How to Wear Leggings Under a Dress

A guest wears a black dress, black leggins, black shiny shoes, a Miu Miu leather bag, outside Miu Miu, during Paris Fashion Week SS 2021 - Getty Editorial Use

With so many shoes being more suited to bare feet, and fewer and fewer women wearing hose or tights, knowing how to wear leggings with a dress helps on the days when you don't want to have completely bare legs. On the face of it, this is easy - simply put on the leggings, toss the dress on over them, and go. You also want to be sure you get the length and style right and don't look silly when you're trying to look sophisticated, however.

Tips for Pairing Dresses and Leggings

The basic rule is to keep it simple. If the leggings are a color or pattern you wouldn't wear as tights, then don't wear them. Also, remember this is an inherently modern look. That's not to say that you can't wear leggings with a vintage dress, but you should be aware you will project a mix of styles. You can wear leggings with almost any dress. There are some things to consider, though:

Dress Length

The length of dress you wear will affect the look of the leggins underneath.

  • Short to mid-length: In general, short to mid-length dresses are the ones that work best with leggings. Though you can pair leggings with maxidresses for extra warmth, they won't add much to your outfit there, and could look a little silly if all you see is a couple of inches of a different color peeking out from below the hem.
  • Mini skirts: Dresses with short skirts look great with leggings because they allow you to display a fun, bright color while looking a little more modest than you would with bare legs. You can sit and stand more easily, without worrying about showing more than you've intended. Depending on the type you choose, they can also look extremely sexy.
  • Knee-skimming: Leggings are also a good choice with dresses that end around the tops of the knees. Again, you get that additional color, plus warmth if you need it. If you're pairing your dress with a pair of boots, they can take the place of tights, as socks are sometimes much more comfortable inside a pair of boots than tights. Since tights tend to have a slick surface and they're not as thick as socks, your trusty boots may not fit as well with those. So in that case, you get modesty, comfort, and warmth.


Lady Victoria Harvey with shiny dress and leggings at the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 11, 2021 - Getty Editorial Use

Any fabric and skirt shape can be flattering with leggings. Stiffer, heavier fabrics like denim and corduroy may work a little better since that's less likely to cling to the legging material (that can be uncomfortable when you're trying to walk). One thing to watch out for if you choose a lighter skirt fabric is the waistband of the leggings. Look for flat waistbands so the outline doesn't show through the skirt, especially if the skirt sits higher on your waist than the leggings do.


Tight leggings under dresses work best. Looser leggings run the risk of making you look saggy. They do, however, work under a very loose, flowing dress. In this case, they should match in style and fabric, much the way a Punjabi suit does.

If you're concerned about the look of your knees and calves, a three-quarter length legging worn under a knee-length dress can make the dress appear longer and slim your calves as well.

How to Wear for Different Seasons

Many women have found this to be a style that improves comfort, adds quirk and calls nice attention to amazing shoes. In addition, there are ways to wear the style for virtually any season/weather:

  • You can get away with wearing something shorter than you might usually wear. This is particularly attractive for a loose dress, and even more so on a windy day.
  • Leggings are typically more modest and breathable than tights. This works to maintain your comfort all year, by keeping you cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
  • You can leave your feet bare in the summer, so wear sandals all you like while your legs stay covered.
  • In winter, thicker leggings with socks and boots will keep you warmer than most tights and, if they're black, will still be slimming.

For Any Age

These days, women can wear miniskirts into their 40s and beyond, as opposed to the days when showing knee was only considered appropriate for much younger women. If a woman has great legs, there is no reason not to show them off. By the same token, not all those women want to display quite that much bare thigh. Leggings allow them to have an edgy style, show off their hard work at the gym and feel appropriate.

Things to Avoid

Amelie Stanescu and Tina Haase wearing dresses with leggings outside Baum und Pferdgarten on August 11, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark - Getty Editorial Use

As stylish as leggings under dresses have become, they are still not appropriate for most evening events.

  • On a hot summer night, it's preferable to go bare-legged rather than wear leggings.
  • Even if you are wearing very expensive, elaborately patterned leggings, they still should be avoided at cocktail parties and other semi-formal events. No matter what, wearing leggings under a dress is a casual look and should not be applied to a non-casual event.
  • Finally, use care when mixing colors and patterns. Although it is a casual look, it's still best to save the livelier patterns for the dress or skirt and keep the leggings simple. If you want to show off wild leggings, wear them under a tunic or shorts instead.

The Versatility of Leggings

As long as you're going to a casual event, you can wear leggings anywhere, with any kind of dress, at any age. They mix the beauty of tights with the breeziness of a favorite pair of blue jeans, but allow you to wear the girliest items in your closet instead of remaining a "jeans and t-shirt kind of girl." They can help cover up any insecurities you have about your legs, or just offer a bit of warmth and modesty to an outfit that might not be appropriate otherwise. Check out neutral leggings, like black and navy blue, to pair with your dresses on days you just don't feel like thinking about it, but spice things up with a few pairs of wild leggings that will call attention to your great legs and turn a few heads while you're out.

How to Wear Leggings Under a Dress