Leggings: A Social Contract Broken

When leggings resurfaced as a fashion trend, I cringed a little. You see, I remembered leggings. Leggings and I were friends. I wore leggings to my first sixth grade dance.  So 20 years and three kids later when they came back in fashion, I was cautious. My body was very different this time around, and I didn’t want any unfortunate moments with this trend. And yet, what I saw all around me were jersey-clad butts. Butts at Target, butts at Starbucks. Butts in the pick-up line at my daughter’s elementary school. Butts at church, even.

Photo credit: Flickr

Photo credit: Flickr

See, society, we had a pact. A social contract. We agreed, all of us, that it’s OK to wear leggings as pants if and only if your butt is covered.

I don’t get it, because I remember all of us having big laughs at Lindsay Lohan wandering around pantsless. But now the joke’s on us, because it appears she was just trendsetting. So what’s the deal–is this OK to do now? Are there new rules? Are there age limits? I mean, if we can wear leggings as pants, what else do I not know? Is it OK to end sentences with prepositions now, too? Is global warming a hoax? Is Tupac alive?

Turns out I am not the only one confused on this point. Fashion bloggers all over are at war over whether to bear your buns or not. Just this week a random blogger in Oregon went viral after she publically vowed not to wear leggings in public ever again. Her’s isn’t a fashion quandary but a religious one, but the fact that the post was shared over 100,000 times does matter. Clearly this is an issue that women ponder.

After some extensive research, I finally found some rules to live by.


  • You have to cover the cameltoe. NON-NEGOTIABLE.
  • At the very least, a tunic-length top is required. Mid-thigh coverage is preferable. A short dress-length top is ideal.
  • Go for dark colors. Nude/white leggings are just awkward if you are over age five.

Like any good rule, there are a few exceptions. At the gym, long shirts or tunics can be cumbersome and get in the way. If you are actively working out, then it’s all about function. But have a sweatshirt or tunic top at the ready for when you leave.

Jeggings are also a kind of question mark, but the general consensus is they can be worn with a shorter top if and only if they are made of material as thick as a pant—I mean, they should really be in some serious gray area as far as legging or pant and you should have spent a substantial amount of time pondering which side of the line they fall on. If they are t-shirt thickness or you can see a pantyline, then don’t even think about it.

To further my convictions, fashion icon Tim Gunn agrees with these points, but goes even one step further and calls leggings out as “an undergarment”, saying “[They’re] meant to be worn with a tunic or shorts. It’s not meant to be a pant. I see it everywhere, and it’s not flattering and it reveals entirely too much information.”

Leggings as pants are not OK no matter what you saw the Kardashians wearing or what your friend says. She’s an idiot, OK? This is not a thing. It’s not going to be a thing. Butts should be covered not because they are dirty or sexy, but because they are butts and we don’t want to see them. Not yours, not anyone’s. There’s just too much that could go wrong. So everyone who is doing this, please stop. We agree, right?

OK, good.


Erin Burt is not a fashion blogger. She’s a plain old freelance writer and mom of three who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.
Erin Hayes Burt

Latest posts by Erin Hayes Burt (see all)

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.

3 thoughts on “Leggings: A Social Contract Broken

  1. Jay

    I was just searching Google for how annoying it is that people think it is okay to go out in just their underwear. At the end of this excellent post I noticed it is by an old friend from college. Great writing Erin. I agree fully. In high school I had a cross country coach who would lead practice in running tights with no shorts. We all cringed back then. Yoga pants are nearly the same thing.


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