Total Image Consultants

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5 Steps to Creating a Great Outfit with Leggings

Leggings and tunics are still popular. Women of all ages are wearing them and as a result I am regularly asked about how to wear them. The questions include:

  • what’s appropriate
  • how to layer tops and not look messy
  • how to find tops that feel beautiful.

If leggings have become a mainstay of your wardrobe but still remain a bit of a mystery, here are five things to consider when creating outfits:

1. Consider the length of the top AND leggings

This is arguably the most important concern. It is not just about how long your top should be in general but how long should it be in relation to the length of the leggings.

In general, tops should cover your butt and this is especially true if you wear them to the office. Leggings have become so popular at work that managers and Human Resource professionals are shaking their heads trying to figure out how to get women to wear longer tops that do not reveal so much of an employee’s backside. It is part of why I have recently been invited to speak at several companies. Leggings are being worn as pants with short tops and managers are shaking their heads in frustration.

I doubt you are wearing your leggings like pants, but you might still struggle with what length is best.

The answer to selecting the most flattering length is somewhat personal and it is something I help my one-on-one clients with using the Fashion Fit Formula. But, when in doubt, mid-thigh is a great length. Here is an example:

You will also want to consider the length of the tunic in relation to the length of the leggings. A basic rule of thumb:

Wear a longer tunic with long leggings (that come to the ankle or below) and a shorter tunic with capri or cropped leggings.

If you wear a longer top with shorter leggings it can make your legs appear very short.

Of course, this is just a basic guideline and there are exceptions to every rule. It can also depend on

  • How tall you are.
  • How long your legs are in relation to your torso.
  • Whether each garment ends at one of your personal balance points (if you use the Fashion Fit Formula), and
  • What shoes you wear.

But, a good starting point is to keep the above basic rule of thumb in mind.

2. Weight matters

Before you jump to conclusions, I promise I am not talking about your body weight at all. I am referring to the weight of the leggings. A thinner, lightweight legging will generally feel best with a slightly longer tunic (mid-calf or below). It is easy to feel exposed when you wear a lightweight legging with a short top. Or, sometimes the lighter weight seems to show every lump and bump. A heavier legging (perhaps a ponte knit) will feel a bit more like a pant so a shorter tunic, just covering the butt, could look and feel perfect. And you can also, of course, wear a longer tunic with a heavier weight legging.

3. Choose the right shoes

This is where a lot of women get stuck. They find a pretty tunic and have a favorite pair of leggings, but then the dreaded shoe issue arises. Weather can affect the choices, comfort is huge and, of course, balance, beauty and proportion figure into it as well.

What’s a girl to do?

  • Since it is winter here in Boston, knee high boots are my go-to solution.
  • Ankle boots are trickier, but they can work. One thing to do to make the leg line flow is to wear a boot that is close to the color of the legging. That does not ensure that the ankle boots will look great with the leggings (there are other factors to consider as well such as the width of the ankle opening, how high the ‘ankle’ boot comes on your leg and the basic style of the boot), but it’s a good starting point. While black is obvious, here is an example of a light colored legging and boots that works:

  • If you do a contrasting shoe or boot color it will look best with a legging worn with a shorter top. The contrast of the boot to the legging makes your leg line look like it stops at the top of the boot. So if you are wearing a longer tunic in one color with leggings in another color and ankle boots in another color (or even matching the color of the top) all you will see is a few inches of leg between the tunic and top of the boot. It will make your legs look really short (unless you are very tall!).

4. The trick to styling a cardigan with leggings

Have you ever purchased a longer cardigan and thought, “Oh, wow! This will look great with leggings.” Then you try to create an outfit and it never seems to work? One key component of that outfit is the top you wear under the cardigan. Make sure the top comes below crotch level or you run the risk of creating the dreaded ‘camel toe’ look.

5. Think outside the box

We often automatically think of a tunic when we think of wearing leggings. But, there are other ways to style them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Wear them with a dress that you would otherwise consider too short to wear alone.
  • Belt a long cardigan to make a tunic.
  • Belt a dress or long tunic and add a long cardigan over the top to create a warm, layered look without feeling like you are swimming in fabric.
  • Layer tops. I have a long tunic that comes mid-thigh. Over it I layer a ¾ sleeve v-neck top that comes just below where my leg joins my torso. An interesting aside is that the animal print top used to be a dress and I cut it into a top (I knew I’d wear more that way). It’s a fun, funky look and I am covered enough to feel comfortable.

  • Wear a longer dress with leggings. I have a very cool, funky brown dress that is slightly shorter in the front exposing my leg from just below the knee down. I rarely wore the dress because I didn’t feel comfortable going bare legged. Then I added a pair of brown leggings and problem solved!

You will notice that I did not address leggings with prints or patterns or colored leggings.Those bring up all kinds of other considerations and will be a topic of conversation for another day.

Leggings can be such a comfortable addition to your wardrobe and you can create fabulous outfits you love. If you have been struggling with it, perhaps these suggestions will help and if you need more personalized help, check out the ‘Dress to Impress-Yourself!’ online course where you also get access to me directly through the secret/private Facebook group. Or, if you prefer one-on-one help I do that, too – for women all over the world. Set up a time for us to talk ( and we’ll see if working together is a good fit for you.

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A Note About the Clothes: All of the garments pictured here (and in the catalogue) are vegan (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals). Please note that I am passionate about ending animal suffering and choosing cruelty-free clothing is just one aspect of a vegan lifestyle. If you have any questions about being vegan or what fabrics are vegan please let me know. I am happy to help and will answer any questions with kindness and compassion.

Some of the affiliate links may generate very small commissions for Total Image Consultants. This helps offset the cost of the special software used to create these catalogues.


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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.