The History of Leggings in Film and TV

The History of Leggings in Film and TV

The History of Leggings in Film and TV

Did your favorite actress or celebrity wear leggings on screen?

By Jennifer Schultz, Apple Girl Boutique

Audrey Hepburn - The History of Leggings in Film and TV
We all love our leggings – you know, those super soft, peach-skin like, always comfy and stretchy leggings. Whether you like solids or prints, dressy or athletic, in 2019 there is a wide selection to choose from. You put them on, and sometimes forget you have them on – and you are off to work, shopping, yoga or to pick up the kids. They are so comfortable, that you may even forget you have them on and wear them to bed. 

Now, sometimes, leggings can get a bad reputation, as we have all seen some not so complimentary pictures and memes of see-through, translucent materials that show some unflattering angles of the wearers. We hear some people comment that leggings are not pants, and that women of a certain age should not be wearing them. I say, ignore all of that and let’s find out a little about the history of leggings worn by celebrities.

The first notable actress to wear leggings was Audrey Hepburn in the film “Funny Face”, back in 1957. She wore simple classic black with a tight black scoop neck top. They were not referred to as leggings back then, but tight pants – however, we now know they were what we call leggings.  Fast forward to the 60’s, and we see Adam West and Burt Ward donning tight leggings for the Batman & Robin TV series. I know, they are not women – but they are wearing leggings!

One of the most popular movies of the late 70’s was “Grease”, featuring Oliva Newtown John transforming from her character’s good girl image to a sexy vixen in the finale of the movie, dressed in shiny black leggings with her black off the shoulder top and red Candies heels singing her heart away to John Travolta.  


Batman and Robin, Olivia Newton John, Madonna - The History of Leggings in Film and TV

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As we move into the 80s, who could forget Madonna dressed in leggings and a skirt for Desperately Seeking Susan and some of her music videos? That was when leggings moved from just coming in black – to every color of the rainbow and especially neon. And what about Jennifer Grey who played the sister in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the year before she made it big in Dirty Dancing? She was trying to catch her lying brother, ward off the weird principal and chat with bad boy, Charlie Sheen, all while staying cool in her black capri leggings. I mean how else, would she have been able to run from place to place so quickly?

Someone may disagree with me – but I am pretty sure the pants worn by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back, are a looser version of leggings. Because with Luke, Han and Leia and their calf high boots – you can only believe that leggings would fit in them nicely without the thigh area bulking up.    

Jennifer Grey, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Claudia Wells - The History of Leggings in Film and TV

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In the 90’s, the powerhouse Back to the Future movie features Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer, played by Claudia Wells, wearing super cute and colorful floral printed leggings. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Movie, Kristy Swanson, wears several different leggings while killing vampires and her counterpart Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy in the television series, wore occasional leggings throughout the show. Must have been that she needed to be flexible for all that vampire butt kickin’ she had to do!

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kristy Swanson, Miley Cyrus

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Looking at the 2000s, Miley Cyrus wore a huge collection of solid, sparkly and printed leggings as her character, Hannah Montana, alone and layered under her skirts. In the 2010s, we see Andrea Navedo, who plays Xiomara in Jane the Virgin, wearing some very colorful capri leggings – and she looked fabulous no matter which guy she was dating! 

 When it comes to the “behind the scenes” wardrobes of many stars, during their downtime – we see pictures of them out and about in leggings - because they are perfect for lounging, shopping and exercising. I can assure you that leggings have been around for a long, long time and now with so many different variations – solids, prints, fleece lined, long and short – the 2010s introduced “jeggings”, which are big alternative to regular jeans. You have denim that has been made to be super stretchy and soft and fit like a legging, with an elastic waist instead of a zipper and button.

It’s no wonder that leggings have surpassed the sales of jeans for the first time in 2017; according to the U.S. Census Bureau as reported by Quartz.

Whew! That’s a lot of leggings. And if you go into the closet or dresser of women in America, including celebrities, you are bound to find leggings - and probably several pairs of solid black, since it’s the number one selling color in the world.

Well there you have it, a look at the history of leggings in the movie and television world. Was your favorite celebrity on this list?

Click here to check out some of our newest leggings.


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