Yoga Pants vs. Leggings vs. Tights: What’s the Difference?

Yoga Pants vs. Leggings vs. Tights: What’s the Difference?

Yoga pants, leggings, and tights are easily the most comfortable type of clothing on the market. They are the perfect loungewear and ideal for activewear. They even make nice pants for special occasions. But how do you know which type to wear and when to wear them?

What’s the difference between yoga pants, leggings, and tights? Yoga pants, leggings, and tights are all made out of some sort of stretchy material that is meant to allow for ample airflow and maximum stretch. Each type of pant is meant for a different activity, has a different type of fit, and is made out of a different material. 

We know they are different, but just how different are they? Taking a closer look at the differences in these different types of stretchy pants, you will be able to see just how different they are, and which type would be the best fit for you. 

What’s the Difference?

When discussing the difference between yoga pants, leggings, and tights, it’s important to know where they each began. An interesting tidbit of information is that tights were the first of the three to be invented for sale. Even more interesting is that hosiery is thought to be at least 2,000 years old. 

The Beginning of Yoga Pants

Yoga pants started being sold and marketed in 1998. They were made for women as a type of workout clothing before yoga was even popular. When they were first made, manufacturers replaced the original cotton workout leggings with this nylon and Lycra yoga pants to make customers more comfortable during a workout session. The new yoga pants were more breathable and stretchy, making for a more successful workout. 

As time went on, yoga pants became more popular than jeans. By 2014, people were wearing yoga pants for leisure and sometimes even to work. 

Yoga Pants Today

Today yoga pants are in the closet of even those that don’t work out regularly. They have overperformed jeans, making jean manufacturers adapt their products to keep up with leggings. Today, you can find leggings in prices ranging from $20 to over $200, depending on where you’re shopping. Their fit has evolved and changed over the years, but the idea behind them has stayed the same. Competitors are popping up even today to get a place in the yoga pants market. 

Where Do Leggings Come From?

Leggings date all the way back the 14th century by the same Scottish men that wore kilts. When they were first created, they weren’t pants, but a two-piece set of leg warmers that covered the entire leg and secured to the waist. They looked a lot like what we know chaps to be today. Even more, interestingly, these leggings were worn both casually and in military uniform. In military dress, they were made in leather or chain mail to protect the skin from injury. 

Leggings weren’t worn by women until the 19th century when they were known and worn globally by men. Even at this time, they were still two-piece underclothing that was meant to retain warmth and protect the skin. They weren’t worn as a fashion statement until the 1960s when DuPont created Lycra leggings. This was the beginning of leggings as we know them today. It was in the 1980s when leggings were being worn by everyone and their mother. 

Leggings Today

From the 1980s and on, leggings have climbed the fashion trend ladder. Where they were first worn for protection, they have evolved into the fashion trend we know today. Leggings are known to be bright and eccentric and can be worn alone or under a skirt. Today, leather leggings are even sought after for their stylish way of making it look like their wearer isn’t a complete bum.

How Far Back Do Tights Really Go?

Tights go way back. They were first found in Egypt in the graves of the wealthy and date back at least 2,000 years. They are easily the first of the three forms of pants to be created. They were known as woven lady socks and are nothing like what we know of today. In 500 AD they had a fitted heel and a drawcord to tighten them at the top. 

1598 was the next instance of tights in the fashion world. William Lee created the first-ever knitting machine followed by the first-ever pair of pure silk stockings. It was after this that tights found a place in society and evolved into what we know as tights today. It began in 1803 when tights were sought after for their warmth and coverage and became accepted around World War II. In the 40s Nylon became popular for being so inexpensive and stretchy and is still used today.

Tights Today

Today tights are well known and worn under dresses and skirts. With time, the fashion industry developed a way to print designs and images on clothing, which became a creative method to make unique and new designs. With the market booming for tights and its similar counterparts, the fashion industry continues to produce and sell to the masses. 

What Are They Worn For?

If you were to see these three items sitting next to each other on a store shelf, you would probably wonder what the difference is. Apart from fitting your legs differently, they don’t seem to have much of a difference otherwise. It’s important to note that each product is made differently and with the intent to satisfy every customer in their daily activities when wearing them. 

Yoga pants were created for the intention of customers exercising in them. They make for the perfect pair of pants when stretching and sweating, as the material, they are made out of is perfect for it and extremely breathable. Because these pants are so comfortable, customers began wearing them when they weren’t working out. They are the perfect pair of pants for lounging around the house, exercising, running errands, and spending the day at work. 

Leggings are just as comfortable as yoga pants, but with a few additional features. Because they are tight all the way down to the bottom of the pant leg, they make for an ideal pair of pants when exercising. This does mean the airflow is a bit constricted, but it also means they are less likely to get in the way of any movement. Not only that, but leggings often come with high-waisted features to control the tummy while you bend and twist throughout the day. 

Tights are most commonly worn under clothing to preserve modesty. But recently, they have been used as activewear for activities such as running outdoors. Tights are ideal because the material they are made out of will keep you warm, protect you from the fierce elements, increase circulation throughout your legs due to their compression quality, and allow the wind to flow past you as you run. 

Difference in Material

Yoga pants are often made of polyester, spandex, and elastane stretch. These materials are ideal for activities that require a lot of movement and bending but are just as comfortable when worn on a lazy day. Because they are meant for more vigorous activity, they may be more expensive due to the better quality and thicker material they are made out of. The material also makes them perfect for exercise because it draws off any liquid to prevent chafing and is an opaque material.

Leggings are a bit of a different story. They are made mostly of cotton, synthetic material, and fleece. But you might even be able to find them in faux leather or denim. Leggings don’t allow as much airflow when exercising and they don’t stay in place as well as yoga pants. So, they are better off being worn as a fashion accessory than activewear.

Tights are made of materials such as elasticized cotton and polyester blends. They are made to cover the feet and feel very similar to nylon pantyhose. There are many different types of tights, as you can find them in opaque, sheer, and even fishnet style. This product is meant to wear under clothing because it doesn’t cover much of anything unless it’s an absolute opaque material. 

The Difference in Fit Size

Yoga pants have many different styles. From flared to bootcut, you can even find them in skinny and sweatpants style. The wide variety of styles makes this type of pants great for any type of activity. Skinny and bootcut are generally fit to be tighter around the buttocks and either stay tight to the ankle or flare just slightly at the bottom. Yoga pants can even be worn loose all the way around, from waistband to ankle. 

Leggings and tights are similar in fit. Leggings are tight from waistband to the ankle and are meant to stretch and move with you. Similarly, tights are made to feel like a second skin, as they are skin-tight and oftentimes unnoticeable when wearing them. The only difference in fit size between the two is that tights are made to be worn around the feet and can be slightly see-through. 

Sometimes you might be able to find yoga pants and leggings in a style that doesn’t quite reach the ankle. Some styles are made to only go down to the knee and shin. These styles are still considered yoga pants and leggings, but they would be categorized as shorts and capris instead of pants. 

The Evolution of Fashion

As society evolves and trends come and go, it is not surprising to see the fashion industry evolves right along with it. In producing products that are sold and outperforming competitors, the legging and yoga pant industries have begun mixing fabrics. By doing this they are able to make their product perfect for activities previously only ideal for one of them. 

Not only are they mixing fabrics, but they are changing the fit style as well. Where yoga pants used to flare at the bottom and were impossible to see through, it is getting increasingly harder to find a pair that are just that. Now, manufacturers that sell pants priding themselves on the ability to stretch and not see through them, are getting all the return customers. 

Who’s Has the Most Loyal Clientele

Not surprisingly, there are a few top dogs out there dominating the market for yoga pants, leggings, and tights. These brands are the ones that take their products to the next level, always seeking to better their product. 

Best Stores to Buy Yoga Pants From

No matter the fit style you are looking for in a pair of yoga pants, there are only a few stores that offer quality no matter the type you choose. The first store I would like to mention is IUGA. They were the first top-rated store I was able to find bootcut yoga pants at. Not only are they comfortable and perfect for any activity, but apparently, they last years before wear and tear gets the better of them. Their price range usually starts off around $23 and up. 

From the online customer reviews, it seems IUGA is also the first in running for skinny yoga leggings. Their yoga leggings feature high waists and are known for being extremely opaque. Therefore, they aren’t see-through at all. These generally start at around $20 a pair. Their capris are also around $20 a pair. 

Other stores that are well known for their yoga pants are Lululemon, Nordstrom, Athleta, and Nike. These stores run in a close second to IUGA for their quality and reliability. 

Best Stores to Buy Leggings From

Finding leggings nowadays that aren’t see-through and can last more than 12 washes is both extremely frustrating and ridiculously hard. The best brands to buy leggings from are Lululemon and Fabletics hands down. After trying several different pairs in comparison, these companies won by a landslide due to their true opaqueness and their perfect fit.

Other brands that are almost as good are Gap, Athleta, Under Armour, and Nike.

Best Stores to Buy Tights From

Finding a pair of tights that are made to last is about as impossible as finding a pair of bootcut yoga pants. It is extremely hard to do. The best way to tell whether or not a pair of tights is quality is by comparing the denier and whether or not you want a control top or not. 

The best overall pair of tights you can find are from NoNonsense. Their tights are quality because they recover their shape well and they are resistant to snagging. Not only that, but they are one of the cheapest brands you can find tights for. 

More brands you can find quality tights at are DKNY, Nordstrom, and SPANX. The most expensive of these brands is SPANX, generally starting at around $28 a pair, but they are not only snag-resistant, but they also have slimming capabilities. Nordstrom is known for its comfortability and DKNY is also praised for being durable and super opaque. 

Here’s How to Take Care of Them

The worst thing that could happen is spending all of your hard earn cash on these supreme clothes, just to need to replace them after a few goes in the washer and dryer. To prevent this, there are a few tips and tricks to avoid any damage and early wear. 

How to Take Care of Yoga Pants

The first tip you should know is to separate your laundry. I don’t mean separate your lights and darker, though you should do that anyway. What I’m talking about is separating you’re your yoga pants from anything that has a zipper or heavy-duty laundries like towels and denim. The roughness of your towels and jean jackets can be too hard on your yoga pants, causing them to wear out more quickly than usual. 

Allowing your yoga pants to air dry after washing them can help avoid any shrinkage and deterioration. Dryers are yoga pants’ worst enemy as they are harmful to the material and make them uncomfortable for you to wear. It is best to lay them on a flat surface and allow them to dry thoroughly before wearing them. 

If you wash your yoga pants inside-out, it is the simplest way to get out all of the sweat and body oil from your most recent workout. If they are inside-out you are allowing your laundry detergent to make direct contact with all of that dirt and grime, giving it the best chance of getting them clean. Not only is it a great way to clean your yoga pants, but it also helps preserve the color and style to keep that new look. 

Washing them inside-out is only the first step to keeping them bright and new looking. Using cold water is also a great way to preserve the color and prevent them from shrinking. It’s also a good way to reduce your carbon footprint as well.

Last but not least, making sure you are using the correct type of laundry detergent will go a long way in preserving the life of your yoga pants. There are laundry detergents made for cold water washing. Not only that, but yoga pants are worn close to the skin, so in order to avoid any irritation from the detergent, you’ll want to look into a detergent made for sensitive skin. 

How to Take Care of Leggings

To start, it is important to note that dry cleaning your leggings and using fabric softeners is the first step down a long road of replacing your leggings. Not only are those bad for them but using dryer sheets and bleach can cause wear and tear on them as well. When washing your leggings too often can be the first change you make to your wash regimen. If you wore them around the house for the day and didn’t sweat because of a workout, washing them may be unnecessary. 

On the other hand, if you worked out in them and they are damp with sweat, the best thing you could do is wash them the same day. If you leave your sweaty leggings in a gym bag or hamper, you run the risk of allowing mold and mildew to grow. 

Your wash routine for leggings is similar to yoga pants. You will want to consider the detergent you will be using, wash in cold water, wash them inside out, and keep them separate from rougher materials such as towels and denim. One difference though is the damage Velcro can do to leggings. If washed in the same load, Velcro has a tendency to attach itself to your leggings, causing tears and wear on the material. 

Depending on the material of your leggings, you can dry them on tumble dry instead of air drying them. In some cases, you may need to hang them to air dry or lay them flat to retain the shape of the clothing. The rule of thumb is to check the tag to see if the manufacturer recommends any specific wash and dry routine.

How to Take Care of Tights

Because of the delicate materials, tights are made out of, they are easier to damage than both leggings and yoga pants. Tights have the capability to last years, but only if they are taken care of accordingly. The first thing to consider is the color of the design or print on the tights. Golds and silvers are especially susceptible to wear and tear than other colors. Much like leggings and yoga pants, in order to retain the color and design of your tights, it is best to turn them inside-out.

Cold water is the best temperature to use when washing your delicate laundry. It not only prevents shrinking and stretching of the material of the clothing, but it also retains the color. When washing your tights, you will want to stay away from the washer and dryer completely. That means hand washing and rinsing in cold water, gently but thoroughly, and hang drying the clothing item. Drying it in the dryer makes your tights more susceptible to snags. 

Much like leggings, tights are more likely to be damaged if they come in contact with Velcro. This is a sure way to snag your tights and cause runs up and down them. Any and all Velcro materials should be kept away from tights. 

The last important tip to know when extending the life of your tights is that if your tights have any sort of print or design on the foot it is best to keep that design on the top of the foot when wearing them. Walking on the print or design that has been put on your tights will cause it to quickly wear away. 


Whether you are looking for a pair of pants to work out in, lounge around in, or accent any outfit you wear, you can find the right fit in either yoga pants, leggings, or tights. These bottoms act as a perfect pair for any outfit or top. All they need is the perfect person to wear them. 

If you’re looking for a long-lasting, buttery-soft, great pair of leggings we suggest Lululemon and Fabletics.

These brands can last you years and take any outfit to the next level. They are comfortable, durable, non-see-through, and they stay in place throughout the day. The most important thing to know is that they are snag resistant, which will help them last you even longer. When you find the perfect pair of yoga pants, leggings, or tights for you, you will fall in love and wear nothing else. Seriously, it’s a problem!


Yoga have been a part of Dakota's life for 10+ years. Her practice has helped her grow stronger, more flexible and fearless. Dakota encourages her students to be creative and challenge the body. She seeks to inspire every student to feel refreshed, nourished and balanced both on and off the mat.

Recent Posts