How—and Why—Leggings Have Become a Wardrobe Favorite All Over Again

How—and Why—Leggings Have Become a Wardrobe Favorite All Over Again

Photo: Zoey Grossman
“Tell me about it, stud,” said Olivia Newton-John as her now legendary character Sandy, Grease’s good girl gone bad. She transfixed viewers the world over in a pair of oil black skin-tight leggings she reportedly had to be sewn into for the 1978 smash hit. Leggings have come a long way since then. Unlike the perceived discomfort of Sandy’s attire, leggings have transformed into symbols of convenience, comfort, and flexibility. They have become essential components to an outfit, driven by the rise of effortless loungewear. Usually worn in a minimalist athleisure aesthetic, leggings, this year, are traveling back to the 80s, bringing bolder and louder iterations on print, color, and construction.
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease. Photo: Getty
Thanks to influencers in the Middle East, modest fashion has become a fashionable option witnessing an opine shift of attention. Stocking up on leggings and layering them is always an option when it comes to conservative dressing, let alone rocking them in animated, contradicting patterns. Embracing clashes and contradictions, Christian Dior recently showed Greek-inspired abstract prints laid between bold, linear headers, in a collection of sportswear. “Sport is movement, sport is freedom. During lockdown, you would walk around your building just to get a sense of moving your body. That became our idea of freedom,” Maria Grazia Chiuri states. Meanwhile, Riccardo Tisci created Burberry’s pre-spring collection based on instinct, showing sheer black, brown, and blue leggings with side cutouts. “For me, this was fresh. It’s what we want today: expression, freedom, physical freedom, to be ourselves. It’s punk in a positive way: breaking the boundaries,” he reveals.
Milanese brand La DoubleJ stepped in with some of the loudest, liveliest prints and silhouettes as major mood uplifters. Neon turquoise, hues of maroon, and yellow pave their way to a trance-like landscape of florals, which was also explored by Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello. At Lanvin Resort 2022, Bruno Sialelli pulled all the strings to activate nostalgia – mischievous and lively, the collection featured exotic print leggings and matching tops, while Max Mara eschewed prints for hot pink color blocking. Celebrities were quick to follow runway trends, with Sarah Jessica Parker effortlessly pulling off a printed midi dress over a pair of leggings, paired with Mary Janes. Hailey Bieber, Skai Jackson, and Jennifer Lopez went for uncomplicated and sleek with bright leggings in blinding shades of orange, red, and blue.
Jennifer Lopez. Photo: Getty

There’s no limit to adventure turning leggings into a multipurpose second skin piece, with designers even referencing each other. Gucci partnered with Balenciaga and quoted its SS17 spandex peplum top and leggings, checking all “effortless” boxes by extending beyond the ankle, in a silhouette of a boot. Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia are aligned in their innovative, inclusive, and iconoclastic visions and understanding of people’s expectations. “Those visions are reflected not only in their creative offerings but also in their ability to raise questions about our times and its conventions,” said François-Henri Pinault, Kering chairman and CEO.

Leggings have morphed into the new pants, and the sense of freedom can also be cast in black. With a joyful spirit, No.21 introduced a pair of noir neoprene leggings under a black satin rhinestone dress. “Breaking codes of conventional adjacencies, what’s more liberating than that?” designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua asks. “I don’t want to be trapped by rules.” Making a pair of black leggings feel fresh may require more effort than color blocks and crazy print, however – playing with proportions and contrasting the tightness with other pieces are windows to elevation. Who can resist going back to the 80s when shows like Glow and the Rose Byrne series Physical brought forth themes of female empowerment and strength? The unapologetic, head-turning, glitz and glamor that screams, “Would you dare?” is what collections revealed, with minor modern elements added to uplift the look into luxury.
Nicki Minaj. Photo: Getty
Jean Paul Gaultier S/S 1988
Originally published in the January 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

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