How to Style and Care for Tights

Oct 11, 2018

For working women, tights are a cold weather lifesaver.  But which ones should you buy, and how should you wear them?  It’s time for my yearly guide on wearing and caring for tights.

The Best Tights to Buy. I am an advocate for thick, opaque tights.  I want tights so dark that no skin is visible, ever.  Denier is a measure of how thick a tight is, so the higher the denier, the more opaque the tight.

My preferred tight are the Spanx Blackout Tights with 100-denier.  They’re really dark, hold up well over many wears, and provide shaping.  But at $38 per pair, they’re not exactly affordable.

Nordstrom makes a pair of high-quality 100-denier tights for $19.  Readers rave about Topshop’s 80-denier tights.  For something under-$10, check out these 80-denier New Look tights.  Plus-size?  Try these 70-denier tights from Berkshire.

If you’re a cold-weather commuter, try these Gipsy 200-denier thermal tights for a little bit of warmth.

The 2-out-of-3-Rule. Styling your look from the waist down, there are three elements: dress/skirt, tights, shoes.  Two of these three elements should always be the same color, and those two elements should connect.  Here are a couple of examples.

shoes and tights connect, dress is different // dress and tights connect, shoes are different

The reason I prefer the 2-out-of-3 Rule is that, when you don’t connect two of the elements, the look is disjointed.  Say you’re wearing a black dress, grey tights, and black heels.  The tights slice you mid-thigh and at the ankle, making you and your legs look shorter.

Of the two looks above, I prefer when the shoes and tights match.  I think it’s an incredibly sleek look that slims and lengthens the leg.  I also think it looks more polished and professional.  Whether you’re 18 or 45, you can make this look work during the winter months.

The Shoes You Need. As I mentioned, my favorite ensemble for work is black tights with black shoes.  Period.  You almost want the tights to blend in with the shoes like they’re an extension of your body.  There are three types of shoes that work best with this look: pumps, ankle boots, and tall boots.

Notice I didn’t say flats?  I think flats with tights can look a bit juvenile, especially round-toed flats.  This is a personal preference, probably shaped by the fact that I look young for my age, and don’t want to emphasize it.  But if you want to wear flats, I recommend pointed or almond-toe flats.  Choose something basic, like these Nine West flats or these Marc Fisher flats.

As for the pumps, round toe or pointed toe, dealer’s choice.  But much like the flats, simpler is better for work.  These Trotters Gigi pumps are quite comfortable.  I also like these pointed toe Tahari Parson pumps.

In the market for boots?  If you work in a casual office, you can get away with these gorgeous Madewell Penny boots.  For an unembellished, heeled tall boot, these Frye Isabella boots are just the tops.  If you prefer ankle boots, these Mango midi-heel boots are a sleek choice.

Colored Tights. I don’t wear colored tights often.  I have a pair of eggplant tights and a pair of navy ones, but that’s about it.   I mostly stick to black these days.

With colored tights, it’s important to match the colors as closely as possible.  When I’m trying to pair a colored piece with tights, I take it to a department store to find something that will work.  If you’re looking for colored tights online, the best options are Modcloth and J.Crew Factory.

Laundering Tights. Tights should always be washed in a mesh laundry bag.  This protects them from pilling, snagging, and ripping in the wash.  It also keeps them from taggling up other clothing items.  I buy mesh bags on Amazon, and use them for washing all of my delicates.

If they pill a bit, this $15 Conair sweater shaver will keep them looking great.  Sadly, I’ve never found a cure for those unsightly snags that can form over time.

{images from here and here; featured image here; this post contains affiliate links}

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  1. CAM says:

    I have a question for Belle and other readers: do you have any recommendations for opaque black tights that are not control-top? I love the DKNY super opaque but even sizing up they are very uncomfortable by the end of the day, with the waistband digging in. Any ideas?

  2. Morgan says:

    Question: can one wear a navy skirt with black tights and then sleek black heeels or boots? I have an A-line knee length navy skirt and I don’t want to go the flight attendant route with navy tights and shoes. This, this is what keeps women in all-black wardrobes. TIA!!

    • KCV says:

      I absolutely think you can wear a classic navy (classic as in dark) and black tights and heels. The key here is to make it look purposeful (as in you didn’t get dressed in the dark and thought it was navy) and wear it with confidence.

    • Crystal says:

      I agree with KCV. You can up the “purposeful” element by incorporating a black (or black-and-navy) accessory — a black belt, blazer with black details, scarf, earrings/necklace, etc.

  3. Janet says:

    Just curious, Belle… Do you prefer thick, opaque tights for the warmth they provide, or the look ( or both?)?

  4. Rachel says:

    Every year I struggle with my navy dresses and have ended up wearing black tights and black shoes. Thoughts?

    • Jessica says:

      For my navy dresses, I usually wear gray rights and gray ankle booties in a similar shade. I also have a navy dress that is very close in color to one of my pairs of navy tights, and will sometimes wear those with burgundy shoes for a little pop of color.

  5. SC says:

    Soak wash is also great for tights — no rinsing required! I have the fig scent, it’s lovely.

    I get 2-3 pairs of the black Commando tights every fall when the temps drop and wear them all season (I keep one pair at work, just in case). That no-roll waistband made me not hate wearing tights!

    • Mandi says:

      I’m also a fan of Commando tights. They feel more like they have the waistband of comfy yoga pants than heavy control top hose. I’ve had a pair last two seasons. I’ve ocassionally seen them on sale at Nordstrom.

  6. Cee Cee from KY says:

    I would highly recommend the Vera Wang for Kohls opaque tights. They are almost always 40% off (coming out at about $9, and they last forever. I buy one new pair every season in black and dark brown, but the one’s I’ve had for several years are still in rotation. I have one navy pair that I use very rarely, but has lasted several years. I machine wash and hang dry.

  7. DC says:

    Love these tips on coordinating tights! I loved the olive pencil skirt/navy sweater combo in your last post, especially with olive pumps. Was just wondering how you would style tights with that outfit? If I needed to wear tights with that outfit, would you maybe change the shoe color?

    • Belle says:

      So, I probably would just wear nylons. To wear it with tights, I would probably do either olive tights with a ankle boot, or I would wear navy and navy shoes.

      • Naomi says:

        I find nylons so infuriating. I have ripped them while putting them on for the first time. Any recommendations? How about for nylons that are actually warm?

  8. Ss says:

    Can anyone recommend high waisted tights? Preferably control top or at least very snug? I am 5’10” and somewhat pear shaped so finding tights that come up high enough, stay up and don’t roll at the waist is a challenge. The type that essentially reach my bra line seem to be the best option, and I would love to hear recommendations for tights like this or other ideas.

    • Belle says:

      Spanx makes a high waisted tight that’s pretty good. I used to like the Commando’s but I have the hardest time keeping them up.

    • Leigh says:

      I live for the super high waist / control top Ann Taylor opaque tights. They are a great option when they have a 40% off the whole store!

  9. Jules says:

    I’ve only ever lived in warm climates and never knew there was a whole science and art to tights!

  10. Lydia says:

    I totally understand where you are coming from with the two out of three rule. I agree that aesthetically it looks the most harmonious. However, I think that colour families also can look intentional. For example I have burgundy / plum coloured tights. They work great with navy skirts, and chocolate brown boots— while the boots don’t match the tight, they still look related. I realize this look is not for everyone, but I’ve received compliments on my colour choices. I think this works because the colours relate to,each other. I also wear coloured tights with black clothes. A black dress works with olive tights and grey boots, or perhaps a red dress works with navy tights and black booties. I realize I’m more adventurous with colour than many people, and I do work in a more creative environment. I do agree with you that black opaque tights, black boots, and a black top look amazing with a coloured skirt— I have a yellow brocade skirt that I wear with all black, and I love that look too! I guess I just love colour.

  11. Savannah says:

    I have had wonderful luck with basic black old navy tights. I have bought quite a few pairs over the years. They are pretty opaque and don’t snag easily. Also, they are great to buy at the end of the season on sale and stock up. I would highly recommend. Having a bunch of them keeps me from having to hand wash at night several nights a week so I can wear them the next day. The ones I’ve had I’ve been wearing for 3-4 years and they are just now giving out in the toe, which is reparable.

    https://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=336461072

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