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Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf wasn’t wrong when she (very memorably) insisted that tights are not pants – and the same has typically been true of leggings, those footless, curve-clinging bottoms that’ve cycled in and out of fashion’s favor for decades.
The last time leggings began trending, in 2005, they were considered a layering piece. Stars like Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, and Nicole Richie teamed them with their Alexander McQueen skull scarves, oversized Balenciaga bags, and Chloé dresses. Comfort-seeking college students wore them with with Ugg boots and denim minis. Boho types paired them with striped tunic-length tees, slouchy boots, and floppy-brimmed hats. But few dared to wear their leggings with any top that hit at or above the hips. And by the end of the aughts, the style felt stale, and skinny jeans replaced leggings in most women’s everyday wardrobes.
But thanks to the enduring popularity of athleisure — and the many, many celebs who’ve lent the style their stamp of approval — leggings are in the midst of yet another comeback. And this time, they’ve seemingly graduated to pants status.
Consider Gigi Hadid, who constantly pairs her snug-fitting exercise bottoms with pristine white sneakers, trendy bomber jackets, and mirrored aviator shades. Or Kendall Jenner, arguably the leader of the leggings-as-pants movement, who wears hers with crop tops and duster coats. Selena Gomez likes hers with button-downs and tied-up sweaters. Miranda Kerr frequently teams leggings with turtlenecks. And because these celebs ensure that every element of their look is polished — from their flyaway-free hair to their dewy but non-sweaty faces — it somehow works, reading as sporty and stylish rather than SoulCycle-bound.
Of course, some of us will never view leggings as a truly viable pants substitute. They leave little to the imagination, for starters — and while well-made pairs are fairly supportive and structured, there’s always the risk of VPL (or, worse, the dreaded camel toe) to consider. But there’s no denying they’re comfortable — and, thanks to the abundance of chic athletic wear brands on the market, more stylish than ever. Not sure if your particular pair passes the pants test? Try our helpful flowchart below!