I never really thought that a pair of leggings could be controversial for every time a female celebrity is photographed wearing them, the tabloids’ gleeful headlines (“slipping them on”; “squeezing into them”) read like an euphemism for “Phwoar”.
I would be the first to say that cheap, see-through fabrics and psychedelic patterns have no place in a woman’s wardrobe – But leggings should not be dismissed entirely. First, they are comfortable and can be flattering and easy to style. Second, I cheer on anyone who wears clothes others have deemed unsuitable, to whom leggings are a two-fingered salute in fabric form.
The fabric is key. Buy the best quality you can afford. Leggings in decent fabrics look just as elegant whether you’re embarking on a long-haul flight or taking the dog for a walk. Worn with knitted wool coat is comfortable, sleek and definitely not transparent – and that’s what women want. I have friends who swear by Topshop’s viscose/elastane versions. Meanwhile, there are dozens of performance-designed examples with flattering diagonal stitching that can be worn in and out of the gym – think Stella McCartney for Adidas if you don’t mind a little sporty branding. Anything is better than a thin, baggy, ill-fitting pair from a $6 bargain bin. That’s a no-no.
From Michelle Obama to Kate Moss, the rise and rise of the leather legging is a phenomenon that’s got, er, legs. Comfortable and flattering, they have the flexibility of leggings with the density of a proper pair of trousers. Shiny, patterned versions do few of us favours; matt, stroke able, high-quality leather or a convincing faux is your friend. As with denim, leather looks best when it has lived a little; think worn-in and moulded to the body as opposed to box fresh.
Leggings have a place in our lives, I have a pair of black J Brand leather leggings that are the hardest-working item in my wardrobe. They’ve never been cleaned or washed and they work all year round.” If you can’t stretch to J Brand, there are plenty of high-street versions that look good, many of which are fake: Zara’s faux leather leggings with seams at the knee, for example, are seen on many a fashion follower and cost around $30.
Layers are helpful when styling leggings, too, covering the top of the thighs without the studently feel of a very long-line sweater. Consider wearing a soft, mid-thigh sleeveless waistcoat over a shorter T-shirt, or a sheer fabric top underneath a chunkier jumper. Add a neutral pair of loafers, and layers are transformed from tabloid fodder to the last word in low-key French chic.