How to wear leggings over 50

In Style over 50 by Joni6 Comments

UPDATED JANUARY 2021

Are you unsure if you’re too old these days to wear leggings?

In this post I’m going to help you decide if leggings will still look good on you by doing an experiment. I’m going to try leggings on with various outfits – just whatever I have in my closet – so you can see for yourself whether they look any good or not.

As you know if you follow this blog, I am typical of an older woman. I’m short (5’2″), square (25% overweight) and I’m over 70.

I’m not going to filter out the looks that I don’t like. You’ll see the lot. The good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Before you scroll straight down to see the try-ons here are the basic style rules for wearing leggings when you’re older:

  • Camouflage your legs in summer with thin white cotton leggings but keep the vibe relaxed, sporty and young.
  • As an alternative to skinny jeans that stop too far below your waist (and make you look lumpy) choose dark leggings with tummy control.
  • Big up what you wear at the top with layers, scarves or chunky sweaters and make everything above hip level square rather than fitted unless you are very slim.
  • Leggings always look better when the outfit style edges towards sporty.
  • Wear leggings if you overheat in tights or like to walk bare foot at home.
  • Stretchy leggings are perfect for snuggling up on the sofa with your favorite book or film.  Just add the biggest longest sweater you have, make a mug of coffee and enjoy.

I’ve added extra tips on choosing leggings after the photos as well as my suggested best buys (US and UK).

OK. Let’s dive straight in and take a look at how leggings work. Because let’s face it, few of us will look like the model on the retailer’s site – slim, tall and under 20.

Trying on white leggings

White leggings are all about camouflage. 

The leggings I’m wearing were bought in the local supermarket very inexpensively. I’ve never worn white leggings before so I didn’t have any in my closet.  They are mainly cotton, they are very lightweight and I feel cool and comfortable in them.  In fact I’m beginning to wonder why I haven’t bought any before.  Well let’s look at the photos and find out.

Immediately I can see a problem with white leggings.  White draws attention to your legs – just when you wanted people not to look at them. 

This is the opposite from wearing dark leggings which I’m much more at ease with.

The length of the dress is important too. I think the first picture of a floaty summer frock with asymmetric hem is OK.  Not wonderful. But the leggings do the job of camouflaging my legs at the sides. 

My question – instead of wearing leggings why not buy a straight hem dress that comes to midway between your knees and your ankles or, indeed, covers the whole lower leg right down to your sandals.  Long dresses in fine cotton or linen and cut to hang loose are easy to find and often inexpensive. 

The second pic with my knee-length orange dress looks poor style.  The leggings add bulk to my largish knees and their athleisure vibe simply doesn’t work with this dress which has a very different feminine style.

Next I tried on a shorter linen dress where the leggings and main color of the dress matched.  This is slightly better but I still feel my knees look big.  I’m still voting for a longer floaty linen dress to hide legs I’m afraid.

OK now in this final photo I’m beginning to see a style.  A thin cotton beach dress, basically a tube (what we used to call a shift) has a slight athleisure vibe that goes with sneakers and so the white leggings look quite good I think.

As some women like to wear leggings with other shoes than sneakers I’ve tried the look again with tan sandals with a slight platform and wedge as I don’t wear high heel pumps.  I think if you really want to camouflage your legs this look is fine too.

My verdict: White leggings look good with sneakers and a shortish straight-cut cotton or linen top. They are acceptable with other summer shoes if you really need to hide your legs. All in all I’d probably opt for a much longer dress and no leggings. What about you?

Trying on dark leggings

My first try-on is with layers at the top.  The jacket hits my bottom just above the thigh.  OK, perhaps, standing straight-on but unflattering from the side and back.  Honestly I’d be so much more confident in tight jeans.

Next I’m trying on a Breton striped tee, square cut and with a slight sailing vibe when worn with sneakers.  Not a bad look for summer and cooler than jeans.  Note that if the top was shaped at the waist it wouldn’t give that wide top look we need.

Here’s my squarest sweater and my best sporty look (hahaha!) Good for a brisk walk in Fall.

Keeping everything dark and enlarging the top by rolling up a scarf gives the right inverted triangle silhouette.

My verdict: Dark leggings certainly look better on me than white leggings. Any top that stops above my thighs only looks OK in the mirror – what other people see is a well-defined large rear (ouch!) The bigger the top the smaller my legs look by comparison.

And again, the more sporty the look the better.

Over all I think dark leggings are worth wearing as long as the top is largish and long enough to reach to the top of the leg.

Trying on leggings with a longer top

I used to wear leggings with (slightly fitted) tunic tops ten years ago.  But I was slimmer then.  This style is possible but not exactly chic is it?  I might still wear this combo curled up on the sofa or working on this blog, but I probably wouldn’t wear it out.

Getting into the athleisure style I’m wearing leggings with a square cut fleecy lined top and the silhouette works well.  Would I wear it to choir practice?  Probably not.  I’m still worried about my bottom.  But if you have a longer similar top this could look fine.

This long shirt covers my rear and with the cardigan it gives both a larger top and the straight parallel lines down the front that help to make us look slimmer.  I’d wear this to choir.  I think the shirt needs to be a bit heavier though to ensure it doesn’t ruck up at the back – a denim shirt would hang well.

Lounging here I come.  A long casual cardigan making the right proportion with the leggings underneath (two to one).  The infinity scarf emphasises the long lines.  Yes, I’d wear this at home and to pop to the shops or to take the dog for a walk with a friend.

My verdict: The slightly waisted top doesn’t look right but dark leggings and a long knitted cardigan can look good for leisure time and are a comfortable outfit.

Trying on leggings with a mini skirt

Here’s an outfit I was wearing last January and felt was fun.

I wanted to prove that a woman of any age can wear a miniskirt – it just depends on how you style it.

And leggings are de rigueur if you intend wearing a very short skirt whatever the season.

My verdict: I like this look. It’s young and fun without showing off more of me than I’d like. Do you agree? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Why so many people wear leggings

Leggings became popular through women looking for close-fitting pants that allowed maximium movement.  We started wearing them for dance, for yoga classes, for gym sessions and for running.

Then the athleisure trend set in and anything worn for sport became high fashion.

Add to this our need for comfort whilst lounging in front of Netflix or browsing Pinterest on a laptop and suddenly lots of people are wearing leggings and tee shirts all day, every day.  They are even wearing athleisure with high heels.

How to choose the right leggings

The most important thing about leggings is to know that there are two types.  Activewear and Inactivewear.  Unless you are an athlete and have a firm behind stick to Inactivewear leggings, that is, Loungewear.

For serious action the best leggings have developed strong flexible but supportive fabrics that not only move and stretch with you but also highlight every contour of your lower body.  Patterns swirl around the leg emphasising your curves.  Sparkly and high-shine fabrics draw the eye towards toned muscles.

But if this isn’t you, you’ll look terrible (yes terrible) in seriously sporty leggings.  Look at the image online and the description. If you see a model in a stretched pose you are never going to be able to get into you can be pretty sure these leggings are not for you if you’re over 50 or so and looking to camouflage your legs.

Non-sport leggings have retained stretch but focussed on cotton-rich fabrics and ease of wearability – toned muscles or not. Some have a special stretch panel to help keep your tummy flat or a very high waist to pinch in your waist and help to spread the flab above and below.  All good news for us older ladies.

Patterns are small all-over designs or there are no patterns at all.  Matte fabrics are the norm.  Black, dark navy, grey and white are the most popular colors.

If you are still not sure which type of leggings you are seeing when you view them online then look at the price.  And you’ll be happy to hear that the cheaper leggings are the ones you need.

Why wear white leggings

Many older women wear leggings because they are embarrassed to show their legs.  Over 60 most of us start to get thicker legs, veins start to show more and odd bruises seem to come from nowhere and last for weeks.  So we stop sunbathing perhaps.  Then one day we feel so down about our bare legs in summer that we decide to stop wearing skirts.

That is, until we discover white leggings.

Lots of women wear white leggings with a dress or skirt as a cooler alternative to pants when the weather heats up.  Most white leggings are cropped above the ankle or just below the knee.  But you can go for full cover to the ankle if you wish.

Why wear dark leggings

In contrast many of us like leggings in the colder months because they are warmer that tights but leave the foot bare so less sweaty that thick tights.

Wearing leggings successfully at any age is all about your rear.  If you still have a shapely rear then dark leggings can be really useful in your wardrobe.  If, like most of us well over 50, your rear is less than perfect, you’ll need to exercise caution when wearing leggings (or just exercise of course!).

Getting the silhoutte right with leggings

As leggings are the tightest of all pants they ideally call for a long rectangular silhouette i.e. a close fitting top and close fitting leggings – think ballerina practice. 

But let’s face it most of us are more square than rectangle these days so the second possible silhouette is the inverted triangle – wide at the top and slim on the lower body. 

In winter knitted above-the-knee straight dresses would look great. Think fine Merino wool shifts or chunky cable knit numbers.

Wear statement earrings or a silk scarf to make your top look more prominent.

Keep the dress and the leggings dark and if possible the same color.

Retail suggestions for leggings

My favorite leggings from the US

Pact leisurewear ticks all the boxes for me.  Ethics run all the way through this Boulder, Colorado brand.  They only work with factories with good employment standards and they use fair trade organic cotton. 

Pact Go-To legging sizes run from XS to XXL.  They have cropped and ankle length.  All the basic darker colors plus sky blue to suit most outfits.  Free returns plus free shipping if you buy two pairs. 

If you haven’t discovered this online brand yet I definitely recommend clicking through to Pact now.  Check out their current price as they were having a sale while I was updating this post in January 2021.

Bloomingdale’s do a good range of plain and patterned leggings and I like these Hue high waist white capri leggings for wearing in summer. They are just over 50% cotton, essential for warmer weather.

My favorite leggings from the UK

I buy my leggings from Marks & Spenser’s in the UK usually.  M&S has a good modern slavery policy, easy free UK returns and free shipping if you spend £50 total thoughout the site.

And when they use cotton it’s sustainably sourced.

The great thing about shopping for leggings online is you get all the sizes whereas I often find bricks and mortar stores have run out of the most popular sizes.  If your size is not available they will notify you when it comes back in to the warehouse.

They have masses of sizes, styles and colors but I usually just buy these plain inexpensive M&S leggings which have a high waist to help your contours.

It’s worth taking a close look at the rest of their range though as they really have catered for every shape and size of woman.

If you found his article useful you might also like these ones:

What to Wear with Leggings at 60 Published winter 2021-2 suggesting the 12 best looks for older women- I’m much more in favor of leggings this year!

Trying on a Winter Capsule Wardrobe – woman over 70

The Best Cardigans for Women Over 50

Best Mom Jeans for Older Women

Wider Jeans 2021 – try-on at 72

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Comments

  1. Never white leggings, please. Remind me of surgical dressings. Dark leggings okay occasionally. Dark wash straight leg boot cut jeans and well fitted trousers in darker colors are best. At 78 , I wouldn’t be caught dead in white leggings period. Why aren’t white jeans a viable alternative? I realize leggings are an economical alternative but ladies one pair of well fitting trousers trumps leggings any day . Respect who you are. Don’t settle for cheap. We are all beautiful regardless of age. Love you as I love myself.

    1. Why on earth would you want to camouflage your legs? Once spring comes around, Iwear skorts until October.

    2. My feeling exactly – I think white leggings are too costume-like for street wear! Plus they add visual weight!

      Dark leggings are great.

  2. At 55, my best assets are my butt, legs, and face –that doesn’t have any wrinkles yet, BTW. So, the advice offered is to do what Joni has done. Just because something is fashionable doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You should always consider your unique features, flaws, and lifestyle. And certain things shouldn’t be off-limits because you are 50+. I became a model at age 53 when brands initially mistook me for 35. However, when you’re over 50, take care not to incorporate all the fashion trends into a single look because you’ll look like you’re trying too hard to appear “young.” And most importantly, maintaining good posture, hip and shoulder mobility, and flexibility makes you look and move like a much younger person.

  3. I am very thin 5’4″ and 120 pounds, I wear midi dresses and leggings and jeggings with sweaters to my knees, all black leggings, I can’t compete with younger women, but I would never, because after a certain age a person will look ridiculous. I am 72. You should dress modest at 72

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