The feat of distinguishing between yoga pants and leggings is probably equal to solving the greatest mysteries of the universe – which came first, are they different in any way and why do we even have two terms for one item of legwear.
We all have them and wear them. (And yes, yoga pants and leggings for men is a thing – check this review of the best yoga bottoms for men). But when it comes to naming names, many people get confused. So are yoga pants and leggings the same?
Now, in 2019, my answer would be – pretty much, yes. The boundaries of yoga pants and leggings have blurred so much that the two terms are often used interchangeably.
But there’s a catch. Not every yoga pants are leggings, and not every leggings are yoga pants.
Now that you’re more confused read on how to tell the difference between yoga pants and leggings once and for all.
Yoga Pants vs Leggings: What’s The Difference?
Yoga pants is an umbrella term for bottoms made of thicker and stretchy material: cotton or bamboo blends, polyester, nylon or other technical fabric.
Though initially designed specifically for exercise, be it yoga, Pilates, running, or any other physical activity, yoga pants have gone mainstream. Long gone are the days when wearing yoga pants in public was considered tasteless at best and vulgar at worst. This piece of clothing has shifted from activewear into the realm of athleisure thanks to fashion-conscious companies offering items you can wear around the clock.
Just check this fancy pair of entwined leggings from Alo.
Because the primary purpose of yoga pants is a sport, manufacturers add small yet significant details to the design of their products. It can be a wide and double-layered waistband that keeps the pants in place during movement and supports the tummy. Or a gusseted crotch – an almost essential part of any yoga pants that increases range of motions and will save you from embarrassingly breaking your pants in spits.
The important thing is that yoga pants are opaque and squat-proof, so you can pairing them up with a short T-shirt or even a crop top with no fear of looking naked.
There is a whole world of styles of yoga pants to fit every taste and shape any figure. The standard yoga pants are form-fitted from the waist to the knee and slightly flared out at the bottom. They can come in a more relaxed fit that somewhat resembles sweatpants but holds the shape due to technical fabric, as well as have an option of different leg cuts: bootcut or straight.
Hippie or harem pants can also be classified under the category of yoga pants. They are generally loose all the way from the waist down and have a scrunched bottom that prevents you from dragging the pants on the floor as well as keeps them in place when getting upside down. Hippie and harem pants are airy and feel particularly awesome in hot, humid climates.
Skinny yoga pants are probably one of the most popular types of yoga pants. They are tight all the way from the waist to the ankle and are often referred to as yoga legging. Thanks to being super stretchy, they offer a second-skin feel and maximum comfort during fast-paced yoga class.
Leggings are a type of elastic, close-fitting bottoms. They do not flare and cling to the leg from the waist down.
Traditionally, leggings were used for layering in cold weather as they are thicker than tights but thinner than pants. With time, the use of leggings broadened and they secured their place among the essentials of casual wear. Leggings turned into a fashion statement and an accessory worn both by men and women under tunics, long T-shirts, baggy sweaters, etc.
Leggings for leisure are made of natural materials such as cotton and bamboo. Though soft to the touch, these fabrics are hardly a good choice for workout apparel. They are prone to wear and tear due to friction and constant washing, absorb sweat easily, and lose their shape in curvy areas such as knees and backside.
Moreover, this type of leggings is often on a thinner side. So unless you want to flash your underwear in public, choose longer tees and tank tops to cover the hips or yet better, leave these leggings for wearing at home.
For those who prefer doing sports in tight-fitted pants, the athletic leggings are the solution.
Athletic leggings are the same as the skinny yoga pants mentioned above. They are opaque and superelastic, allowing you to move and stretch in every direction. Depending on their thickness, athletic leggings vary in the degree of support and breathability, but nonetheless, they will fit almost any style of yoga or sport you’re planning to engage in.
The Bottom Line
Yoga pants are a general term for sports bottoms designed for athletic purposes, be it yoga, gym, running, Pilates or any other activity. They are thick, opaque and come in tons of styles: flared, bootcut, straight, skinny or leggings.
Leggings are a narrow term denoting a style of bottoms – skin-tight from the waist to ankles. Leggings can be designed with different purposes in mind.
Leggings for casual wear are often pretty thin and slightly opaque. They can be used for layering under the pants during winter, or as an accessory when paired up with long tops, sweaters, etc. that cover the bottoms.
Leggings for athletic purposes are thicker and are essentially a type of yoga pants. In this context, we can use these two terms interchangeably.
What’s important to remember is that while we can wear yoga pants or athletic leggings in casual situations, to a cafe or even to an informal party, leggings made for casual wear do not really work in a yoga studio or gym.