Everything You Never Needed to Know About the History of Leggings

Hannah Almassi

From Jane Fonda's iconic workout leggings (combined with leg warmers, of course) through to Sienna Miller and her many layered boho looks, there's been no shortage of moments during the past century where stretchy pants have played an integral role in women's wardrobes. However, whether at the gym or in the office, leggings continue to be a contentious style topic. Some love them—and are probably buying this particularly super-popular style from Topshop. Some loathe them—and are most likely trying to not get their head around the etiquette of wearing jeggings or leggings outside of a hangover at home.

Leggings have had their high moments (Sandy in Grease), but they've definitely waded through some lows (following a boom in the mid-noughties, cheap iterations took over the streets and the unaware semi-opaque knicker-flashing offended many a passer-by). But we bet you didn't know just how old and how significant leggings really are. "From the middle of the 16th century, knitted silk stockings became available—initially imported from Spain and later made in England," explains fashion historian Amber Butchart. "These were very expensive, luxurious items, and were often made in bright colours—a symbol of wealth and prestige."

There's no denying this divisive jersey trouser is staging something of a high-fashion comeback now—from Valentino to Versace, Bella Hadid to Pernille Teisbaek, they are being worn on a regular, completely legitimate basis. Not since the 1980s have they been quite so prevalent, but it makes sense when one considers that wellness and fitness are the pinnacle of personal luxury right now. "The 1980s were, of course, a key decade for leggings, buoyed by the popularity of sportswear in fashion, and the idea of a 'gym body' became incredibly popular," said Butchart. "Again, it can be seen as a type of conspicuous consumption—you can afford the time and money to attend a gym."

There are ways of dressing them up galore, and we've noticed an increase in the hybrid creation of treggings, which are far more suitable for the office. But what of the most iconic legging moments of all time? We've enjoyed a trip down memory lane to bring you some of the best legging moments ever. Go through the gallery to see them…

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