Leggings vs Pants: Which Works Best?

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Since pants are more of general bottom wear, it’s common for people to think leggings are also pants. However, they are different, and the following leggings vs pants guide reveal their similarities and differences, helping you choose the type of bottom wear that will suit your needs.

Leggings vs Pants General Overview

If you are looking for bottom wear for formal settings at the workplace, casually at home, at the gym, or running errands, you might be confused about whether to go for the leggings or the pants.

Although the proper bottom wear depends on personal preferences, the following guide details the comfort, fit, opaqueness, and elasticity differences between these attires helping you choose one that suits your situation.

A woman wearing a gray sports bra and black leggings doing yoga poses on a blue yoga mat near purple dumbells and fresh plants in a well-lit room

Leggings Overview

Leggings are form-fitting bottom wear that extends from the waist down to below the knees, covering the legs. In most cases, leggings are made from breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics to enhance comfort even if you sweat.

The stretchable and form-firing nature of leggings makes them look more like athleisure and sports attire than formal ones.

Pants Overview

Pants refer to bottom wear that covers you from the waist down to the legs, usually with separate sections for each leg. That means pants is a general term for a wide range of attires, such as pajamas, chinos, sweatpants, trousers, slacks, and jeans.

Comparing Leggings and Pants

Keeping in mind that pants are a general term used to describe bottom wear, you might wonder whether leggings are pants or if there is a difference. Typically, these are two distinct attires with the following differences and similarities.

Comparing Leggings and Pants Features

Features Leggings Pants
Waist Style Waistband Waistbands, suspenders, lacers
When to wear Outing and workouts Formal and informal
Compression High Low
Fabric thickness Thin Thick


Although pants and leggings differ in fabric, style, and intended use, they have the following design, versatility, and popularity similarities.

  • Versatility: Keeping in mind that both pants and leggings come in varying designs and styles, they are both versatile and can match a wide range of outfits
  • Length: Both pants and leggings come in varying lengths. However, leggings have three lengths: Capri, , and full length, while pants can have varying lengths extending from the knee area to the top of the shoe.
  • Durability: Since most leggings and pants are made of cotton, they are equally durable. However, pants tend to outlive leggings due to their tight knitting and loose fit.
  • Waist: Both bottom wears can be high-waisted, resting around the torso line near the belly button, or low-waisted, sitting on your hips
  • Popularity: Both pants and leggings are popular and fashionable for both genders. However, leggings are more popular with women than men.


Even if most leggings and pants are made of cotton blends, they are different garments designed for different purposes and have the following design, knit quality, fit, and stretchability differences.

Intended Use

Generally, leggings are meant to be worn casually at home, when running errands in the city, walking in the park, going to the gym, or meeting friends. However, the popularity of leggings has increased over time, and there is a gradual change in the intended use.

For instance, some organizations, businesses, and institutions allow leggings in their dress codes. However, even with the change in trend, most people still don’t feel comfortable wearing leggings when going to formal settings, especially without a dress or long top that covers the butt area.

On the other hand, pants are specifically designed for wearing outside. As a result, pants tend to be more formal, and you can wear them in formal and informal settings, even without a dress or long top. In most cases, pants are not revealing as much, and you can feel more comfortable around people.

Two denim pants hanging on a wooden hanger placed on a white wall inside a room


Although both pants and leggings can be made from a wide array of materials, leggings are generally made of a thin form of knit fabric. Thick leggings that keep you warm during winter can have wool or fleece linings.

Leggings to keep you cool during summer are made of moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics such as cotton and bamboo, while leggings designed for workouts are made of polyester blends. Regardless, leggings have varying percentages of spandex which helps to enhance their elasticity and stretchability.

On the other hand, pants are mainly made of tightly knit fabric that tends to be heavier than the leggings’ fabric. Most pants are made of wool or different knits of cotton, such as denim. Unlike leggings, most of these pants’ fabrics don’t contain spandex, making pants inelastic.


Even if you get the right size of leggings or pants, there are chances they will fall if there is no waistband or if you don’t buckle up a belt. To prevent this, almost all bottom wears come with suspenders, waistbands, laces, or belt loops to help you wear a belt.

Generally, leggings come with the waistband style for both high and low-waist designs. On the other hand, pants come with a wide range of choices, from waistbands, laces, suspenders to belt loops.


Opaqueness refers to the amount of light the fabric can block. In most cases, you will want opaque bottom wear, so you don’t end up showing your skin or the color of the pantie. Although the opaqueness of the attire mainly varies with the fabric, it also depends on how tight the garment is.

For instance, form-fitting garments tend to be more see-through than their loose counterparts. Keeping in mind that most pants are loose and are designed for wearing outside, they tend to be more opaque than leggings.

Even the leggings made from thick fabrics can still show the pantie lines due to their form-fitting nature. The stretchable fabric of the leggings also makes them reveal the curves more than the pants.

Two women wearing sports bras and leggings doing yoga poses on a gray yoga mat placed on a brown wooden floor near a marbled wall

Major Distinguishing Factor

The major distinguishing factor between leggings and pants is the fit. Usually, all leggings are form-fitting like tights and will show you curves and pantie lines. On the other hand, most pants fit loosely on your body and might not reveal the body curves or the pantie lines.

When to Wear Leggings

Since leggings are stretchable, form-fitting, and show your curves, they are the proper bottom wear to wear in the following situations:

When to Wear Pants

Keeping in mind that most pants fit loosely and are specifically designed for wearing outside, you can wear them in the following circumstances:

  • When at the workplace or going to formal settings such as meetings and weddings
  • If you are wearing tights as an undergarment for added warmth during winter, loose wool pants might be the best choice for added heat insulation
  • If you feel insecure with your curves showing with the tight leggings, loose pants might be the right choice
  • When you are running errands outside, and you don’t want to wear a dress or long top to cover your butt

Which Is Better?

Pants are better as you can wear them for both formal and informal settings without necessarily wearing a long top or dress to cover the butt and the curves. However, leggings are more flexible and comfortable and might be the best choice for daily use at home, at the gym, and running errands.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Wear Leggings as Pants?

Yes, you can wear leggings as pants as long as you are comfortable. Normally, leggings such as yoga pants and Ponte leggings are stretchy and are close-fitting to the body, making them ideal for wearing during the day and night as pants.

However, you should avoid see-through leggings, which can make you uncomfortable by exposing your body parts when using them as pants.

What Is the Difference Between Compression Pants and Regular Pants?

Normally, regular pants are loose and are designed in a way that you can wear them on formal and informal occasions, whereas compression pants are mostly for informal occasions and activities.

Additionally, compression pants can help you recover from an injury due to the compression that reduces nerve pain, increases blood flow, and strengthens your muscles.

How Often Should I Wash Pants?

Normally, it is advisable that you wash your pants after 3 to 4 days of wear if you are wearing them in your daily activities.

If you use the pants in intense activities like hiking, you may need to wash the pants on a daily basis to remove the bacteria accumulation that can lead to a bad smell.

CLASSY Leggings Outfits that look Chic and Sophisticated


The above leggings vs pants guide will help you decide what to go for if you want to look flattering by showing your curves and look flattering or want to look formal at the workplace. Leggings are form-fitting and comfortable, while pants are versatile and suitable for formal settings.