So tights are thinner and have feet, and leggings are thicker and don´t. But when should you wear tights and when leggings ? And what about footless tights ?
Tights are thinner and hug the curves, looking like the colour or pattern is spray-painted on the leg. Leggings, however, are made of a more heavy-weight fabric whose draping and seams are visible. Leggings are almost-pants, tights are almost-nude-legs.
Here is Gossip Girl star Jessica Szohr in tights. Note the perfectly clean and smooth line. No seams or wrinkles visible:
Here is Jessica in leggings. The fabric drapes and bunches. From the sides the seams would be visible.
Tights add colour and pattern to the leg, leggings add coverage and structure.
A lot of leggings are thicker and more opaque that the one Jessica is wearing. These makes them more forgiving, they skim the curves rather than hug them. Then there are the even thicker almost jean-like jeggings or leans. There is also latex leggings, on which I deign to comment ;-)
A lot of tights are much more sheer than the one Jessica is wearing. The sheerest type of tights are called pantyhose, and they hide the imperfections of the leg while pretending to be invisible.
So now you get what´s the difference between the two. So which to wear, and when ?
Think of them as almost-bare legs.
Tights are worn best with shorts, skirts, and dresses. Tights are sheer in the crotch area, and your underwear will show up even through the thicker ones. Besides, they have really weird seams at the crotch. This means that they should never be worn with anything shorter than a palms width above the knee, otherwise you risk flashing everyone when you bend over.
Generally, tights look more feminine and elegant than leggings. (Ok, except fishnets). They look more modest than a nude leg. Tights go well with delicate heels and they present a long, unbroken leg line.
They often come in intricate patterns. Even the bold and big patterns will look more elegant and feminine on tights than on leggings. Patterns, especially non-geometric ones, are more flattering since they distract the eye from the shape of the leg. (Proof: the purple leggings in the pic above)
Lady-like tights can also be worn with tougher outfits, as a contrast:
Semi opaque tights are more flattering than opaque. Since leggings don´t come in sheer, tights win when it comes to leg lengthening.
For those of sweaty feet, sockettes (footlets) help. My guy firmly believes in the theory that wearing two layers on the feet keeps them from smelling -- the sweat stays in the inner layer and doesn´t touch the shoe lining. Then there are footless tights: they stay fresher longer, but leave the foot bare (sandals), with footlets (ballet flats) or covered with socks (under boots).
Think of them as halfway between tights and pants.
Leggings can be worn under tunics and short dresses. They are pretty opaque at the crotch, so unlike tights they won´t cause mass destruction if you decide to do an impromptu demonstrate Karate kicks demo for your friends.
Leggings add a more trendy and casual vibe to the outfit. Leggings are footless, worn best with ballet flats (with footlets aka sockettes, sometimes called shoe liners) or with boots and booties (with socks). The fact that leggings are footless gives them the advantage of staying fresh longer --- you can launder just the socks or the footlets. The socks should not be visible, unless you are doing the top of socks peeking over top of boot thing (cute !).
Because tights are made of a heavier material and don´t ladder, they can be shredded, studded, embellished and everything in between. They tend to look bolder and tougher than most patterned and embellished tights. Leggings are often inspired by the ´80s, tights by ladylike times long gone by.
Leggings are usually sturdier than tights, they don´t snag and can be thrown into the washing machine with the regular stuff. In hotter climates cotton leggings are more comfortable than tights (which ale almost always synthetic).
Just make sure that your tunic covers your butt, because leggings are NOT pants:
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There exist some bridging pieces: tights that are almost leggings, and leggings that are almost tights. Footless tights labelled as leggings.
Generally, the more leg is on display, the more difference does it make whether you are wearing tights or leggings. When you´re wearing high boot with a skirt, it doesn´t matter much if the couple of inches visible is covered with tights or leggings.
And a great tip: Always go up a size in leggings and tights ! This way the fabric will not be stretched to its limits. The crotch area will be more comfortable, and the item will probably last longer. And the pattern will not get distorted.
As you can probably tell from the pictures, I have been watching too much Gossip Girl. When searching for images I also discovered that half of the internet can´t really tell tights from leggings.
What do you prefer ? Leggings or tights ? I have been a leggings girl, but right now I love the feminity of tights. Anyone else like Gossip Girl ?
Photos linked to sources