Tights are one of the most versatile clothing items around, but styling them can be a challenge.
“Tights add a splash of style without breaking the bank, proving they deliver on both form and function in a pinch. Chances are you’re not maximizing their full potential,” said Elizabeth Kosich, a certified image consultant and founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling.
They also help extend the life of spring and summer favorites “well past their shelf life,” Kosich added. Stylist Christina Kroll agreed, saying she takes her inspiration from Scandinavians: “Their motto is, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.’ They are experts at layering tights with style for the winter.”
Here’s how to wear tights to create the look you are going for, from elegant to edgy, while staying warm and comfortable.
Some Guidelines To Get Started
“The first rule of wearing tights is that there are no rules,” Kosich said. Because tights have such a wide range in color, textures and patterns, it’s OK to push the limits,” she said. But there is some helpful guidance you can follow.
One tip is to choose tights that balance out the color palette of your outfit. “Pair tights in a bright accent color if a dress is neutral, or a more subdued hue that grounds and balances if the dress is vibrant,” Kosich said.
Tights can be used to create the feel you’re going for. “Subtle patterns like textured polka dots or delicate lace can elevate a simple dress, while fishnets offer an edgier vibe,” said stylist Stephanie Venita Stimmler.
Experiment With Shorter Hemlines
Guests at Paris Fashion Week in September show how to pair tights with a mini skit.
“Tights let you take liberties with shorter hemlines” because they offer more coverage than bare legs, Kosich explained. They make it possible to “wear a micro mini or short shorts” even if you normally shy away from these styles or worry about staying warm when temperatures drop, she said.
“Keep [mini skirts] premium and sophisticated in wool, suede or leather materials, and tights should be either in a statement color or tone-on-tone hue that adds texture to the outfit’s composition,” she advised.
Stylist Cassidy Montalvo said she loves the trend of tights with “baby doll style mini dresses and ballet flats ― more of an ode to the ’60s, but very feminine and chic.”
Make Tights A Focal Point
Tights were traditionally an afterthought, but they can be the main attraction. “Use tights to create an outfit’s focal point that adds a pop of color, texture or both,” Kosich said.
Model Jourdan Dunn wears purple patterned tights at London Fashion Week in September.
She suggested wearing printed tights ― “think florals, python, leopard” ― to “add dimension to airy dresses.” As an alternative, “keep it minimalist with a solid opaque tight in a vibrant jewel tone paired with a monochromatic skirt,” she said.
Kroll recommended wearing skirts that “give room to show off” tights because they “can ‘make’ an outfit, akin to accessorizing with purses and jewelry.”
Look For Luxe Tights
Kroll said Americans tend to shy away from wool tights because they think they will be too itchy. She recommended looking for merino wool tights, which are a staple in Scandinavia throughout the winter. Kroll likes wool tights “that feel like a second skin and can be worn under anything.”
Merino wool is made with thinner fibers and can actually pull moisture away from your body and keep you from sweating and overheating.
Find The Right Neutral
Tights don’t have to be a fashion statement — sometimes you just want to stay warm and pull an outfit together. “If you are looking for a nude color tight, I would always go for an opaque style to make sure the color blends naturally and doesn’t stand out too much if the color is off from your skin tone,” advised stylist Kendra Sharpe. Additionally, “fleece tights with flesh color lining” are great for very cold days, said certified image consultant Amrita Harbajan.
Wearing neutrals that match your shoe can elongate the look of your legs, as seen here. Left to right: A guest at Paris Fashion Week 2023; Heart Evangelista at Paris Fashion Week 2023; Chiara Ferragni at Paris Fashion Week 2022.
It’s also possible to stay neutral without going for nude. “Neutral shades like black, navy and gray are versatile and can complement a wide range of colors,” Stimmler said. Montalvo added that neutral tights are a “more professional look” and look tailored. She added that matching the color of your tights to your shoes will make your legs look longer.
Almost Any Shoe Goes With Tights, So Get Creative
Almost any kind of shoe can be worn with tights. Kroll is partial to high heels: “Either combine a colorful heel with a muted tight or vice versa — a muted heel color with a colorful tight,” she advised. Another good option is low-cut boots that give “space to show off flattering tights” and “look super chic” with skirts and sweaters, she said.
Kosich suggested going for “juxtapositions that create balance” and are unusual. “The more unexpected the pairing, the more chic,” she said. For example, “Go for like sneakers with micro fishnets, combat boots with semi-sheer florals,” Kosich recommended. If those bold looks aren’t for you, she suggested going “for more classic yet chic pairings like Mary Jane flats with oversized fishnets, velvet smoking slippers with back-seamed tights, and classic pumps with tone-on-tone pin dot hosiery.”
Sharpe said that while there are exceptions, normally “a closed-toe shoe of any kind is the right way to go.”