In Praise of Leggings as Pants

My body has a weird thing where it cycles up and down about 20-30 pounds every few years. Before you start with the OMG YOYO DIETING IS SO UNHEALTHY, let me reassure you that I don’t diet, and can only attribute these fluctuates to random stuff like geographical location (no, really), relationship status (really, really), stress levels, what medications I’m taking, and so forth. It’s maddening, but I try to let my body do its thang while maintaining a non-weight-dependent healthy lifestyle.


THIGHS. Deal with em.

Aware as I am of my body’s tendency to pull random shit, I tend to buy clothes that can fluctuate with me. Ie, a lot of stretchy jersey things, skirts, and dresses. Pants are harder. I had 3 pairs of pants from the GAP that I bought in 2009-10 that consistently fit me really well at my heaviest weight, and were loose but still flattering at lower weights. Unfortunately, following a recent weight gain cycle these damn pants, which had been loose 3 months prior, no longer fit me. I frustratedly tried to figure out what the hell in my closet still fit me in comfortable and flattering ways. I have a lot of pretty dresses and things but I ride my bike everywhere and I need comfortable, utilitarian things for my day to day fashion.

I was at Forever 21+ with a friend and I told her “I give up, I’m just going to be one of those fat girls who wears leggings every day.” I wore leggings and teeshirts every day as a kid for lack of options, and I had prided myself on becoming more fashion forward as an adult. This felt like some sort of defeat, like I was giving up on looking good. People LOVE to snipe about people wearing leggings as pants. And to that, I will say: FUCK YOU. I am reclaiming leggings as pants.

I think the negative association with leggings as pants has to do with the two major demographics that wear leggings, and in both cases it has to do with body shaming ass and thighs. The first demographic are generally very thin women (every sorority girl at IU wears a uniform of black leggings and boots all winter long), the second is fat women. In the former case, women are criticised for shamelessly flaunting their “perfect” thighs and ass, in the latter it’s because of fat women shamelessly displaying their “imperfect” thighs and ass. Maybe it seems like TMI to some folks either way, too much like wearing tights without a skirt. (My boyfriend refers to leggings as “tights” FWIW. And for the record- footless tights are NOT leggings.)

These glow under a black light. No joke.

These glow under a black light, and match my running shoes perfectly.

My work-around has been to wear my leggings with $5 mini stretchy skirts from H&M, or wearing leggings with longer tops. But I’m not gonna lie- if I’m going to the gym, or in my back yard or some other casual situation, I am wearing them as pants, and y’all can suck it.

I’ve also branched out beyond black leggings to crazy patterned ones. This makes my exile from pants to leggings somewhat more tolerable to have some goofy options. Forever 21+, ASOS Curve and Target have some nice options, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the wig shop behind my boyfriend’s house carries a bunch of insane patterned leggings in my size. They can be difficult to build an outfit around, but it’s worth the work.

So- leggings as pants- taboo? Or ripe for reclaiming? Sound off in the comments.



  1. You know I’m all about individualism, comfort, style, and most importantly wearing as little clothing/tight as clothing as possible; therefore, I give one big gay GET IT!

  2. As long as you wear underwear with them, or are 1000% positive that they stay opaque when you bend over. I have a family member who insists upon wearing leggings as pants with no underwear all the time, and no matter how many times I tell her that her leggings become as sheer as pantyhose whenever she bends over, she refuses to start wearing underwear because “then she’ll have panty lines”. I personally am of the opinion that I’d rather let the world see the lines of my panties than my vulva, and I know I (and my husband, and my MIL, and my friends, etc) would rather look at her panty lines than her vulva, but she seems to be of a different opinion than me.

  3. First of all, you’re a badass in the best way and the sentence “the wig shop behind my boyfriend’s house” is the best! My weight has fluctuated over the last few years for similar reasons and some serious back problems and some days, MOST DAYS I just need to be comfortable, it is body shaming to say any of us can’t wear whatever we want, so FUCK THAT!

    • Oakland- that place is a fashion gold mine. It’s a particular kind of shop in Chicago that is usually owned by Koreans and patronized by African American women (and the occasional drag queen). What is so amazing is they have super bold and wacky clothing options up to 3X/4X mixed in with everything else like its JUST ANOTHER SIZE instead of being shamed into a tiny plus sized clothing corner. But I agree- sometimes you need something cheap and comfortable, especially when your body fluctuates and you can’t afford to constantly overhaul your wardrobe.

  4. Personally, I think there are leggings that are pants, and leggings that are tights, and I would not be comfortable leaving the house wearing tights and no skirt/dress/shorts (unless I guess I was wearing a long tunic top that was practically a dress.) I can’t decide whether a particular pair of leggings are “pants” or “tights” without being in possession of them — I have to be able to touch them and see how sheer they are in person. That said, I think women should wear whatever the f they want, including tights as pants! I’ve seen women of all shapes and sizes wearing pants-leggings and tights-leggings, and looking great doing it, but even if I was somehow displeased with someone’s appearance, it’s not my right to judge how other people dress. πŸ™‚

  5. I’m pretty shameless about wearing leggings as pants without panties. I’m not concerned about my camel toe, or the vulva-exposing bends. I see this in many ways as the woman’s clothing version of men wearing thin-fabric basketball (or swooshy, as I prefer to call them) shorts. Dudes, we can see the outlines of your dick! I LOVE IT. Please never stop, and please never, ever, ever reprimand me or anyone for our camel toe. As far as I’m concerned, you are welcome. – Caitlin V Neal

    • Caitlin I love your shameless ways! Is it wrong that I kind of got turned on by the dick outline description? I love the way my bf’s package looks in jeans though it’s not super graphic perse, I just like knowing it’s there. πŸ˜‰

  6. Thanks for your confidence, leggings/tights make life so much easier. When you are tall and a plus size pants generally are not made to fit well. I will try out a couple of pair for the winter and see how they feel. Thanks again.

  7. Hrm. I feel like where I live — which is in the middle of the Freaking Desert — a lot of folks are either very lenient on what constitutes “pants,” or else they’re like, “Um. It is still September. It will be too hot for pants for at least another month.”

  8. If you wear leggings with a (top, skirt, etc) that doesn’t cover your ass, then it is a big fat (heh) hell no. I don’t need to see you walking down the street in front of me with your see through leggings showing off your granny panties or thong for the world to see. No, no, no.

  9. Those leggings are a little to extreme for me, although they work for some people! usually has a pretty good selection, FYI. Cheers!

  10. I wear leggings as pants wherever and whenever I want, and if people don’t like that, or if that offends them, GOOD.


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