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What length leggings should I wear?

by Roselle (aka Meigui)

Hi again Jane,

I have a couple of summer dresses that are the right colour and shape, but are a bit shorter than I want to wear these days. (I'm in my early 50s.) My daughter has suggested wearing them with leggings. Good idea, but what length?

I'm average height (5'4), slim build, rectangle, high waist. My legs are in reasonable shape and my thighs are quite slim, but my calves a bit bulky (I do quite a lot of bike riding), and I don't really like my knees - too knobbly. I am very aware that the wrong length of legging could be a disaster.

Looking forward to your words of wisdom!

Jane's answer...Hi Roselle, nice to hear from you again.

Yes, wearing leggings to get a dress that's slightly too short to work is a great pairing. And yes, you're right to consider the length of the leggings.

Things to consider:

  • Your vertical proportion. In your previous post you said you have long legs and a short torso. However, this is mitigated by your height. And looking at your photo in that post it looks as if you may have a balanced vertical proportion

  • Your height. At 5'4" you are on the shorter side of average. So, the more leg you show, the taller you will look. The best legging lengths for you (especially with Summer dresses) will be either just under your knee, or between your full calf and your ankle--see example photos below

  • The temperature and whether or not you feel the cold. If you feel the cold you will want to select the longer of your best lengths

  • The colour of your leggings.

    - One way to choose the colour is to tie the colour of your leggings into the colour of your outfit. Choose one of the colours in your dress. One of the darker colours is usually best, although a light neutral will also work, especially in Summer

    - Or choose a skin tone or light neutral, to keep your outfit more Summery looking, especially if the dress is light or bright

  • Your shoe style and colour. With a darker legging you can choose darker, skin toned, or neutral shoes. Have a look at my example photos here.. With a lighter legging colour you will probably be best keeping your shoes skin-toned, or a light neutral (such a a light metallic, or light snake skin), so you don't make your feet look too heavy for the outfit

Alternatives to leggings

Another option is to choose jeggings (thicker fabric than leggings, which may work better over your knees), or slim pants, or skinny pants instead of leggings. This might be a better option for you, if your knees still look too knobbly in leggings. However, make sure the pants don't throw your proportions off and make your bottom half look too heavy.

Or, if you're struggling to find the colour you want, see if you can find opaque tights in the right colour, then cut them across the toes and wear them as leggings (don't worry, the fabric won't run -- it does roll a little, but I don't think that matters). With this option you can adjust them to either 3/4 length, or under knee. The shorter you wear them, the thicker they will be.

Another option might be to wear a coloured slip that is an inch or so longer than your dress (see example photo below).

Examples from my wardrobe

examples of legging lengthsFrom left to right:
- Slim, stretch pants (originally 3/4 length -- I shortened to just above fullest part of calf)
- The same slim, stretch pants with a tunic
- Under-knee slim, stretch pants -- a shorter, slimmer, lighter coloured version
- Slip, instead of leggings (although it sounds as if you wouldn't like this above-knee length)
- Brown opaque tights as under-knee length leggings (works for skirts as well as dresses)
- Same tights with dress
- 3/4 length leggings

Experiment to see what works for you

Take photos of yourself in various styles and lengths of leggings (or slip) and shoes with the dresses you're wanting to style. It's usually easier to assess your outfits objectively using this approach.

If you're still not sure I can help with my outfit review service.

More articles about leggings

You might also like these articles about wearing leggings, they're on the blogs of 2 fellow image consultants I enjoy reading:

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jane liddelow

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