What looks better: leggings or skinny cropped pants?

by Sylvia

Leggings or skinny pants

One of the most common questions of dressing for women over 40 is whether or not you can wear leggings after 40. Another one is: what is better: leggings or skinny pants. I discussed how to wear leggings in a previous article already but let’s tackle the second question today.

What is better leggings or skinny cropped pants?

As anything in life the answer usually begins with “it depends”. However, in general I can safely say that I prefer skinny pants or tapered pants over leggings for the following reasons:

  • I like the straighter silhouette that pants give. Of course you will need to make sure that they are tapered, otherwise you cropped pants will shorten your legs a lot. Leggings are completely fitted to the leg and show every curve in the leg which is not always pleasing to my eye.
  • Pants are usually made of a more luxurious and thicker fabric. Cotton jersey can very easy look ‘cheap’.
  • Overall, pants give a more dressy look, which appeals to me.

Please note that the skinny or tapered pants that I’m referring too are not super tight. I like them better if they have just a little bit of space. And of course there are plenty of occasions where I love a look with leggings.

When should you absolutely choose pants over leggings?

In some cases pants should always be chosen over leggings:

  • Although I don’t believe in too many dressing rules for women over 40, I feel strongly that women (even below 40) should not wear leggings with short tops. As a general rule, if you would not wear your top with tights, then don’t wear it with leggings.
  • If you have too many curves in your legs or very full calves, then forget about wearing leggings altogether. Tapered pants that fall freely over your legs will be much more flattering.
  • If you are very short, you would want to use every ‘tool’ you can use to create the illusion of longer legs. Good pants that are not too tight, have a much more lenghtening effect. Of course it would also be best to choose full length pants for that purpose.
leggings or skinny pants

When is it better to choose leggings?

  • Leggings are usually better when you want to wear something under a tunic or dress at knee-length or slightly below.
  • Very thick leggings can look great with boots and a longer cardigan / tunic, for a very comfy look.
  • When you want to be super comfortable or are in sports mode.

In general I go more for pants, rather than leggings. I prefer the look and silhouette of those and feel that the silhouette achieved is almost always better than with leggings. There are exceptions to this rule of course, and I would love for you to prove me wrong, by sending me fantastic outfits with leggings!

Do you agree with me? What would be your answer to the title question?

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suzanne

Personally I find it very hard to wear a tapered pant unless I’m wearing a heel. Otherwise I find that they make me look stumpy. I have an muscular legs and find that I prefer the look of jeggings. Jeggings are essentially skinny jeans just more comfortable.

I wear lots of boots as well so jeggings lend themselves to boots over a tapered pant. I don’t wear leggings as pants. Leggings I wear under a tunic or dress.

I find it quite subjective though since I’ve seen people wearing corduroy leggings that really look like skinny corduroy jeans and they look great.



2 Sylvia

Hi Suzanne. Yes, it’s quite a difficult topic, as it all depends on how women wear leggings, jeggings and cropped pants. The reason I dared writing about this again, is that, unfortunately, I see both leggings and cropped pants so often be worn in a non-flattering ways. You really need to know what you’re doing wearing any of them, especially leggings.


3 Deedee Mac

Because I have extra “curvy” thighs/legs, I prefer bootcut or straight leg pants. (actually, I really prefer a more flare pant) Leggings/jeggings always look as if they are too small on me. I just do not feel comfortable in leggings/jeggings. I feel as if slim cut pants give my legs a more flattering/slenderizing look.

Altho’ I am 5’7″ I wear a 30-inch instep (my short legs look shorter/stubbier in leggings).
I wear a size 12.


4 Sylvia

thanks for your feedback Deedee. Yes, I believe many women look better with straight bor bootcut pants. Best to avoid those pants that don’t flatter you or make you feel uncomfortable.


5 Sam

I’m actually wearing leggings today – with boots and a long sweater, basically to stay warm. I would never wear them any other way, and usually only if I’m not going anywhere.

I prefer skinny jeans, but again would only wear with a long top/tunic. I like slim trousers, but as I’m quite curvy I often find it hard to get them to fit nicely.


6 Sylvia

Yes, it can be a very comfy look, definitely ideal for inside the house! Thanks for your feedback Sam.


7 Marla

I love seeing leggings on others, but for me it’s strictly pants. I wear a boot cut which for me is more flattering. I don’t like the look of a tapered leg.


8 Marianne

I am so glad they exist, the leggings and jegging. You know I can not handle zippers and buttons, and this way I can combine them with tunics , dresses and long sweaters. Before they were fashionable I had to wear those old lady trousers. They are not my first choice , I prefer modern or classic pants, but for me it is a way I can dress myself nicely.


9 Sylvia

Yes, I can imagine that leggings and jeggings are great for you Marianne!


10 Greetje

I wear all of them as I have no problems with my legs nor my length. But I will only wear leggings under dresses or tunics that hit my knee. Otherwise I look as if I desperately want to stay young.
When I wear what, completely depends on my mood, the weather, my top etc.


11 Sylvia

Yes very true Greetje. In the end it’s best to pick what’s right for the occassion.


12 Deb

Under a dress its leggings, Under a long sweater its skinny pants OR leggings depending on the weather or occasion. I too like straight leg pants and I’ve learned to save time shopping by taking a tape measure with me. I check out the width of the pants and its greater than 12 inches, I don’t try them on.


13 Sylvia

Great idea Deb!


14 Suzanne

I agree with your “rules”. Leggings are NOT pants! I also really dislike short leggings under a dress. That divides me into thirds! LOL!
I am really too short to wear pants under a dress (I look like a rectangle!) and I love my boots so I wear tights or leggings but you only see the few inches between where the dress hem ends and the boots begin. It is a matter of trying things on and looking in the mirror – front and back view. In the Spring I have been known to wear a pair of denim jeggings under a dress with flats but they have to be long enough to cover my ankles so I get a lean line. It is different on each body but the Hollywood fad of wearing see through leggings as pants never looks good. NEVER.
I would try a chunky sweater over leggings and boots if the sweater was long enough. 🙂


15 Sylvia

All very true Suzanne. Leggings can look really good, but yes, I would also wear them only with longer dresses, cardigans, tunics….


16 Raquel

Hi Sylvia,
I just happened on your site and I wanted to say thank you! I bookmarked you immediately. You have so much helpful information here, thank you for all you’re doing for women over 40.
All the best,


17 Sylvia

Welcome Raquel! And thanks for sending in your feedback. I hope I will connect more with you on the site in the future.


18 Susan

I’m opposed to hard and fast style rules, too. But I rarely see anyone in leggings that I think looks good. I’m a skinny jeans fan all the way.


19 Sylvia

Yes, and even skinny jeans are not for everyone…


20 aileen

I’ve been wearing boot cut trousers and jeans for what seems years and years. My stylish friend even commented I should get rid of them as she thought they made me look old fashioned. This friend is in her late 70s and her look is always up to date.
I decided I needed a makeover and recently a fasion stylist suggested tunics with very thick skinny trousers and I was amazed and delighted with the look.
Now I wouldn’t dream of wearing boot cut trousers other than at home.


21 Suzanne

The best part of this post is – “My stylish friend — in her late 70s and her look is always up to date.” This is so inspiring! I think it would be awesome to have someone like that to set an example and to look up to. Thank you for sharing this! 🙂
PS – Here bootcut jeans are considered “classic”. They are never really out of fashion and many women need to wear that shape to balance out their look. I am a huge fan of the straight leg or skinny jeans but bootcuts are still widely available. It is boot weather 9 months out of the year where I live so maybe that is why – bootcuts truly do fit nicely over boots.


22 Greetje

And I just love make-overs. Had one years ago: hair, make-up and colours.
Had a styling advice after that. Loved it.


23 aileen

Aren’t they great fun Greetje. A day like that makes you feel like the most important woman on the planet. My advice would be for everyone to go and have a day with a fashion stylist at the nearest city to them.
The large department stores usually provide this service free, and you aren’t pressured into buying anything. You can learn so much for someone who doesn’t know you but just goes by your lifestyle, shape and colouring. It’s also a good idea not to take a friend who might influence you back into your old familiar and safe ‘style’.
A lot of women go for this service when they are looking for something to wear to a particular event, but it’s even better when you just want to update your everyday style because that covers all events.


24 Sylvia

I agree with Suzanne. Bootcut trousers are great for many women. I still like mine and wear them lots!


25 Jennifer

I have two nice pair of ponte knit leggings which are heavy enough to hide imperfections, but I wear them only with a long tunic length top or sweater. My favorite look is the long tunic sweater, leggings and boots. I do prefer that the boots and leggings color is similar to create a longer line. For example this morning I tried my emerald sweater with black leggings and grey boots and looked like I was chopped into thirds. A quick switch to the grey leggings gave me the nice long line I was looking for.

I would like to try the slim pants look as I think they’ll look better with some of my shorter tunic tops.


26 aileen

I agree Jennifer, I think slim trousers look great with a long line tunic or short dress. It’s a lovely modern way to wear a dress, which otherwise would be too short on me.


27 Sylvia

I love that look too (long sweater) but sadly never get to wear it. So please enjoy it for me!


28 tammy

Hi Sylvia. Wonderful information. Just one thing….. it would be very helpful to know where you buy the items in the photos and the cost. If you do, & i’m missing it, my sincere apologies. Specifically, I love the brown and tan tunic with the buttons on the asymmetric side slit. thanks.


29 Sylvia

I try to include that information with most of my articles. But as you know, fashion changes quickly and items disappear from stores. This is an older article and none of these items are available anymore. You may like to check out some of the shop sections where I store all my favorites in stores right now. https://40plusstyle.com/shop/


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