Personal Style

How to Wear Leggings as Pants (and Where You Can Get Away With It)


The great debates of our time rage on: When will women earn as much as men for the same work? Will there ever be peace in the Middle East? Are leggings really pants?

We may not have answers to the former but to that last burning question, Erica Luster, one of our hosiery experts here at Bare Necessities, says a resounding…

YES. “You can wear them year-round, from the gym to the store. You can even dress the same exact pair up or down,” she says. Here are Erica’s top five best practices for how to wear leggings as pants:

1) Stick with the basics.

2) Pair them with a longer top.

3) Make sure you get a quality pair of leggings.

4) Wear the appropriate pair of undies.

5) Pair your leggings with the right shoes.

For Erica’s in-depth styling tips and some examples of great products to complete your leggings-as-pants look, read on:

Get back to basics.

“Last year, we saw a proliferation of colors, textures, cuts and busy prints influenced by the runway. This year’s leggings are much more toned down,” Erica says. Corduroy and denim are—and forever will be—important for fall. “You can never go wrong with olive green, dark wash denim or black cotton,” she says.

Choose the right shirt to wear with leggings.

“Always pair them with a longer top, like a tunic. And when you go tight on the bottom, you want to balance it out with something looser on top,” says Erica, who loves to match leggings with an oversize sweater, dressy sweatshirt or boxy blazer. You don’t have to completely obscure the rear view, just make sure your leggings aren’t see-through. Hue, Spanx, Commando and Lyssé are her go-to leggings that can be styled differently depending on the shirts you wear with your leggings.

Invest in a well-made pair of leggings.

If you plan to wear your leggings as pants more than as tights, check for elevated fabrics. Look for the leggings’ material, opacity, weight or thickness. (Keep an eye out here for a fleece-lined pair on its way from Wolford that’ll be perfect for cooler weather.) Better still, pick a pair that has smoothing or shaping characteristics for both tummy and tush from brands like Spanx or Lyssé.

Wear appropriate undies.

“Go with any style you like, so long as it’s invisible,” says Erica, who recommends Commando and Hanky Panky.

Choose the right shoes to wear with leggings.

Reserve high heels for a night out: “You just want to take care not to veer into a 1980s look,” says Erica, who is all about leggings with boots, booties and even sneakers right now.

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Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.
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