How to Style Faux Leather Leggings

Faux leather leggings have been a fashion trend for several years (seriously I was discussing the style merits 0f faux leather leggings back in 2016) and they don't seem to be going away any time soon. But what to wear with leather leggings, be they real or faux? This post originally was published in 2018 but because this trend is so popular, I updated it with looks appropriate for thisyear. Below I share how to style faux leather leggings, with a focus on the styles of faux leather leggings from Spanx.

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How to Style Faux Leather Leggings

Faux leather leggings are a bold move, and not one that can be worn anywhere and with anything. One false move and you end up looking like Sandy at the end of “Grease” (no shade on “after” Sandy, that was my dream look for most of my tween and teen years). But let’s focus on the everyday…

Collage of moto-inspired faux leather leggings styled with a chunky ivory turtleneck sweater and black and white snakeskin ankle booties from Blondo

leggings (plus size version) | sweater | booties | earrings

This is a classic way to style faux leather leggings – with booties and a sweater.  What makes this look work is the details.  The sweater is a chunky knit which balances the slick and fitted look of the leggings.  The sweater has a high-low hem which provides coverage without having the sweater resemble a dress and the strategic knit flatters the figure.  If ivory isn't your thing this sweater is available in five other colors and comes in plus sizes.  Instead of trying to match the faux leather of the leggings, consider a print.  Snakeskin is a hot trend this season and a way to add texture and trend to a simple ensemble.  What makes these booties great is they're not only stylish but also waterproof! They too come in a variety of colors. Modern hoops add a bit of shine without competing with the other details of the look.

leggings | blazer (available in extended sizes) | turtleneck (available up to size 40) | booties | laptop commuter tote | earrings

If you work in a creative office, you may be able to get away with leather leggings.  The key is to ensure your rear is properly covered.  Look for boyfriend-style blazers to cover beyond the waistband without adding bulk. Go sleek and sophisticated by pairing the blazer with a fitted stretchy turtleneck (wear untucked and ruched at the hips with the jacket open or buttoned up). Consider a sock bootie that will slide under the leggings to provide and unbroken body line.

leggings | tunic | flats | necklace | bracelet 

Because faux leather leggings have such a trim fit, they're great to wear with longer tunics and shorter dresses.  The black shine of the faux leather leggings can stand up to a bold color.  A pair of flats with a pointed toe will elongate the look and keep it from looking like loungewear.  A long necklace will break up the block of color and add a modern touch.

leggings | blouse (plus sized version) | boots | necklace

Skinny faux leggings are great for balancing out a top with plenty of volume.  This blouse works because it is a lightweight fabric with layers that catch the breeze; a heavier fabric may cling to the leggings and feel weighed down. As for the boots, combat-inspired styles are very on trend this season and the little pop of color complements the blouse while also adding an element of style. Add gold accessories to complete the look.

turtleneck (misses and plus sizes) | leggings (available in tall, petite, and plus) | earrings | backpack | sneakers

Faux or real leather leggings are so sleek and chic.  Play up these characteristics with more of the same.  A black cashmere turtleneck (again look for one that is a bit longer) pairs nicely with the shine and brings elegance to the leggings. For a downtown cool factor, pair with trendy sneakers, small yet sassy earrings, and switch out your handbag for a backpack.  A look this chic can work with a fresh face and messy topknot, or maybe a swipe of red lipstick.

leggings (plus size version) | sweater (straight sizes) | shoes | bag | necklace 

This is what I'd consider the most everyday way to wear the Spanx faux leggings or any leather leggings.  A longer sweater and a pair of comfortable shoes in a material that contrasts with the leggings.  This sweater comes in seven colors. I think sneakers are the best pairing, but a suede bootie or bootie/sneaker hybrid like the ones in the image is a great alternative.  Don't go crazy with the accessories; the shine of the leggings make so much of a statement that too much jewelry will veer into Las Vegas or evening territory.  With colors, keep them simple.  Primary colors can sometimes look too dressy or bold for casual situations.  Soft pastels, neutrals, and muted shades will beautifully balance the sheen of faux or real leather leggings.

What Shoes to Wear with Faux Leather Leggings?

The best choice is a pair of sneakers.  Whether they're trainers or a trendy pair, the juxtaposition of athletic gear with leather is quite chic and will steer you clear from “Sandy” territory.

If you're looking to dress up the leggings for work or evening, consider a pair of pointed-toe flats, or a boot with a bit of toughness.

Sleek ankle booties and pumps in black leather may be a safe bet, but the look can be too superhero.  If you choose this kind of shoe, be sure to balance the look with a clearly professional and polished or relaxed and voluminous top.

What To Wear (and What Not to Wear) with Faux Leather Leggings

While you can wear whatever the heck you want and I will completely support you and root you on, if you're unsure how to style leather leggings here's some tips on what not to do to make them look as stylish as possible.

  • Don't pair your leather leggings with a leather jacket.  This will take you from “Sandy” territory to Leather Tuscadero territory. If you need to wear a jacket, consider a cargo jacket in a neutral like olive or a denim jacket.
  • Balance the shine with other textures. Faux leather leggings with shiny satin or sequins is only appropriate in Vegas or on stage.  For the everyday, you want to temper the shine of leather.  Fleece, chunky knit sweaters, cashmere, denim, and angora are all great fabric to pair with the leggings to keep the look luxe yet relatable.
  • Keep Jewelry Delicate. Big, bold pieces paired with shiny black leggings can end up being too much of a look.  Delicate chains, small rings, a single watch or chain bracelet, thin hoops or studs is often the best choice when styling leather leggings.
  • Don't Be a Trend Salad. Leather leggings are a lot of look, and usually look best with more subtle pairings.  They're not the thing to wear with a cold shoulder or sheer blouse or statement shoes. If the rest of your outfit is a bit quieter your leather leggings then can sing.
  • Add Polish. While faux leather leggings look more refined than traditional leggings, they can easily veer into athleisure if styled with more relaxed pieces.  Oversized sweatshirts, cocoon cardigans, and sweater coats can make you look as though you just rolled out of bed. Add a bit of tailoring or an accessory to make it clear this is not loungewear.
  • Think Contrasts Not Costume.  Rocker leather leggings with a corporate blazer. Black leather with cashmere in a soft pastel color. The shine of the leggings paired with chambray or a plaid flannel. The way to make these leggings look great is to treat them as though they aren't leather; style them as you would a pair of skinny pants or ponte leggings and you'll have the best results and not look like you're wearing a costume.

30 Comments

  1. Carla Brecht
    December 6, 2019 / 6:09 pm

    So needed this…. thank you for continuing to provide valuable and real content. So much appreciated!

  2. Kate
    December 4, 2019 / 5:54 pm

    I love leather pants (jean style) but faux leather leggings are not for me. However, I love the way you’ve styled them in this post! I’d love some leads on good looking leather pants (skinny or boot cut) someday.

    • December 6, 2019 / 11:19 am

      So I am totally saving up for a pair from Pari Passu, they’re so chic! They’re sold out now, which is fine because I’m not able to afford them yet! https://paripassushop.com/collections/shop-all . For Misses, I think Vince leather pants are the best but they seem to be sold out most everywhere right now. Lafayette 148 also has an amazing pair http://bit.ly/2sPUPL7

  3. Melissa
    December 4, 2019 / 1:41 pm

    Leather (like) leggings? All I can think of is Ross Gellar baby powdering himself down to get them on, in Friends.#hotsweatymess
    Hard pass (for me). Not judging anyone else.

  4. Sandra
    December 4, 2019 / 11:31 am

    It seems your links led me to purchase….. Faux leggings? Never! But I clicked on a purse and ended up with a FELT HAT. 😉 Thanks so much! I have been wanting one.

  5. Susan
    December 4, 2019 / 10:21 am

    I have a pair of chocolate brown faux leather leggings that I adore. Most of my wardrobe is navy, and not black, so the brown works better for me. However, I am struggling with shoes. I feel like this is a weak spot in my style in general and the faux leather leggings just call more attention to my footwear.

    • December 6, 2019 / 11:20 am

      Go with something not trying to match. With chocolate a pair of tan or camel suede booties or trendy sneakers is a good idea!

  6. December 4, 2019 / 9:57 am

    Any advice on how to style these when you have “pink” hair? Now that I‘Ve gone Rose Gold I’m rethinking how I wear everything. I LOVE my new hair. But I do t want to look like an old groupie at the same time.

    • December 6, 2019 / 11:21 am

      Go luxe. Pair with silk and cashmere, drapey styles, softer colors that complement your rose gold tresses. Think rich art collector instead of rich rock star.

  7. Marie
    December 4, 2019 / 8:28 am

    I love and live in faux leather leggings and always looking for different ways to style them so thanks!

  8. December 9, 2018 / 1:39 am

    This was so helpful, thank you!! I just bought the Spanx leggings on Black Friday and was wondering how best to pair them. I don’t love layering so the idea of a simple longer top is the one I loved most!

  9. M
    August 7, 2018 / 1:26 pm

    Allie, I adore that long pendant but when I clicked on the link it says it is convertible but not what the conversion is – any idea or did I just miss it in the description?

    • August 7, 2018 / 1:37 pm

      I *think* it’s because the cord clasp is the type where you can adjust the length from short to long? Weird that there’s no explanation in the description!

  10. Chris
    August 6, 2018 / 8:06 pm

    Allie,

    Seriously, what if a person wants to look like Sandy for a costume party or Halloween? What do you recommend? I’m thinking of a young friend, not me. She has the hair and the body for it.

    • August 7, 2018 / 1:05 pm

      I’d do an off the shoulder black top tucked into leather leggings, a wide elastic belt, and red lipstick!

  11. Karen
    August 6, 2018 / 6:15 pm

    Love these looks. You’ve reminded me that I have a pair of black waxed skinny jeans (this was my budget-friendly alternative to real leather) that are in my closet somewhere. I’d say most of the looks will work with them also. I just have to wait till about December before I can start to play with the looks, considering I live in Florida.

    • Krista
      December 4, 2019 / 9:51 am

      Well, welcome to winter in Florida. Start playing!

  12. Julia
    August 6, 2018 / 2:32 pm

    Thank you, this is so helpful! I’ll give a +1 to the vans perforated slip ons. These are some of my favorite shoes I own (I have the floral perforated pattern ones) and I’ve pretty much worn them out. I replaced them this year with silver ones, and I love them just as much. I’ve decided to get this top from Torrid to wear with mine
    https://www.torrid.com/product/harper—purple-georgette-sleeveless-pullover-blouse/11201054.html#q=harper&start=11

    It’s low in the back for butt coverage. I’ll pair it with a cute rucked sleeve blazer and either my vans or silver flats.

  13. August 6, 2018 / 1:42 pm

    “Trend salad” is a concept I’ll definitely use in the future haha Faux leather leggings have been a piece of clothing I’ve been kind of scared of. I feel like I won’t be able to pull them off, that I’ll look horrible in them. I’ll definitely try to overcome that fear and look into some faux leather leggings in the future and definitely gonna follow your tips.

  14. Cynthia
    August 6, 2018 / 12:32 pm

    “Don’t be a trend salad.” Love this advice. My favorite faux leather leggings have a stripe of black lace down the side, which makes them fit into my style better than the moto ones. You’ve given me some great ideas here — I especially love the grey suede wedge booties. I always wear black shoes or booties — need to up my footwear!

    • August 7, 2018 / 1:10 pm

      I really love breaking it up with a different texture and/or color. I think you’ll like the effect!

  15. August 6, 2018 / 10:12 am

    Spot on, Alison. Let the leather be the focus, I totally agree. I have a pair of leather pants, not leggings, more like trousers. And I’m careful how I style them. I’m 62, so I don’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb. So longer sweaters and boots, simple tees with a blazer and loafers are what I usually wear with my leather pants. And now you’ve given me some new ideas, thanks.

    • Jacqueline
      December 5, 2019 / 1:29 pm

      Sue, “mutton dressed as a lamb”… I’ll have to remember that one! I’ve got 10 years on you, and have always wanted a black leather moto jacket. I finally bought one and let it hang in my closet because I didn’t know how to style it so I wouldn’t have that “mutton” look! Too late to do anything about it now because I finally gave the jacket away.

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