Brief History of Leggings
Would you believe the history of leggings started almost half a century ago? Yes, leggings is an old piece of clothing. It all started when Chemist Joseph Shivers created Lycra in a science lab and by 1959 the first stretchy pants hit department stores. By the ’60s, all sorts of designers were embracing the stretchy silhouette, but not quite in the way that we’re used to today.
“The freedom and comfort offered by leggings in the ’60s jived with the times, but they didn’t have a widespread take because this was the era of Dolly Birds in mini skirts,” said Charlotte Fiell, designer historian and author of The Story of Design: From the Paleolithic to the Present.
“Leggings came into fashion thanks to the youth quake, when young people truly decided that they did not want to dress like their parents and began experimenting more with fashion,” Jose Blanco, author of Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe, explains. “Pants in general were accepted for celebrities or for upper and middle class women living in the suburbs or vacationing in places where they were somewhat ‘among equals.’ It was also considered acceptable for younger women and girls in some cases. But wearing any type of pants — tight or otherwise — get you expelled from school or turned away from a restaurant.”
It became a full blown obsession in the 70’s. They are mostly worn on disco clubs back then. “There was a definite popularity of metallics for Saturday night fever at the disco. The shimmering metallics were ideal for strobe lights on the dance floor,” said Daniel Delis Hill, fashion historian and author of such books as History of World Costume and Fashion Leggings were a trending look at Studio 54 and disco clubs, with the likes of Grace Jones rocking them on dance floors.
In the ’80s, leggings took on a different vibe, leaving Saturday Night Fever territory and paired underneath tulle dresses and mini skirts, as the famous Madonna’s Like a Virgin.
After three decades of relative popularity, leggings fell off the map in the ’90s. The tights were put away for a full decade, but in the noughties (2000-2009) the look crept back into twenty-somethings’ wardrobes almost over night. Famous girls like Lindsey Lohan, the Olsen Twins, and Kim Kardashian were all on board.
Since the noughties, we’ve had everything from high-fashion leather leggings to the next-level denim jeggings, and everything in between. Leggings become something a staple item in our off-duty outfits, everyone from career professionals to models wearing them on their days off.
So there you go, the brief history of leggings. Now, it’s not just worn on days off but also in casual wear. Almost every women and some men (meggings) wears them everywhere as it is the most comfortable clothing item of all time.