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Get a leg up on this '80s fashion comeback!

They're baaack! Every fashion piece has its cycle, and now it's time for leggings to make their biggest comeback since Madonna wore them in the 1985 movie "Desperately Seeking Susan" (complete with rubber bangles). Charla Krupp, executive editor of Shop Etc. magazine, was invited to share a look at the latest trend for legs on "Today." Here's more on the items she discussed on the show:

Our rule at Shop Etc. is “If you wore the trend once, don’t wear it a second time.” But in the case of leggings, we’re amending that to: “If you wore the trend once, don’t wear it the same way the second time.”

Last time out, young women wore leggings to be provocative and sexy, and because of the way they were worn — with high heels, leather jackets, big hair, bigger earrings and dark lips — the look came off as, well, trashy.

This time, not just young women are wearing leggings with tunics, dresses and skirts as protection from the outside world — call it fashion defense! If your skirt is too short, wear leggings. If your “wobbly bits” need control, wear leggings. If you’re cold in your over-air-conditioned office, wear leggings. And if you haven’t bothered to shave, wear leggings. Ironically, Madonna is even wearing them again, this time with designer outfits. Lindsay Lohan, a big fan of Wolford’s, recently sported leggings on "Today." You can try stripes, which make them leg lengthening. (Wolford Unforgettable Legging, $45 (sizes XS-L); Wolford Boutiques, 800-965-3673, or wolford.com) Or go for Wolford Velvet de Luxe Leggings, $38 (sizes XS-L). Tip: You can ruche these to make them shorter or pull them down to wear full length.

Since so many of us have been going without stockings, the recent sales of leggings have been the biggest boon the hosiery market has enjoyed in years. And, while stocking manufacturers are jubilant about sales, they are bracing themselves for fall, as Shop Etc. and other magazines have named leggings the number-one essential. This trend has legs!

Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom’s say they are all ordering more legging inventory to keep up with demand, and requesting for earlier deliveries than originally planned to feed the summer hunger. Bloomingdale’s jumped on the trend after the Marc by Marc Jacobs spring show last October. Hue has seen their sales in footless tights increase 1,477 percent from fall ’05 to spring ’06. (The amazing thing about that figure is that spring is not a strong legwear season). For fall ’06, the company is projecting sales of their basic footless tight to be a whopping 25 times what they are now. For Danskin, legging sales have tripled from summer ’05 to now. Spanx usually doesn’t sell their footless tights during the summer months, but because of the current demand they will now make them available for every season.

Why leggings right now? Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs showed them on their spring ’06 runways, but every other designer showed them for fall. Why are they making such an early debut? Shop Etc. fashion editor Kate Dimmock reports that after some of the fall shows in Paris this past February, editors were so eager to get the look (maybe because it’s still a little chilly outside) that they went back to their hotel rooms and cut off their opaque stockings! A trend was reborn!

Shopping tips for leggings…

What’s the difference between footless tights and leggings?
There’s a difference between leggings and footless tights in the fabric and the sheerness. Leggings are slightly bulkier — 89 percent supplex (a cottony soft, performance fabric), 11 percent Lycra spandex. Tights make legs more visible — 88 percent nylon, 12 percent Lycra spandex. When wearing super short skirts or tunics, go with leggings not tights. For a dressier look, choose footless tights. These are not pants, so always keep your bum covered with another piece of clothing!

Should you wear black or colors?
Black is chicest, followed by earth tones. Don’t go crazy on color here unless you’re a teenager. Keep it simple and monochromatic.

Can anyone wear these?
To be honest: Leggings aren’t for every woman. If you have chunky ankles, big thighs or large calves, they are not going to be your most flattering look. When you wear them, pick a length that stops at the thinnest part of your calf/ankle for the best visual effect.

Let’s look at the most fun and flattering ways to wear them — four different types of leggings, four different looks on four different women.

1. Shapewear leggings with a miniskirt
Women swear by Spanx — the ultimate footless pantyhose that hold you in and make you feel pounds thinner. While Jennifer definitely doesn’t need much holding in, Spanx make it more comfortable for women to wear miniskirts again. It provides an overall smooth look around the hips and stomach. Pair the mini with traditional ballet flats for the classic Audrey Hepburn touch. Top with a black & white stripe shirt to fit the summer’s nautical theme. Very fresh!-SPANX footless tights in black, $24 (sizes A-E); Nordstrom, 800-695-8000, or spanx.com.-H&M miniskirt in black, $14.90, H&M striped 3/4-length top, $14.90; Bakers Gabrielle ballet flats in black, $39.95 (sizes 5-11); Bakers, 877-746-3932, or bakersshoes.com

2. Full-length leggings with a full skirt
Even a woman with curves can wear leggings with a fuller skirt for more coverage. These long, to-the-ankle leggings cut off at the skinniest part of the leg to give the slimmest look. Pair with a platform slingback to dress up the leggings and lengthen the leg. Top with a splash of color and layer the tanks. Fashion is having a layering moment. Layer T-shirts, too.-Club Monaco leggings, $20 (sizes S/M, M/L); Club Monaco, clubmonaco.com for locations.-Club Monaco Tahoma skirt, $129 (sizes 0-12) and Theodore tanks, $19; (sizes XS-L); Club Monaco, clubmonaco.com for locations. -Jessica Simpson Amy slingback, $79.95 (sizes 5 ½- 11); Bakers, 877-746-3932, or bakersshoes.com

3. Capri legging with a pencil skirt
If you want to wear leggings in the office, wearing them under a pencil skirt gives you a fashion edge, yet your outfit is totally appropriate. To keep with the office look, the embroidered cardigan on top keeps your arms covered, and peep-toe heels look professional. Look young and hip without looking like a teenager!-Danskin Classic black capri legging in black, $30 (sizes S-XL); Danskin, 800-873-2675, or danskin.com-Ann Taylor LOFT embroidered cardigan, $69 (XS-XL) and eyelet skirt, $69 (sizes 0-16); Ann Taylor Loft, 800-342-5266, or anntaylorloft.com-Nine West Cay peep-toe heels, $75 (sizes 5-11); Nine West stores, ninewest.com

4. Lace-trim leggings with a summer dress
This is the ultimate summer outfit, perfect for a casual dinner or a weekend BBQ when paired with black flip-flops! Playful lace-trim leggings are best with flirty, feminine dresses. You can update last summer’s dress with leggings for a modern look, and take summer dresses into fall, by adding a cardigan.-Hue capri with lace trim in black, $12 (sizes 1-2); Bloomingdale’s, 800-555-7467.-H&M floral dress, $34.90; H&M miniskirt in black, $14.90, and striped top, $14.90; H&M stores.-Havaianas Top flip-flops, $14 (sizes 5-11); havianasus.com

Charla Krupp is executive editor of Shop Etc. magazine. For more summer fashion, go to shopetc.com

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