Leggings Come Out from the Cold and Into Spring Fashion

Think only twiggy-legged teenage girls can and should wear the hottest trend in spring fashion 2010 -- leggings?

That's exactly what we were thinking, too, when we recently walked through the women's fashion department of a major department store and wondered why everything (in the sections we and our mothers normally shop in) seemed so ... well, short!

"Is this supposed to be a top or a dress?" we could hear Mom's voice whispering in our ear, followed by, "Leggings? I'm not wearing those at my age and size!"

But fear not the legging, ladies.

It's here. It's on-trend. And it's wearable.

So says Gregg Andrews, a fashion director for Nordstrom. We chatted with him recently about pulling off the leggings look for spring and summer.

Q: What's new in leggings this season?

A: As we move into spring, we're seeing leggings appear in different lengths: anywhere from mid-calf to high-ankle lengths, all the way up to bike short-length. Also, color. They don't have to be black for summer.

Think white, pale grays, navy blue. DKNY does a great hosiery-weight legging in all sorts of colors.

Q: How do you incorporate leggings into a summer look?

A: The legging should coordinate with the look. It's not a time to create a black background for something like we did in fall. In many cases, a legging replaces a short or a skinny jean. Denim, in general, is much lighter in spring. Think about a lighter color "jegging" (jeans legging) that has a washed blue color. Sometimes the color alone lightens up look and feel, which makes it appropriate for a Texas summer.

Q: What about all those zipper and rhinestone-embellished leggings we saw last fall?

A: We continue to see them into spring. You need to be careful -- a lot of tops for spring are already embellished, so you need to limit your embellishment on your outfit to one article of clothing.

Q: What kind of shoes are best to wear with a leggings outfit?

A: Pretty much anything goes, from very flat sandals to embellished ballerina flats to high, strappy cage shoes. I think for spring the freshest are the flat sandals with multiple straps (flat cage sandals).

The key is you need to have a little bit of visual weight to ground the look (such as straps) so the look looks finished.

Q: All right, let's get into it: Who shouldn't be wearing leggings?

A: I think the key to wearing leggings is what you wear on top. A woman of any size can really wear leggings as long as she is wearing the appropriate-length top. A fuller-figure woman might want to wear something that comes to the bottom of the thigh. Someone smaller might choose hip length.

Q: Might short women feel frumpy in them?

A: The great thing about leggings is that because they are close to the body, if petite women wear them, they elongate the leg. These give them a nice, slim line. If you want to give a taller appearance, think about matching leggings more closely with a top so you don't break the line and you elongate the body.

Q: Is there an age at which women should stop wearing them?

A: I don't think it's about age; I think it's about personal style. I see 50-year-old women who can pull off a pair, and I see 25-year-old women who can't. Leggings can look fairly fashion-forward. If they don't suit a person's style, maybe try jeggings first.

Q: Are leggings ever office-appropriate?

A: It depends on your work environment. It also depends on what you're wearing on top. You need to remember that leggings can be revealing. If you are bending over or going to a filing cabinet a lot, you need a little more length on that puppy.

Q: Should we be looking in the hosiery department or the apparel department for our everyday leggings?

A: Many of the leggings are nothing more than thick hosiery. You'll see them in both apparel and in hosiery. Obviously the ones in hosiery tend to be lighter weight, like the DKNY ones. Those are gonna be great if you want a little something peeking out from a skirt, tunic or dress.

Heavier-weight leggings, like jeggings, you'll usually find in the apparel department.

Q: How do you know if they fit well?

A: When women start dealing with shorter-length leggings, make sure they're not too tight around the leg. Try them on and look in the mirror. If you see them cutting into your leg, they're too tight.

From there, think about mobility. They really should be comfortable and make your body sleek and firm; you shouldn't feel squashed into them.

They shouldn't feel like a girdle.

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