Image: Budget options such as the fun prints from Forever 21, or something a bit more high quality like the middle pair from Zella.
I love leggings. Oh MAN do I love leggings. Since I’m not much of a pants gal, I wear leggings almost every day, and not only do they help me keep my legs warm, but they also help prevent the dreaded “chub rub” on days where I do a lot of walking. They’re a female traveler necessity, as they’re light, compact, and dry pretty quickly.
There are two routes to go, price-wise. There are either super-cheap leggings, or pretty expensive technical leggings, unfortunately without much middle ground. I’ll give some examples of each, so you can find what works best for you!
One (of many) things I love about leggings is that they are among the very few plus-size clothing items with a plethora of available cost-effective options. However, many of these more affordable options are made of cotton, and while cotton leggings certainly serve their purpose, they can sometimes rub uncomfortably on a long day of walking, and don’t dry as quickly after hand-washing on the road. They also wear through a little more quickly, so while they are cheap initially, you may end up spending more money replacing them along the way. I do, however, like bringing a really old pair as back-up for when I’m doing laundry or for sleeping in. If they get too ratty I just toss them out and make more room in my bag along the way!
Target: Target is always my go-to for cost-effective basics. In-store, their leggings will go up to a size XXL, and online (and sometimes in their plus-size sections in-store) you can find up to a size 4X for between $6 and $20. They have other great plus-size clothes as well.
Walmart: Walmart is extremely cheap, but the clothes are often of very low quality. The leggings I’ve purchased here, while comfy, were a little more on the “disposable” side. Most pairs wouldn’t last for more than a few months of heavy use.
Forever 21: F21 has pretty cute leggings, but the quality is very low relative to the price. I’m reluctant to shop there because of this price/quality ratio, but who am I to deny my fellow plus-sized babes a source for cute patterned leggings? Note that sizes at F21 generally run small.
The Good Stuff:
These are the leggings that are more on the expensive side. I tend to err toward buying higher-quality gear when money allows, as I’m less likely to need to worry about replacing it on the road, saving money and hassle in the long run.
JunoActive: I’m a huge fan of JunoActive. They really emphasize that people can be active at any size, which is especially true for travelers. I’ve used their QuikWik leggings for my last few trips, and they’ve been fantastic. They wick moisture so you stay nice and comfortable through a lot of walking. They’re good for a few wears between washes, and dry relatively quickly after hand-washing. They have a comfortable waistband for long wear, and seams placed to prevent rubbing. These leggings are $60 a pop, but are totally worth the investment. I travel with three pairs of these as my only leggings.
Zella: Though I’ve never personally tried Zella, I have friends that love them, and the reviews are outstanding. It doesn’t hurt that they come from Nordstrom, one of my favorite US department stores. They have incredible customer service and a pretty flexible return policy, so if you don’t like them, you can definitely return them. I know people who swear by the ‘Live-In’ Reversible Leggings, which will definitely be my next legging purchase. They’re moisture-wicking and reversible, so they should hold out for a while between washes. Zella has several other legging options as well. These leggings are pricey, but Nordstrom has a lot of sales, so keep an eye out!
Moving Comfort: This is another brand I haven’t tried yet, but I’ve heard their praises sung by enough people that I feel very comfortable recommending them. Their Moving Comfort’s “Urban Gym Tights” come in regular and plus sizes, and even have added UPF protection, which would be great for visits to places with strong sunlight. They also have a small hidden pocket, which would be great for a secret cash stash.
>> Check out the Urban Gym Tights on Amazon.
Read more of Katy’s plus size travel articles here, here, and here.
Definitely agree about leggings. They’re great wherever you go: you can sleep in them, go to the ballet, go hiking, whatever. I’ve got 3 pairs (1 thermal) and a pair of trousers, and that’s enough for my current world tour. My latest pair are from Walmart, of necessity, and they’re washing well but I don’t quite love the fit. Still, they were only USD7, so can’t complain.
I do find that, as a fat chick it’s that much harder to find new clothes when you’re on the road so you’ve got to be prepared. Loads of people rave about buying clothes abroad, but I get pretty tired of walking into a shop and being told they have nothing in my size. I’m in Vietnam (not in the bit where every second person is a tailor, sadly) and have been hunting all over town for a dress (needed something a bit more modest, oops). Shorts or trousers are never going to happen here, where I’m quite literally a foot taller and twice the weight of many locals!
Great to see plus-size packing advice. Keep up the good work 🙂
Katy McCourt-Basham says
You’re absolutely right, TWF (‘traveling while fat’) does involve a little extra planning, as clothes are sooooo much harder to replace on the road. This is why I always advocate buying higher-quality stuff. It may be a little pricier, but definitely worth the investment, as higher-quality clothes generally don’t need to be replaced as much 🙂
Have you ever tried Under Armour leggings? I really like the heatgear tights (You can find them here http://www.underarmour.com/shop/us/en/womens-ua-authentic-tights/pid1238185-001).They are so breathable and stretchy and comfy. I wear them all the time. They are a little more expensive but they wear well. They are the best leggings I’ve ever worn hands down.
Katy McCourt-Basham says
Thanks Rachelle! While I know Under Armour makes really awesome, high quality gear, they don’t seem to offer anything in plus sizes. Because it’s so difficult for plus-size women to find quality travel gear in our sizes, I’m focusing on where we can find quality gear over a size XL. 🙂
I’d like to recommend Land’s End’s Starfish leggings (and all of the Starfish pants, actually, if you aren’t a leggings kind of girl.). They’re super sturdy, comfy, and not at all sheer. They’re comfy enough to wear as pajamas, but look less casual than most stretch pants. They’re not made of a performance fabric, but rather a stretchy cotton blend, so they probably don’t dry as quickly as the performance fabric pairs. But, wonderfully, they come in plus AND petite plus sizes (also regular, petite and tall straight sizes, which run up to size 18). I’ve had mine for more than a year and wear them several times a week, and they’re basically like new (none of that pesky crotch-pilling). They’re not the cheapest, but they show up in the sale section fairly often, and Land’s End usually has 25% off sales around holidays.