If you love fashion, yoga or design… you’ll love this article on the history of leggings and how they turned into a fashion statement.
Knowing where your favorite fashion trends come from can make wearing them more gratifying.
Leggings have come and gone throughout time and date back to the 14th century, where men were the first to wear them. Since the 20th century, it’s been a staple in women’s fashion.
Like in the modern era, the use of leggings was dictated by celebrities. From noblemen to Madonna, let’s take a look at some notable examples of leggings in fashion.
Because I love design, I decided to put together this quick guide on a history of leggings and how they turned into a fashion statement.
The fashion of leggings is a very popular trend when it comes to running, and some of the best leggings are built especially for sports. However, the first people who wore leggings would run in them.
The first appearance of leggings was on 14th-century Scottish men. Men’s leggings had two pieces: chainmail or leather “stockings” and a boot. Leggings became thick garments that were worn under cotehardies (a tunic) and were exclusively worn by men until the 19th century.
Audrey Hepburn was the first celebrity to popularize capri pants, which were considered tight for the day. The departure from dresses began in Hepburn’s 1954 movie, Sabrina. In the 1957 film Funny Face, Hepburn wore even tighter capris, marking the end of wide-leg styles for a while.
Joseph Shivers 1958 invention, Lycra (spandex), and its 1959 patent began the leggings revolution. Ann-Margret wore playfully printed stirrup pants in 1960, but Debbie Reynolds’ slim, stretchy high-waisted skinny jeans are what made the trend popular in the United States.
Leggings are seen as either a 70s or 80s trend, depending on who you ask. Up first is Jackie Collins, who wore skin-tight bottoms in ‘71. Olivia Newton-John famously wore skinny leather leggings in the hit musical Grease, and Rob Stewart made a statement wearing similar attire.
The amount of celebrities who wore leggings in the 80s is what makes tight pants an 80s trend. From the Queen of punk Debbie Harry to the Queen of Pop Madonna, everyone had to get a piece of this fad. Jane Fonda was the first person to turn leggings into athletic wear.
Although the leggings hype was dying down, they still saw a lot of wear. Unless you were Diahann Carroll, a world-renowned fitness guru, you probably weren’t wearing bright-colored pants. Cindy Crawford and Tiffany Thiessen wore monochrome styles instead.
It took over ten years for celebrities to start wearing leggings again. In the middle of the ‘00, Sienna Miller leggings that sat below the knee and Linday Lohan popularized the concept of wearing leggings as pants. Beyonce made “jeggings,” or jean leggings, the biggest trend.
There are a lot of players here. At this point, women were shamed for wearing leggings as pants, but celebrities didn’t care. This negative connotation likely made leggings as popular as ever, as several celebrities, including Russel Brand, wore tight, high-waisted pants or leggings.
Women still don’t care that leggings shouldn’t be worn as pants. In the modern-day, leggings are worn with crop tops, cropped hoodies, suit jackets, oversized t-shirts, and everything else. It’s common to see women wear leggings when doing errands or at the office.
The working woman is now prioritizing comfort over style, but with leggings as a fashion statement, you can achieve both. There are even designer tracksuits that pay homage to the days of Juicy Couture from the early 2000s. It’s likely we’ll see more 00’ trends in the current decade.
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