Tights vs Leggings: The Differences That Matter

The fitness industry has fully embraced the concept of athleisure clothing. You would see gym-goers and yoga enthusiasts wearing all kinds of tights or leggings while working out, looking extremely comfortable and mobile.

But brands like Lululemon have actually made it difficult for consumers to differentiate between leggings and tights. That’s because they continue to advertise many of their regular training pants as “tights”, which is quite irksome.

It becomes even more confusing when you find out that Lululemon’s tights actually offer the same functionality that you would find in a pair of leggings. So, they aren’t actually tights, are they?

That’s why fitness-centric customers are often making some bad decisions when it comes to picking the right piece of clothing for their workout needs.

But that won’t longer be the case. Because in this article, we’ll shed light on the primary difference between leggings and tights.

Are Leggings and Tights the Same Thing?

Are Leggings and Tights the Same Thing

No, leggings and tights are different in terms of both – design and functionality. Leggings are made of thicker fabrics, footless, and generally worn as standalone pants. Tights, on the other hand, are sheer, cover the feet, and are paired with other garments.

Based on these features, it would be quite easy to differentiate between the two.

The comfortable spandex-based bottoms that we all have come to love are called leggings. They are highly versatile and can be worn with any outfit while also serving you well at the gym. They usually aren’t paired under other garments like frocks or skirts.

The other alternative is wearing a pair of tights. These are usually sheer or see-through. As such, they are mostly designed to be worn under other garments like tunics, skirts, dresses, and so on. They are made of thinner fabrics and feel super tight, almost like a second skin.

While tights can also be used for athletic purposes, leggings are more suitable. That’s because they offer more durability and are mostly squat-proof and opaque. So, you don’t have to worry about being too exposed while performing yoga or exercises.

Tights can be categorized as underwear. While they look and somewhat feel like leggings, they are not entirely opaque and are designed to be paired underneath dresses for warmth or fashion.

Tights vs Leggings: Head-to-Head Comparison

Tights vs Leggings

So, which should you choose – tights or leggings? The answer actually depends on your requirements. We know that both of these clothing items are highly different from each other, having distinct use cases.

The feel and functionality of leggings and tights are different as well. So, why are they both placed in the athleisure category? And which one should you choose when you are exercising or when you need to go on a weekend cruise?

Let’s find out based on these prominent differences between the two:

Basis of Comparison



Options Available

Absolute opaque (no transparency), opaque (somewhat transparent), sheer (more transparent), fishnet styles, and a combination of all of the above.

Thin leggings, patterned designs, solid designs.


Generally, tights are not squat-proof as they have some degree of sheer and can expose private parts when bent.

Leggings are generally squat-proof as they are opaque and specifically designed for yoga activities.


Mostly made using elasticized polyester blends and cotton.

Mostly made from thicker fabrics like elasticized cotton and spandex.


Full length and covers the feet.

Usually comes in the ankle-length category but also offers varieties like ⅞ length and mid-calf length.


Very comfortable – similar feel to Nylon-based clothing items.

Very comfortable.


Very tight, almost like a second skin on your legs.

Form-fitting, snug, and tight.

Washing Instructions

Requires extra care and delicate handling. Usually, not fit to be washed in a machine without a protective laundry bag.

Machine-washable. Does not require any special precautions.

Wear With

Generally paired under skirts and dresses for a fashionable look or for warmth in colder climates.

Used for everyday wear, exercise or yoga, layering with other clothes, workout gear, and so on.


Casual to professional.

Casual and athletic.

Common Design

Usually marketed and sold as pull-ons that encapsulate the entire feet.

Usually sold as simple pull-on pants.


Zonal or all-over compression characteristics.

Zonal or all-over compression characteristics.


Generally uses thinner fabrics.

Generally uses thicker fabrics.


Usually worn in fall, spring, and winter seasons.

Worn all-year round.

Wear When

Generally worn during formal occasions or weekend outings.

Generally worn during workouts, yoga, and casual outings.


Less durable.

More durable.

Based on these differences, it’s quite clear that there is a rigid distinction between the two in terms of design and functionality.

While leggings resemble skin-tight pants that are more durable and convenient, tights are delicate undergarments that are usually paired with other dresses to give the wearer a more complete look.

It’s important to remember that while these clothing items are used interchangeably today, tights are very different when compared with a pair of traditional leggings.

What are Tights?

What are Tights

Tights are a type of clothing that is lightweight, flexible, and often slightly transparent. They cover your entire leg, similar to a combination of leggings and socks. They are not intended to be worn on their own as an outfit, but rather as a layering piece. Think of them as a special kind of sock that extends all the way up to your hips. You can wear tights under a skirt or dress to keep warm and stylish at the same time.

Tights are very different from leggings and usually worn as undergarments rather than standalone clothing items.

That’s mostly because they are more translucent compared to other pants. Even thicker, more opaque tights have some degree of see-through in them. Moreover, tights come in full-length alternatives that usually encapsulate your feet as well.

That is why they are more suitable for layering with other outfits, like a dress. This is the primary differentiator between the two – leggings can be used for both layering and wearing as standalone pants, while tights are generally only fit to be layered.

The gusset and seams in tights aren’t designed to be exposed. As such, tights are not squat-proof and usually cannot be used in the gym. But some people do use them for athletic purposes when they are alone at home.

Even with absolute privacy, that is not advisable as tights are less durable than leggings and more prone to snags, runs, wear, and tear.

So, tights are mostly seen as what should be the “finishing touch” to a complete outfit. Due to mislabelling by modern brands, however, you will often see other kinds of pants being called tights and sold under the athleisure category.


  • Highly stretchable and comfortable.
  • Offers a skin-tight feel, providing maximum freedom of movement.
  • Comes in many varieties – opaque, sheer, as well as a combination of both.
  • Comes in different styles and types.
  • It can be used for both professional and casual outings.
  • Provides warmth during colder weather.


  • Generally not squat-proof.
  • Not fit for yoga classes or workouts.
  • Thinner fabrics are prone to damage or ripping.
  • Not very breathable and lacks moisture-wicking properties.
  • Hard to locate online because of mislabelling by brands.

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What are Leggings?

What are Leggings

Leggings are the more popular of the two. Chances are that you already own a pair or two of different types of leggings.

Leggings are crafted from a comfortable and flexible material, similar to a soft t-shirt. They function like pants, providing coverage from your hips all the way down to your ankles, or shorter if they are cropped leggings. 

Leggings are snugly fitted to your body, creating a second-skin effect. Leggings are typically made with relatively thin fabric, allowing for ease of movement.

They are basically skin-tight pants that are absolutely opaque (not see-through at all). Like tights, a pair of leggings is also a pull-on with no zipper or additional fasting tools. Some models may have pockets and other reinforcements, but most are relatively unadorned.

Leggings are made of thicker fabric blends like cotton and lycra. However, ever since the athleisure revolution, they come in a range of different finishes, lengths, colors, cuts, and even materials.

However, classic neutral leggings are still the most popular in the market. They are highly versatile and are used for casual outings as well as yoga and workouts.


  • Leggings are highly versatile and can be used for everyday wear as well as athletic applications.
  • Leggings are extremely comfortable and provide a form-fitting feel.
  • Leggings offer maximum mobility and freedom of movement.
  • Leggings usually come with moisture-wicking properties and offer good breathability.
  • Leggings are durable and can withstand general wear and tear.
  • Leggings are machine-washable and convenient.
  • Leggings are squat-proof.


  • Leggings often lack structural elements like pockets and belt loops.
  • Leggings are not appropriate for layering during formal occasions.
  • Leggings are prone to losing their elasticity and slipping down the waist after repeated use.

Which is Better: Tights or Leggings?

Which is Better Tights or Leggings

Both leggings and tights share some similarities but are very different from each other. They have distinct applications and use cases. As such, choosing the better option between the two will mostly depend on your requirements.

While tights are only used during some specific occasions, leggings are more versatile. Tights come in different designs and patterns while leggings are more basic in their appearance and structure.

Based on the major differences between the two, we can come to the following conclusions:

  • Leggings are better for yoga, workouts, and other athletic applications because they are squat-proof, opaque, breathable, and form-fitting. They can also be used as standalone pants for everyday wear and casual outings.
  • Tights are not suitable for athletic applications because they are usually see-through and not squat-proof at all. They also don’t offer breathability or sweat-wicking properties. They are mostly used for layering with dresses or other clothing items to achieve a classy and fashionable look or for providing additional warmth.

Can I Wear Leggings Instead of Tights?

Yes, wearing leggings instead of tights can work on some occasions. That’s because they are highly versatile and can be used as standalone pants or for layering with other pieces of clothing items.

However, tights are more suitable for wearing with dresses on a formal occasion. While some leggings may pass as professional, most of them do not have the design features that tights usually have for giving a more fashionable look.

Can You Wear Tights as Leggings?

Can You Wear Tights as Leggings

No, it’s generally not recommended that you wear tights as leggings, especially if you plan to wear them as standalone pants. That’s because tights are thinner and use sheer material that can leave you exposed without proper coverage.

However, both leggings and tights are basically skin-tight garments that can be layered under different types of clothing items. So, if you were planning to wear skirted leggings, you can actually wear tights under a skirt instead.

Thus, tights cannot be used as leggings if you intend to wear them as standalone pants. But if you are going to layer them under another dress, both tights and leggings can be worn interchangeably.

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Summing Up

Both leggings and tights look and feel similar enough. The confusion is even more prominent now that online brands are selling yoga pants and lighter leggings as “tights” on their websites.

But as a buyer, you should be aware of the differences that separate a pair of leggings from tights. The former is more suitable for workouts and everyday wear. The latter, on the other hand, is meant to be paired with dresses, tunics, or skirts to complete the outfit.