A woman in her black with gold skulls leggings.

Aren’t Leggings Pants?

Aren’t Leggings Pants?

This question was recently raised by a student in one of my classes. She was discussing appropriate clothing for a certain event and was surprised when I suggested that she change out of the leggings she was currently wearing and put on dress pants before attending.

As one article in College Fashion notes, it seems everyone these days is either wearing leggings or has an opinion about them! While leggings have been around forever and may be seen as fashionable, they are largely not appropriate for the workplace or any other place where you want to be seen as a professional. While you may not be concerned about this as a student, when you start an internship or a job, one of the first questions you might ask is “What should I wear?” This is a legitimate question and one you should seriously consider.

The way you dress affects the way that people perceive you, and in some cases, whether you get or keep a job or even get promoted (see CNN/Career Builder’s, Dress for Success at Work).

So what should you do?

  1. Be familiar with the dress code at your organization. Most organizations will have an employee handbook that specifies a dress code. Ask about it if you haven’t been given one.
  2. Look at what others are wearing. Notice the people around you and how they are dressed. If everyone is wearing suits and dresses, then you probably should too. If everyone is more casual and wearing khaki pants and loafers, then you would likely be out of place in a suit and tie.
  3. Consider comfort. Wear what you are physically and psychologically comfortable in (within reason). Don’t wear heels if you’re going to be on your feet all day or are not comfortable walking in them. Likewise, don’t wear something that makes you feel like an imposter. Choose professional clothes that fit your job description and personality.

You’ve probably heard the saying, Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want. This means that you should always put your best – and most professional – foot forward. When in doubt, dress up. And to answer the question in the title of this article, no, leggings aren’t pants.

About Elissa Mitchell

Elissa Thomann Mitchell has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Evansville, two Masters degrees (in Human and Community Development & Social Work) and a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Springfield in the Department of Human Services. Dr. Mitchell’s research focuses on the resilience of at-risk youth, and she is particularly interested in social support and its contributions to wellbeing.  In addition, she is interested in the personal and professional development of students, particularly in relation to internship and practicum experiences. She served as the TA/Instructor for the internship course at UIUC for three years, helping nearly sixty students secure and successfully complete their internships.

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