In the rapidly changing world of women’s fashion, leggings are no longer mere workout clothing or loungewear. They have emerged as one of the most versatile pieces in a woman’s wardrobe. Leggings are ideal for the gym, running errands, and traveling, but they can also be dressed up for a night out on the town. That doesn’t make choosing a pair of women’s leggings less daunting, however.
Women’s leggings are made from form-fitting, stretchy fabric. While black is by far the most popular color, leggings can be found in a wide variety of solid colors and prints. Speaking of variety, you’ll also find plenty of on-trend leggings, featuring unique materials, embellishments, and cuts.
Our buying guide has all the information you need to choose a pair of women’s leggings that fit well, feel great, and give you a fashion-forward look. For our picks for the best women’s leggings on the market, see the matrix above.
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Types of leggings
Athletic leggings are designed for exercise or performance, so they have high tensile strength and maximum flexibility. These styles tend to be thicker than fashion leggings. Athletic leggings also require special care when washing to preserve the stretchy materials in their blends.
Fashion leggings are designed for casual wear, and they are either worn on their own or beneath skirts and oversized tops. These leggings tend to be on the thinner side, though that sometimes means they can be slightly sheer, which isn’t always popular with wearers. On the upside, these leggings are generally machine-washable.
Women’s leggings don’t follow the same sizing as women’s pants and jeans. To find your correct size, consult the manufacturer’s size chart. You’ll often need to know your height, weight, inseam, and waist or hip measurements.
In terms of sizing, most women’s leggings are available in XS through XL. Some manufacturers make plus-size leggings up to 4XL. Some also make XXS women’s leggings, though this size can be hard to find.
While leggings are typically associated with ankle-length cuts, women’s leggings now come in a variety of other lengths. A cropped cut lands just above the ankle, though if you have shorter legs, this cut will fit like a full-length style. There are also mid-calf, skimmer, and capri cuts, which are more popular for athletic leggings than fashion ones.
Regular waistbands have either a high, low, or medium rise. These waistbands tend to have thinner elastic bands of one to two inches. Regular waistbands are more popular on fashion leggings as their design isn’t very conducive to high levels of activity.
Wide waistbands have either a medium or high rise, and they are usually found on athletic leggings. On average, these waistbands are between three and five inches. They don’t always rely on an inner elastic band. Instead, they often have a panel of material that hugs the torso and acts as tummy control.
While plain black leggings are always in style, there are plenty of colors, patterns, and trendy designs to choose from as well. Mesh panels are a popular design element that give leggings a modern, sporty edgy. They’re most commonly located on the sides of the thighs or calves. In addition to adding curb appeal to leggings, mesh panels also provide ventilation, which is why they’re a popular choice for athletic leggings. A popular trend for women’s fashion leggings is faux denim with zippers and pockets to mimic jeans.