I always have a hard time accepting leggings on everyone, no matter the background. Should I get over it and acknowledge that, in the spirit of body pride and freedom, it’s the way of the world that everyone, at any age, should recognize leggings as a reality? Are there any rules about when you can and can’t wear them anymore? — Rhona, Philadelphia
There is no doubt that the transition to leggings as a lifestyle garment that was underway before Covid has been, like so many other phenomena (online shopping! hybrid working!), accelerated during the pandemic. Suddenly, even those of us who fell into the camp of leggings aren’t pants and thought of them as gym gear began to see the benefit of lounging around at home in what are essentially tights. thicker.
And once you get used to it… well, it’s hard to go back, even if we all return to public life.
Indeed, when I asked Tory Burch – who, as head of his eponymous brand and Tory Sport, has given a lot of thought to how clothes and leggings go together – what she thought, she replied, “I’m always surprised by the leggings debate. At this point, they’re as essential to our wardrobes as t-shirts and bluejeans. Mixing them with ready-to-wear is simply how many women dress today, whether they’re heading to the gym or not.
That said, not all leggings are created equal. Like sneakers, leggings can (no pun intended) run the gamut from performance gear to professional attire. Which ones you wear when you count. And like most things in life, so does context.
For example, the more technical, techno-patterned Lycra styles — the kind that telegraphs, “I’m going to SoulCycle, and I’m going to crush it today” — are probably best left to the sports they’re intended for. Otherwise, you risk looking like you can jump into a downward dog or camel pose as soon as work gets stressful.
But the thicker leggings, which exist in neoprene, leather, stretched bridge and even Jeans (yes, I’m talking about jeggings, but what did they do!) resemble leggings primarily in that they have an elastic waistband and stretch element and can fit more easily into the everyday wardrobe. Some even have a little flared at the anklewhich gives them the smell of pants.
Which brings me to the way you wear them. When it comes to leggings in non-traditional legging contexts, it all depends on how you frame them.
Do not, for example, wear your leggings with a t-shirt, bra or sneakers in a non-workout environment, be it a cafe, restaurant, workplace, cinema, airplane, etc. Also, don’t wear them with an oversized button-up shirt unless you’re deliberately trying to channel the 1980s.
Instead, think of them more like capri pants, but ones that don’t offer the option of tucking in your shirt. Pair them with ballet flats, chunky soled loafers or ankle boots and a tailored jacket or maybe a tunic. You won’t look like you’re breaking any unwritten rules of dress. Just… well, stretch them.
Answers to your style questions
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion question, which you can send her anytime via E-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.