What to Wear: Tights 101

What to Wear: Tights 101

Jessica wrote in with a request about one of my favorite things: tights!

I don’t know why tights, but let’s be honest- clothes in general, perplex me. Most of the time I wear pants- either jeans, chinos, or corduroys. And a lot of the time it’s white or black chucks with those for shoes. I don’t like my legs, pale and plenty of spider veins from on-my-feet jobs. I was really excited when fun tights became popular, until I realized I had no idea how to incorporate them into my wardrobe. The best outfit I’ve managed so far is a cream sweater, denim pencil skirt, red tights, and dark brown riding-style boots.

I would love to wear more skirts and dresses with tights, but I get so confused as to how to pair things up. Sweater and textured tights are especially confusing. And what shoes do you wear with it all? So yeah, that’s the sad state of my tightphobia. I’m going to go home and look at my closet more carefully tonight.

I’m not fond of my legs au natural either and it’s always freezing in San Francisco, so I love wearing tights with everything. I hardly buy a skirt or dress without a plan for wearing it with tights. Here’s a quick tutorial for four looks

  1. The basic – Tweed, corduroy or denim mini with black opaque tights. For this look, flats, boots or pumps all work depending on how fancy you want to be. The easiest is black, brown or gray shoes, but red and others can work perfectly depending on the tops you’ve picked.
  2. The other basic – Dresses and tights love to work together. With a black dress, I usually go for gray tights. With a lighter or brighter color, black or nude fishnets are my choice. With a lower hemline, pick black heels to make your legs longer.
  3. The intermediate – Tailored shorts are surprisingly easy to wear for fall. Toss on a tee, scarf and cardigan and you’re set to go. Both flats, heels and boots work. Modeled here expertly by Academichic.
  4. The advanced – Wear bright colored and textured tights as if they were another item of clothing. Make sure the rest of your outfit is balanced with the tights – not too busy or too simple. Jessica’s pair of red with brown boots and a denim skirt is a great choice. Avoid yellow or orange – which make me feel like Big Bird. When in doubt – browse outfits featuring various kinds of tights on flickr or Anthropologie for inspiration!

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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. mamacita at 8:31 pm

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE textured tights. It's time we restored their reputation! Hue makes some good ones, as does Spanx.

  2. Anonymous at 11:51 pm

    I'm 44. A young 44 but still… Am I too old for tights? I'm terrified of looking like one who is trying too hard to look young! I think tights are so cute and warm.
    I'd be interested in your opinion.

  3. mrsem Author at 1:40 am

    Too old for tights? Never! Tights are traditionally the domain of those with a bit more life experience, the younger generations just jumping on board now. Go for it!

  4. MelD at 1:40 pm

    So I'm nearly 46 and I ADORE tights!!! They enable me to wear stuff I couldn't possibly wear otherwise and give me an opportunity to still be young and funloving despite being a grandma. I would never wear short skirts without opaque tights but wear any colour now temperatures are cooler – even yellow if I can pick it out in my top. I am pretty short and curvy without being huge, so I tame the colour on my legs a little by wearing boots, so there is really just a flash of colour arund my knees and it really works! Less brights I will also wear Mary-Janes, with or without a heel, or T-bars, maybe black, maybe coloured… go for it ;))

  5. MelD at 1:41 pm

    I forgot to say I do avoid any too bright patterns, geometrics or flowers that could be too distorted by the shapeliness of my legs!!! 😉

  6. Anonymous at 2:29 am

    Thanks, ladies. I'm going shopping! New tights and new boots – coming up!

  7. Jeanne at 6:44 pm

    I love wearing tights but does anyone else have a problem with your skirts and dresses "riding up" from the bottom? Even though I usually wear a slip I still have this issue and it drives me crazy! Any advice?

  8. mrsem Author at 8:57 pm

    Slips help. So does getting tights that aren't too "wooly." It's all about the skirt…kind of a toss up.

  9. Anonymous at 2:46 pm

    I love colourful tights and usually wear them combined with either a monochrome look of black or dark grey, or a black/dark grey skirt and a top that matches the tights (could be complimenting colours, the same colour in different strength or a pattern where the colour of the tights is present).