They’re one of the most polarising items in your wardrobe - so are tights a winter necessity or a disaster waiting to happen? Stylist’s Billie Bhatia weighs in
For most children, the fear surrounding school gym is based on being picked last for a team. For me, the fear came after the actual activity - it centred around the rapid speed at which I had to strip out of my gym gear and pull on my tights to stop me from missing the school bus (and being left stranded 15 miles from home).
The snagging, the laddering and the rogue holes my toes were constantly poking out of meant that Tuesday and Thursday afternoons were spent in pure panic. Cursing the school uniform gods as I hastily yanked my tights up over my thighs, I prayed that the age-old adage of ‘What goes up, must come down’ was just a myth. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than a gusset edging downwards until it’s hovering around your knees.
I always think my tights fears have been safely resigned to my school days, until I dig them out from the back of my wardrobe. This year, I decided to venture back into tights territory in the autumn, as the temperature in October was simply too mild to resist the pull of an above-the-knee swing dress. But 10 minutes into my friend’s surprise birthday party, that all-too-familiar sensation of tights shimmying slowly down my legs meant I was feeling firmly panicked. In a hastened attempt to hoist them back up, they immediately laddered. I was beyond redemption. At this point I left the party, went home, changed into a longer dress and came back a new woman: one who was ecstatically tightless.
It’s official: tights and I are not friends. But can we survive the British winter without them?
The Stylist office is polarised between those who count the days until they can encase their legs in the finest offering from M&S’s hosiery department and those who avoid them at all costs, even if it means chattering teeth.
The fashion industry has a complicated relationship with tights, too. It acknowledges their existence, but only on occasion does it shower them with adoration. Over the past few seasons, tights have been in fashion’s favour. For a/w 2016, Prada’s harlequin knitted tights basically rendered trousers redundant. Celine’s s/s 2017 transparent tights in white, red and black made us reconsider our 50-denier stockpile. Then a/w 2018 was all about pattern and colour: gingham and psychadelic swirls at Molly Goddard, polka dots at Erdem and rainbow block colours at Jeremy Scott. So, do we or don’t we?
There is a big case for ‘we don’t’ this season, thanks in huge part to the popularity of longer lengths. Call it a post-Trump rebuttal or just a move away from tights, but a/w 2018’s aesthetic saw a drastic extension of hemlines: the popular midi length was exaggerated even further to just inches above the ankle in both dresses and skirts.
Balenciaga, Chanel, Chloé, Fendi and almost every major fashion house showcased multiple looks at that length. Which means one thing: no tights necessary. Instead, they were paired with boots of various lengths, from the super-short ankle boot with chunky socks for warmth to the thigh-high (masquerading as leather tights, if you will).
Then there has been the continued (non-Trump related) shift towards a more casual style of dressing, which might see you pair a floor-scraping dress with trainers. Either way, the outfit du jour is not being paired with tights.
But for those exclaiming, “We do! We do!” (and there are a lot of you who can’t comprehend surviving the winter months with unguarded legs) there is a way to make them feel more 2018, but it comes with a strict set of rules:
1. Ditch all your tights that are between 10 and 100 denier. They should be super-sheer, as favoured by fashion icon Carine Roitfield, or they should be completely opaque.
2. For maximum styling points, wear them with a shorter hemline - think a leather skirt, high-neck swing dress or sequin mini, all above the knee.
3. The colour need not matter - although nude tights should never be a thing. Black is the most compatible, but don’t shy away from navy, grey or even logo-adorned tights. Just consider the sheerness, to ensure your tights are a statement, not an excuse.
Whether you do (if so, shop our edit of the best below) or you don’t is up to you, but be warned: winter is coming…
When it comes to black tights the higher the denier the better. Add a logo to let it be known that your legs are wrapped in luxury.
Coming in at a whopping 120 denier, these ASOS tights will have you covered (literally) when it comes to party season.
If it’s a designer offering you seek, look no further than Balenciaga’s branded tights. Dense looking tights - tick. Logo trend - tick. What more could you want?
Rich, muted colours are an easy nod to this trend. Deep blue tights give black workwear an edge and burgundy looks chic with navy.
A perfect rich ruby colour makes for a festive tights offering this season.
Be bold in blue and shake up your usual dark colours when it comes to your workwear wardrobe.
Sheer black tights add French-girl glamour to any evening look. For daytime, wear them with chunky boots and an oversized knit.
Add an element of punk to your hosiery via Alexander Wang’s tights. All you need to add is a mini dress and stomper boots.
Alexander Wang, £115
Carine Roitfeld approved sheer tights, go forth and be more French.
Images: Getty / courtesy of PRs