Make It Work For Work: Leggings

Make It Work For Work is a weekly fashion column written by or with commentary from a professional fashionistas that will take one clothing item and show you all the different ways that you can wear it in a work setting. We will also provide links to the stores where the items are available.

The dispute over whether leggings should be worn outside the gym, your home or a modern dance class is one of the greatest dilemmas facing our nation. Basically in about 2005 Lindsay Lohan couldn’t find real pants and decided to wear her gym leggings out and about. She paired them with a pair of ballet flats, a loose top, cute jacket and giant sunglasses and a look was born. Women all over the country started wearing leggings to everything.

They wore them with dresses, with Uggs, with short shirts, Converse sneakers, with tunics and with tank tops. I was at Syracuse University during the height of the leggings fad and as a grad student I was pretty convinced it was a requirement for the undergrad women to wear leggings with one of the shoe choices I mentioned above as well as a big puffy coat, Longchamp bag and aviators. The thing is the people who were sporting these looks were either in college or were a celebrity who doesn’t have to abide by normal societal rules. So when these young women tried to wear leggings to work a lot of offices had to figure out whether they were pro or con leggings. It is a tricky item because they look like pants except they are actually made of a lighter material similar to tights which show off the shape of a woman’s leg in more detail. They can look very cute depending on what you pair them with and depending on the woman, but we have seen so much leggings abuse over the years that many people just want them gone forever.

Now many women can absolutely not wear these to work so I apologize to any women who work in finance or law or another serious office (you can still use these tips for a fancier weekend party). But for those of us who work in more creative fields if you want to wear leggings to work here are things to keep in mind. ALWAYS keep your ass covered. I don’t care if you got an ass like J.Lo’s or a bony little thing like Calista Flockhart, when you are in an office cover it up. Also stay away from wearing heels with leggings because then it really makes it obvious that you are wearing extremely tight pants and now really high shoes. Also if you do wear leggings spend a little money on them and make sure they are opaque like this pair from DKNY. I am also going to say unless you work in fashion I would shy away from wearing leather or liquid leggings. We have plenty of time to rock that look on the weekends.

Option 1: Top your leggings with a neat blouse like this one from Viktor Rolf or Michael Kors and boyfriend blazer from Bloomingdales (which covers your ass). A pair of cute J.Crew ballet flats will also really tie the look together.


Look 1
Option 2: Pair a tunic with your leggings. A tunic is basically a long shirt but one that is probably still too short to be a dress unless you are on a beach which you are not. I love black on black or the gray with black and simple flats. To liven up an all black outfit you can wear a scarf. If your office is a little bit more creative then wear the brightly colored J.Crew tunic. I love these black flats as well.
Look 2

Look 3


Option 3: This is a really casual look but you can always do the long sweater and leggings look (again fitting into our covering our behind theme) with cute flats. I am a sucker for stripes and I think the Tory Burch bag really dresses up the look!


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    • Rachel

      I’m wearing leggings to work today for the first time ever! I got a really nice pair from Gap specifically to show off an amazing pair of gladiator heels I got a couple of weeks ago and have been dying to wear to work. BUT, I am wearing leggings in place of tights under a to-the-knee very office appropriate dress (which I normally wear with solid black tights in the the Winter/early Spring).
      Really, I will only do leggings at work in-place of tights for sandal wearing purposes. (They are like footless tights, but very opaque).

      All of your 3 looks are really cute suggestions though, but my office is too conservative for tights at work (instead of pants). Also, I live by the Blair Waldorf mantra that “tights are not pants”, and will therefor never wear them under anything but an appropriate-length skirt or dress. That’s just me though.

    • Amita

      Agreed. I can’t believe when I see people’s asses (and cameltoes!) in a place of work. If only they could see themselves from behind! It’s crazy when they walk.

    • Ashley

      DO NOT wear leggings to the office.
      No matter how casual your office attire is, or how you ‘dress up’ your leggings… Leggings are inappropriate for professional settings.
      Wear them after you get out of the office, when you’re going out with your co-workers.

    • bonnie

      no! none of these are appropriate to wear to work!!! leggings are not pants, WEAR PANTS!!!!! leggngs can be worn to work if they are under a dress, but not as a pant replacement… grr

    • sirah

      love all the looks! i wear my leggings to work all the time. i work in a casual environment and it’s not an issue. i always wear a shirt long enough to cover my butt though. i don’t understand the whole “leggings are not pants” argument. sounds like someone’s granny up there! haha…

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    • Simergy

      I’m in my early thirties and wear leggings with longer tunics and too-short dresses that would normally be unwearable. Often there’s a cardigan too, for structure and shape. This type of look works with flats or with lower, chunkier heels. I’m neither especially tall nor especially curvy so it doesn’t stand out too much. I do get checked out but that’s also the case when I’m wearing slacks and a turtleneck. Vein as it sounds, I like to think it’s just because I look good and not because my look screams “hoochie”.

    • summerllark

      Awesome collection, I love every single design. I am exploring for some Designer Gym Wear, can you please suggest me some.