The Style Glossy: Dressing Room
The Most Wearable Leggings
By Emili Vesilind for The Style Glossy
Leggings. The word sends shivers up the spines of women packing even an ounce of extra padding below the waist. But the clingy bottoms — which traipsed back into style a few seasons back — aren’t going anywhere. In fact, some of the edgiest names in fashion recently unveiled amped-up new versions of the body-hugging staple for spring 2010.
Never fear. You don’t have to be a size 2 to rock the hosiery-inspired pants. With everyone from Marc Jacobs to Lindsay Lohan creating leggings collections, there’s an avalanche of fabrics, patterns and fits to choose from. And the best news is, leggings — when they fit properly — can feel as comfortable as a pair of flannel pajamas.
Leila Baboi, the West Coast staff stylist for Women’s Wear Daily, contends that there’s a pair of stretchy, skintight leggings for every woman — regardless of age or body shape. What’s the key to pulling off the look? “Pair them with a long and slouchy top,” says Baboi, who has dressed Scarlett Johansson and Ashlee Simpson. “A cropped top or a too-tight tank will throw the balance off.”
Here are some of the stylist’s savvy tips on how to work the lean-and-mean look — without adding extra pounds or delving into overly trendy territory:
Choose Long Over Cropped
Capri leggings are for spinning class — not the office. They cut up the line of the body and can make your bottom half look shorter and chunkier. (We’ve yet to meet a woman who wants that!) Instead, get a long-and-lean look by choosing leggings that hit at, or even slightly below, the ankle. Skip the gimmicky stirrup legging: It’s an overly complicated style that’s likely to peter out soon.
If you wouldn’t have stripes or polka dots on your regular pants, don’t try to pull them off in a legging. Cheetah-print or metallic leggings are strictly for fashion-forward 20-somethings — and if worn with something simple and oversized on top, can be adorable. Over 35? Stick to solid black leggings or subdued prints, such as a gentle acid-wash or tone-on-tone all-over paisley. Designer David Lerner’s weighty, well-made versions have a marked slimming effect.
Opt for Big Tops
Avoid looking like you’re wearing a unitard, which means you’ll want to balance the tightness of a legging with a roomier style up top. That’s a cinch these days, since big is definitely huge in fashion right now. Boyfriend blazers, oversized tunics, slouchy button-down shirts and baggy sweaters are all perfect companions for leggings.
Look for Length
Pear-shaped figures aren’t exempt from wearing the look but look best with an even longer top. A fetching outfit: Leggings paired with a roomy tank or tunic underneath a knee-sweeping cashmere cardigan.
Denim leggings, coined the “legging jean,” are a sexy alternative to all-jersey leggings and offer a bit more thickness of fabric than all-knit varieties. Citizens of Humanity, J Brand and Goldsign all make chic legging jeans. Choose ones that have five-pocket styling on top to avoid the maternity-ish elastic waist.
Leather and PVC leggings aren’t just for Rihanna and Lady Gaga. The decadent-looking drawers are a chic nighttime option when paired with towering stilettos and jackets and tops that are cut on the longer side. Nor is it a look solely for the young. Worn with a crisp white button-down shirt and statement earrings, leathery leggings are uber sophisticated. But be prepared to sweat — your legs won’t be catching even the suggestion of a breeze all night.
Leggings work with a bevy of different shoe styles. Ankle boots — heeled or flat — strappy sandals (again, high or low) and classic flats are all cute options. Just steer clear of ’80s-esque pumps that don’t have a covered vamp (the part of the shoe that covers the smooth, top side of your foot), which can turn a leggings ensemble from sassy to sour in seconds.
Emili Vesilind is a Los Angeles-based fashion writer who regularly contributes to the Los Angeles Times. She is also the co-founder of Style Section L.A., a Web site covering L.A. fashion, nightlife and culture.