There’s a trending article on whether you can wear leggings to work right now, and I thought — oh man, we haven’t talked about that in years. So let’s discuss. Before everyone has a kneejerk reaction, I’m curious — what are the most comfortable pants that you think are acceptable to wear to work? What are the tightest or most body conscious pants you DO consider acceptable to wear to work?
Do you wear some pants to work that are sold as leggings — but actually just feel like pants to you? On the flip side, do you have some pants that are sold as pants — but that you recognize are just slightly fancier versions of leggings? If you COULD wear leggings to work, would it be more about comfort or the style for you?
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Here’s a quote from the article, Is it Weird to Wear Leggings at Work?, by Olga Khazan, in The Atlantic:
… I would argue that tights are better than pants. Working in leggings is approximately 400 times more comfortable than working in literally any other garment. I sit for at least 10 hours every day. Sitting for that long is not comfortable in regular pants. The waist band digs in, the legs ride up, and, depending on how long in the pelvis you are, the crotch gets more intimate with you than is common on Tuesday afternoons.
All of this led me to wonder: Is it okay for me, or any woman, to wear these puppies to the office regularly, or what?
It’s a really interesting point. Years ago, Buzzfeed staffer Amy Sly had a seminal decision chart on leggings vs. pants that, I thought, settled a lot of the major contours of the debate — such as, is the Lycra/Spandex% higher than the cotton %? Can you wear them to yoga? Are strangers complimenting you on your underwear?
A few notes from discussions we’ve had here before I open it up to reader discussion:
If you want comfort but not the tightness, readers swear by these “magic pants,” stretch crepe pants from Eileen Fisher — on the more affordable side, check out Uniqlo’s EZY line as well as these popular $55 pants from Leith. (Readers also used to love this J.Crew Factory drapey pull-on pant, but last I checked it was sold out.)
If you want pockets AND comfort and have a more casual office, these Hue denim leggings are a personal favorite — they’re pull on, machine wash, and they come in a variety of fabric weights, prints and styles. They’re sold like tights (folded on a tiny hanger with a stiff wrapper around them) but I swear, they feel like pants!
Leggings for work: I haven’t tried them but Uniqlo sells a whole line of “legging pants,” including some in their Heattech line… Ann Taylor also has a ton of “leggings” in their work line. I’m curious, readers — where else do you think are the best leggings for work?
Pull-on ponte pants are EVERYWHERE now — seriously, everywhere. Nic + Zoe Wonderstretch pants have been in our Hall of Fame for a while, but on the more affordable side of things Elizabeth has reviewed Crazy Larry pants and April at CorporetteMoms has reviewed these ponte leggings from the Elizabeth & James collaboration with Kohl’s; I also know readers have sung the praises of a DKNY pull-on pant from Costco. There are so many I’ve been considering doing a round-up!
Legging-like pants – If you want a body-conscious look of leggings, but with “pants” in that they have, for example, stiffer fabrics or zippers, try these from Wit & Wisdom, Spanx, NYDJ, or Vince Camuto. (If you want definite pant material but still the body-conscious look, try Everlane’s uber-popular Work Pant; readers have also noted that MMLF’s Foster pants are a bit legging-like.)
Also, psst: leggings look great with black knee-high boots!
Hunting for black knee-high boots? Here are some of our long-standing favorites as of Nov. 2021!
Above: one / two / three / four
Readers, what are your thoughts — are you noticing more and more people wearing “leggings” to work in a negative way? Thinking about it now, might you be wearing, essentially, leggings to work? What are your favorite leggings for work or leggings-substitute for work?
Leggings are basically not allowed in my business casual workplace, with the exception of women towards the end of their pregnancies. I just don’t see the point in pushing the envelope on work attire: I want people to think about my competence and demeanour, not about how body-con my pants are.
When the temperature outside is less then 30 degrees Farenheit, the manageing partner lets us wear leggings, as long as we are not meeting with cleints or going into court. That makes sense to me b/c I walk to work and need to stay warm. On those days where I have cleints coming in or going to court, I have a change of clotheing here that I can use b/f doing my cleint work. No one cares what I wear in the office, other then Frank, and he is happy if he sees more, but I don’t care b/c I prefer to be warm rather then cold in the office where the heat is terrible.
It’s interesting that there’s an exception for women at the end of pregnancy! I’m in the last few weeks of pregnancy, and I still can’t bring myself to wear leggings to work. In fact, my desire to telework for the final few weeks was driven in large part by my desire to wear leggings (or sweats) while I work from
I’ll wear thick ponte pants, and my office is very business causal. I’m on the legal team though, one of three women, and might actually start breaking out my more professional workwear again. I find I cannot look business profesh, and put a good outfit together, annnndd feel pretty in a business casual setting. I’m just bad at picking out outfits I suppose.
This is a question fully dependent on a bunch of factors, including: how cold is it in your office, what is the business dress code, how big are your thighs and rear in comparison to the rest of your body, do you work in a terrible place where men (or women) will stare at your backside, do your tops and sweaters/blazers cover at least all of the top side of your behind, etc.
For me personally, leggings pants at work must be of a heavy weight such that you can’t see pantylines at all, my top or sweater must cover most of my behind, and it’s going to be on a Friday or right before a holiday.
Well this is an interesting aspect of a lot of this stuff — are you saying that thin women wear them, but overweight women can not? We’ve had that conversation before with regard to sleeveless shirts in the office…
Not everyone with a big butt is overweight. Good lord, stop looking for a fight.
I’m the person that posted this and I agree you are projecting. It is perfectly common knowledge that what looks risque on a woman with more shape – not fat but more shape – is going to look less risque than on a straight shaped or thin woman. It isn’t great but that is a common perception and we have to work within the realms of reality not wonderland where no woman is judged by her clothing. This is about fit not size. I guarantee you Calista Flockhart and Sofia Vergara could wear the same outfit and be judged drastically different for it.
If you’re comfortable showing off your figure and butt go ahead but many of us work in an office where butt hugging leggings are just not appropriate.
Amen. I’ve got a big butt, and I’ve had it when I was a size 0, and a size 12/14. Isn’t there a song???
We all have different body types. Something that would look perfectly acceptable on one person would look obscene on another woman. It’s just how women are made, nothing to fret about. I don’t like how all non wide-legged pants seem to fit me like leggings due to my genetically large legs, but that’s just the way it goes…
Totally agree with this. I know this post is about leggings, but I’ve had this same conversations about tops with my friends as well. I’m very small busted in comparison to my larger endowed friends, so I am able to wear lower shirts without my cleavage being revealed than they are. There’s no dress code against showing cleavage at my firm, but like some of the other posters have mentioned, it’s not something I prefer to do at work. I’ve been in situations at previous positions where a male boss has stared down my shirt while we’re meeting, and I hate the insecurity that comes with having to remember to adjust a tank top or bra strap all day.
My big ass is happy in leggings, thanks.
Yup. I’m a very solid curvy pear on a slim body (size 0, 24 inch waist, but 34-36 inches in the hips). I’m not about to have someone tell me I can’t wear leggings because I’ve got curves. The main thing I worry about is panty lines, and lots of lumps and bumps, but those are mitigated with heavy fabric. Lord forbid someone know that I have a completely anatomically normal body. I’ve got a butt, deal with it. If anyone gets to wear leggings in a work place, everyone gets to (even men if they wear the appropriate garments underneath so they’re not vulgar). Putting weight and/or curviness limits on clothes is bull.
Weekends in the office are a free for all when it comes to clothes. Leggings and tunic tops are the standard wear where I work (and the men in those terrible dad cargo shorts and sandals), although you do get the occasional hawaiian shirt or the high powered female partner in the unexpected messy bun, lululemon tights and overside university sweatshirt.
I was just debating with myself how to draw the line between leggings and pants. I have a thick pair of ponte knit pants with a zipper but when I wear them, I think they look a lot like leggings. The ankle opening is a bit looser than leggings but they are smooth through the bottom and legs, though not quite as curve hugging. I can’t decide.
If you have to ask, they’re leggings.
A recent real world conversation: “Please don’t wear fake leather leggings to work again” vs “You’re wrong, people are focused on the wrong things, and you hurt my feelings.” Yes, really, on the last part.
It has made legging-like pants a hill I’m no longer willing to die on. But I notice. Every time. And it damages the individual’s credibility with her peers (who made hooker comments), subordinates (whose respect has not yet been earned), and boss (me). I absolutely hate that it’s now proliferating through the office.
Her peers who made hooker comments, is their credibility damaged too?
Hooker comments? For real? And you let them get away with that?
What makes you think I didn’t handle it? These aren’t top players we’re talking about here, so sure, their credibility was damaged from the low level it started from, but I can’t control what they think about her during future interactions.
To clarify, these weren’t maybe-pants, it was skintight clubwear.
The person in question doesn’t have sufficient skill or credibility to get away with that outfit in a very conservative industry. I talked it through with some mentors about how I handled it and each of them thought I was joking about the situation.
How do you guys store your leggings? I can’t for the life of me figure out how to store them for ease of access. My workout leggings go into the “workout stuff” drawer, but what do I do about leggings pants, especially the thick ones, that I wear as actual pants but aren’t hanger appropriate?
I Marie-Kondo style fold them so you can see all of them at a glance.
Why can’t you hang them? You are overthinking this.
I shove them in the same drawer as my tights and steam them when I need them.
I roll my leggings, but fold my thicker stretchy pants Marie Kondo style with my jeans
I drape multiple pairs over a hanger.
I am an associate attorney at a 20ish attorney firm. If I were to leave, what is the normal amount of notice to give? I’m anxious to get out, but don’t want to burn any bridges. So wondering if there is a “standard” amount of time. Two weeks? More?
No less than two weeks, but I wouldn’t do more than four. If you’re at will, you can technically leave any time but you will be burning a bridge without lots of notice. Don’t be surprised if they lock you out immediately and ask you to leave – not in a malicious way but in a “we don’t want you taking client information” kind of way.
I don’t think two weeks will burn bridges unless you’re staffed on a deal that’s closing or a case that’s going to trial soon and your departure will leave people in the lurch. I gave about four months notice when I left Big Law (I was moving for my husband’s career, not to a competitor) and I regret it. I was not terminated immediately (that actually would have been ok, I wouldn’t have minded a four month sabbatical from work), but I was treated like absolute $hit by the partner I worked for. He’d known for a while that my husband was moving and I was likely going to be leaving, and he’d professed to be supportive and do what he could for me, so long as I gave the firm a good notice period, which I promised to. But when I actually told him I was departing on a certain date, it was like a switch flipped and all of a sudden it was no longer an amicable parting and he behaved in a way that was unrecognizable to me (much like the divorces discussed this morning, actually). He ended up throwing me under the bus to a client for something that had gone wrong that wasn’t my fault, and then the client insisted on having me removed from the case. It was a really disappointing way to end an otherwise great five years working together.
I once gave 4 months notice and it got pretty weird. I was on a huge case in a role that was difficult to transition. I worked well with the people on that case but otherwise, it was weird with everyone else.
My next job I gave 2 weeks, and that was plenty sufficient.
I did 4, and it was way too much. Once you give notice, things get super weird, and it’s not like you’re going to get new work to do. Do whatever the minimum amount of time is that you need to tie up stuff before you leave (so long as you give at least two weeks).
We had a discussion here about the Foster pant not long ago. On me, anyway, they’re not leggings-like at all. I’m more of an apple shape. When the waist fits properly, the rest of the pant fits like any other work pants. The legs look looser on me than the models.
I have a somewhat related question: can I wear velvet tights/leggings with a dress or skirt at work? I wear patterned tights in neutral colors (black, navy, gray, or nude for me), but is velvet a step too far? I recently got black velvet “tights” (really leggings) from Athleta and I kind of want to wear them with a skirt, black cashmere sweater, and ankle boots. Would that look weird in a business casual biglaw office?
No, that sounds cute.
This is just my personal preference, but under a dress or skirt is the only time that I think leggings to work is appropriate. Even leather leggings I always pair with a very long top to cover my mid-section, and that’s only for social gatherings. I work in corporate fashion, and even in those “relaxed” environments, most of the people seeking an upward mobile career path very rarely wear leggings to work. When there are so many stylish fashion options, why push it?
I’m probably different from everyone here in that my office is super duper casual and I could roll in wearing sweats and no one would care. So yes, I’ve worn leggings. I like the ones from Gap’s athletic line.
Uniqlo EZY trousers are absolute game changers for me. Smooth fronts and stretch waistband for a flattering fit for my X shaped body, usable pockets, machine washable, and cheap in store hemming. I had two board meetings today, so I just wore a brown wool-looking pair with a tweed Boden blazer and cognac Dune brogues.
Office is on the very nice side of biz cas. I can wear thick leggings with a loooooooong shirt or tunic — basically something that qualifies as a short dress that wouldn’t be work-appropriate without leggings.
On this topic, we are casual Fridays at a dress for your day workplace (a LOT of people wear jeans daily, including director level. On most Fridays, I wear my Chucks with jeans. I really want to wear the Free People Ottoman tunic (goes almost to my knees), belted (as long as it doesn’t look ridiculous, then not belted), over leggings tomorrow. Thoughts?
And report back.
This is an extreme version of “know your work environment before proceeding.” I can’t even tell you how psychologically uncomfortable I’d be in leggings at work, even if they’re more physically comfortable. It’s partly my body shape (even ponte pants are verrrry bodycon on these thighs, thank you very much) but also the level of formality. I wouldn’t feel good rolling into a meeting where the men are in suits and ties, or even just a button-down shirt+tie, and I’m in tight pants.
I think it’s way easier for apple shapes to get away with wearing leggings/ponte as pants, than it is for those of us with pear shapes.
I agree with you, anon. I’m also pear-shaped, so anything too snug can really feel like it’s crossing the line from appropriately flattering to (I’ll call it) over-emphasizing an asset. That said, I think I’m able to strike a balance. My tighter-fitting pants are wool with a little stretch (the J. Crew Marties), so they definitely look like trousers and have that Audrey Hepburn vibe. I’m petite, so thing that are too baggy make me look equally ridiculous. It can be hard to find a balance, but I find that a conservative blouse/sweater/blazer on top really helps a lot. Still, I’m glad to see wide leg and flare trousers are back in style again!
Agree with both of you. I think there’s a subtle pressure on women managers and execs to be always slightly better dressed than the men we work with. Even in tech, at senior levels in big companies (e.g. Microsoft, Apple), it’s not as casual as people think. Perhaps more jeans, but never shorts.
My brother is a top developer in Denver, and wears Keens to work. But he isn’t management, doesn’t want to be management, and doesn’t really care what people think about what he wears. I want to look good and blend in, not stand out for being either too formal or too casual. When there aren’t a lot of women at my level, it’s hard.
I’m a pear-shaped plus-sized shortie, and I absolutely agree. Even if they were wearing polo shirts and khakis, I would want to be dressier than them. I find wide-leg, especially palazzo-level wide leg belted pants to be most comfortable, even more so than leggings anyway. I’m of the generation and body type where leggings, especially the fleece-lined variety, are only for extremely cold weather than a wardrobe staple. But I’m strange like that, I don’t even wear jeans.
Ladies, I’m looking for some feedback here. Am I being realistic or cynical? I’m 38 and I’m ready to give up on dating. I’ve been in love twice, one time that ended with an expensive, traumatic break up the week that I started graduate school and turned 28. The next guy that I was involved with was a saint, but tragically, he got cancer before we got serious, and passed away. We down-shifted to friends when he got sick, and watching someone so young and vital suffer through cancer was devastating. The prior traumatic breakup (cheating, emotional and financial abuse) and his incredibly unfair death pushed me over an edge and I ended up falling in love with an alcoholic. That ended after 2 years (I went to therapy after the demise of that relationship, clearly I needed it). In the meantime, I’ve thrown myself into work, and dealt with the PTSD but the desire to date/marry/have kids has evaporated. Should I force myself to date because I feel like it’s what I “should” be doing? I always pictured myself married with at least two kids, but the financial and emotional devastation of my last few attempts has made me gun shy. And I feel too old to start a family regardless. I have been forcing myself to go on Bumble dates and have met about 10 men, but haven’t felt a spark. Lmk your thoughts.
In my experience, starting a family is a tough goal. Putting time constraints is even tougher. Looking for a partner to love and respect is a lot easier, especially when I’ve felt confident in who I am and the type of person I want. Of the two significant relationships I had before I met my husband, both were casual meetings through friends and work. I met my husband through mutual friends at a barbecue (not a setup, we just started talking and hit it off). I wasn’t even sure that it was going to be a relationship because while I was attracted to him, and I was pretty sure he was attracted to me, he shook my hand after our first few dates. Turns out he was freaked out because he really, really liked me. In the end, it worked out so well because we paced ourselves before jumping into bed – and I was living in another city and traveling a lot so logistically, seeing each other took more work. We got to know our shared values, and eventually what we wanted out of life (family, career, personal development). And somewhere in there, yes, he stopped shaking my hand ;-) And after a few months, I knew I loved him deeply. He’d already become my best friend. About a month or two after that, I knew he was the man I would marry. He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met, period.
I’d loved my ex’s, but I used our breakups to realize what it was (and wasn’t) that I wanted. Maybe therapy could help you hone in on that. Maybe it’s taking some time out. Maybe reading a book or two, or just investing in yourself outside of work. I know that when I met DH, I had my own interests, my own passions. I hadn’t dated anyone in over a year – he hadn’t in over 18 months. It wasn’t intentional, I just knew what I wanted and if I met someone that wasn’t that, I’d either have a fun fling or just say no thanks. Feminine confidence is a BIG turn-on for guys, as is a woman who isn’t tied into her work or in trauma (and I say this as a woman who has had a LOT of loss in my life, depression and other psychological health issues – including PTSD from growing up in an abusive, alcoholic home) No judgment here, you’ve been through hell and are clearly a strong woman of tremendous courage and fortitude.
Kids and families come in all sorts of ways – but without a solid relationship with myself first, my faith, and then my DH, I wouldn’t have the strength to raise our sons. Good luck to you!
I’m 43 and still getting over my engagement breakup from two years ago. I’m finally over everything and never wanted children, so I refused to do anything I didn’t want or was ready to do in terms of dating. Give yourself time, and if you don’t plan on having kids, really don’t rush anything. If you do, however, want children, perhaps seeing a therapist to help you get over the breakup?
I mostly model my clothes off of what everyone else wears since we don’t have a formal dress code. There’s a guy who wears shorts in the summer and a couple of people who wear hiking shoes year round, but no one wears sweatpants or gym shorts. I’ve never seen any of the women in leggings (I assume because they’re all 20+ years older than me?), but I probably could wear them if I really wanted to.
Yes I can. I work in tech in SF and I can easily wear leggings with a wedge sneaker or bootie and any type of slightly longer top.
I tend to dress just a tad more formally than others. I almost always wear a blazer or sweater jacket or cardigan, I don’t wear anything sleeveless or higher than about 2-3″ below mid-thigh. And I either wear neutral black tights or stockings – bare legs for me are uncomfortable and my feet hurt.
That said, I don’t ever wear pants that show the bottom curve of my butt. It sounds strange, but despite what size I am and have been (from 0 to 12/14, now a 10), I think butt-ness is unprofessional for anyone who is manager or above, or aspires to be a manager or above. That’s just my personal opinion. I find it a little gross. I feel the same way about jeans. On casual days, I will wear jean trousers in a dark wash occasionally. I see people in far more casual clothes at work, but execs are not (men typically in a button-down shirt, no tie, dress slacks or perhaps khakis). Sadly, there aren’t a lot of choices for women that are flattering, comfortable, and at the same level of professionalism.
I love leggings with a big sweater or shirt – at home, running errands, etc. Always in black, always with my butt covered, but still only for home/family outings. I work in corporate strategy for healthcare & insurance companies in the northeast. When I was on Wall Street, it was even more restrictive. When I was in academia, I looked out of place but still was uncomfortable with a lot of the more casual looks (I’d wear a chambray shirt layered over a neutral tee and khakis and sweater dresses, about as casual as I ever got).
Butts begone, at least for me!
There are actually a lot of similarly level of professionalism as your male executive counterparts, just not in legging form. I’m not sure what your particular office environment is, but a lot of wrap dresses in beautiful (and dark-colored prints), as well as plus-sized fashion that are really stylish (more for the 14 end of things). I worked on Wall Street too, granted on sell-side research, where wardrobes were less formal than i-banking, but I always got away with wearing shift dresses, wrap dresses, shirt-dresses, in addition to the standard blouse-and-khaki/trouser combo. And for your butt-less pants, the hugely fashionable wide-leg and palazzo pant options are not only de rigeur in current trends but supremely comfortable.
Fellow Size Flexer (6-16)
Yes, I do cause I work in tech in California and I can easily wear leggings with a wedge sneaker.