The cooler weather means leggings season is here again. Aside from having to bear witness to those who clearly don’t have a full size mirror at home, or who truly believe that a pair of opaque tights can be worn as leggings, if worn properly, these comfortable, elastic waist, stretchy beauties can actually be quite stylish. While leggings are often reserved for casual wear only, they can be worn to work, if, and only if, certain rules are followed. In today’s post I am giving my tips on how to wear leggings to work.
First, let’s start with some ground rules
How to wear leggings to work
Rule #1- Leggings do not belong in a super conservative work environment
Leggings can be worn to work if the dress code of your office is not conservative or incredibly corporate. Typically, dress codes at conservative workplaces require tailored clothing, often suits or suited separates, modest dress and nothing showy. There is just no place for leggings unless the the office has dress down Fridays. Although, dress down Friday in the corporate world is usually much different than more relaxed office settings. Err on the side of caution and leave the leggings for the weekends, particularly if you are looking to move up, get promoted, you want to make a really good impression or are interfacing with people outside your office, like clients.
Rule #2- Keep work leggings and casual leggings separate
Unless your weekend leggings are of superior quality, keep them for casual wear only. You want your work leggings to be fresh, not-stretched out, not washed out, fade-free and definitely not pilled or worn looking. An option to consider when buying a new pair of leggings is to use them as work leggings until they get a bit worn and then downgrade them to weekend wear once they do. It’s sort of how most people cycle out sponges in their kitchen; they start out as dish sponges and eventually get downgraded to wiping up spills on the floor.
Rule #3- Never, and I mean, never show your butt
This should go without saying, but nobody should see your butt when wearing leggings, especially at work. I don’t care if you recently finished an Iron Man competition at your best time and you think your butt is so beautiful that you believe it should be admired by others. Your tops, jackets and/or cardigans should cover you up. While I’m not a fan of anyone showing their butt while wearing leggings casually, to each their own, I guess. However, when it comes to work, it’s not about you, it’s about your job and what is considered professional. Just don’t do it, okay?
Rule #4- Choose heftier leggings
Nothing is worse than a cheap pair of leggings that are so thin that the skin shows through the fabric. For work, choose a pair of leggings that are beefy enough in weight so that your skin doesn’t show. Nowadays you can get a pair of leggings at just about every price point. Cheap, thin leggings should be reserved for casual moments, if at all. When trying on leggings, bend your knees and make sure they aren’t so tight on your thighs that your skin shows through. Understandably, leggings give out over time and the stress of wear may create grin-through (grin-through means you can see through the fabric). When that happens it is either time to get rid of them or to downgrade them to cleaning the house or running errands.
Rule #5- Wear your leggings in a professional manner
Even if leggings are okay for your workplace, and even if the dress code where you work is more laid back, an appropriate leggings-look for should still be professional. In many instances a tunic sweater and leggings is fine for work, however, this type of outfit should still have some professional polish to it. When wearing leggings to work, try to either pair the outfit with some tailored components to balance out the relaxed feel or choose accessories that elevate your outfits. Leggings may be comfortable, may make you feel all comfy cozy, yet, remember, you are going to work, you still need to look pulled together.
Leggings outfits that can go to work
Below are three outfits that can give you some ideas, inspiration and additional tips on how to wear leggings to work in a way that is appropriate and professional.
Outfit #1- With a cardigan
I quite like using a long cardigan with leggings for work. Cardigans are great staples for the office and wearing one polishes a look without it looking too buttoned up or suited. However, like all the different types of leggings out there there are many different types of cardigans to choose from, as well. Instead of a drapey, weekend cardigan, I like the idea of a more structured cardigan with leggings.
I think a drapier cardigan with leggings can be okay if the work environment has a more lax dress code or if accessories are added to the outfit that adds some professional finish. However, for more structure, a cardigan, like this duster from Boden, looks more work appropriate when worn with these signature leggings from J. Crew. In this outfit the cardigan should stay on, particularly when you are away from you desk, interacting with colleagues, etc. If you must remove your cardigan then be sure to have a longer top on, like this one from French Connection, that will cover you up even when not wearing the topper piece. For a finish, I added these grey earrings, that work with the neck detail of the top, from Max & Chloe, a silver studded bangle and a bold pair of Zebra print flats. What I like most about this look is the long over lean silhouette.
Outfit #3- With a Tunic
Have you noticed how shorts skirts and dresses are for fall? Between mod style being back and a hopeful upswing in the economy (did you know that , historically, skirt lengths have shortened when the economy has been good?), hems have been so short that they’re practically indecent. For casual, we can all be a bit more laid back about the length of our skirts and dresses, but for work it’s smart to be a bit more cautious. In cases where even opaque tights won’t offer enough coverage or modesty with a dress at the office, pairing it with a pair of leggings is a great alternative.
When pairing leggings with dresses there are a few things to keep in mind. First, usually the leggings look good with shift dresses, shirt dresses or tunic dresses. In these cases these styles look almost like long shirts as opposed to actual dresses. If you have a dress in question, try it out with a pair of leggings to see if it looks like a cohesive outfit. If it doesn’t and, instead, the leggings look out of place, this solution won’t work.
Using this tunic dress from Laundry by Shelli Segal you can get the idea of they types of dresses that will work. Here I am using a Boden pair of leggings and, to make the outfit streamlined, I added a pair of black riding boots from Chinese Laundry. Lastly, the outfit is finished with a pair of red earrings from Lauren Ralph Lauren.
Outfit #3- Ponte leggings with a blazer
Okay, if you want to show more of your butt in a pair of leggings there is an alternative to the thin, stretchy cotton pairs that most people wear. Look for a pair of ponte knit leggings that look like a hybrid between a pair of leggings and a pair of trousers. Ponte knit is one of the most forgiving fabrics on the planet. It hugs the body beautifully without exposing every lump and bump due to the beefiness of the fabric weave. Ponte knit is quickly becoming one of my favorite fall fabrics because it offers the structure of a woven fabric and the ease of a knit. You can find ponte in all silhouettes from dresses to pants and jackets.
In this outfit I am using a pair of ponte knit pants from DKNY to show how you can get the comfort of a pair of leggings in a way that is much more professional. While I don’t recommend wearing a crop top or tucking a shirt into a pair of tailored ponte knit pants, you can wear them with a fitted blazer, like I am showing here with this J. Crew style. The entire butt isn’t exposed, but more is revealed than in the two previous looks. Also, when buying ponte knit pants for work, don’t go for a skin tight pair, choose ones that graze your body but leaves something to the imagination. To finish this relaxed tailored look, I layered a gold wool blend cowl neck long sleeve t-shirt under the jacket, used a pair of grey ballerina flats and added an Anthropologie bib necklace and gold Stella & Dot drop earrings.
Don’t be the bad apple who spoils the bunch
It can be hard for corporations to manage the way all their employees dress (trust me, I’ve been hired by many to help with this). While I do think companies can be a bit more helpful in offering dress code direction, much of the dressing mistakes made by employees are usually common sense errors. And all it usually takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Don’t be that apple. If you can wear leggings to work, wear them professionally so that the privilege isn’t taken away from everyone. When employees start abusing dress code rules, instead of offering instruction, it is easier for a company to just take the option away.