Generally speaking the skinny pant or legging is one of the toughest looks to wear well for any but the most twig-like among us. They tend to make us all look a bit like carrots or in my case, an ice cream cone. But even so, the skinny jean, skinny pant and legging seem to be holding fast to the top of the fashion must-have lists season after season. So much so that even the most resistant, including wide-legged pant loving me, have succumbed to their ubiquity.
So yes, everyone is wearing them. But wearing them well? Uh….yeah…not so much.
Usually made with lycra or other nifty stretchy stuff to make them more comfortable, these form-fitting pants tend to lull us into a false sense of confidence regarding fit, and since they make our legs look pretty awesome we can neglect to note that they may not be doing our behinds or tummies any great favors. Worse yet, as these pants have become more and more mainstreamed most women have drifted away from wearing them with bottom-covering tunics and now wear them with just about anything. The results can be disastrous.
We have probably all seen a “don’t” example or two. You know the looks – garments clinging far too tightly to intimate areas; shiny material creating a very odd moiré effect across a generously proportioned bottom; flimsy jersey wretchedly highlighting one’s cellulite or, even worse, being basically transparent wherever it is stretched beyond its relaxed state. And while a longer top or jacket will hide a few of the main sins, they cannot hide them all!
To make the skinny look work a girl needs to take fabric and construction into careful consideration and style looks to best suit the garment and how it looks on an individual body. Not all pants are created equal. And even the most expensive among them can turn on you – just ask Lululemon about transparent yoga pants!
The cut of skinnies and leggings are not forgiving to ones figure, no matter how comfy they may feel. Construction and fit are crucial. While some skinnies are actual pants, with seams, darts and curves meant to create structure and shape, others are more like a piece of hosiery – with very little shape or seaming, relying solely on the fabric’s stretch to conform to the body. If you want to be able to wear a pair of pants with short tops as well as long ones, choose pants with more structure and make sure they aren’t too tight.
Selecting darker colors and heftier fabrics will also help make a skinny cut more forgiving. A ponte knit is going to have a little more substance without being too bulky. While many retailers have ponte offerings, JJill is my favorite for great fabric quality at a moderate price. They are showing several options in both pants and leggings that are great weight and have cool details like zippered ankles and front seams.
Fabric changes when stretched over your body so be sure to try things on. Check to be sure a print or texture doesn’t turn on you when and where you least need it. This is especially critical with any sort of shine or anything with a stripe or geometric pattern, which can get a bit wonky when they are adorning one’s curves. On the other hand a well placed color block can be terrifically flattering. And if you are loving shine but its not loving you try some cleverly placed shine rather than an all over shiny fabric. I really love the flattering effect of a tuxedo stripe like these options from Vince Camuto and NYDJ.
To test for sheerness I like to do the “white panty” test. Try pants or leggings on in a well lit room, while wearing white panties – granny panties are best if you can bring yourself to do it – and see how they look, especially from behind. Can you see the white coming through? If so then I would steer clear, go up a size, or at the very least NEVER wear them without a very long top.
Never forget that true leggings are meant for layering rather than for being worn as full-on pants. Even if you find a pair with “control” to be truly flattering they really do need to be paired with longer tops, tunics and even skirts. Eileen Fisher has a pair out that are actually a short skirt and legging in one. I was skeptical about these babies until I saw a woman wearing them and they looked super chic. I now own a pair and I am finding they really are the answer when you want the legging look with tops that simply don’t go the distance in terms of bottom coverage.
There are soooo many options out there from jersey to leather, fast fashion to haute couture. Selected and styled with care, even the curviest among us can rock the skinny look and show off our best assets without ALL of our…ahem…assets being on display!