Legging out an outfit

Many women — but not all — like versatility of leggings

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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A public service announcement: Tights and leggings are not one and the same.

“Tights are meant to be worn under a garment. Tights are not meant to be worn as an exterior piece,” said Vancouver designer and “Project Runway” winner SethAaron Henderson.

Leggings, on the other hand, are thicker and can take the place of pants, provided they’re worn with the right top, something that at the very least hits at the widest part of the hips or — even better — covers the rear, according to Henderson.

Tights offer less coverage, so skirts or dresses need to hit at midthigh. When standing up straight with one’s hands to the sides, the hem should be at least as long as the fingertips.

The distinction between leggings and tights may seem obvious, but for every rule there are people who either willfully or unknowingly defy it. Though leggings have been a sartorial staple for several years, some people still struggle with how to wear the trend.

And others, such as Vancouver corporate controller Barbara Carson, just don’t like leggings.

Carson, who was originally contacted through The Columbian’s Facebook page, thinks leggings can be unflattering and relegates them to the gym.

For her 13-year-old daughter and her teenage friends, though, leggings are all the rage.

“I tell her, ‘You can wear them as long as your butt is covered,’” Carson said. “As long as your top covers your tush, it’s fine.”

Vancouver wardrobe stylist Karen Herrema also was skeptical of the trend at first.

“I wore them when I was pregnant in the ’90s, because that was really in, and I just didn’t know if I could go back there,” said Herrema, who in addition to working as a stylist (http://www.stylebykaren.com) manages Accentuate in Camas.

Despite her reservations, Herrema gave leggings another chance a couple years ago and decided she liked them after all.

She prefers thicker leggings worn with a longer tunic, sweater or jacket. She often pairs them with boots.

Among leggings’ other devotees are longtime friends Yvette Rocha and Patricia Sieg. The Vancouver women like pairing leggings with either longer tops or shorter dresses or skirts and boots, ballet flats or heels.

Part of the appeal of leggings is their versatility.

“You can wear it casual, or you can wear it with a nice dress or top,” said Rocha, who works at a cosmetics counter at Westfield Vancouver mall.

In addition to being stylish, leggings are a practical choice, according to Sieg, a stay-at-home mother.

“It’s comfortable,” she said.

Fashionable vs. Faux Pas

Vancouver fashion designer and “Project Runway” winner SethAaron Henderson weighs in on leggings and how women can best wear the trend. More information about Henderson and his designs can be found at http://sethaarondesigns.com.

Do

• Pair them with a longer, chunky sweater.

• Try them with a longer, belted button-up shirt.

• Make sure your top hits at the widest part of the hips, minimum (even better, it should cover your rear).

Don’t

• Tuck your shirt in.

• Wear with a cropped top.

• Confuse with tights.

• Be seduced by PajamaJeans (these pajama bottoms designed to look like jeans are a separate topic, but the need to avoid them bears mentioning at every opportunity).

Looking ahead

Lily Atelier, Luxe and Fleurish owner Dawn Stanchfield and Willows Lifestyle Boutique co-owner Janna Moats offer tips on how to keep wearing leggings as the weather warms up.

• Leggings will continue to be popular throughout the spring and summer, but expect to see some seasonal twists.

• Some people may opt for capri-style leggings that hit at mid-calf, rather than at the ankle, Stanchfield said.

• Capri leggings work well with wood or cork wedge sandals and more gauzy tops, according to Stanchfield.

• For a more casual, sporty-chic look, try them with a longer, looser “boyfriend T-shirt” and a pair of flat canvas TOMS Shoes, Moats said.

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.