Leggings vs Tights: What is the Difference Between Them Explained

Leggings vs Tights: The Difference Between Them… Explained

Leggings and tights are both designed to be super comfortable and flatter the contours of our legs. While you can find plenty of occasions to choose either type of legwear, sometimes we can get a little bit confused about the difference between the two. It doesn’t help that leggings and tights look practically identical from a distance. Talk about confusing!

Don’t worry if you are having some trouble understanding the difference between leggings vs tights, it’s really not as difficult as it seems! Not only will we go over the difference between leggings and tights, but I will also provide some quick tips on how you should wear them and when you should use either type of clothing to complete an outfit!

Beautiful lace dress with bell sleeves by bardot from Nordstrom for holiday parties, what to wear to your holiday parties. Pair with a moto jacket to add edge

What are Tights? 

Regular tights are almost always made from nylon, polyester, or a blend of cotton and lycra. More often than not, they cover the foot and stretch all the way up the leg to your upper waistline. A classic fashion piece, you can find tights in countless colors and patterns, which is great when it comes time to build a matching outfit. Be careful when you’re wearing tights as some can make you look frumpy.

Sheer tights are the most commonly made tights, which means they’re made from an elasticized material and have a somewhat translucent appearance when they are stretched over your legs. This is actually where tights really differ from leggings! I prefer sheer tights so you can see a little skin.

black lace dress, outfit idea for your upcoming holiday season events and parties 2016, maybe for new year's eve, bell sleeves, lace, nude lining, bardot dress from nordstrom

How Do You Wear Tights?

Unlike leggings, you should not wear tights as standalone legwear! Due to their translucent nature, tights can be a little too revealing.

Tights are meant to draw the eye to the legs and can add plenty of class and personality to a formal or casual outfit. However, when tights are worn on their own, they can look revealing to the point that they can make the whole outfit look distasteful and lazy. Even opaque tights don’t offer the same look as regular leggings. When worn correctly, tights offer a sophisticated look that can help make an outfit pop! Due to their semi-transparent appearance, tights are designed to be worn under clothing.

Rather than wearing tights like pants, you should use them to make a statement by wearing them under a skirt, a cute dress, or even under a pair of shorts. Combine a fresh pair of tights with a nice pencil skirt and ballet flats to create a classic work outfit that will have you feeling cute, professional, and confident.

Affordable Reversible Legging, featuring reversible marble printed leggings, breathable tank, and fleece jacket from Jockey worn by fashion blogger over 40, Erin Busbee of BusbeeStyle.com

What Are Leggings? 

Leggings almost look like a pair of tight-fitting pants from a distance. Where tights are meant to add a finishing touch to an outfit, leggings can be worn as a standalone garment. Leggings are almost always worn during more casual occasions. Think of classic yoga pants or workout leggings. A decent quality pair of leggings will remain opaque when they are worn. They use thicker fabric blends with materials like cotton, spandex, and polyester. Almost all leggings will run from the waist to the ankle, although some cut-off varieties will only extend to about mid-calf. Unlike tights, leggings will not cover your feet. Leggings come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, so you will have no trouble finding a comfy pair of leggings that match your personal style!

How to wear leggings over 40, featuring black Spanx leggings, Sam Edelman over the knee boots, Barefoot Dreams cardigan, and two-in-one layered sweater worn by fashion blogger Erin Busbee of busbeestyle.com in Telluride Colorado

How Should You Wear Leggings? 

Where tights are meant to make your legs appear longer and smoother, leggings are more about comfort.

Leggings are more of a casual piece of clothing. They are comfy, cute, and super versatile. You can match a pair of good leggings with a long tee or baggy sweatshirt for a cute, lazy day outfit, or pair it with a sporty top for that ‘athleisure’ look. When I wear leggings, I always make sure my bottom is covered by my top!

As great as leggings can be for workout and weekend wear, you should remember that they should not be worn at the office. While tights can be worn with a tasteful skirt to create a professional office outfit, leggings are a little bit too casual for the corporate world.

One of the best things about leggings is they can be really warm! They’re really insulating, which means you can pair them with a warm sweatshirt and nice pair of boots to create a super easy, yet stylish casual outfit for the fall and winter months.

Quality is something you really need to keep in mind when you choose to wear a pair of leggings as bottoms on their own. Not all leggings are created equally! Cheaper leggings have an unfortunate tendency to stretch to the point that they become semi-transparent when worn, especially after a few washes. To make sure your leggings are appropriate to wear outside of the house, put a hand inside part of the legging and press it against the fabric. If you can see more than just the outline of your hand, they’re probably better suited to casual wear inside the home. Don’t ruin your outfit by flashing everyone you pass!

Basically, leggings can complete a casual or athletic outfit. They’re super comfortable and easy, but just make sure you’re spending that little bit extra on a nice pair if you want to wear them on their own. Cheap leggings tend to stretch and become transparent over time, which can make your whole outfit look a bit shabby and unflattering.

How to wear leggings over 40, faux leather leggings by Spanx with a two-in-one sweater, Saint Laurent boots, and rag & bone hat worn by Erin Busbee of busbeestyle.com in Telluride, CO, Barefoot Dreams cardigan giveaway

Which is the Better Choice? 

When it comes to choosing the better legwear, the decision will depend on your needs and the particular occasion. Leggings make for comfortable and reliable casual wear, while tights can help make your more formal outfits really pop.

What are your thoughts on leggings and tights? Let me know in the comments!

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Photos by: Aurelie Slegers

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  1. OH how I love the outfit where you are wearing the thigh high boots! Can you link all THose items on the like to know it app?

  2. I can’t believe that people don’t understand the difference between leggings and tights…but i’ve seen it…someone wearing a tunic with tights! OMG! I thought to myself, I can see your underwear (and the top seams/darker color at the top of tights)! I love tights but much prefer black opaque tights vs. black pantyhose.