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Ask Belle: Wearing Patterned Tights

Hi Belle,

Would love to get your advice.  One of my favorite suits is a navy skirt suit with very subtle velvet trim at the waist that goes beautifully with my navy velvet Delmans.  Problem is that I detest skin colored nylons, tights seem too much and it is too cold to go bare-legged.  Any thoughts on leg wear?

-MAA

My initial thoughts on monochromatic leg wear are threefold:

Get Over It.  I wear black pumps with a black skirt and black tights constantly in the cold winter months.  And since navy is a neutral, I see no reason why the same rules don’t apply provided that the tights are opaque and of a similar or identical color value to the rest of the ensemble. (Why can’t retailers agree on one shade of blue and call it navy? Why must everyone have a different tone?)

If you choose to rock the all navy look, DO NOT, under any circumstances, wear navy on top.  This would turn you into a solid column of navy from head-to-toe, and that just isn’t chic. 

Buy Patterned Tights. First off, I’m not talking about printed or floral tights.  When I think of patterned tights that are suitable for work, I think about chevrons and other geometric prints.  For example, I love the Trina Turk tights at left (Bloomingdale’s, $20).  They have a structured Greek Key pattern that provides some texture and interest, but isn’t as obnoxious as wearing a star print on your legs.  (See earlier photo.)  Cable knit tights are also appropriate. 

When buying patterned tights, I like to make sure that they aren’t too sheer.  The last thing I need is to look like my legs are covered in tattoos.  And as the hideous nightmares on this site prove, printed tights can be taken too far. 

Rock the Bare Legs. No, it is not too cold to go bare-legged.  If you’re afraid to walk to work in bare legs, I will sometimes wear jeans and then change into my skirt at the office.  No one needs to know. And if you keep a heating pad at your desk (I do!), then you will never be cold at your desk.

There is absolutely wrong with wearing all navy on your lower half or with going bare legged.  If you want to try something unexpected, you can opt for a pattern tight but you don’t have to do so. 

Lastly, since you brought it up, flesh colored nylons are a serious no-no unless you need them to cover up imperfections (spider veins, etc.).  Wearing hose every day is horribly antiquated and the only person I know who still won’t leave the house without lycra on her thighs is my 76-year-old Nana.  Just keep the skin on your legs moisturized and smooth, and there is no need to wear hose.

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  1. MAA says:

    Thanks Belle. The top and bottom of the suit are navy hence the concern with wearing navy tights, especially since there are so many shades of navy out there. I will look for navy tights with a slight pattern. Perhaps that will break up the look a bit. I work in a very conservative place and REFUSE to wear nylons. They are antiquated. Opaque tights that match your shoe or skirt color are just as professional and much more practical.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. V says:

    I have trouble picturing a monochromatic shoes-tights-skirt combination other than black (you can at least mix textures and have fun with shoe shapes) that doesn’t make you look like a child, like some kind of mascot or like you’re wearing a costume.

    And seriously, when it gets truly cold, it’s a little ridiculous to be walking around in wool skirts, winter coats, gloves, sweaters, hats etc. plus bare legs.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. MAA says:

    Thanks Belle. The top and bottom of the suit are navy hence the concern with wearing navy tights, especially since there are so many shades of navy out there. I will look for navy tights with a slight pattern. Perhaps that will break up the look a bit. I work in a very conservative place and REFUSE to wear nylons. They are antiquated. Opaque tights that match your shoe or skirt color are just as professional and much more practical.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  4. V says:

    I have trouble picturing a monochromatic shoes-tights-skirt combination other than black (you can at least mix textures and have fun with shoe shapes) that doesn’t make you look like a child, like some kind of mascot or like you’re wearing a costume.

    And seriously, when it gets truly cold, it’s a little ridiculous to be walking around in wool skirts, winter coats, gloves, sweaters, hats etc. plus bare legs.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  5. M says:

    I must disagree with you on all of the above points. Tights, patterned or otherwise, should only be worn by little girls and not by professional women. Stockings and nylons on the other hand, look polished. Bare legs just look unfinished and can be blinding in the winter months.

    December 15, 2009/Reply
  6. Jessica says:

    I have a beautiful camel colored suede skirt from Anthropologie. Brown tights seem too dark, but if nude is a "no" am I forced to go bare? Thoughts on color of tights and/or shoes would be great… thanks!

    December 15, 2009/Reply
  7. Michael says:

    Thanks for the blog.
    Hope you’re liking your new Digs here at caphillstyle.com!!
    It seems like old is new again?

    December 15, 2009/Reply
  8. CM says:

    Completely 100% disagree with nude nylons being a "no." They’re not mandatory, but they are not a faux pas by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe on Saturday night, but not in a formal/professional work environment.

    December 15, 2009/Reply
  9. MAA says:

    Thanks Belle. The top and bottom of the suit are navy hence the concern with wearing navy tights, especially since there are so many shades of navy out there. I will look for navy tights with a slight pattern. Perhaps that will break up the look a bit. I work in a very conservative place and REFUSE to wear nylons. They are antiquated. Opaque tights that match your shoe or skirt color are just as professional and much more practical.

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  10. V says:

    I have trouble picturing a monochromatic shoes-tights-skirt combination other than black (you can at least mix textures and have fun with shoe shapes) that doesn’t make you look like a child, like some kind of mascot or like you’re wearing a costume.

    And seriously, when it gets truly cold, it’s a little ridiculous to be walking around in wool skirts, winter coats, gloves, sweaters, hats etc. plus bare legs.

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  11. Allison says:

    I disagree that bare legs are acceptable in the winter. While it is warm here in DC, bare legs are for the summer only. It is simply not seasonably appropriate to go bare legged in December. (Also, you might look like you are trying a teensy bit too hard if you go bare legged and spend the day huddled by your heater!)

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  12. Belle says:

    I don’t believe that seasonable appropriateness applies in this case. Punch colored dress with white cardi, clearly summer. But bare legs? The first lady does it. Half of Congress does it. If you’re wearing a skirt, your choices are bare legs or tights. That is if you don’t want to wear pants.

    I see women in bare legs all the time in DC, in Wisconsin, in New York and in Denver. Most choose not to because it’s cold. But there is no rule that says you can’t go bare. Like so many things in fashion it is personal preference.

    As for tights being for little girls, white tights yes, colored tights no. Tights are everywhere from the runway to the boardroom. I met with the CFO of a Fortune 500 company on Monday, what was she wearing with her suit: tights.

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  13. Allison says:

    Hi Belle, I definitely agree about tights, I love them! Coming from Denver, (I lived there for 2.5 years) I’d be willing to bet my tuition that you won’t see a woman wearing bare legs there this time of year. That’s because of the weather though, I can see how women do it here in DC. The thing is "women do it all the time" isn’t really make a case for something, I see bad fashion all the time. Bare legs in December while we are having a warm spell for a Saturday dinner date with a winter hued dress sounds great, but at the office? You look like you are trying to show off your legs. Not a good call. What do you think about grey tights with Navy? I’ve done it before, Navy sweater dress and slate-colored tights, that might be an option for your reader. I love the Trina Turk one’s you suggested.

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  14. Belle says:

    As long as the shoes are grey, I think grey tights are nice.

    I’m shocked that so many commenters buy into the idea that bare legs, the standard 9 months of the year, suddenly becomes a faux pas because the temperature drops. I wear bare legs in winter when I don’t feel like wearing tights or when my tights are in the wash. It has nothing to do with showing off my legs.

    And while you may not see many women doing it, I’ve spent many winter days in Denver and seen women at church, at restaurants and at work in bare legs.

    While most women traded in their skin for tights when they became popular a few years back, not everyone did.

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  15. MF says:

    I disagree that it is appropriate to have bare legs in the office this time of year. I don’t think it’s appropriate for the workplace, particularly if that workplace is Congress.

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  16. Belle says:

    I just don’t understand the argument that bare legs are fine 9-10 months of the year but banned when the temp dips below 50. It really isn’t that cold, and my skirts didn’t get any shorter or my legs any paler since October.

    December 16, 2009/Reply
  17. emjay says:

    Not a Nanna, BUT old enough to have a few imperfections hidden by hosiery-love taupe with navy & black – what are you wearing on your feet when your legs are bare? Seems gross to slip your bare feet into your shoes day after day-Are you wearing anything between your shoe & skin?

    November 21, 2011/Reply
  18. Belle says:

    I'm not sure how a whisper thin layer of nylon–which is porous–keeps my shoes any cleaner than if I put my bare feet in them. So I guess it's gross either way.

    November 21, 2011/Reply