If you’re of a certain age, leg warmers bring to mind brightly colored workout wear from the early 1980s. (Cringe!) Yet they do more than what the name implies—keep legs warm. In her article from PieceWork’s January/February 2016 issue, “Leg Warmers: Protection in Winter and Summer,” Carol Huebscher Rhoades expands our appreciation for this practical apparel item.
One wonders if the slouchy 1980s-fashion trend might have been inspired by historical leg warmers. Carol points out that, “Traditional full-length leg warmers from the Austrian region of Tirol often featured horizontal pleats cascading down the leg. Today’s crumpled-look loose tube is an easy way of reproducing older fashions that had welts, tucks, and ridges knitted or crocheted in.” Pleats and welts trap body heat and turn a design feature into a functional attribute.
It’s not unexpected to learn that people living in colder regions, such as Finland and Estonia, wore leg warmers during the winter. Yet did you know that leg warmers were worn in summer too and made of linen and cotton, rather than wool? Carol explains, “The summer leg coverings were worn for protection against brush, hay, and stubble while the women worked in the fields. I can also imagine that protection against stinging insects was of concern.”
Modern legs can easily benefit from both of these aspects: warmth and protection. Under skirts or over leggings, leg warmers not only add a dash of style to your wardrobe but also keep you warm and protected out in the urban jungle. Snag free tights are a huge plus! Carol’s “Winter Light Leg Warmers” update old-world fashion and practicality in a pair of leg warmers that are right on trend.
Elizabeth Prose is a former associate editor of PieceWork.
Originally published September 19, 2017.