Fashion has had a string of odd trends this year, from unnecessary belts to glass handbags and cargo jeans. But if there’s a trend that takes the “Most Unexpected” trophy this summer, it’s denim leg warmers.
If your brain just entered a state of confusion while reading that term, you’re not alone. (In fact, several Refinery29 staffers asked me to repeat myself when I pitched this story.) Half ordinary jeans, half leg warmers that your mom wore in the ‘80s to work out to Jane Fonda videos, these contraptions — mostly made from upcycled denim — have circulated on TikTok since January, but have picked up more popularity over the last few weeks.
While this trend may seem confounding — for one, what is the appropriate setting to wear this item? — it’s actually right on track with this season’s top styles, which are heavily inspired by ‘80 silhouettes and ‘00s nostalgia. Take, for example, the proliferation of denim looks seen everywhere from the Blumarine spring 2022 show, which included denim butterfly tops and denim maxi dresses, to the Jean Paul Gaultier fall 2022 couture lineup by Olivier Rousteing, which featured a denim dress and matching cape. It’s also in line with the emergence of balletcore, which is prompting people to style leg warmers for purposes other than dance class.
On the designer end, earlier this year, Los Angeles-based designer Sami Miro released denim leg warmers, which were available in black and blue and featured pockets. The pieces quickly sold out. “I think what makes them unique is that it preserves the natural shape of the jean, and they give a floating-like look,” she says.
Since then, creators, unable to get Miro’s style, have begun to DIY their own pairs. Bibi-Jane Del Rosario cut a pair of jeans into shorts, leaving the remaining fabric intact for the leg warmers. To keep them from sliding down, she sewed elastic bands on the upper hem. Since then, she’s styled them with basic denim shorts and white tank tops but is intrigued to see how they’d look with dresses.
Meanwhile, Paloma Maria opted for a no-sew process to upcycling jeans. The creator first measured the height of her knee-length boots to use as a guide for cutting the denim. She then stepped through each leg with the boots on and tucked the upper hem into them. “I wore these out and got a bunch of compliments,” she says in the video.
Forget buying a new pair of cargo jeans, grab some scissors, and turn your old denim into this fall’s must-have item.
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