Wardrobe 101

Leggings are Not Pants

Good day, dear reader!

To tell an uncomfortable truth: Leggings are not pants. Leggings are not pants. Leggings are not pants. (Is three the magic number?)

I know I will probably get hate mail over this.

I understand. Leggings are comfy. Leggings are everywhere. We love our leggings. I love mine, too. But I don’t wear them as pants. Let me make clear what I mean by that…

Leggings are awesome for the gym, and yoga, and cleaning house, and LITERAL Flix n’ Chill, and lots of other bendy-stretchy, sporty, or relaxing activities. If you are a personal trainer, fitness coach, yoga or dance instructor, you probably do wear leggings to work. That’s your work wear. Perfectly suited. Rock on.

For work or day wear, leggings are also amazing under a tunic, or to buy you more wear from a dress that is too short. Note: A tunic is a long top that covers your behind completely, even when you bend over to pick up something from the floor. If you were naked underneath, nothing would be exposed. A long shirt might be a tunic, but drop a pencil and check. Just because it’s a tunic on the mannequin, or your best friend, doesn’t mean it will be a tunic on you. It all depends on how long your torso is! Proportion is key.

For work wear of the generic office type, leggings (as a variation of tights) are usually solid subdued colors, business-y colors: like black, grey, navy, deep wine (camel can look naked… maybe not such a good choice!). The multi-colored, soft as a baby’s booty leggings that millions of women own from a company whose initials might be L.R. are not work wear. Unless you run a day-care in your home. If you work from home, you can work in your jammies! Which is what leggings basically are… Especially the printed ones. (Although studies show that even when you work from home, you are more productive in “work clothes.” It’s that darn enclothed cognition thing again!)

I get questions… What about narrow ponte pants? They might be work wear. It depends on the fit. If they fit like leggings, tight everywhere, including behind the knees, and around the ankles, then they are leggings in a ponte fabric. Jeggings? “Eggings” should be the clue. No. Not even the faux-leather ones all over Pinterest as “work looks.” Go ahead. Search “work looks” on Pinterest. Hundreds of faux-leather leggings worn as trousers, with half-tucked shirts, and sky high heels. (Hint: If the men at your office are not wearing leather pants to work, then give them a miss.) I get it; lots of these pictures are from bloggers and other creatives and fashion folk for whom that might be a work look. Lots of young women (and older women, too) are getting their work wear inspiration from Pinterest.

And then I get the phone calls from Human Resources. Urban Creative Blogger is not one of the dress codes normally found in your average company handbook. Ditto Instagram makeup looks, but that’s another post. Social media is powerful, and changing our culture at a breakneck pace, but look carefully at the inspiration images you pin. Do those outfits inspire you to trust the wearer with your largest investment? Or your child? How about to operate on you? Do your taxes? Most offices are looking for Relaxed Business, or Business Casual, not Social Media Maven. The easy test: Do the men in your workplace wear sweatpants to work? If not, then keep the leggings under another (long enough) layer, and leave something to the imagination…

So now that I have made enemies everywhere, I hesitate to say “let’s start a conversation” like I usually do, but it’s okay. I’m a grown up and can handle it when people disagree with me. Just no trolling, please.

Stay stylish!

Many thanks to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for the Link-Up!






    Liz, Thank you for speaking up for modesty! It seems we need to teach a semester in High School of what is apprpiate dressing for daily life, work wear, and special occasions.

    • Liz K

      Not sure High School is the time, Natalie… That’s a lifelong conversation that starts at home! (Although discussing appropriate dress for interviews, etc. makes perfect sense!)

  • Kay

    You’re so right, Liz!!!! I applaud you for telling it like it is!
    I’m retired and not in a work setting any longer, but I’m astounded at what I see women wearing in public! And this often involves leggings. What happened to modesty?

    • closetplayadmin

      Thank you for visiting, Kay! Modesty is such a loaded word… And can be defined in so many ways! We seem to have lost an entire sartorial realm that sits between gear-for-cleaning-the-garage/working out and clothing-for-special-occasions. I’m trying my best to keep it alive!

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