Casual Style

How to Wear Leggings in a Polished, Stylish Way

by Rebecca Casamayor

Leggings are a modern fashion staple, but these garments weren’t always so highly regarded. Like most trends, leggings have had their ups and down, and they even sparked controversy when people started wearing them out in public as pants.

The debate over how to wear leggings—and if it’s possible to wear these stretchy, comfortable garments in a classy way—has been hot for some time now. But as more and more women wear them to work, parties, and everywhere in between, it’s crystal clear that leggings aren’t just popular, they’re fashionable, too.

How Leggings Became a Wardrobe Staple

Instantly Slimming Legging

The transition from comfortable, stretchy pants to one of today’s hottest fashion trends began for leggings over 50 years ago. Spandex was invented in the late 1950s, and fashion blog Who What Wear explains that designers were quick to make slim, stretchy pants out of the new material. Formfitting leggings, as we know them today, really took off in the 1970s, thanks to iconic looks in Grease and Charlie’s Angels. And in the spirit of this bold and progressive decade, leggings from the ’70s were often made from eye-catching shiny material.

As you might expect, given the cyclical nature of fashion, leggings fell out of popularity in the subsequent decades, but made their way back into fashion in the late 2000s, when celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan began wearing capri leggings under tunics and dresses. From then on, leggings started to become more mainstream, and slowly solidified their place as a loungewear and athleisure staple.

But what’s fashion without a little controversy? In 2017, United Airlines made headlines when it stopped two teenage girls from boarding a flight, simply because they were wearing leggings as pants, according to The New York Times. While this incident sparked a nationwide debate about whether leggings are appropriate to wear in public, the garment’s popularity never took a hit. And fast-forward to today, where leggings are not only in, but they’re more fashionable than ever before.

Tips for Styling Leggings


Leggings are inherently formfitting, and for this reason, they can be a bit intimidating to wear. Here are a few tips for creating fashion-forward outfits with leggings—without revealing too much.

  • Pick a high-quality fabric: Look for leggings that are made out of luxe-looking, thick material. When made of thin material, leggings tend to become see-through when stretched over your body, which can lead to some awkward wardrobe malfunctions.
  • Pair them with longer tops: Pairing leggings with blouses, sweaters, or jackets that cover your behind creates a classy look that you’ll feel confident in.
  • Play with texture: The options for leggings seem endless these days, from velvet and faux leather to styles with mesh cutouts, pleats, and zippers. These textures and decorative accents can bring more interest to your outfit when done thoughtfully, so have fun and experiment.
  • Don’t neglect your shoes: The footwear you pair with leggings can make or break your look. Wearing sneakers with leggings gives off a super casual vibe, so if you want a more polished look, opt for sleek booties or even knee-high boots.

How to Wear Leggings at Work

Woman wearing black leggings with blazer

Wearing leggings to work may or may not be appropriate, depending on your office’s dress code. In more casual environments, you can probably get away with wearing thick leggings or jeggings and a long blazer that covers your derriere.

However, in more formal workplaces, leggings could be viewed as too casual on their own. In these cases, treat leggings the way you’d treat regular tights and stick to wearing them under a dress or skirt. But as the old saying goes: when in doubt, leave it out. While leggings can definitely be part of your chic, professional ensemble, your comfort level is what matters most.

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