leggings, a leather jacket and a black woolly hat

Source: mystylelixir

Don’t Confuse Leggings with Tights

As stated above, it is important to make the distinction between leggings and tights. While they both may look very similar, we’ve already made the point that tights are completely different to leggings. They are often much thicker material, and more akin to trousers.

Conversely, you may not be able to wear tights in the same way that you would leggings, as tights most certainly don’t provide enough coverage for your nether regions!

A woman wearing a chunky scarf, denim jacket, thick black leggings and tan coloured Ugg style boots

Source:final0001

Do Consider Quality and Price

Since leggings have become so popular that they are almost the commodity now, this means that plenty of cheap varieties crop up online over and over again. It can be tempting to buy some of these lower-priced varieties, but you should only do so with caution. Sometimes if you’re opting for a very cheap item, this actually comes at a cost.

Cheaper varieties often have a thin, elasticated waistband which can be very uncomfortable. Also, cheaper leggings are liable to not retain their shape once stretched, which can make them baggy around the knee after a couple of wears.

Don’t Ignore Your Body Type

When purchasing a pair of leggings, you should always consider your body type. The length of the leggings that you choose can accentuate your legs, hips and thighs, drawing attention to or away from certain areas of your body.

For example, mid-calf leggings can make wider legs appear shorter, while ankle length leggings can be great if you want your legs to appear more elongated and slimmer, especially when worn with high-heeled shoes. And if you have wide hips then it can be a good idea to opt for a pair of leggings with a thicker waistband in order to keep a clean silhouette, and prevent the garment from ‘digging in’ or rolling down the top.


A plus-sized model wearing platform sandals, ruby red Lycra leggings, a black cropped jacket and red bra underneath
Source: Nadia Aboulhosn


Must-Have Leggings Styles

We've already spoken about the different types and lengths of leggings on the market - but what about the different styles? If you're looking to start adding leggings to your wardrobe, there are a few top picks that every girl should own:

• Plain Black Leggings - This should be a staple in every girls wardrobe. No matter the length, a pair (or two) of plain black leggings is a diverse item of clothing that can be worn with multiple outfits.

• Block Colour Leggings - This basically means any other single colour than black. You can get your hands on a variety of different colours easily (and relatively inexpensively), so you have a number of different colour combinations to work with when it comes to matching a pair of leggings to your existing outfits.

• Printed Leggings - These will add colour, variety and often a little texture to any ensemble. Pair them with an edgy tee shirt or oversized sweater for an effortless urban style.

• Patterned Leggings - Add a little fun and detailing to any casual weekend outfit by opting for ditzy prints and cute embroidered leggings, or add a bit of gothic glam by opting for jacquard prints paired with dark clothing.

• Fleece & Thermal Leggings - These are a fantastic addition to your winter wardrobe, as the fleece lining helps to protect against the fall and winter chill, without feeling bulky and restrictive.

• Metallic Leggings - Add an instant touch of sparkle and glamour with metallic leggings. These go perfectly with a glitzy tunic top or dress, great for adding a modern retro-futuristic edge to your evening outfits. 

• Jeggings - These are a cross between skinny jeans and leggings. They can be made of denim, or printed in a style to look like denim, making them a  nice item for when you want the look of denim, but the comfort of leggings.


Picture collage of three models wearing different leggings outfits; grunge outfit with slashed black leggings, a sporty outfit with metallic slilver leggings and a cute outfit with mermaid print metallic leggings
Source: kristinadolinskaya ; Amy Valentine

Tips For Styling Leggings

Although you can pretty much wear leggings with anything you want, there are a few styling tips and tricks that you can adhere to. But, it should also be noted that these tips may not necessarily apply to everyone; as there is no real right or wrong way to rock your own personal style.

1) Dress According To Your Shape

If you are a 'pear' or an 'apple' shape, then you might want to wear a pair of leggings with a long tank top, or an oversized shirt or tunic. While there is some debate over whether or not you should ever wear leggings with short tops that don't cover your butt, if you do decide that you want to hide this area then long tops are definitely the way to go. Also, if you want to make thicker legs appear slimmer, consider opting for ankle length or footed leggings, paired with high heels to give a more elongated look to your legs.

A tattooed woman wearing a graphic printed vest and full-length black leggings and black boots for an alternative inspired style

Source: Posh24

2) Balance Prints with Solid Colours

For solid colour leggings, it’s a good idea to pair them with patterned tops with plenty of texture, to prevent your outfit from looking bland. And conversely, if you’re opting for patterned or printed leggings, keep the top half plain. If you're a genius when it comes to matching different prints, however, then go right ahead and experiment with different patterns and textures. 

A pink haired woman in sunglasses, wearing a cropped jumper and graphic printed black and white leggings with patent boots
Source: Amy Valentine

3) Layer Up

Create a casual layered look by pairing some plain leggings with a tunic top and a waterfall cardigan. And to give the look a little edge, throw on some punk boots or combat boots with lace-topped ankle socks, to add a little texture and interest to your lower half. You could even wear patterned leggings under a pair of ripped jeans to give another layer of detail to your outfit.

A woman smiles, wearing an oversized cardigan, black full-length leggings and black boots

Source: Straight A Style

4) Pick The Right Footwear

The great thing about leggings is that they are a transitional piece of clothing that can be dressed up or down. They look great with a pair of sneakers or ballerina pumps for a casual daytime look, and go just as well with a pair of high-heels. Just be sure to pick the right footwear for the occasion, and have fun mixing up your style. 

5) Wear Leggings For Coverage

You can pair leggings with a mini skirt, or even a pair of cut-off denim shorts if you want to, but if you feel uncomfortable wearing them with a shorter skirt you could just add a long cardigan to give some coverage to the backs of your legs (this is also a great trick if you want to cover your hips). The great thing about leggings is you can add them to a skimpy outfit and still have great coverage on your legs, providing you with the perfect excuse to wear that mini dress that always seemed a little 'too short'.

A woman leans against a wall, wearing a white mini skirt and full-length leather leggings with stiletto boots

Source : BlogQpot

6) Don't Forget to Accessorise

Just like with adding layers, pick accessories that will complement the style of leggings that you’re wearing. If you’re wearing patterned leggings, pick accessories that complement the colours and textures. And don’t be afraid to go big and bold if you’ve opted for plain, block colour or black leggings. An ankle bracelet with calf-length leggings adds a little detail to your lower half, or if you're feeling like shaking things up a bit you can achieve the same subtly glamorous effect with a temporary tattoo on your ankle. 

A blonde model holding black balloons, wearing black sun and moon printed leggings and matching topsource : Look Book

Do you have any tips for wearing leggings for both comfort and style?

Please tell us about it in the comments section below!

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