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Leggings vs. Skinny Jeans: How to Choose

Last updated on : September 04 2018

leggings v skinny jeans

Leggings and skinny jeans are go-to options for comfortable bottom wear that easily dresses up or down; depending on what you have planned for the day. 

Both are great ways to show off your legs without showing any skin—a good idea as the weather starts to cool down. 

Leggings provide a stylish additional layer of clothing to keep you warm, and skinny jeans are complementary to many looks.

While they may seem similar, leggings and skinny jeans are entirely different. Both articles of clothing have distinct pros and cons. 

In this article, we look at the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of each. 

What are Leggings for Women?

As Kim Kardashian explains, "Leggings killed velour sweatpants, I used to wear them until leggings came along." 

Leggings lie somewhere in between actual pants and tights—thinner than the former, and thicker than the latter. Whether or not leggings qualify as pants is a matter of eternal debate. The answer, we believe, lies in the quality of the leggings and the thickness of the fabric.

Typically made of cotton or polyester and spandex blend leggings are designed to be opaque, unlike most yoga pants. However, it is essential to pick the right size for you. A tad too small and you might end up with a pair that is stretched too thin and therefore, more likely to be transparent.

Most leggings today are just not thick or heavy enough. However, a quality blend of polyester and spandex will ensure that your leggings hug your curves, show off your hips and booty to perfection and are not see through. 

Available in a multitude of styles, prints, and patterns, leggings allow you to indulge your love for the galaxy, cartoon characters and a lot more. 

For a more austere and neutral look, a pair of black leggings is a closet staple.

Pros

  • Leggings are one of the most versatile bottom wear options in fashion today. Wear them under a dress, with a tunic, or just a nice long shirt, and you are good to go!
  • The sheer variety of designs and patterns available is overwhelming; and every fashionista's dream. Available in all colors under the sun, leggings give you the opportunity to showcase your personality like few other articles of clothing can do.

Cons

  • Leggings require a little more coverage from top wear. They are better worn with longer tops or tunics if you intend to wear them socially. Alternatively, for light yoga and pilates, they are ideal for sports tops and tanks.

pretty girl in leggings


What are Skinny Jeans?

A revolutionary piece of clothing that has undergone some manifestations, skinny jeans were first introduced over six decades ago in the 1950s. They started out as slim-fit denim and have evolved into the skin-tight versions that they are today.

In a stretchable denim fabric, skinny jeans qualify as pants, and like regular-fit denim, they have a button and zipper. Narrow at the ankles, they stretch well enough to hug and trace your curves, although the material is not as soft or lightweight as good quality leggings.

Pros

  • Skinny jeans are tight pants, and so you can wear them with shorter top wear.
  • Denim tends to be a warmer clothing option compared to most leggings.

Cons

  • In denim, skinny jeans are bulkier than the average legging.
  • They are harder to tuck into boots than leggings and might not look as good. 

girl in skinny jeans

How to Wear Leggings or Skinny Jeans

Wear skinny jeans for most outings, but be aware of the following.

You cannot pair skinny jeans with formal attire because denim is not a good option for formal wear. They are also not good to wear while working out unless you want chafed thighs. 

It is likely you have seen skinny jean impersonators on hip-hop dancers and the like - but these are often leggings styled to resemble jeans or jeggings.

Leggings, on the other hand, are quite versatile. You can find imitation denim leggings that masquerade as skinny jeans but fit like leggings. Or you can opt for leatherette or suede leggings for a more polished look.

How leggings fit into the formal-informal spectrum depends on what you pair with them. 

For example, a long t-shirt works just fine for a day spent at the mall, and a classy top/shirt and a well-fitting blazer makes you ready for more formal type occasions and outings quickly.  

Styling Tips for Skinny Jeans


  • For a casual daytime outfit, style a colored pair of skinny jeans with a neutral jacket. Your jeans add a pop of color to your outfit, while your neutral coat makes the overall outfit look sophisticated. Add a pair of chic pumps, and an oversized tote, and you are ready to go.
  • For a comfortable yet casual look, pair your skinny jeans with a structured vest. This pairing adds a layer to your clothing and is a stylish option with plenty of versatile patterns and fabrics. Consider a faux-fur collared vest and boots with your skinny jeans for real pop!
  • When you want to channel your inner biker babe, throw on a pair of skinny black jeans, a leather jacket, and studded boots.

Styling Tips for Leggings


  • If your leggings have a bold pattern or design on them, make sure that they are the highlight of your outfit. Pairing your patterned leggings with a patterned tunic or shirt is too loud and garish. Instead, go for a matching solid color. 
  • Whether you intend to go sightseeing while on vacation or just window-shopping at the mall - leggings can be your best friend and quickly become a closet staple. Try pairing your leggings with a tasteful shirt dress and accessories. Good quality leggings should fit you snugly, so you can try belting your shirt dress at the high waist without worrying about any unsightly bunching or folding at the waistline.
  • For casual lunches or house-parties, you can pair your leggings with an oversized t-shirt or shirt. These ensure that you have enough coverage to let your hair down and enjoy yourself while also leaving ample room for movement and ventilation to help you keep fresh.
  • Tunics and leggings are a match made in heaven. Use any short dresses you might have as a makeshift tunic to pair with your leggings. Perfect for a trip to the supermarket or a walk in the park, you cannot go wrong with a simple tunic and legging combination.
  • Another great way to wear leggings is with a pair of shorts on top, a sleeveless fitted top, a waterfall cardigan, and chic booties. Doing this is a great way to layer up in style as the weather transitions to cool.
  • For a sporty yet feminine look, pair your leggings with a fitted top and flared skater skirt or a skater dress, and top it off with riding boots.

Best Footwear Options for Skinny Jeans and Leggings

Pairing tight-fitting bottom wear with the right shoes is paramount to completing your look. However, getting it right may be a challenge.

Here are a few styles and tips that work well with the overall booty hugging pants look.

Boots

Boots ought to be your go-to option for footwear anytime you wear skinny jeans or leggings when it’s cold outside. Whether you prefer ankle-, knee-, or thigh-length boots does not matter. Pick a trendy lace-up pair, combat boots, or motorcycle boots to draw attention to your legs.

Pumps

We doubt there is an outfit that would look better with the right pair of pumps, stilettos, or strappy high heels than leggings or skinny jeans. Pair faux leather leggings with color-pop shoes for a perfect date-night look.

Flats

If you don't like wearing heels or like knowing that you have the option to switch to flats when the need arises, your leggings understand. Pair ballet flats sans the socks, strappy flat sandals, or flip flops with your leggings for a comfortably casual and relaxed look, or trainers. 

athletic women in galaxy leggings and trainers

Summary

Most of us are under the illusion that only women with buns of steel and thighs to match can pull off a pair of leggings. Not true! 

If you wear them well, style them with balance, and do it with confidence, a woman of any age, and with any body type, can look great in them.

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