my intern wears leggings as pants

A reader writes:

I have taken on a very capable, intelligent intern for the semester in an academic setting. I did tell her before she started that she would need to dress business casual. Several times I have noted that she has arrived at work in skin-tight leggings and tops that do not cover bottoms and hips. Tight-fitting or revealing clothing is not appropriate in our organization, but apparently it’s acceptable at my intern’s other employer in another field. Our region and profession can be somewhat conservative on attire. I am not much older than the intern and I agree with the dress code.

Should I say something to her about the leggings or leave it alone since her internship is almost up? She is not in trouble or anything-I know I am more at fault for inaction from the beginning but I do like her and want to see her be successful.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Managers taking off days right before or after a holiday
  • Interviewing a returning employee for the same job he left
  • Holiday gifts when I’m close friends with my employees
  • Will I be taken seriously without a LinkedIn account?

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. Rusty Shackelford*

    Since this is likely going to be an issue for the intern in the future (assuming she stays in your industry and region), I’d tell her.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Should have added… it doesn’t have to be “oooh, this is a horrible, embarrassing thing you’ve been doing for months!” It could be as low-key as “great works, here’s your internship evaluation, and by the way, if you stay in this industry, you’ll probably need to dress more on the business side of business casual, for example, not wearing leggings as pants.”

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Please tell her that leggings aren’t professional attire in most offices. If she chooses to ignore the info, that’s on her, but at least she will have been told.

    1. Ashley*

      This is definite industry based. I think in a place where shorts are ok you could be ok, but business casual I would still default to a no.

      1. Drago Cucina*

        Nice, knee length shorts were okay in my previous dress code, but not leggings without an appropriate top/dress (and it was gender neutral). During the summer I used to wear city shorts with a nice twin set.

        When we had student workers from the local community college teaching them how to dress in the work place was a big part of what we did. We gave everyone two library related t-shirts. Jeans were okay without rips. I didn’t expect them to run out and buy a new wardrobe. It was often teaching them to tweak what they already owned.

    2. GreenDoor*

      Sure….and booty shorts are shorts….and corsets can be tops…and skirts and make-up aren’t just for ladies anymore. But companies still get to decide on the image they want to project and the dress code is part of that.

      1. Anononon*

        I think there’s a big difference between dress codes that don’t allow more casual/provocative outfits across the board and dress codes that require strict gender normativity. Let’s not equate anyone wearing booty shorts/corsets to men wearing skirts or make-up, please.

        1. stiveee*

          Thank you. That situation would be blatant transphobia/homophobia. The “skirts aren’t just for ladies anymore” bit seems rather flippant to me as a member of the queer community, as if gender non-conforming people spawned within the last few years just to shake up the workplace.

      2. Weekend Please*

        Yep. The issue isn’t that she isn’t wearing pants, it is that she is dressed too casually for that office. It would be like if she kept coming in in jeans when she needed to wear at least khakis. Gently point it out and move on.

        1. Generic Name*

          Exactly. The question isn’t “are leggings pants?”, it’s “my intern is wearing clothing (leggings) that are too casual according to our dress code, do I say anything?”

        2. MsClaw*

          Yes, a lot of it is about understanding norms. We had a younger employee ‘dress up’ for a customer meeting at work. She wore an off-the-shoulder floral jumpsuit. It was a lovely choice for brunch with friends, but not even remotely appropriate for a work meeting. To her this was a ‘dressy’ outfit. I think she thought my meeting get up was old lady wear instead of realizing that slacks or a pencil skirt were expected for women in these events (there are not a lot of us).

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Yes – my intern wore a cold-shoulder top to work on casual Friday. I told her that it was too casual even for casual day and that in general, for our company, she should cover the area between her knees, the top of her arms, and her cleavage. I was very matter of fact. I was imparting information she didn’t have.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      It really does depend on the organization. I’ve worked mostly at arts organizations (including a dance company) and many of them were more casual; no one would have batted an eye at someone showing up in leggings. However, my last job was at an arts/humanities organization where even jeans were generally frowned upon in most departments. It sounds like the LW’s company has a dress code that is more formal and they will be doing the intern a favor by letting her know that she needs to adhere to that dress code.

    4. medium-sized glass of water*

      This is a re-posted letter- it looks like the original was posted back in 2016. Alison pulls these letters from the archives to post them on Inc occasionally.

      That said, I’m surprised she didn’t add in something about the current situation, given that so many workplaces have tweaked their dress code now that the majority of folks are working from home.

    5. anonforthis*

      Amen. I am in the c-suite and I wear leggings as pants every. day. With an appropriate top though.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Leggings are not pants. They are also not tights. I firmly believe leggings should be worn with a top that covers the butt. This does not mean that the top has to reach the knees, provided the leggings are thick enough, but nope, not pants.

    7. Batgirl*

      Even if you classify leggings as pants (and I do), they are still very stretchy pants. Unless your work involves being very physical/casual it’s not always ok to wear stretchy second skin garments. I wouldn’t wear stretch lycra dresses or skirts to work either. A bit of stretch is ok; however “I’m off to the gym” is not business casual.

    8. Ari*

      To me, leggings read more like an undergarment. Particularly if they are a thin material or are slightly see through or are too figure hugging. I would never think to wear them without an extra long top/dress or a skirt. But I’m in a conservative field where even business casual is unusual.

      I do think OP should say something to the intern as a kindness. As long as OP doesn’t sound like she’s reprimanding the intern, it should be an easy enough conversation to have.

      1. Max's Manager*

        Agreed. I work in tech and baggy, possibly ripped denim with loud shirts and flannels triggers no notice, but something — anything, on anyone — as deliberately and unavoidably second-skin as leggings would be a No.

      2. AD REPORT*

        I classify them like sports bras–I generally consider them underwear but also fine to wear on their own for exercise.

        I also know though that I have long-since lost the leggings-are-not-pants battle, oh well. If I had an intern I would not frame it as an “are they pants or not” issue because ultimately it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of things that are objectively pants but still not fit for the office. I’d simply frame it as “those are not appropriate for our workplace” (assuming that was true).

    9. Generic Name*

      I think leggings as pants are acceptable for casual dress, but not at work. Wear your leggings as pants on the weekends, and cover your ass with a skirt/dress/tunic if you must wear leggings at work. This goes for all sizes.

    10. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I work in an industry where a ton of people wear jeans daily (with a nice top) and leggings as pants would absolutely not fly. It’s not about casual level, its about tightness level. A skintight top would also not be ok.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        I think it is the tightness level also. Leggings tend to be extremely form fitting and often thin.

      2. KRM*

        Tights are also skintight. It’s about what you wear them with. I’ll wear tights or leggings under a dress depending on what the weather is outside (and how the office temps have been), and I’d be super irritated if you told me I couldn’t wear leggings under my dress because they were tight, but my tights wouldn’t attract notice.
        OP should speak to the intern because ‘business casual’ is a super flexible term that is office dependent, and even just telling her that she should feel free to ask what an office’s definition of business casual is when she starts a job is a kindness. Some business casual is ‘khakis/button down”, some will be ‘jeans/nice t-shirt’ and yes, some could be ‘leggings/longish top’.

        1. blue*

          How about if we all just worry about our own clothes and stop policing others’? I am saying this in the spirit of a way to change the world for the better. It feels like such a ridiculous waste of time to ever be concerned with another person’s clothing! Can we take a moment and try to change our thinking on this? Evaluate people on their actions, rather than their appearance? Which includes clothing?

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t think anyone is saying you can’t wear leggings under a dress. The definition of “leggings as pants” is that they *aren’t* being worn under a dress.

        3. AD REPORT*

          “I’d be super irritated if you told me I couldn’t wear leggings under my dress because they were tight”

          No one has said that or ever would.

    11. kittymommy*

      Although this is a pre-covid letter, even now you couldn’t get away with that as most of us are in-office.

    12. fhqwhgads*

      There was a pretty awesome flow-chart floating around the interwebs a couple of years ago answering the question “Am I wearing pants?” It very much applies to the intern’s scenario.

      1. virago*

        Yes! You inspired me to look it up, and this flowchart — which actually is titled “Am I Wearing Pants?”– was created by Amy Sly and was published by BuzzFeed on May 5, 2011.

        (I would link to it, but then my comment would wind up in moderation forever.)

      2. Wendy Darling*

        The introduction of “control top” pants kinda harshes that chart. Also my mellow, because “control top” just means “smashes your flab into where your intestines were trying to be”.

    13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      The original letter was printed long before the pandemic, but I think the general version of this question is still valid: i.e. intern is wearing (or more generally, doing) something ‘unprofessional’ relative to the industry but I’ve left it late in the internship to say anything; what if anything should I say now?

    14. Dust Bunny*

      leggings are definitely not pants where I work. We average out to business casual (some less public positions like IT can be more casual, others that are patron-facing have slightly higher expectations). I have never seen, nor can I picture anyone wearing without looking completely inappropriate, leggings as pants at my job.

    15. CommanderBanana*

      One of the difficulties with this is that not all leggings are created equal – and I’ve definitely had coworkers who wore leggings that were MUCH more sheer than they realized to work. As in, we can see the print on your underwear. (Remember the Lululemon sheer legging controversy?)

      I feel like, especially if you’re in a not-casual office, it’s just easier all round to nix leggings from the dress code rather than try to adjudicate them on a case-by-case basis.

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        In the winter, I would freeze. I wear skirts instead of pants for comfort due to my very wide thighs, and leggings under a professional skirt or sweater dress keep me warm in the colder months. If leggings were removed from the dress code entirely, I wouldn’t really have an alternative other than to just wear uncomfortable pants, since slacks under a skirt look ridiculous and tights aren’t warm enough.

        I 100% agree about not allowing leggings to ever be worn in place of pants though, without a skirt or dress that hides your butt. I see people out in the world every day wearing skintight leggings as if they’re pants, showing off the contours of their butt to the world, and it makes me really uncomfortable.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I meant leggings in the place of pants. I think tights and leggings are pretty interchangeable. Not leggings on their own.

    16. Esmeralda*

      No, we have not. There are plenty of workplaces where they are not acceptable.

      Jeans are pants too, and yet they may be unacceptable at work. Cargo pants — the same. Capris? Belly dance harem pants?

      My office is quite casual. Leggings are not appropriate. One of the nice things aobut WFH = I can wear my leggings. And my harem pants.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          As far as leggings go…. some leggings are thick and not as… fitted as others. I don’t need to be able to plainly see that you are wearing rubber duckie underwear today.

          To be honest, if you’re wearing the nice thick leggings, I’m going to treat them the same as jeggings. I just don’t want to see your underwear.

          And I’ve had to have that discussion with far too many college-age students when I used to teach. There was often confusion between what I would call tights and not leggings.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            As in rubber underwear that… Is a bit like an inflatable pool ring with a rubber duckie head, face and tail, or as in regular underwear with a rubber duckie print? Coz my brain went to the first one initially and I’m pretty sure that would affect the fit of most clothing…

    17. NotAnotherManager!*

      The issue is not whether or not leggings are pants (and whether or not they are depends a lot on how thick/sheer any given pair is), it’s that they are a dress code violation at OP’s office (would also be at mine and most professional offices in my area) and they’re asking whether or not to tell them this late in the game. The intern has clearly not looked around and realized they’re the only person dressed this casually, and OP’d be doing them a favor by clarifying the dress code in a kind way.

    18. GothicBee*

      I feel like it kind of depends on how you define leggings. I’ve seen some people refer to almost any tight fitting pants as leggings, so if your definition of “leggings” would include skinny jeans or trousers that are form fitting, then yes, they’re pants and people should be able to wear them. But straight up leggings like that you would wear to do yoga or lounge around the house? No, those are usually too informal in the same way that sweat pants are too informal.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        But maybe not? Since you can’t try on clothes these days, I had to return some legitimate pants that were too tight for professional clothes. They were Calvin Klein pants with a black and charcoal tweed pattern, but made of a stretch fabric with no zipper. They might as well be leggings. I have a similar pair in another brand and I wear them to work. I think it’s all about the way the fit the wearer’s body.

    19. Oxford Comma*

      Working from home? I so don’t care what you have on your lower half as long as it’s not embarrassing if/when you stand up.

      Working in my office environment? Unless you have a top that’s covering the butt and probably some of the thighs, leggings as pants would not fly here. Things would be said. Even now in the era of Covid and the dumpster fire that is 2020. In our field: leggings are not pants.

    20. Nesprin*

      I do feel like there’s a gradient, and there’s definitely disagreement what “leggings” can mean. To my casual-end-of- business-casual-west coast eyes, 1&2 are fine with anything, 3 requires a tunic that ends below the butt and 4 is ok with a dress only. More conservative industries may be OK with only 1 or 2 with a tunic.

      1: trouser style non- skinny pants
      2: skinny ponte pants or skinny jeans
      3: leggings made of thin material
      4: tights

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Even thinking of my experience in places that tend towards the formal end of business casual, things in category 2 aren’t generally considered as leggings when it comes to the leggings-as-pants rule. They might be seen as too informal outside of casual Fridays (especially jeans), but skinny ponte pants are work wardrobe standards for women under, say, 35-ish here.

        Come to think of it, it’s almost a bit unusual to see women my age or younger wearing work pants less skinny than something like Banana Republic Sloan pants. I think that what’s going on there is that there’s a general acceptance of form-fitting pants in the workplace so long as they have a bit of structure to them.

      2. Atlantian*

        My office also makes the distinction between Athletic leggings (anything obviously made of Lycra or spandex, with sheer panels, or prominent athletic logos, like Nike), which are against the dress code, and fashion ones, (think cotton or poly, solid colors or fun prints) which are ok with a top or skirt that reaches mid thigh while seated or reaching overhead.

    21. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      “Haven’t we all accepted that leggings are pants by now in 2020?”

      No. And I will never accept this. If I can see the clear outline of your gentleman/lady bits and every dimple in your cellulite, you should not be outside your house. Call me the Dowager Duchess of Prissytown, but if Georgia O’Keefe painted it as an abstract flower, I shouldn’t be looking at it on the subway.

      1. Aquawoman*

        Nope nope nope, you do not get to set dress codes based on cellulite (or weight or boob size or any of that nonsense there).

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          As soon as I posted this, I knew I would get exactly this reaction, so let me clarify:
          I have cellulite. I have never met anyone who does NOT have it.
          I am not fat shaming.
          I was trying to describe leggings so tight that you can see the texture of someone’s skin and whether they have shaved and where.
          So for the love of God, please don’t make this into another damned pile on/public stoning to show how body positive we all are. I chose the wrong words.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            And sorry – Allison, or moderators, would you be able to delete my comment and everything below it? I really messed up how I phrased this. It comes off differently than I intended. And I am absolutely certain that this is going to rapidly devolve into an ugly derail. Could we nip it in the bud somehow?

          2. Name (Required)*

            Thing is… eons ago women worried about VPL but these days they don’t care if their cellulite is on display. They don’t care that everyone in an international airport can see their personal grooming choices, or everyone can see their personal hygiene practices, choice of undergarments, etc. They know what they look like and what others will see. Fundamentally, And while there was a time when other people could think to themselves “oh dear should someone tell them?”, now they are totally verboten – the thinking and telling… and even the noticing.

            Please don’t feel too bad that you haven’t gotten this ‘new speak’ down pat yet. There are plenty of people to remind you to watch your words… and till you get there it makes them so happy to be able to castigate.

            So some don’t care, and some do care. Just have to sort out who is whom.

            1. pancakes*

              This is a very silly generalization. There are all sorts of women in the world, with all sorts of preferences as to how they dress. You claim to see only one sort of woman, the sort you think looks a mess in clothes that are too revealing, and you claim you’re oppressed from noticing this, while you’re in the midst of explaining that it’s all you ever notice. Get a grip!

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Mate, treating women as some kind of monolith (and not a fun 2001 type) to make extremely bizarre generalisations regarding how we all think and dress and act is rather the antithesis of what this forum is supposed to achieve.

        2. Aquawoman*

          If we’re talking about dress codes, it seems apropos to me to discuss how they can be sexist, racist, ableist and reinforce arbitrary gender norms.

    22. Cat Tree*

      I wish. Unfortunately this is a pet cause that many people feel very strongly about. I expect people will continue to get riled up about leggings until most of the current population has retired and then the attitude that leggings can’t be pants will seem as quaint and old-fashioned as people getting upset about women wearing pants in public, or wearing a dress without tights. But until then, people will fight tooth and nail to judge leggings.

      I work in a pretty casual place (manufacturing) and I think leggings would be fine in most cases. We don’t even have a real dress code with a list of unacceptable things. Aside from safety requirements on the production for, the dress code is literally “wear whatever is suitable for your work that day”. I have probably had coworkers wear leggings as pants but it I don’t even remember specifics because we’re all focused way more on work than clothes.

    23. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Just some of us don’t say anything doesn’t mean we think leggings are acceptable as pants. Because we recognize that it really isn’t that big a deal, and none of our business.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Yep! I definitely still don’t think of them as pants, but I also have stopped trying to convince anyone else of that because it doesn’t really matter. And as for this particular letter, there are lots of things that are universally accepted as normal clothing and are still not appropriate for the office! I’m sure there are places where people wear them to work without issue, but there are still many many places where they would not be okay to wear and letting the intern know professional norms is part of what they are there for.

  2. Rusty Shackelford*

    Also, the image accompanying the article is a great example of leggings-as-pants. I think this conversation tends to derail into “what are leggings, anyway?” and this outfit is clearly leggings.

  3. Imaginary Number*

    How do you define leggings? (Genuine question about how different people perceive this.)

    There are a lot of brands now that sell what they market as dressy yoga pants. Essentially, stretchy pants that are stylized like business casual, but which are just as form-fitting through the butt and thighs as leggings (the bottoms are often more flared like a regular pant leg.)

    At what point is a legging a legging? Does it depend on the thickness of the material? Does it matter if those leggings also have belt loops, a fake fly, fake pockets, and a pattern you might normally find on a business suit?

    1. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

      I’m personally of the mind that if they aren’t OVBIOUS gym wear (logos, and those thigh pockets) and completely cover the butt with no sheer-ness leggings are okay to wear as pants. But, then again, I can see some workplaces taking issue with this.

      1. chewingle*

        Yeah, I know people who wear leggings and “skinny” pants interchangeably and I can’t tell the difference. I would assume there could be a panty-line issue? But I don’t stare at people’s asses often enough to notice.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          There can definitely be panty-line and “fabric stretched thinner than intended” issues. I have seen leggings that revealed the color of the underwear underneath.

    2. mayfly*

      Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I want to say that if you could comfortably sleep or work out in them, they’re not business casual pants?

      1. KateM*

        Oh, then the answer to “what shouldn’t I wear in office?” is “first, it shouldn’t be comfortable”?

        1. mayfly*

          Well, they shouldn’t be your go-to pants for going for a jog or settling in for a nap, anyway. I have a lot of work pants that are comfortable, but wouldn’t be great to exercise in. Comfort is a continuum and depends on the activity, KWIM?

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I have plenty of clothes that are comfortable but that I wouldn’t wear to sleep or work out. Let’s not trot out the all-or-nothing red herrings, OK?

        3. a clockwork lemon*

          I can’t speak to your workouts, but when I work out I wear stuff that’s either extremely loose or skin-tight, neither of which is appropriate for the office no matter how opaque they are. I wouldn’t go to the gym in jeans anymore than I’d show up at the office in yoga pants and sneakers.

      2. Lacey*

        Most work slacks feel an awful lot like pajama pants to me. But, I’d never sleep in jeans, which aren’t allowed in the dressier places I’ve worked.

        1. chewingle*

          Yes, my SIL bought black leggings (from the athletic section of TJMaxx) and she modeled those and a pair of actual work pants for me and I couldn’t tell the difference. One was comfier for her and the other was uncomfortable for the sake of the label, it seemed.

      3. Eye roll*

        I can absolutely sleep or work out in my favorite work pants. They’re a pair of work-styled yoga pants. I think thickness and styling are more essential than stretch or comfort. I work in law, and with a jacket, I’ve been complemented on my “suit” with these pants.

    3. Annika Hansen*

      I was thinking the same question. For me, whether I would wear that to work has to do with the thickness. I always wear a longer top.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        I’m trying to figure that out. I think I can point to a pair of pants and say whether or not it’s acceptable, but I’m struggling to define the line. I think thickness is probably the most important one.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I think it’s the thickness and also a bit the tightness around my butt (which go together – even my stretch style jeans are not going to show the exact outline of my butt the way a thinner material would.)

        Fwiw I think most yoga pants would also be too casual for the places I’ve worked. That stretchy cotton jersey look reads as pretty informal for work pants to me.

        1. Janne*

          Yes, I think it might be in the material (thickness, maybe texture and shine). That stretchy cotton jersey would also not be a very suitable work dress or shirt.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think their suitability for work likely depends on how expensive they were. $5 on the high street will soon be translucent, and in ways you can’t see on yourself in a mirror.

        Whereas black pants are generally work-suitable for an intern regardless of price, so long as they’re the right size.

      4. Three Flowers*

        Anything with mesh panels, criss-cross “lace up” effect on the leg, athletic-look seams, fabric with a sheen, etc seems ruled out too, regardless of thickness.

        I get the impression from the letter that this isn’t about the intern wearing body-hugging pants per se, but the widespread use of athletic leggings as pants by college students over the past several years. And they truly don’t seem to own any other pants. I’ve definitely had students–probably about 50% of my women undergraduates–who never showed up to class in anything but leggings and a t-shirt or fun top.

        I also wouldn’t be surprised if body-shaming figured into this sometimes–not necessarily this letter as we have no information–as bigger college women also seem to have embraced leggings as pants (go girls! rock it!) rather than hiding their uncouth, unprofessional butts or bulges.

        Also–love your username!

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah, it’s not that they’re indecent, more that it’s a blaring signal of utter youthfulness and lack of awareness when “they truly don’t seem to own any other pants”.
          Short cottony skirts more appropriate to a weekend brunch is another ‘spot the intern’ marker. It’s unfair really, it takes time and money to build a work wardrobe.

        2. aqua arrow*

          Just to add on to what you said, I’m in my mid-20’s and pretty much every girl my age has been wearing legging-type pants in come capacity for at least 10 years. When I was in college, I wore jeans maybe once a week, but leggings and t-shirts were (and, outside of work, still are) my everyday attire. When I started working, I literally owned only two pairs of pants that were not leggings, and both were jeans. With that being said I definitely wouldn’t wear leggings to an office job, but to me and a lot of girls my age leggings are just what we wear as pants nearly every day.

          1. Three Flowers*

            Yep! And like Batgirl said, I feel bad for y’all having to suddenly possess a work wardrobe. Been there (although I, erm, predate the leggings era). When I graduated I had to scramble to get work-appropriate pants and especially shoes, since I had worn jeans and alternated between hiking boots and chacos depending on the season for years. I still remember standing in DSW going “WTF are work-appropriate shoes?” :)

    4. Teapot Tía*

      IMO, it’s about how form-fitting it is. If you’ve basically got the same silhouette as if you were wearing pantyhose/stockings/tights, that’s leggings and (usually) inappropriate businesswear. Even if there’s decorative details imitating other kinds of legwear.

    5. Qwerty*

      Don’t look like a comic book character. They seem to have their clothes vacuums sealed on, which is why their superhero suits show every detail of their bodies.

      I agree that the issue has sort of separated from leggings – there are conservative leggings now and dress pants that have so much stretchy material they show just as much as leggings. My bar is how much of your body/underclothes is being revealed to coworkers without their consent. If I know the color or material or style of your undergarments, it is not work appropriate. I knew guys that wore leggings to work and I now know way more than I ever wanted to about their private parts because it was clearly visible.

      It also varies a lot by person and body type. I have a long torso, so leggings would never look professional on me because the shirts don’t cover enough. However, my sister has a short torso so shirts hang lower in the front/back, therefore she can wear leggings as pants without anyone really noticing. Maybe that’s the line – does it look to a casual observer that you are wearing leggings? Sizing matters too – I buy my work pants one size bigger which really reduces how visible the stretchy material is. I think people also usually judge their outfit based on what they see when looking in the mirror, but the reality is that your coworkers see a whole different angle than you and clothes move after you sit/stand/walk about/dig through your file cabinet.

    6. nnn*

      Theory: If you put a dress over top and it looks like “that person is wearing pants under their dress”, they aren’t leggings.

      1. nnn*

        Another theory: if they’d look out of place in the gym, they aren’t leggings. (Unless they’re, like, shorts or sweatpants or other non-legging gym wear)

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Nice theory!

        Also reminds me of the late 1990s/early 2000s, where for some reason pop stars and teenage girls *did* wear jeans under skirts and dresses.

    7. aqua arrow*

      For me, there’s difference between what I’d define as “leggings,” “yoga pants,” and “stretchy work pants”.
      Leggings to me are always tight down to the ankle, tend to be made of a soft material, but also tend to be thinner and less expensive than yoga pants. I would never wear leggings without a long top.
      Yoga pants, on the other hand, while still tight all the way down the leg, are made of a thicker material, and are not see-through in the least. I work in a jeans and a t-shirt type of office, and while I wouldn’t wear yoga pants to work on a normal workday, if I came in on a weekend or for a few hours before a holiday weekend I’d feel ok wearing a pair of lululemon or gymshark leggings and a normal shirt.
      Stretchy work pants can still be tight through the thigh and knee, but flare out around the ankle to either a flare or bootcut. As long as there’s no “outline” in the back, I’d have no issue wearing the stretchy pants to work. I’ve seen these pants have both fake and real beltloops, pockets, and flys, and I think they look quite nice and can be a really flattering option to trousers.

    8. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Mostly fabric weight and feel, I think. I have a couple of pairs of trousers that were definitely intended as office wear but are just as comfy and stretchy as leggings. The difference is that they are made from a fairly heavy, smooth knit and have details like tiny belt loops and a fake fly, and the leg is just a little bit loose, especially from the calf to the ankle. I have worn them on a long haul flight because they were just as comfy as leggings but look a lot nicer.

    9. Uranus Wars*

      The difference – to me – between even my skinny jeans and my non-gym leggings (which are a thick ponte material), or any of my slacks, is that I can still tuck a shirt into my skinny jeans and slacks. I cannot do that into my leggings.

      Also, my slacks and skinny pants also have a button and zip fly, where my leggings do not.

      I call leggings for the gym or for running tights. This is not at all universal among my friend group, it’s just how my mind processes my own wardrobe.

    10. starsaphire*

      Genuine answer, for me anyway:

      1. Put them on, and put on the top you’re wearing with them.
      2. Get your best friend or your partner or someone you really trust to stand behind you.
      3. Slowly bend over and touch the floor/your shoes/whatever your physical ability allows.

      If the friend/partner can see, at any point, any details you’d rather keep private (such as the color of the rocketships on your undies), you are wearing leggings, not pants, *and* your top is not long enough.

      (Yes, I once was in a job that required dresses, hose, and heels; and yes, I had to bend over or get down on the floor to roll up blueprints in that getup. No choice. We all knew who wore stockings and who wore pantyhose. I am now suuuper conscious of what is revealed when I’m bent all the way over.)

    11. Joielle*

      Yeah, I have some very nice/thick plain black leggings from athletic brands and some also nice/thick “skinny ponte pants” from workwear brands and they are… not that different. The type of seam is probably the main difference (leggings often have flatlock seams), but you’d have to be REALLY close to my inner thighs to notice that, especially on black pants.

    12. AD REPORT*

      The lines are so blurred now it’s true! There are leggings that look like jeans and jeans that look like leggings and those BetaBrand pants that claim to feel like leggings and look like dress pants. I think for me it’s hard to pinpoint and more of an “I know it when I see it” thing.

  4. Mx*

    In my work place, it’s very normal to request annual leave before or/and after a bank holiday to make it a long weekend or a short vacation.
    I fail to see what the problem is, unless it conflicts with the work. If there is a conflict, the line manager of the person requesting the annual leave could always refuse it anyway.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Yes, ask me and plan ahead of time and it’s okay. The last minute call-ins before or after a long weekend. All the time. Then it’s a conversation.

    2. UKDancer*

      Definitely. In my company practically everyone takes the Friday off before the May Day bank holiday or the Tuesday after. People often also take the Tuesday after Whit Monday off. It’s pretty normal for people to take an extra day to make for a longer weekend especially in May when the weather is quite nice. It’s a good way to make annual leave go further. As long as everyone doesn’t want the same day it’s not a problem. Mostly people either want Friday or Tuesday.

      If there’s a particular problem with cover or work requirements then that’s a different matter but in principle I don’t see a problem with people wanting a long bank holiday weekend.

    3. Green Goose*

      I’m a manager and I very regularly request time off right before or after a holiday as we work so much and it’s nice to take off a little extra time. It also tends to be slower during those days. I really hope that the OP has specific issues with this like Alison asked, like a certain function can’t be completed or it prevents others from taking the same time off. If it’s just an optics thing, then I really hope the OP just drops it. I would be so annoyed if my manager said I had to stop doing this for optic reasons when it’s part of my work-life balance plans.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Yes, I live away from family and am stingy with PTO so I extend almost every single holiday. Unless it interferes with works, but this OP specifically mentioned it doesn’t look good to other employees…I sure hope it is more than that, too!

    4. Time off*

      This reminds me of an old boss of mine. We had our birthdays off (treated as a holiday), but only if it fell on a workday. Some people used their PTO to take the Friday before or Monday after off if their birthday fell on a weekend and he got upset.

      When I pushed him on it, and asked why it was an issue as long if they had the hours and it didn’t created a coverage problem. He said it violated the “spirit” of the day (but didn’t have an issue with giving those people less time off than everyone else). He didn’t have any more explanation for what the “spirit” of it was. He just didn’t feel like people should get to take those days off.

      This was the same guy that wanted to take away people’s sick days because people used them. Weirdly enough, people weren’t super thrilled about benefits and time off policies there.

    5. Nice Try, FBI*

      I agree. If there’s no specific policy against it, and it’s not preventing someone else from using their PTO, I don’t see what the issue.

      Where I work, we can’t take a day off before or after a holiday, but as a teacher our breaks are long enough that I don’t feel the need to do that anyway.

    6. tangerineRose*

      I was pretty annoyed one year when a co-worker took vacation days around every holiday we had because that meant I couldn’t take any vacation days near the holidays. Maybe the situation is more like that.

    7. WS*

      I can see a problem with it if coverage is required and these same two employees get to pick first due to seniority so they’re hogging all the long weekends. But if other people can take that day too, no problem.

  5. DC*

    As someone who used to be firmly in the leggings-are-not-pants camp, my position changed after I had a hip surgery.

    I was recovered enough to come to work, but the seams and such on more traditional pants irritated my scars, whereas dressy leggings did not. I got a few pairs of thicker, nice-cut black ones and survived on them for some time.

    There are not always extenuating circumstances, but sometimes there are.

    1. Washi*

      Could you not wear a dress over them? I don’t think anyone is saying you can’t wear leggings to work in a business casual office, just that they should be treated like tights and therefore your butt should be covered.

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah, I had a surgery where for a while I could not wear pants – but I just bought some dresses instead.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        I extend the life of my warm weather dresses and skirts by pairing them with fleece lined leggings and short boots (AKA booties) for what passes for winter here in Texas. Works like a charm!

        1. Chai Latte*

          Me, too! High school teacher here and my Old Navy leggings make shorter dresses more modest AND protect me from my freezing classroom.

      3. Nice Try, FBI*

        As someone who looks awful in any dresses or skirts (think very butch lesbian) and isn’t comfortable in them, that wouldn’t be an option for me. However, a long shirt over leggings would be okay. I would think someone who has issues like that from surgery could request a medical accommodation, right?

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Yup!! In a previous job, I had abdominal surgery and couldn’t do the hard-denim-waistline right over my surgery site. I requested and received an approval to wear basically nicer black lounge pants or looser yoga pants.

          (My boss was very confused on why I even asked and why I was coming back to work just stay home EC you’re fine, to be fair, but no one seemed to blink an eye when I came back in Clearly Not Jeans, as most knew I had surgery.)

          A medical accommodation is different than “that’s just what they wear”.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            When I was pregnant with Baby 3, my abdomen felt really tender in my first trimester. I started showing earlier than I had the first two times around (although one of my next door neighbours was surprised when I introduced him to her as she hadn’t realised I was pregnant, and at least 4 people were surprised to learn I was pregnant when I was around the 8.5 month mark so I was probably not objectively as big as a house even if I felt like I was going to split open). I realised in my third trimester that some trousers I had put aside about 5 months earlier were now comfortable again. But I mainly moved into leggings because they were comfortable.

            Then Baby decided to get out of a head down position and try to come out sideways, elbow first. An extended emergency C section was needed. He’s almost 9 months old now and I don’t intend to move out of leggings.

            But my leggings are thick, opaque, not skin tight, solid black, etc. Probably wouldn’t fly without medical exemption at some places (too loose to be tights so would look a bit strange under a dress; not structured enough to pass muster if the dress code excluded leggings) but with a longish, loosish top or tunic top, perfectly modest.

            However, I do agree that there are different flavours of leggings. One of the other mothers at Baby 1’s school has an AMAZING bum and legs. I know because she tends to wear leggings of the second skin variety on the school run (they are opaque – but the vacuum fitted superhero outfit comparison works). I would feel very uncomfortable if my colleagues were able to see my body that clearly (even if it did look as good)… They might be able to see my surgical scars were I to try a similar outfit…

  6. Ms. Moneypenny*

    I feel like legging can be worn in a business casual setting in a certain way. Bottoms should covered with by a tunic length top or with a long sweater or jacket, and the right shoes can elevate an outfit too, like boots or flats. Leggings should never be see through.

    1. violet04*

      I agree. This is my take on leggings and often how I wore them in my casual business environment. There is a range of leggings from thin to thicker ponte knit materials. I prefer the latter in a work setting and the thinner ones at home.

    2. Person of Interest*

      Yeah, in this case it seemed like the issue wasn’t actually the leggings but rather that the intern’s top wasn’t long enough to cover her backside.

    3. HRBee*

      I feel like your last sentence is the main issue for most leggings as pants wearers. I have never worked anywhere that allowed leggings as pants. They always required a dress/skirt/tunic worn overtop. At my last company, we didn’t typically send anyone home to change (barring clients onsite), just reminded them of policy and told them not to wear it again. However, I sent more people home to change for wearing see-through leggings than any other reason in my career. If I can tell you’re wearing a certain color or pattern undies (panty lines happen in jeans, I don’t care about lines), those leggings are not appropriate for work, ever. -Signed someone who loves leggings and wishes I could wear them everyday.

      1. Vichyssuave*

        The most frustrating part of leggings is it is so hard to tell which are see through by yourself. Most people’s homes do not have the ghastly fluorescent lighting offices do, so clothes that looked fine at home (I’ve experienced this with sheer tops most often, luckily I always wear camisoles underneath) all of the sudden are super sheer at the office.

        Not to mention most people don’t tend to have a view of their own backside bending over search for a file in the same way our coworkers might.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          I had this problem with pants I’d used to cut up a tree – at home the pants looked fine, in the office they were covered with mystery stains in questionable areas from the sap.

      2. Generic Name*

        OMG. We had an employee who would wear leggings as pants to work, and you could tell the color/pattern of her underwear through them. One of her peers discretely told her that she could see her underwear through her leggings, and she shouted back, “No you can’t!” It was so weird. Eventually her boss had to tell her to stop wearing leggings as pants, and we updated our dress code to specifically outlaw leggings as well. So silly. What was really strange was this woman wasn’t in the demographic that grew up wearing leggings as pants from toddlerhood, so I feel like she was old enough to know better in terms of what constitutes appropriate business attire, but clearly not.

    4. cara*

      Yes tall boots + reasonably thick leggings + a long sweater are definitely an option in many offices, but I can see how leggings + a normal length shirt would not be

      1. DarthVelma*

        When I eventually have to go back into the actual office, this may be my new look. Because during COVID I have discovered fleece-lined leggings. I have never been so warm. :-)

        1. Vichyssuave*

          But have you tried faux fur lined leggings? I wouldn’t wear them to work because they absolutely look like lounge/pajama wear, but oh. my. god. The best for cold northeastern winters.

    5. Paris Geller*

      I feel like your last sentence is part of the issue we so often have with discussing leggings as pants–to me, leggings are inherently not see through. Maybe skin-tight, but not see-through. If they’re see-through, then I would describe that garment as a pair of tights.

      1. Vichyssuave*

        I remember when lululemon was sued because their $100!!! leggings ended up being see through if you ever so slightly moved in them. Which considering they were athletic-wear, tends to happen.

      2. Elsajeni*

        I think the problem is that “skin-tight” can easily become “see-through” — lots of thin fabrics turn out to be unexpectedly sheer when stretched taut, especially in certain lighting or when there’s something high-contrast (like a fun patterned pair of undies) underneath it. I don’t think anyone is intentionally wearing see-through pants to work! But it’s easy not to realize that your yoga pants are sheerer on than they looked hanging up, especially in back where you can’t easily see it.

    6. CAS*

      Agree. I work in a business-casual office, and my winter “uniform” is leggings with a dress or substantial tunic, and boots.

    7. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Yes, that is it. Leggings are not pants in that they cannot replace pants on their own. A waist length top will be very different with leggings than with normal pants. But wear a thigh length sweater without leggings and with leggings and it will be much more conservative with leggings. I look at them as a way to make long shirts and short skirts more acceptable, not to replace pants in an outfit where pants would be needed.

      1. SimplytheBest*

        I mean if you’re wearing them with a shirt or a sweater, you’re literally wearing them to replace pants. Even if that shirt is covering your butt it didn’t just magically become a dress because you put leggings on. You’re wearing a shirt and pants. Those pants just happened to be leggings.

    8. hbc*

      Yep, pants>leggings>tights. If you’re wearing pants, you need nothing else covering any inch of your bottom half until you hit feet. If you’re wearing tights, you basically have to wear a dress or skirt that would be fine with pantyhose or bare legged. Leggings are in the middle-more substance so you could wear something that would be scandalous in tights, but something else still has to obscure the rear.

    9. Pretzelgirl*

      I do too. In most offices I have worked in, nicer leggings, with a top that covers the bum, boots and jewelry, is typical office wear for lots of 20-40 somethings.

    10. tangerineRose*

      Also, leggings shouldn’t be skin-tight unless the skin-tight portion is worn under something else. I don’t want to know that much about my co-workers’ bodies.

  7. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    One of my coworkers left for a few months to take a new job that was supposed to be a step up in his career. While it was that way on paper, it also came with a lot of micromanaging and a butts-in-seats attitude that basically cancelled any actual advancement.

    At the same time he left, management at my company did a salary and title review for our whole department (this coworker wasn’t the only person who’d left for a job with a better title/salary). Several of us got promotions with the accompanying raise, and when this coworker returned, he came back at the higher title and salary. It’s been 2.5 years since then, and he’s still with us.

  8. cubone*

    I find this one super challenging. I have a very casual/youth friendly office and most of the younger staff/interns/volunteers wear leggings with tops (this is the kind of place where “tidy” jeans and tshirt is not uncommon, and one executive tends to wear flip flops a lot).

    However, even though it’s not against our dress code (provided they have no rips/holes/sheer elements), a lot of senior staff make TONS of comments that “the youth” in our office don’t dress professionally. My issue is that a) it’s not technically against the dress code, but more importantly b) these managers/senior staff wear all sorts of tight/form fitting pants that are really not that dissimilar from leggings! They just have fake pockets/belt loops, are from $$$ brands, etc. A LOT of “pants” (esp. in womens fashion) are cheap, thin, stretchy material and I just don’t see how that’s much different, except the brand calls them pants instead of leggings.

    The person who makes these comments the most wears camouflage cargo pants on a weekly basis (!!!) with a hoodie (but both the hoodie + camo pants are from a luxury brand). Another one does dress more business casual than our office requires, but honestly, I don’t really get why her tight “dress pants” that are as thin as leggings, but have a flared ankle, are somehow more acceptable. They look exactly the same, except with paper thin polyester and a flared leg vs. spandex and a narrow leg.

    It comes across as incredibly classist and ageist/adultist to me, since in practice, it’s not an issue with “tight / form fitting” bottoms, it’s just that those bottoms are “extra stretchy” and labelled “leggings” instead of pants (at my work, specifically – I’m not arguing this rule is always misapplied in such a silly way).

    1. Quill*

      If the line between professional and not is brand awareness and cost of garments, you’re doing professional dress wrong.

      One thing I want to note: you are MUCH more likely to be able to find leggings that fit (because stretch!) than necessarily finding business casual pants that do, especially if your wardrobe has been serving multiple uses most of your life (example: workout clothes and also something you can wear to class…)

    2. Portabella*

      I’ve encountered this at my work places as well, and I agree – I don’t see why a super thin, see-through pair of flared leg pants is any less “professional” than pair of leggings, especially if the leggings provide more coverage than said pants. There’s just something about defining your ankles, I guess.

    3. JJ*

      “It comes across as incredibly classist and ageist/adultist to me” usually sexist also, as in my experience almost all dress code rules are *really* aimed at women (starting with school dress codes); i.e. a woman in a hoodie/leggings will definitely be labeled less professionally attired than your cargo shorts/hoodie person, even though they’re the same level of casual because omg yOu MiGhT sEe HeR bUtT.

      Many of these sorts of rules seem to be more about controlling people’s bodies (and thus controlling them) than anything else to me, and I hope the pandemic has taught us all that soft clothes are good.

  9. Brusque*

    In the customer-service and callcenter world having a manager constantly taking off the days before and after the weekends is frowned upon because having free weekends is already a management perk. Being unavailable for the employess even friday and monday too would be very bad for morale and seen as very insensitive against the people who have no regular weekends but have to work irregular shifts to cover 25/7 service-lines to earn the money for the company. The customer service agents can’t take PTO added to their weekends because they need to schedule all their vacation in February so they can be planned by demand and their weekly schedules only come out the week before. This is not something we like, it’s a sad reality in customer services that can’t be avoided.
    So that’s a thing to consider too: the optics. Yes it is deserved and neccessary that everyone in management has some perks and regular hours during the time our clients are available, but then on top using this perks to generate even more gain by using PTO this way would be seen as rubbing it in.
    We can do that now and then but not all the time. So I wonder where LW works and if there are similar discrepancies between supervisors and staff.

    1. selena*

      Demanding vacations are requested in Februari, but only given out vacation a week before the actual date, sounds like terrible management

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        We don’t actually know when vacation is approved! We just know that nobody knows what their “weekend” days are ahead of time.

  10. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I haven’t worn anything but leggings for the past 10 months. I am working from home though.

    1. Elmyra Duff*

      Same. But even in the office, after we went to a “Dress for your day” kind of dress code, I lived in Old Navy jeggings. The only difference was those have butt pockets. No one ever said a word to me, and I’m not young or in shape lol

    2. Cat Tree*

      If anything good comes out of this plague, I hope that people will just chill the heck out about leggings and sweatpants. We have all realized how great they are; why go back to regular pants?

      (I would also like the US to have a wakeup call about affordable childcare but I think that’s still a pipe dream.)

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s getting darn cold in the UK (according to my arthritis anyhow) and I’m currently teaming my usual floor length black dresses with leggings to keep my joints warm. Pleasantly surprised to find out that this combo vastly decreases the fat bits of me (approx 90%) from wobbling or rubbing against each other so maybe this’ll be the first winter I don’t get massive amounts of sore skin!

      (I know it’s not wise to wear floor length clothing when you’re a) over 6 feet tall and b) have movement disabilities but…heh, nobody ever accused me of common sense :p )

  11. Jean*

    Leggings + long sweater/tunic top + knee high flat boots is my fall and winter work uniform. The issue with leggings is 100% not “Are they pants?” – it’s “Can anyone see your ass/underwear?” If the booty is well-covered and your accessories are elevated, leggings can be very office appropriate, even in dressier offices.

    1. WhoKnows*

      You just described my exact outfit from September – March lol. If no one can see my underwear, and the leggings fit okay (aka they’re “regular” leggings and not “workout” leggings), I personally feel there shouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Jean*

        Yep. Some people hear “leggings” and think “workout gear,” but there’s a whole range of different styles and levels of dressiness you can achieve. It’s all about how you style them and what you’re wearing with them. The same pair can look totally different with a thigh-length silk tunic, nice jewelry and suede boots, than it does with a tank and running shoes. Dress codes that just outright ban leggings under any circumstances are dumb.

    2. Leggings in a Cold Climate*

      I’ve been wearing leggings with long tunics since the mid-90s. Living where I do, it is essential in winter. Add a scarf, earrings, and you have a very professional look.

    3. starsaphire*

      This is totally it for me, as well. Leggings under a skirt/long sweater/tunic top = great! Leggings that reveal things = not so great.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Yes, I’ve had “regular” dress pants that were so thin you could see through them if the light hit the wrong way, and I’ve had fleece-lined tights and leggings that were so thick I didn’t have to bother shaving my legs when I wore them with a dress. I also had some dress pants in my youth that were tight, and leggings that are relatively looser (but not baggy).

      Personally I prefer pants with pockets, or leggings under a dress with pockets. But if someone invents leggings with pockets I will never wear anything else.

      1. Jean*

        Leggings with pockets are truly the pinnacle of clothing. Unfortunately all my pocketed leggings are of the “obvious gym wear” variety. Why haven’t more clothing brands caught on to non-gym leggings with pockets thing? HERE’S MY MONEY, TAKE IT

    5. Bostonian*

      Well said. It’s not the leggings themselves, it’s the whole outfit and what is/isn’t showing.

    6. as*

      I had someone renting a room from me who wore too tight/thing material leggings with short tops. Not only did it look overly casual but you didn’t even have to try to look to see underwear lines and tags…

      Putting a longer tunic top over it would have solved that completely, so it can be done, you just have to be aware of the way it looks and work with suitable tops to match it.

    7. SimplytheBest*

      Yep! You can wear the dressiest business suit pants you want, but if they show off your whale tail they’re unprofessional. It’s nothing to do with whether or not “leggings are pants” (which is not even an argument, they literally are pants. You’re welcome to layer things over them if you’d like to, but that’s not requirement for wearing them in general). Jeans are pants, they’re not inherently professionsl. Track pants are pants, they are not inherently professional. Yoga pants and leggings are both pants. But they’re not inherently professional. Your office gets to decide where they draw the line on professional. No need for all the dithering over whether or not their pants (because they are).

  12. Alice*

    I don’t know why people who have interns agonize so much over giving them feedback. It is part of the contract — interns don’t know as much as their supervisors about the world of work in this field. Tell them what they need to know instead of wishing that they would magically come to know it through osmosis.

    1. Julia*

      I wonder if maybe it’s because interns are by definition people you don’t normally work with; you’ve probably been working with them for a few weeks or maybe months. It might be easier to give feedback when you have an established working relationship, rather than criticizing someone who feels like a stranger.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I agree with you that we can’t just leave interns high and dry when it comes to feedback. Something that comes to mind, though, is that a lot of the folks who oversee interns aren’t necessarily managers in a formal org-chart sort of way – they might be individual contributors or team leads who aren’t working with a full range of managerial authority (or training). So not only are they dealing with particularly awkward areas of feedback, they’re also grappling with their managerial boundaries not being clear to them or their interns.

  13. WhoKnows*

    I have been wearing leggings as pants for years to work. Like at least 4+ years out of my 10 years in my industry/field. I do work in a somewhat more “creative” industry, but at a conservative company within that industry. No one has ever said anything to me…yet.

    I am plus-sized, and plus-size work pants just do not fit me correctly. They go up to under my bust (I am not petite, but I am “apple-shaped”). and if they fit in the waist, they are far too baggy in the butt and legs. Could I get every pair of pants I own tailored? Sure. But I wouldn’t even look good in them. I prefer instead to wear leggings and slightly longer tops that go down to almost the bottom of my butt.

    I would say availability of work clothing (especially when it comes to special sizes), should enter into any discussion like this. I feel like my choices are torrid 20-something or department store 50-something. I’m in my early 30s, so my fashion is all over the place.

    1. NoName*

      Yes! It is incredibly difficult to find high-quality women’s pants now. Even if you’re willing to spend a good amount of money. I’ve practically given up after years of searching and wear nice dresses and skirts.

      I’m not even that old (late 20s), but the quality of clothes available to me as an intern were horrible (and yes, I was also looking at charity shops). I can’t imagine what is available to a generation that has been marketed one-time, for the ‘Gram clothing. No wonder younger people just want to wear leggings.

    2. Voluptuousfire*

      Torrid has wonderful jeggings in a ponte knit that holds their shape. They’re styled like jens with belt loops and pockets, but with a matching blazer and accessories, I’ve worn them to job interviews.

      I also agree plus sizes business pants just don’t fit well. When I did my last business casual job, I wore dresses more.

    3. Third or Nothing!*

      I’m plus size too and have settled on the following uniform: high waisted knee length skirts with stretchy waistbands and a tucked in blouse. Sometimes I wear a belt, but often I don’t because my skirts have nicely defined waists and look great all on their own. In the winter I’ll wear fleece lined leggings underneath the skirts to transition them to cold weather attire.

      I used to try to wear dress pants but the waistband dug into my stomach. By contrast, my current uniform is so comfortable that I’ve even taken to wearing it on the weekends in lieu of jeans! Soft stretchy skirts and dresses, why did I resist you for so long?

      1. Joielle*

        Yes! Often when my spouse and I would go out somewhere casual (in pre-covid times), I’d wear like a stretchy pencil skirt with leggings and wedge-heel boots, and he’d be like “You’re so dressed up! I’m just wearing jeans!” but like… I’m wearing this because it is my most comfortable leaving-the-house clothing, not because I’m dressing up.

    4. Tía Teapot*

      Maybe take a look at Their non-jeans are categorized as menswear, but if you wear that kind of pants, pants are pants (except with functional pockets). You upload your measurements, they make you clothing that fits. Prices are roughly the same as any mid-uprange catalog company.

      There’s other companies like this, but I’ve ordered jeans from them & like them.

    5. WS*

      Plus size does make this difficult! My partner and I are both plus size, but she’s an apple shape and I’m a pear shape. I’ve found that work pants from eShakti fit me perfectly (though sometimes I need to take the waist in a little) but they’re completely the wrong shape for her, so she goes with the leggings and longer top, or short dress worn as a top. Even when we were technically the same size in clothing we couldn’t swap clothes because our shapes are so different.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’d love to find trousers that fit and are not gonna be uncomfortable to wear. Sadly I’m both a big lass (22+) and extremely tall (6 foot 1) so there’s nowhere in the uk I can shop for that.

      Result: I tend to wear black dresses that I’ve had made to my size and height, there’s a gothic clothing firm that only adds on about £5 for plus sized versions and does good work. Granted, my coworkers just have to get used to the fact I’ll show up with really long sleeves and gothic tailoring but it’s smart, comfy and fits.

      (The only place that ever tried to force me to wear jeans every day got a cold response)

  14. Daffy Duck*

    Leggings – I don’t want to know the shape of your crotch when at work. Tops that cover front and back or thick enough material that the garment doesn’t cling to the creases are office-friendly, IMO. I’d also call out bad cut/fit clothing with camel toe.
    WFH with the video off and I don’t care what you wear; if you interact with other people being a bit more conservative in dress implies reliability and good judgment although it is always situationally dependent. A barback with leggings and a glitter tank I wouldn’t think twice about, but a medical office or bank receptionist would make me leary. I completely agree that clothing doesn’t determine how well a person does the job, but it can tell me something about reading the room/clientel.

  15. Reba*

    I have to say that in These Times, going another round in the Leggings Wars feels actually refreshingly quaint, even wholesome! :D

    The question does have new resonance in light of mass work from home though! I now recognize many more gradations between pajamas to loungewear to “outside pants” to work clothes.

    1. starsaphire*

      LOL! Especially right now. Because my work clothing currently consists of pajamas and fuzzy slippers, plus there’s a blazer, scarf and earrings on a hanger over there –> in case of unplanned video call.

  16. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

    As a 19-year-old intern, I had no idea what business casual meant – and that was after going to a high school with a strict dress code (dresses and skirts, tights if your skirt was above the knee, at least 2 inches covering your shoulders). It’s something everyone has to go through. I would have made the same mistake re: leggings vs. hard pants, and I think I did. I clearly remember buying pinstriped leggings/tight stretchy pants that were in style at the time, but definitely more “club” than “work.”

  17. Portabella*

    Leggings – I think the line can be drawn with how see-through the leggings are. Some pricey dress pants that are marketed as work pants can be just as see-through and thin and leggings (see other commentors above). I would prohibit any see-through pants, no matter the leg styles, just as I would prohibit see-through shirts.

    I don’t think tightness should come into factor, unless it’s VERY CLEARLY outlining your anatomy, David-Bowie-Labyrinth style. Some people will always be wearing “tight/form-fitting” clothes just because of the nature of their bodies and the lack of sizes/options in the work wear market (see also: trying to find a pencil skirt that fits a large booty).

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Nooooooo you’ve just triggered my Labyrinth-induced PTSD! I saw that movie for the first time in my thirties and was like WHAT IS THAT THIS IS FOR CHILDREN!

  18. Kelaine*

    Not another person agonizing over leggings at work! I wish we could get beyond the demonization of an entire category of clothing. It all depends on the legging’s style and thickness, whether or not they fit the person wearing them, and what else is worn with them. Leggings under a tunic can look very sophisticated and dressy – fully work appropriate. It is beyond time to let women at work dress like they would everywhere else. Trust me, the world will not end.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I don’t think the actual issue in the question was the leggings, though, but the fact she was wearing them without an appropriate-length top. The comments I’ve seen so far support that leggings are usually OK (except in the most conservative offices) but when coverage is appropriate (tunic, dress, skirt).

      1. Kelaine*

        I do not agree that leggings must always be paired with a “long” top. Again, this is not the 1950’s. Women have for years worn pants with tucked in shirts that outline their bum and that reveal where (gasp!) their legs attach to their torso. Seriously, if clothing like leggings is appropriate for going to the grocery store, it’s appropriate for work. Leggings aren’t always “sexy”, they are most of the time just a comfortable, basic clothing item worn by virtually all women.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Lots of clothes are appropriate for the grocery store that aren’t appropriate for every office. The OP has said they’re not appropriate in her office, and we should take her at her word.

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          I would wear a crop top to the grocery store, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for work. Or jeans with a big hole in the knee. That’s not how dress codes work.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep. I work in a fairly conservative-dress industry, and leggings are fine *if* paired with a dress or top/sweater that covers your rear. The issue is not so much in the legging but what’s paired with them. I assume that leggings-as-pants means that one is wearing them with a hip-length top as though one were wearing slacks with them, not wearing leggings with a tunic or dress over them.

  19. My Favorite Latte*

    It could be worse. We had a full-time employee who decided to wear pantyhose as pants one day. She paired it with an oversized sweater that *barely* covered her bits.

    1. OyHiOh*

      I’ve had to steer one of my daughters away from this look, when she’s tried to wear favorite tights with a slightly longish sweater. Difference is, at the time she was a very young grade schooler at the time, and loved legging but not pants.

      A fully grown adult though! The mind, it boggles.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Maybe not exactly, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok. We show up to work to work, but ALSO to exist in the world, with its mores and codes. Some of those codes are outdated and silly, but not the ones about showing up essentially undressed. Plain (and, I imagine, sheer) pantyhose aren’t even leggings– that’s basically showing up to work in your underwear. If you want to work in your underwear, that’s cool, but don’t pretend it’s ok to do so outside of your own home and don’t pretend it won’t raise eyebrows.

        And I could make the argument that showing up in such a manner DOES affect the ability to do her job, because if she works with other people, that’s a pretty distracting look. I’m not talking about leggings or weird colors or going braless here– I’m talking about what MFL refers to, which is showing up to work in your pantyhose and nothing else on your bottom.

      2. My Favorite Latte*

        I didn’t know the woman personally (it’s a huge company), but when I can tell the cut and color of underwear you’re wearing…that makes me question other things about your professionalism.

        For references, the woman was wearing pantyhose (not legging or tights), a sweater that was baggy but not oversized or tunic-like (basically, a sweater that’s supposed to be worn as a top, not a dress), and black, lacy thong underwear with knee boots.

      3. tangerineRose*

        In some ways, I think dressing in a very revealing way like this is a little like constantly talking about sex at work – either way, you’re either showing or telling your co-workers much more about yourself than they probably want to know in a way that’s not OK for most work places.

  20. introverted af*

    For #2 – if this is a problem with this person regularly having PTO that they will lose at the end of the year if they don’t use it, you may also need to be proactive about it earlier in the year, try to do some things to get them to use the PTO, and then if it really is a problem for the workflow/getting things done on time/morale/etc. when the end of the year rolls back around, you may have to say, “sorry, we can’t accommodate all of that this year. How about……. instead?” but still feel ok that you tried to work with this person.

  21. Roscoe*

    I’m really curious why leggings have become acceptable in many places, whereas sweatpants or other “athletic wear” isn’t.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I think it’s kind of like flip-flops at my high school. They were against the dress code, then the Rainbow brand became weirdly popular and suddenly literally everyone was wearing them and eventually the school just gave up and said “fine.”

      It seems like a lot of women just kind of silently agreed they were going to wear them until it became common and eventually it did.

    2. SimplytheBest*

      Because people pair leggings with dressy tops and boots and jewelry making them simply “clothes” not just “workout clothes”.

  22. WhoKnows*

    Yes, I wanted to like these so badly! But truly, they were up just below my bra. I’m not sure if I don’t have the “typical” plus size body or what, but high-waist does not work for me, because my waist and hips have very similar measurements. While I definitely don’t want low-rise back, something that hits a little lower is extremely hard to find right now. Hence leggings.

  23. Julia*

    The manager who was friends with her employees really bugged me. She didn’t seem to have any idea that the employees she’s not going to spas and dinners with might feel frustrated, or left out, or like they face major obstacles to moving up in the company, or like they can’t bring legitimate problems to their manager about the work of her “best friend”. How do people think this is okay?

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      I had a manager just like that. She was really nice but her bestie was my co-worker. I like my co-worker and manager but I felt horribly left out and frustrated which is the reason I left.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, a “friendly environment” is good but actual friendships like that are a recipe for disaster.

  24. Pretzelgirl*

    Honestly. Its 202o man. As long as leggings are allowed in the office dress code and we just let it be? This year has be sh*t and I just want to wear leggings, sweater (that covers my bum) and boots ok. ::Cries::

    1. lazy intellectual*

      I learned recently that if I switch to mostly wearing dresses, I can only wear leggings and not pants. Huzzah!

    2. Roci*

      That’s the point though–you gotta wear something that covers your butt. In the actual letter, the person wasn’t.
      People have always worn leggings/tights/socks with other clothes. The issue is when you wear them with nothing else.

  25. lazy intellectual*

    I’m going to take advantage of the topic of letter 1 to gripe about how hard it is to find work pants that fit me!! I put on some weight in my late twenties which caused all my work pants to fit as snugly as leggings (thought they aren’t leggings), so I had to get new pants. It was very difficult to find pants that weren’t tight around my bum area because most of the rack pants are the same size throughout and forget that some women had wider hips ugh!

    1. ggg*

      Ugh, yeah, I find it really hard to find pants that can accommodate big thighs. Sometimes I can get them two sizes too big and take in the waist, but that doesn’t work for every style.

    2. Anon4This*

      Ugh, pants shopping. I loathe it. I have wide hips and apparently short legs, and I will buy 5 of the same pair of pants in every color available, if they actually fit. I accept that all my pants will require hemming, but finding some that fit through the waist/hips, ugh. I spent a fortune in tailoring some old, flare-legs that fit well down to straight legs years ago just so I could avoid pants shopping. Cost more in dollars, but less in time, hassle, and angst.

      1. Tía Teapot*

        Oddly, I’ve found that men’s pants fit my short curvy body (10 inches-ish between waist & hips) better than most womenswear pants. Even with the pockets. And you can usually specify length, too.

  26. Ann O'nymous*

    It’s quite fun to see the leggings debate again!

    Is this maybe something that’s more of an issue in the US than everywhere? I work (not in the US) in a very “young” office (average age under 30), with a very casual dress code. Standard outfits are jeans and a t shirt, trainers are standard, shorts get worn in the summer etc. There have definitely been new grads who have pushed things a bit in terms of dress, however that has always been more to do with “too short” or “too revealing”. I genuinely don’t think anyone has worn what I would class as leggings as pants!

    (I would class leggings as being a) gym wear, or b) like thick tights with no feet)

  27. Foxgloves*

    A friend of mine had this exact issue a couple of years ago!! She was a similar age to the intern, and she said to the intern “While I really like your clothing and your personal style, our office is more conservative and you’ll just need to dress slightly differently here than you do outside of work. I’d recommend [XYZ] but let me know if you have any questions!”. It went down really well- she wasn’t insulting the clothes (which she genuinely did like!) or the person, just explaining “it’s different in this workplace”.

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