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How To Look Good In Leggings

Updated on October 10, 2012

The current leggings trend isn't the easiest one to wear. Don't turn leggings into a turn-off! A few easy guidelines will help you create great looks with leggings.

How to Wear Leggings - Dos and Donts

Firstly, following these initial golden rules will keep you looking golden in leggings.

Don't: Outside of home or the gym, don't wear leggings as pants, without another garment which covers the buttocks. Although opinions vary, fashion and style guides generally warn that this is tacky and overly revealing.

Don't: When wearing leggings, don't show too much thigh if you are heavier, or if you are in the over-40s age group. Watch how others in your age group and with a similar body shape are using leggings. Then you can decide whether it looks flattering, or whether to opt for a more forgiving option. You could achieve a similar look with fitted twill, or enjoy similar comfort with soft light denim or soft, thicker stretch pants. If you are in these categories and do choose leggings, always use them under a garment which falls to the mid-thigh or lower, and you can still enjoy this trend.

Do: If you are thinking of wearing leggings to work, first be sure that this is acceptable in your workplace, and wouldn't be considered too casual or "trendy". Leggings traditionally aren't part of businesslike attire, although there can be exceptions - for example, if they look like black tights under dressy boots and a stylish skirt. If you are unsure, get the opinions of others who know the dress code in your situation.

Do: Always keep in mind the usual principles of creating a tasteful outfit. Many articles and videos can be found online covering these topics - some examples are dressing age-appropriately, dressing for your shape and size, and avoiding colour clashes or mixing busy patterns.

Dressy leggings looks are easy to create, by using good accessories and a classy overgarment. Thanks to for the image.
Dressy leggings looks are easy to create, by using good accessories and a classy overgarment. Thanks to for the image. | Source

Stay Current: Leggings 2012

If you haven't updated your wardrobe since 1991, chances are that adding leggings will only result in heartache for everyone involved - so watch out for some items that may still be lurking in the deepest corners of the closet.

In the past, leggings have been worn with things like giant, wide, oversized floppy sweaters; or huge, loose, shapeless men's button shirts. This can look very top-heavy and shapeless, although by adding a wide waist belt, it's possible you could bravely tip your hat to the past and get away with it.

The major current leggings looks are generally more feminine and shapely. The less shaped looks use soft, draping fabrics. If you stick with current items, you won't have to worry about creating a time-travel experience for onlookers!

Many leggings from the past had very bright, busy patterns and neon colours. There has recently been some resurgence in these styles from the more bold, faddish outlets. These are best left to the brave and the young, as it's difficult to make them work and the trend has that "short-lived" feel about it. If you want to play around with bright, busy, bold leggings, you may want to stick with a plain, dark top, unless you want to look like a one-person Mardi Gras.

Careful - Some Leggings Are Dangerous

Plain dark or black leggings are easy to wear, easy to pair, and can be worn by the largest number of women. But what about some of the trickier options?

Lighter colours can work well for slimmer women, but might be best avoided if you are very curvy in your lower half and don't want to draw attention to this.

Lace or crochet leggings have become a popular replacement for tights or hosiery, and metallic leggings are a more trendy and eye-catching option than plain. Again, the more subdued the colour, the easier these are to pull off.

The most difficult leggings are patterned leggings, very bright-coloured leggings, and wet look leggings. They can easily look busy or draw a lot of attention to larger figures. You might be wary of these unless you're slimmer and in a younger age group.

What to Wear With Leggings

One of the easiest looks for leggings is a long top which loosely falls to the upper thigh or lower. Some of the current tops which work well this way are long boyfriend tees, tops with an empire waist, or the wrap/Oriental style tops which fit the bust then fall loosely. As long as they cover the bottom and crotch, almost any long top which falls fairly loosely below the waist can look great with leggings, especially with a waist belt or an interesting long necklace.

Skirts and dresses that fall anywhere between the upper thigh and knee also work easily with leggings. There is almost no limit to what kind of skirts or dresses will look good when worn this way. Many women especially love the look of a shift dress, shirt dress, wrap dress, or sweater dress with leggings. We've also seen the return of the tight mini skirt and mini dress. For slimmer women who are bold enough for a miniskirt, adding leggings can look great, add warmth, or allow you to wear a dress or skirt that you might find too racy otherwise.

When it comes to warmer layers to add to the outfit, the good news is that almost all of the current jackets, cardigans, ponchos or sweaters will work well. This is provided that you still have either the warm top layer or another layer covering the buttocks.

Long tops with leggings with Converse sneakers - simple, fresh and funky for younger women. Thanks to Lanton at and
Long tops with leggings with Converse sneakers - simple, fresh and funky for younger women. Thanks to Lanton at and | Source

Shoes to Wear with Leggings

One of the best casual looks with leggings is ballet flats or mary-jane style flats. Flat dressy sandals are also a great option with leggings - currently gladiator sandals, Roman sandals and ankle cuff sandals are all looking good with leggings. The current plimsoll sneakers and canvas shoes are a good casual look - for younger women, Converse with leggings is popular. However, ordinary running shoes with leggings is strictly an outfit for exercise.

A word on ugg boots as a fashion item. In many parts of the world, uggs are considered to be not general outdoor wear, but rather something for the occasion of "I went to my local convenience store in my pyjamas because I ran out of milk and cat food. Please do not look at me." But if traditional style isn't what you're going for and you're happy with the sloppy comfortable look, or if uggs are considered a casual fashion item in your area, then by all means enjoy uggs as more than comfy, cosy homewear. (In any case, teens are well known for their own culture of fashion and fads, as the hordes of freshly cloned teens wearing North Face jackets and uggs with leggings shows us in some locations!)

Other boots can work well with leggings; they can give your outfit a more dressed-up look. Be careful of the really 80's looking "scrunched" boots with leggings, if you don't want the trendy "return to the 80s" look that is back with a vengeance.

High heels or pumps with leggings seemed a very retro look at first. But this look has become firmly established and no longer creates a feel of being transported back to an eighties music clip! The benefits are clear once you try it - warmth for the legs, but skin to show off your strappy heels, wedges or funky platforms.

Enjoy the leggings trend - while it lasts!

© 2012 Johanna De Rosa

Comfort and warmth I understand. But a whole winter of a self-imposed uniform? Ladies, why not have fun mixing it up a bit?
Comfort and warmth I understand. But a whole winter of a self-imposed uniform? Ladies, why not have fun mixing it up a bit? | Source

Leggings Poll!

What do you think? Is it classy to wear leggings as pants, without something covering... um... a lady's most private possession?

See results


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    • profile image

      Lacyspacey 4 years ago

      Cool. Thx. :)

    • Johanna De Rosa profile image

      Johanna De Rosa 5 years ago

      @Smile4ever - I'm happy that you found the info useful!

      @Stacy - Glad you're enjoying your uggs! They're certainly a comfy option. I'm always amazed at how much it varies from one place to another, in terms of whether uggs are a "home" item or a "wearing out" item!

    • profile image

      Stacy 5 years ago

      Uggs are STILL extreamely popular and fashionable!

    • profile image

      Smile4ever 6 years ago

      Very helpful. I always wanted to know what to wear with leggings. Thanks so much!