why did leggings go out of style in the 90s and how did they make a comeback
why did leggings go out of style in the 90s and how did they make a comeback

Leggings, once beloved in the 80s and early 90s, inexplicably fell out of favor and disappeared from trendy fashion scenes. But as time has shown, fashion trends have a knack for making unexpected comebacks. So, why did leggings lose their popularity in the 90s? And perhaps more intriguingly, how did they manage to reclaim their status as a must-have staple in wardrobes across the globe? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and uncover the fascinating journey of leggings’ rise and fall, and ultimately, their triumphant return to the fashion spotlight.

Historical Background

Fashion trends in the 90s

The 1990s was a decade marked by a diversity of fashion trends. From grunge-inspired flannel shirts and baggy jeans to bold and colorful outfits influenced by pop stars like Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, fashion in the 90s was all about self-expression. Leggings, however, experienced a decline in popularity during this time, as they were overshadowed by other fashion choices that reflected the casual and rebellious nature of the era.

Popularity of leggings in the 80s

In contrast to the 90s, the 1980s saw leggings at the height of their popularity. With the rise of fitness culture and the aerobics craze, leggings became a fashion staple. Women embraced their form-fitting and comfortable nature, pairing them with oversized sweatshirts and vibrant colored leotards. Leggings were seen as a versatile piece of clothing that allowed for ease of movement, making them a perfect choice for the dynamic exercise routines of the time.

Factors That Led to the Decline of Leggings

Shift towards casual and grunge fashion

As the 90s rolled in, fashion took a turn towards the casual and grunge. The popularity of loose-fitting and baggy styles, like flannel shirts and oversized jeans, diminished the appeal of form-fitting garments like leggings. The grunge fashion movement, popularized by bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, prioritized a laid-back and rebellious aesthetic that diverged from the sleek and fitted look of leggings.

Popularity of baggy jeans and cargo pants

Another factor that contributed to the decline of leggings was the rise in popularity of baggy jeans and cargo pants. These loose-fitting bottoms became a symbol of counterculture, as they were associated with the skateboarding and hip-hop scenes. With their comfortable fit and ample pockets, baggy jeans and cargo pants offered a more relaxed alternative to the figure-hugging nature of leggings.

Negative associations with leggings

Over time, leggings began to face negative associations in the 90s. Some critics argued that leggings were too revealing and lacked the modesty associated with traditional pants. There was also a perception that leggings were primarily worn as workout attire and were not suitable for everyday wear. These negative associations contributed to a decline in the popularity of leggings and their exclusion from mainstream fashion.

Revival of Leggings

Influence of celebrities and fashion icons

Leggings experienced a revival in the 2000s, largely due to the influence of celebrities and fashion icons. Celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan were frequently spotted wearing leggings as part of their everyday outfits, elevating them from workout gear to a trendy fashion choice. Fashion-forward icons like Kate Moss and Mary-Kate Olsen also embraced leggings, incorporating them into their signature grunge and bohemian styles.

Rise of athleisure trend

The athleisure trend, which gained popularity in the late 2000s and early 2010s, played a significant role in the resurgence of leggings. This trend blurred the lines between activewear and everyday fashion, allowing people to embrace comfort without sacrificing style. Leggings became a key component of athleisure outfits, effortlessly transitioning from the gym to casual outings. The emphasis on versatile and functional clothing gave leggings a renewed sense of relevance in the fashion world.

Incorporation of leggings in high fashion

In addition to their popularity among celebrities and fashion icons, leggings also made their way into the high fashion scene. Designers started incorporating leggings into their runway shows and collections, showcasing innovative designs and unique fabric choices. Leggings were no longer seen as a basic garment but rather as a fashion statement that could be styled in various ways. The integration of leggings into high fashion helped solidify their revival and establish them as a trend worth embracing.

Role of Social Media

Instagram and fashion influencers

The rise of social media platforms like Instagram played a significant role in the resurgence of leggings. Fashion influencers started showcasing different ways to style leggings and promoted their versatility. Through visually appealing outfits and personalized recommendations, they encouraged their followers to explore leggings as a stylish option for daily wear. The ability to easily share and discover fashion inspiration on social media contributed to the renewed interest in leggings.

Leggings as a staple in fitness culture

Leggings also gained momentum through the influence of fitness culture on social media. The rise of wellness influencers and the popularity of fitness routines showcased the practicality and functionality of leggings. The active lifestyle portrayed on platforms like Instagram created a demand for fashionable workout attire, and leggings emerged as the perfect choice. As more people embraced fitness and wellness routines, leggings became an essential element of their active wardrobe.

Design and Styling Innovations

Introduction of different fabric options

The revival of leggings also saw an introduction of different fabric options. While traditional cotton leggings remained popular, the fashion industry started experimenting with fabrics such as nylon, spandex, and polyester blends. These new materials offered enhanced stretch, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties, making leggings even more comfortable and functional. The variety of fabrics allowed for leggings to be worn comfortably in different settings and for various purposes.

Versatility in leggings as an outfit choice

Leggings regained popularity due to their versatility as an outfit choice. They could be dressed up or down, pairing well with oversized sweaters, tunics, dresses, and even blazers. This adaptability allowed people to express their personal style while maintaining comfort and ease of movement. Leggings became a go-to option for both casual and semi-formal occasions, further fueling their resurgence in the fashion world.

Influence of Fitness and Wellness Culture

Focus on comfort and functionality

The increasing focus on comfort and functionality in fashion played a significant role in the revival of leggings. People started prioritizing clothing that allowed them to move freely and feel at ease throughout their daily activities. Leggings, with their stretchy and form-fitting nature, perfectly catered to these needs. The fashion industry adapted to meet the demands of this trend, incorporating comfort and functionality into their designs, which further contributed to the popularity of leggings.

Promotion of body positivity

The promotion of body positivity in recent years has also contributed to the resurgence of leggings. With their forgiving and flexible fit, leggings embrace and flatter a range of body types. The inclusive nature of leggings aligns with the movement towards celebrating diverse body shapes and sizes. This empowerment, combined with the comfort and style of leggings, has reinforced their place as a beloved fashion choice.

Rebranding and Reinvention of Leggings

Leggings as everyday wear

Leggings have been rebranded as an essential piece of everyday wear. No longer limited to workout attire, they have become a go-to option for running errands, meeting friends for coffee, or lounging at home. The versatility and comfort of leggings make them a practical choice for the daily activities of modern life. This repositioning has played a crucial role in broadening their appeal and making them a staple in many wardrobes.

Collaborations with high-end designers

The collaboration between high-end designers and activewear brands has reshaped the perception of leggings. These collaborations have infused leggings with an element of luxury, merging fashion-forward designs with performance-enhancing features. By incorporating premium materials and innovative tailoring techniques, designers have elevated leggings to a new level of sophistication. These high-end collaborations have helped redefine leggings as a fashion statement rather than just a functional garment.

Integration of technology in leggings

The integration of technology in leggings has also fueled their reinvention. Brands have developed leggings with built-in compression, moisture-wicking capabilities, and even temperature regulation features. These technological advancements not only enhance the comfort and functionality of leggings but also cater to the needs of active individuals. The integration of technology has contributed to the perception of leggings as cutting-edge fashion pieces that offer both style and performance.

Influence of Pop Culture

Inclusion of leggings in movies and TV shows

Leggings regained the spotlight through their inclusion in popular movies and TV shows. Characters donning leggings in various settings and storylines helped normalize them as a fashion choice. Whether it was a character’s go-to workout attire or part of their everyday ensemble, the portrayal of leggings in pop culture has contributed to their resurgence and increased their desirability among viewers.

Music videos and stage performances

Leggings have also made a notable impact on music videos and stage performances. Artists like Beyoncé, Madonna, and Lady Gaga incorporated leggings into their iconic outfits, creating visual spectacles that captivated audiences. These performances not only showcased the versatility of leggings but also solidified their place as a fashion item associated with confidence and self-expression. The influence of music and stage performances has further propelled the popularity of leggings.

Consumer Demand and Popularity

Niche markets for specialized leggings

The resurgence of leggings has also created niche markets for specialized variations. Brands have introduced leggings with unique features such as cutouts, mesh panels, and bold prints, catering to individual preferences and style choices. Additionally, specialized leggings designed for specific activities like yoga, running, and cycling have gained popularity among fitness enthusiasts. These niche markets have contributed to the continued growth and demand for leggings.

Evolution of leggings as a fashion staple

Despite their rise and fall in popularity, leggings have evolved into a fashion staple. They have transformed from a fashion trend of the past into a timeless item that transcends seasons and styles. The versatility and comfort of leggings have made them a reliable choice for both casual and formal occasions. With fashion designers continuously reinventing leggings and consumers embracing their endless possibilities, leggings have become a beloved wardrobe essential.


Leggings, once a fashion trend of the 80s that saw a decline in the 90s, have made an impressive comeback in recent years. Influenced by celebrities, the athleisure trend, and high fashion, leggings have established themselves as a versatile and fashionable choice. The role of social media, design innovations, and the influence of fitness and wellness culture have all contributed to the revival of leggings. From their practicality and comfort to their status as a fashion statement, leggings have become a timeless item that continues to evolve and thrive in the ever-changing world of fashion.

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Emma Davis
Hi there! I'm Emma Davis, a professional stylist and passionate about all things leggings. With years of experience in the fashion industry, I have developed a keen eye for trends and styles that flatter every body shape. My mission is to help women feel confident and comfortable in their leggings, and provide them with valuable tips and advice on how to make the most of this versatile wardrobe staple. As an expert in leggings, I have been featured in numerous fashion magazines and have worked with top brands in the industry. My expertise in styling and knowledge of fabrics and designs allows me to curate a collection of tips and tricks that will help you rock your leggings in any occasion, whether it's for a workout session or a stylish outfit for a night out. I understand that every woman is unique, and that's why I strive to provide inclusive and diverse content that caters to women of all shapes, sizes, and preferences. From outfit inspiration to finding the perfect pair of leggings for your body type, I'm here to guide you on your fashion journey. Through my website, JustLegging.com, I aim to create a community where legging enthusiasts can come together to share their love for this versatile garment. Join me as we explore the world of leggings and empower ourselves to embrace comfort and style without compromising on fashion. Let's redefine the way we perceive leggings and unleash our inner fashionista! Stay tuned for exciting content, including style tips, outfit ideas, product reviews, and much more. Whether you're a leggings newbie or a seasoned fashionista, JustLegging.com has something for everyone. Join me on this fashion adventure, and together, let's make leggings the ultimate wardrobe essential. Stay fabulous and legging-loving! Looking forward to connecting with you all!