Legging newbie seeks knitted pants guidance
August 14, 2013 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to start wearing leggings, but I don't really know how to style them. I am a bit of a priss and am nervous about leggings and don't want to look too sloppy.

I have hip problems and jeans are increasingly out of the question, as is any sort of stiffer pant/skirt. Oof. I am only thirty-eight and not ready for matched sweats from Orvis.

But I have always been a bit of a prim dresser -- neat and minimalist and tailored -- and leggings are unknown territory for me. I am nervous about looking sloppy.

I am looking for any and all tips here. Leggings themselves, even. Brand suggestions? Important: can't abide by artificial fibres -- which eliminates ponte, which I know would bring a more polished look to the deal. I am small (usually wear a size 0) but not petite. I can often wear kids' clothes if they're not too short and wide.

Lots of the nicer tunic-length stuff that would work well with leggings does not come in my size so that is flummoxing me a bit. I can't spend too too much and am having trouble figuring out what will go with leggings that is not too sloppy and also not too expensive. I don't know how to style a legging-length top so it doesn't look...dowdy? Boxy? Making things worse, I have an aversion to decoration-only belts (unflattering on me somehow). Apparently what I want are things in a fitted silhouette, tunic length -- which I am not finding?

One thing I think might (?) work are short skirts, monochromatic -- matched to the top and/or leggings? But I am having a hard time finding comfy skirts (see above re. hips; can't be too structured), especially not skin-tight, especially with pockets. This should be easy to find, but I'm not seeing it?

Looks I like, found after much digging: 1 2 3

Images that are scaring me: leggings as pants. Leggings with tees or other super-casual stuff. Leggings topped with uber-girly stuff with ruffles. The non-functional belt. Fussy cardigans. Shapeless tunics, empire waist dresses, other unsexiness. Excess sexiness. See-through leggings, $100 leggings.

All legging-related insight welcome. Thank you, MeFi fashionistas!
posted by kmennie to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I'll go a little sideways on the issue -- what about trousers made of a soft/flexible fabric? Tailored wool pants for women are abundant and absolutely not messy.
posted by telegraph at 12:12 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you considered getting a boxier-looking top/dress that you like and instead of using a belt, sew on a couple straps of matching fabric or ribbon to the sides, and tie them in the back to give the top some shape?

I'm sure there's a word for that style, but my google-fu failed me.
posted by thewestinggame at 12:15 PM on August 14, 2013

I LOVE leggings. Love them. 2 mefites sent me over here because I love them so much. I can't give you a ton of advice for natural fibers, my favorite brands right now for leggings are Black Milk and Poprageous. They are both more expensive, but they are well made, not sheer, and I have been really happy with all of my purchases from them in a way that American Apparel and other brands have not made me happy.

I went hunting on my website, and here's a small selection of outfits I've put together with them. A few of my leggings looks. There are 2 main ways I wear them- under longer tunics, with some accessories, which is my go-to. I bought my tunic dresses from H&M, and I accessorize with either blazers or cardigans or button down shirts. I also wear them under dresses that are a bit short, with cute boots or flatforms. The key for me to make them wearable in all occasions is to make sure that the rest of my outfit is cohesive and pulled together. If you have specific questions about styling, I'm happy to try to give you my ideas- I find a lot of the time people wear leggings as sloppy clothes, and I really like to elevate them because they are comfy and can be really cute.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 12:16 PM on August 14, 2013 [28 favorites]

I love leggings and usually pair them with dresses, so they basically double as tights. I have also worn them with sweaters and boots in a very cold environment. Leggings as pants are actually really comfortable but I would not wear them with just tshirts.

On the cheaper side, I like Old Navy and Forever 21+, although the latter is very thin material and will wear out quickly. Target also has leggings but they are very flimsy, I would not recommend them.

If you want to spend a bit more, check out Hue at Nordstrom. They will tailor them for you and are thicker but can run around $40 or so. I usually wear the biggest size (XXL).
posted by lollipopgomez at 12:18 PM on August 14, 2013

Personally, I think tunics are the wrong way to go. Especially if you're small. You;ll look triangular.

Personally, I like button-downs and oversized sweaters with leggings. I can't wait until fall actually, because I will be living in sweaters and leggings. A little more refined than a long tee (which I also think is fine, but if you don't, that's ok.)

You want Pinterest for more ideas!
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:19 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Embrace leggings! You can totally dress them up and make them look fashionable. If you spend any amount of time on Pinterest, there are a multitude of looks that will show an outfit with skinny jeans. Perhaps you can substitute leggings for those skinny jeans? Also, leggings come in a multitude of colors and textures (even ones that look like denim).

Spend some time Googling "how to wear leggings" and you will come up with tons of fashion advice i.e. http://www.oprah.com/style/How-to-Wear-Leggings-Fashion-Advice-from-Adam-Glassman/1

As for the skirts, have you tried Athleta? They have some nice skirts: http://athleta.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=91989
posted by ATX Peanut at 12:22 PM on August 14, 2013

I didn't read everything, but I love the look of leggings with knee-high boots.
posted by michellenoel at 12:32 PM on August 14, 2013

I have hip problems and jeans are increasingly out of the question, as is any sort of stiffer pant/skirt. Oof. I am only thirty-eight and not ready for matched sweats from Orvis.

Ha, we are horrible hip twins. I live in yoga pants.

My primary leggings-wearing involves shorter than usual woolly dresses or skirts with boots in the winter. Although I loathe the company, the American Apparel "winter leggings" are great and non-see-through. The shiny ones are an abomination, avoid at all costs.

99% of the time I think patterned ones are awful but (i think?) Mango had some pinstriped ones a few years ago which I wore to bits.
posted by elizardbits at 12:38 PM on August 14, 2013

I'm back again- another friend asked me for some specific top advice for leggings, and I was pulling links for her- so I'll share them here too. I have several versions of this "dress" from American Apparel that I wear with leggings a lot for a tailored tunic look. Here's a look I wore it with last week with a blazer over top (this also fixes the weird sort of off the shoulder thing this particular tunic does). I like the fit of it as a tunic much better than most other things I've tried. This dress from H&M is my go-to for throwing together a leggings look. I throw it on with boots, a sweater or a blazer, and a scarf or fun necklace to pull the whole look together. While I was looking on H&M's website, I found this dress which I would also wear with leggings. It probably would require a belt, and I know you are trying to shy away from unnecessary belts, but I found that I only needed 2 for an infinite number of combinations with this sort of look. The key for me is learning that dress is code for tunic at a lot of the younger stores. Once I found a good fit for me, I bought in a number of colors, and just wear them as a quick pulled together uniform of sorts.

With skirts, I just try to imagine leggings as tights, and that helps a lot with coming up with outfits for them. Again, H&M had a bunch of pretty inexpensive skirts similar to what you are looking for, but I don't think they had pockets. I ended up at various stores to pick up those sort of skirts. I don't wear them a ton with skirts, purely because I find they can get a bit bulky, and that negates the fabulous ease of leggings.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 1:21 PM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, you say jeans are out and leggings are in, so don't overlook...oh Lord I can't even type it, just click here.
posted by resurrexit at 1:33 PM on August 14, 2013

I love leggings. I wear them interchangeably with tights, except that leggings allow me to wear shorter skirts.

I'm not exactly some paragon of fashion, but one thing I've sort of stumbled into is wearing a lot of sweater dresses sort of like this during the winter, which I'll either pair with some flat ankle boots or snow boots, depending on whether or not it's snowing. If the sweater is a loud color, the leggings will be black. If the sweater is gray or neutral, I will wear purple leggings or something. I don't know if it's a look you'd be happy with, but omg I love it. It's like wearing pajamas to work.
posted by phunniemee at 1:57 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, how tall are you? I basically only wear skintight things on my lower half - tights, leggings, jeans (read jeggings). Any look that you like with skinny jeans (these abound on pinterest and the web in general) will work with leggings PROVIDED that your top is long enough.

One of the links posted above forbade tops that fall higher than mid-thigh. I'm 5'3, so that rule seems extreme to me. I think, with some variation owing to hip-wideness, the best rule of thumb is that your top should fully cover your ass. Frankly, at that point, it's going to be hard to tell whether you're wearing opaque tights, leggings, or skinny jeans anyway. If you're short, mid-thigh length shirts will have a tendency to stumpify/trangularify you.
posted by anthropomorphic at 2:13 PM on August 14, 2013

I'm tall, so I wear them under dresses when I want a little more coverage than tights give.
posted by mippy at 3:24 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Co-signing wearing them with dresses; I basically live in this look in the fall/winter. One of my fave outfits: a cute, detailed wrap dress that hits me about midthigh, big chunky belt over the natural waist (doesn't need it because of the wrap, but it looks adorable); short chunky cardigan that ties just under the bust; matte leggings; ankle boots. Because the dress has some girlie/3D detail, and the cardigan has some heft, I want that smooth look that leggings give on my bottom half - it totally works.
posted by deliciae at 3:59 PM on August 14, 2013

I am not a leggings aficionado but I did want to pop in to say, I wear that H&M dress that Nimmie Amee linked to - I have it in black and in blue - and I get compliments on it ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously. It's completely out of line with what that thing cost. I wear it with thick tights, typically in a contrasting color (FLEECED TIGHTS OH MY GOD), with flat or flatish boots and a cardigan.

I could basically live in that forever. I wore it around London last February with an appropriate coat, and you would not believe how comfy and warm I was. So I vote for that dress.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:44 PM on August 14, 2013

I am about your age and despite similar apprehensions to yours, I have recently made some tentative forays into leggings wearing (with skirts and dresses that I feel are too short to wear bare-legged). It has gone OK so far but I am watching this thread with interest for more ideas.

Brand rec: I have a pair of C'est Moi leggings--mine are cabled rib knit in cotton & a little spandex. Are you OK with a tiny bit of spandex? I much prefer natural fibres, like you, but the little bit of spandex doesn't bother me and they feel very good. They provide opaque coverage and are FANTASTIC to wear under a short skirt or short dress. If you are willing to order over the phone, you can call Habit Clothing in Tofino and they will ship them to you. I have them in charcoal and black, very versatile.

C'est Moi are sort of hard to find--they're a small Toronto company--but you can get also their fleece bamboo leggings at Showroom in Toronto. I haven't tried the fleece ones but based on my experience with my cotton cabled ones I would bet they're good quality and comfy.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:22 PM on August 14, 2013

I also have that H&M dress, in multiple sizes because I wore it as my primary outfit all last summer while I was pregnant. With leggings. I can attest to it's awesomeness for the price.
posted by celtalitha at 7:53 PM on August 14, 2013

Currently I see a lot of women wearing leggings that have panels of leather (ish) - either a strip, or jodphur like details. They fairly convincingly take the place of pants that way.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:53 PM on August 14, 2013

Came back to say: Fleeced Tights. Geeze, me. GET THE LINK RIGHT.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:11 AM on August 15, 2013

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