If the lines between activewear and every-wear were beginning to blur, COVID and WFH officiated the wedding. Now, there are few limits to leggings. They are as essential to our wardrobes as T-shirts and blue jeans.

I recently wore leggings to my daughters’ daycare easter morning tea, and although my partner shook his head as I left the house, I spotted at least three other mums in similar attire. Not just a mum uniform or fit for a sweat session, some of us can even get away with wearing leggings into the office. Some of us.

Leggings to take you everywhere, from left to right: P.E. Nation Double Under; Duke the Label Ignite; AJE Athletica Bike Short 614; P.E. Nation Backswing; Lululemon Wunder Train; PE Nation Uprise; Nimble Stash & Dash; Lululemon Align. Credit:Nine

Damien Woolnough, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s fashion editor, told me: “Leggings have absolutely crossed over into everyday wear. There’s no need to pretend that you’ve just come from Pilates when you have them on. They’re perfect for wearing anywhere you once would have worn a tracksuit but when it comes to the office, unless you’re in the wellness space, consider jeans, trousers or a skirt. As the Kardashians have made clear, there are tights that you can wear for a night on the town but they remain a high fashion statement. In the office they scream comfort and whisper that you haven’t made an effort.”

So, leggings at work might be a stretch for most, unless you are WFH. Still, they are a staple that go the distance from fitness to fashion and when you find a great pair they’ll go the distance on durability too.

As we limber up for the cooler months, we road-tested a selection of leggings from popular brands – focusing on sustainability, price, comfort, quality, aesthetic, and functionality.

Best high-rise: Lululemon Align HR Pant 25″

RRP $119

Of short stature, I often struggle to find tights that sit well, opting for cropped styles for their length. But these full-length leggings fit like a glove. They felt weightless and the fabric is luxurious compared to other tights I own.

Designed with Lululemon’s Nulu fabric, the tights are buttery soft, and you almost forget you’re wearing them at all with no digging in or rolling down of the waistband mid-Pilates session. They were comfortable to hang out in on the weekends as well as during several energetic dance classes. These tights are also stretchy and comfy enough to double as maternity wear – Meghan Markle was spotted wearing them on several occasions while pregnant.

What I liked less was the lack of sheer or netted panels for extra breathability, which could become an issue with higher-intensity workouts. Plus the material isn’t as eco-friendly as other products on the market.

Nicole Economos

Honourable mention: Aje Athletica Crossover Mid Length Bike Short 614
RRP $100.00

These mid-length, high-rise bike shorts are slick and sporty. My favourite of the Aje leggings I tried, some of which felt more fashion than functional fitness. I love the length, feel and forest green colour along with the signature wrap front which provides a subtle touch of style. Lightweight but perfectly opaque, I could downward dog with dignity, go running with ease and be comfortable on coffee dates. The lightness of material is a plus from my perspective but means they don’t have the hugging in feel and warmth some people prefer, plus $100 for bike pants is on the pricey side.

Made from 70 per cent Recycled Nylon with fibres recreated from discarded industrial materials including fishing nets and 30 per cent Elastane, Aje Athletica still have a way to go on the sustainability front.

– Sarah Berry

Best for making a statement: PE Nation high waisted, ⅞ Uprise in Nectarine

RRP $79 (on sale)

Good for low-intensity activity or lounging around at home, but I’d opt for a more lightweight pair of leggings or shorts if I was going on a run. The wide waistband makes for a flattering fit, smoothing out lumps and bumps without being restrictive. Crafted from 75 per cent recycled nylon they felt cool and soft on, and sustainable fabrics are always a bonus.

Despite the thick fabric, these leggings were surprisingly sheer, even with nude underwear. The bright orange shade provides a wonderful shock of colour to your activewear rotation but this style is heavily branded – not something I’m particularly a fan of – and I’d still reach for other leggings in my collection over these, as I prefer a more lightweight fabric. That said, they are more flattering than some of my other pairs, albeit less comfortable.

– Lauren Ironmonger

Best all-rounders: Nimble Stash & Dash 7/8

RRP $129

Nimble might just be my new favourite activewear brand. They are committed to sustainability, using eco-friendly materials that limit the amount of chemicals, water and wastewater used in production, plus the leggings we tried all look and feel great. The Stash & Dash have side pockets deep enough for your phone when you run or walk, branding is subtle and the smooth high-waist supportive. They are a little thicker than similar leggings from other brands and the finish is more matte. This is positive or negative depending on what you like, but for me, makes a strong all-rounder which is lucky given they are marketed as good for everything from high-intensity HIIT to running and boxing.

– Sarah Berry

Honourable mention: Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Crop 23″
RRP $119

Train hard, not hot, is the tagline for these super comfy leggings. Made from a nylon/Lycra blend that is advertised as highly breathable and the brand’s fastest drying fabric, these navy numbers deliver the goods on multiple fronts. Soft, supportive and, if they’re like my other Lulus, made to last, these classic leggings can take you anywhere. In fact, I took them running, to yoga, bushwalking and to the couch. That they are not defaced by loud logos or branding, is another plus in my opinion. My only issues are the lack of pockets, and the fact that despite their price-point and its position as a leader in activewear, they are still vague about the environmental action they are taking to reach their targets and labour conditions down the supply chain.

– Sarah Berry

Best for relaxing in: Duke the Label Ignite Booty Sculpt 7/8

RRP $99

I’m not usually one to wear activewear outside the house unless for explicit exercise purposes, but these leggings from DTL might change my mind. These are some of the most comfortable leggings I’ve ever tried, and I’d happily wear them out whilst running errands or doing groceries. The poly/elastane blend is very soft, and kept me warm whilst wicking away sweat. The only con? Unlike pure nylon leggings that have a higher sheen, the soft material tends to attract lint and pet hair – so not ideal for cat owners like me.

– Lauren Ironmonger

Most flattering: PE NATION 7/8 Double Unders

RRP $119-$129

Silky and high-sheen, these black leggings are the sexiest of the lot and excellent for days you need some ninja energy to get things done. The black Backswing and the Double Under styles are among their more understated designs but just as sleek. The jacquard waistband on the Backswings, which are lightweight and built for gentler workouts or hangouts, is soft meaning I don’t feel the need to remove them the instant I’ve eaten food. The Double Unders, on the other hand, will pull you in and hold you tight when you get sweaty but you (and by that, I mean “I”) may not want to relax on the couch in them later on.

Though the leggings are made from 65 per cent recycled nylon, the company does not yet rate well on sustainability scales.

– Sarah Berry

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