The Ultimate Guide to Wearing Leather Leggings

They’re the official wardrobe staple for the second year running, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got it all figured out. It turns out, our staff had tons of questions about leather leggings (both real and faux). We reached out to a few experts, including our own senior fashion editor, Rebecca Daly, to get them answered.

Q: Which brand is the best for short people who aren’t a size 0? I’ve tried on so many and they’re all super long!

jcrew-leather-leggings
Photo by jcrew.com

A: Your best bet is to seek out brands that stock leather leggings in petite sizing, says Daly. That will eliminate the length issue and provide a more proportionate fit. J. Crew’s version comes in petite sizes from 000 to 12, and in three different colors. For a more wallet-friendly option, try these faux-leather pants from ASOS.

To buy: Collection Petite Leather Leggings, $495; jcrew.com. ASOS Petite Leather Look Leggings, $34; asos.com.

Q: I bought a faux-leather pair, and the tag says to wipe with a damp cloth but do not wash. I’ve now worn them four times without washing, and they seem okay, but eventually I’m going to sweat in them.

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Photo by shopbop.com

A: To avoid the risk of ruining faux leather material, spot-treating is really the best bet, say the experts behind Blank NYC—who make one of the best under $100 options out there. If they need a refresh, Daly recommends turning them inside out and gently hand-washing them with a detergent made for delicates and lingerie, (always spot-test first to make sure the dye is colorfast), then laying flat to air-dry.

To buy: Blank Denim Vegan Leather Skinny Pants, $98; shopbop.com.

Q: When the knees start to bag out, is there any remedy? Is real leather or faux more likely to stretch and get baggy?

A: Unfortunately, there isn’t a great solution to this particular conundrum. “Once the material has stretched out, there’s no way to reverse it,” Tony Pecorella, President and CEO of Modern Leather Goods (one of New York City’s best leather repair specialists), said. “You may find it takes faux leather longer to stretch than authentic, but since the fabric is moving and stretching with the body, the end result of bagginess in high-impact areas, like knees, will eventually be the same.”



Q: Who sells leather leggings with a higher waist? They all seem low slung.

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Photo by fwrd.com

A: This is a great question, and also provides the answer to another question a few people raised: “Why do I always have to pull mine up?” Just like regular leggings, skinny jeans, and work-out pants, the snug fit can mean constant readjusting. When you move in certain ways (for example, reaching to grab something above you on a shelf) you stretch your skin and torso up out of the garment, and because they fit tightly, your body won’t settle back down into place in them without a little help. The solution, says Daly, is a high waistband, which will keep everything tucked in place. Try SPRWMN’s real version, or Aritzia’s affordable crowd-pleasers (which also come in several colors and faux-suede as well, and are machine-washable).

To buy: SPRWMN High Waist Leather Ankle Leggings, $795; fwrd.com. Wilfred Free Daria Pant, $135; aritzia.com.

Q: I like to wear a long shirt or tunic over the leggings. What’s the ideal length, as in, where should the shirt hit to look appropriate for work but not sloppy?

A: It really all depends on the tunic, says Daly. If it’s, say, an oversized flannel shirt, you may want to consider reserving it for weekend wear, but if it’s a knit or a pretty silk blouse, anywhere between the widest part of your hips and several inches above the knee will look pulled-together and flattering.

Q: What’s a pair that’s maybe a little more appropriate for the over-50 (but young-at-heart) set?

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Photo by hm.com

A: If the nearly-painted-on options don’t feel so age-appropriate to you, fear not, says Daly. The trend is strong across the entire pant category, with options ranging from cropped, wide-leg trousers, to atheleisure-inspired joggers. The easiest way to dip your toe in is with a pair that has familiar characteristics, like a traditional five-pocket jean. The cut is a little less body-conscious than a legging, but the look is equally as on point. If you’re looking to invest, J Brand is a good bet, but there are also plenty of affordable options out there from retailers like H&M.

To buy: J Brand Leather Super Skinny Pants, $998; neimanmarcus.com. Imitation Leather Pants, $35; hm.com.



Q: When shopping for faux leather, what characteristics make it look more believably real?

A: “If you want faux leather to appear real, take into consideration the texture and feel of the fabric,” says Pecorella. “More believable faux leather will have a deep, grainy texture and may even feel soft like real leather. You may also want to consider a natural leather color, such as black or brown.”

Q: Should I consider buying a size up or down?

A: “If you’re looking to delay the stretching process, buy a size up,” says Pecorella. “If your legs aren’t stretching the fabric as tightly, it could delay the stretching process.”

Q: Do I have to wear a shirt that covers my butt when I wear them?

A: That all depends, according to Daly. If you’re wearing them for an evening out, it really comes down to what you feel comfortable in. To err on the side of caution for daytime—or at work—a long tunic or sweater is a good option, or you can try a pair with more jean-like styling (i.e., a pair with back pockets), which will feel appropriate no matter the length of your top.