That’s right – no clever title, no beating about the bush. This post is a mission. It’s also ungodly long, so settle in.
For all of the shopping I do (and believe me, it’s a lot), I’ve never been able to find truly perfect basic black leggings. I’ve tried just about everything, but nothing hit the mark. Either it was a ponté knit that pilled after a few wears, or a matte knit fabric that quickly looked worn and gross, or a fabric that looked too shiny and athletic, or it was too thin and showed more than it should. I’m pretty sure this makes me the Goldilocks of black leggings, but that’s okay.
All of this is compounded by the fact that…well, I don’t really believe in leggings. That is – let me say this loudly, and with gusto - leggings are not pants. No matter how many celebrities or 19-year-olds we see doing it, I have a real problem with any sartorial use of leggings in which my ass is that plainly visible to anyone. Sorry, but I need layers – or at least pockets, for the love of god – to cover that sh!t up.
But of course, the tunic-and-leggings pairing went out with the ’90s. So, what’s a girl to do when she wants to wear her PJs out into the world without being judged?
The easiest option is layers. I’m a big fan of a tunic-length button-down or tee with a sweater of waist- or hip-length piled on top. Add boots, and maybe a military or leather jacket, and you’re in pretty good shape. Do not try this with a dress, unless the dress is so short it should not reasonably be called a dress (Tucker, I’m looking at you).
Offshore sweater, QSW, $58 / Silk shirt, Two by Vince Camuto, $45 / Engineer boots, Frye, $248 / Military jacket, J.Crew, $108 / Pieced Out crossbody in Portobello, Hayden-Harnett, $278 / Pendleton scarf, $70
Now, if you were to venture into the world of painted-on black jeans (no, I shall not use the “J” word – you can’t make me), you’d have infinitely more options. Because, though we still should not be seeing your tail, it’s not the end of the world if it happens. Also, the denim/spandex combo provides a little extra “crowd control”, if you know what I mean. Keeping everything in line when you’re talking about skintight items is key. I still advocate layers that are at least hip-length, but if you have the bod for it, feel free to go a little nuts.
The real problem, of course, is the hardware. After months (oh, who am I kidding? Two years.) of testing, I have four solid options for you. Two leggings, two black jeans, all perfectly primed to become your new BFF.
- Splurge Leggings: Vince riding pants, $235. These come out in one incarnation or another every season, but they’re a dressier ponté knit that’s super stretchy, with a high-enough rise and structure to keep everything in line. Do not let the front zipper fool you – these are leggings, and must be treated as such. Con: they’re not cheap. Size down, please.
- Steal Leggings: Hard Tail Flat Waist leggings, $56. There’s this marvelous little shop here in Portland called Shop Adorn (they also happen to have an excellent e-commerce site, no sales tax and free shipping). The owner, Nicole, is a fanatic about making her customers look good. When I told her I was doing this story, she immediately announced she had the solution – two, in fact – and she was right about both. These have a wide waistband so it actually stays put, and enough structure to keep from stretching out. And the black is saturated enough that it doesn’t look all washed out. For $56? Done.
- Splurge skinnies: Prairie Underground Girdle Legging, $143. This is another Shop Adorn pick, and it’s one they had to talk me into trying, as they look a little terrifying at first glance. But I’ll admit, they’re really comfy, and they do some excellent things for your waistline. I also love that there’s a nice denim-grade heft to the fabric, so you aren’t all exposed. Cons: that exposed zipper on the front isn’t my favorite. But it’s also a safety mechanism – it reminds me never to wear shirts short enough that anyone could see it.
- Steal skinnies: BDG High Rise Cigarette Jean, $58. I’ve outgrown Urban Outfitters on about 973 levels, but these are darn near perfect, especially in September when they go on sale for $39 (for “back to school”…remember that?). Try a few pairs on, as the zippers can be funny. And size down – these babies stretch.
What do you think? Have you found a new friend in this pile of options? Or do you have an old favorite we should all know about? Do tell.