New York Shopping Diary

Running with Leggings

by Ki Hackney
The inimitable Betsey Johnson sketched her black cotton/Lycra® spandex, ankle-length leggings just for our Shopping Diary. They’re $35 at Betsey Johnson, 1060 Madison Avenue at 80th Street, 212-734-1257, and at her Betsey Johnson shop at 138 Wooster Street, 212-995-5048.

On Monday night, no one was wearing leggings, in the sea of haute black and midnight suits and one black and white tweed jacket toasting Ira Neimark on his new book, Crossing Fifth Avenue to Bergdorf Goodman, from SPI (This legendary retailer started his climb up the luxury market as an assistant doorman at Bonwit Teller).

However, the fashion mavens downstairs didn’t skip a beat: “We are selling soooo many leggings,” they echoed. Yes! You can’t pass a store window without spotting a legging or two. The silhouette has changed and leggings are the great equalizer. They are the softer version of the skinniest pencil jeans, and they are the balance for the roomier new dresses and tunic-length tops.

We are not living through a re-run of the “exercise gear” craze of the 80s and 90s, when every woman donned leggings, sneakers and a crisply starched man’s shirt (the extra bit of hem on a man’s shirt just covered the tush) whether she was heading for the gym or a quick trip for supplies at the “200-dollar-store” (aka Costco). I think we are taking the next step. Yes, I know that naysayers talk about how unflattering leggings can be. They can. But, they are the most comfortable form of clothing – offering shape, support and style. Can you imagine the world without even a pinch of Lycra® spandex? The secret to leggings is in the mix. A long, cashmere sweater-tunic works for a multitude of shapes. One of the new wide belts offers waist definition. And almost everyone looks longer and leaner in a pair of full-length black leggings. Ballerinas and Mary Janes, and other flat shoes are the new accessory and are easy to find again.

Leggings come in every possible permutation --- printed thermals for bed or movie night at home; cropped ones indoors or out (before it gets too cold and you have to add tall boots); and long, ruched, cuffed, textured, striped or leopard-spotted, or long, skin-tight and unadorned, to name a few. 

Mercy! We’ve come a long way from the Dark Ages when men tied animal skins around their legs and held them up with belts or girdles.
Left: Slit-hem leggings from Chace of polyester / rayon/ spandex, $59, with Chace chemise jumper dress, $189 and Chace knit top, $79; Striped, ruched leggings of cotton/Lycra® spandex by Free People, $28 on sale.

Right: Trouser leggings, with pockets, are all cotton, by Isli, $218.

All available at
Left to right: Hearts-and-arrows screen-printed, cotton thermal leggings from Primp, $68; Ribbed cuff leggings of polyester/Lycra®, $125, and double-zip, empire drawstring hoodie, $159, by Norma Kamali; Cropped cotton/spandex legging by Juicy Couture, $65 ... all available at
Right: Fourteen-gauge cashmere “long leg” leggings, $178, with pointelle cashmere batwing, turtleneck sweater, $272; “Long leg” cashmere leggings, $178, with cowl-neck, cable-knit cashmere tunic, $378. Both from from Anik, 1355 Third Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets, 212-861-9840.
Above (l. to r.): Khaki/cream/chocolate striped leggings, $128 with fold-over sweater, $297; Five-pocket skinny pant that drapes just like a legging, $253. Both from Alice and Olivia, 80 West 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues; 212-840-0887.

Below: Semi-opaque leggings, $32, from Fogal at 510 Madison Avenue/53rd Street, 212-355-3254.
Below: E&J cashmere leggings, $445, with E&J cashmere knit scoopneck dress, $550, and Wolford velvet deluxe leggings, $38, both from
Above: Cotton and silk over-the-knee leg-warmers, called Sestriere, that look and wear just like leggings, $129, from Fogal, 510 Madison Avenue/53rd Street, 212-355-3254.

Right, top to bottom: Five-pocket AG stilt velvet legging by Adriano Goldschmied, $178; Banded waist Supplex® nylon and Lycra® spandex leggings from Susana Monaco, $95 each. All available at Olive and Bette’s, 1070 Madison Avenue, between 80th and 81st Streets, 212-717-9655 or at
Left: Lace-trimmed leggings, $9.98, from Steve & Barry’s (a secret New York source, but the chain has over 130 stores around the country, and everything is under $10) in the Manhattan Mall, 901 Avenue of the Americas, 212-564-1959.

Right: Kingsley Pipes Woolworth, ready for the chilly weather last week, borrowed her mother’s leggings for dress-down Friday, and she says they are “probably from TJ Maxx.”
Above, l. to r.: Printed capri leggings, $24, from Damsel; Thermal cropped leggings, $38, from Free People; White pointelle sweater-knit leggings, $36. All available at

Left: Brushed cotton leggings, $22.50, from the Gap at
I know, I know, we said we weren’t going back to the athletic look, but what is a story about leggings without Danskin. We still run, do yoga, etc. Here, the Supplex® with Lycra® spandex Capri legging in purple , $30, with a hooded tunic, $50 (pictured right) … and the Capri legging in black, $30, with a white, three-quarter sleeve top , $36 (pictured above). Both available at the Danskin store, 159 Columbus Avenue or at
Left to right: Finely ribbed, buttery soft supima cotton/ Lycra® spandex, black jersey leggings, $89, paired with a hooded sweatshirt dress of cotton/Lycra® spandex, $165, both from James Perse; Soft leopard-printed cotton, banded leggings, $95, from L.A.M.B.; Slim, black legging pants, $198, under a sweater dress with cap-sleeved cashmere over pleated skirting, $288.88, both from Lisli. All available at


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