In this time of high-low dressing, one would think that leggings would be a low-end item, bought to complement expensive coats, tops, jackets, and dresses. It's a bit of a shock, then, to see that this season's staple ranges in price from about $14 to upwards of $1000 (and let's not even mention the $100,000+ leggings on the Balenciaga Spring 2007 runway--they are in a league of their own!).
My first reaction upon coming across reported prices of $652.50 for the leggings in the Fall 2006 Versace campaign to $1098 for cashmere leggings from Ralph Lauren was to ask, somewhat skeptically: how much can a design house really improve on a simple pair of $38 Wolford leggings? How much of the price difference between any of the higher end leggings and a $26 pair from American Apparel can actually be explained by an increase in value, and how much is pure mark up?
To my mind, leggings are not like the perfect tee, which is well worth an extra $100. For the most part, they aren't covetable novelty items (like the grey Prada stockings of Spring 2006 which Style Bubble "got her mits on" for a little over $100) either.
I suppose if you have the budget to pay over $2,000 for a dress from Derek Lam you might be willing to spring for the $490 Merino wool leggings; after all, they are Merino wool.
As an economist-in-training, I think that even if I did splurge on a thousand dollar coat to be worn with leggings, I would not pay five hundred dollars for leggings, ever--I'd much rather invest the money in a pair of ankle boots to go with the ensemble. We all shop with a budget constraint, after all!
How much is a pair of leggings worth to you?