Successfully Deploying Your Tights

Back in the fall, I struggled with tights. Although I’ve worn them for years and love them passionately, transitioning from bare legs to tights felt awkward and difficult this year. Being forced to incorporate one more element into any skirt-centric outfit caused some anxiety, and I started to doubt myself. But as I examined the handful of outfits that felt unsuccessful, I was able to pinpoint a some simple questions that might help me avoid future struggles:

Is the color of the tights
the same as the color of your top?

This is the trick I find myself sticking to most often. I imagine that my tights and top are creating a bodysuit of a single, solid color. In the above outfit, that color is navy blue. (I know it looks black, but I swear it’s navy!) Then, I can layer on a skirt, a blazer or cardigan, a scarf, and a pair of shoes or boots, and that underlying bodysuit of color creates immediate harmony among the other pieces.

Does the color in the tights
appear anywhere else in the outfit?

Making sure that black appears multiple times within an outfit ensures intentionality. Likewise, making sure that the color of your tights shows up at least twice helps the tights seem like a natural addition. Here, my outfit is mainly navy, but the complementary lavender looks fab in the mix since it shows up in tights AND belt.

Does the color of the tights
blend with or match to the shoes?

Those charcoal gray tights are the only charcoal gray element in the ensemble. Had I worn cream-colored pumps, the tights would’ve seemed a bit more incongruous. But since both tights and shoes are dark tones, the addition of this color seems more natural.

If your tights introduce an entirely new color, selecting footwear in similar values and tones will make your legs and feet look more like a single unit. This not only makes your legs appear longer, but helps the tights seem like an organic part of the overall outfit.

Are the tights clearly making
a stand-alone statement of their own?

In this outfit, those same lavender tights from the first outfit are the lone colorful element. Since every other garment and accessory is cream or gray – all muted neutrals – the bright tights look statement-y and intentional. Brightly colored and boldly patterned tights can be the focal point of an outfit, but will work best if it’s abundantly clear that they’re the focal point. Creating contrast and utilizing neutrals both help drive the point home.

How do you decide which tights to wear with your outfit? Do any of these questions float through your mind as you’re choosing legwear?

Next Post
Previous Post
  • you are amazing!like so much your outfits!!!

  • I tend to fall into the first 3 categories. I tend not to make statements with my tights πŸ˜‰ Love the first outfit by the way.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention How to build outfits around tights that look and feel natural and chic --

  • Great post! I am not as comfortable with tights as you – I don’t like how they make a dress stick (even with a slip or lining – you know how there’s like a chunky thing going on?) I don’t like that feeling. (Of course, I have no issues with denim leggings, so go figure.)

    I do wear tights in the spring and fall. But I can’t tell you the last time I wore a dress or skirt – wait, it was October.

    You always make tights look utterly chic.

  • Ha. The thought that most often floats through my mind as I’m choosing tights is “Oh shit, the grey ones aren’t clean! Maybe these brown ones will do!” My collection of tights is large, but the subset of useless tights seems to be almost as large.

  • They do float through my mind, but I feel very comfortable with playing with color (admittedly sometimes perhaps too comfortable) and that often translates into me using tights to create looks with less harmony and more tension.

  • AW

    I tend to use the “bodysuit” trick most often. I like to wear top, tights, shoes, all in the same color, and then have my skirt stand out and be different. I don’t have nearly as many funky colored tights as I’d like, so it’s the easiest way for me to add tights to an outfit.

  • Sophie

    I love your green plaid dress – I’ve had a bit of a search but cant find an outfit post with it in to learn more about it! Where can I find one?

  • Stacey

    I normally wear pants but when putting an outfit I would play it safe and have my tights match the top. My legs aren’t my greatest asset so I would not want to make them the focal point. I’m smaller on top πŸ™‚

  • SarahN

    In reading this, I realize that I unconsciously apply these ideas; I’ve just never articulated them before, so thank you! To wit I’m following your fourth concept today: black sweater dress, grey belt and boots, and teal tights.

  • I struggle with anything outside of black tights to be honest! I’ve recently ordered a couple of non black but neutral tights from We Love Colors and I’m working on incorporating those. Although you might remember I had a period where I wore purple tights with almost everything and they worked pretty much all the time for me!

  • Colleen

    I particularly love patterned, funky tights (leopard in all colors, argyle, primary colors, etc.) but struggle with how to incorporate them into outfits without looking costumey and clownish. My natural inclination is to dress really loud but I try to keep it in check a bit because as a grad student my role is semi-professional and so I try to dress, well, semi professionally :). So I will do an oxford shirt and sweater vest with a wool a-line skirt, and then some nice blue leopard print tights to add some unexpected funk. I suspect that I look a bit crazy despite my best efforts, but oh well.

    • Kat

      I share your sentiments; one thing I like to do with crazy patterned tights when I don’t want to look costumey is show only a little bit–so a roughly knee-length skirt and knee-high boots with just a few inches of wild tights showing underneath.

  • What about tights and a chunkier leg? My legs are not my best asset… but I still love this look. I could probably carry off the second picture… but the others draw too much attention to areas I don’t want attention paid to! LOL… What styles and suggestions do you have for those with chunky-ish knees and thighs?

    • Sal

      Peggy, if you want to draw attention away from your legs, then dark colors and like-colored footwear are definitely your best bets. Navy, charcoal gray, black, brown, or even dark greens and blues will work, especially if you pair them with similarly dark shoes.

      If you want to try the bright colors, you can try layering a sheer or patterned tight on top of the bright one – it will mute the color, but the pattern may help distract.

      Or you could try patterns straight up! They can look a bit bold, so you might want to do patterned tights with boots instead of pumps … but a busy pattern may minimize the areas you’re worried about. It depends on the pattern, of course – you’ll have to experiment.

      Hope this helps!

  • I always want to wear tights that don’t match anything else, just to make a statement. But then I wimp out.

    LOVE the green dress outfit!!! That is SO not wimping out πŸ™‚

    • If you ever need some inspiration, check out my blog! Its all about how to wear those funky tights!

  • This was so useful, thank you! Tights are something I tend to struggle with, especially patterned ones. To match, or not to match? It’s such a minefield! Great post, I will be bookmarking it for future reference!

  • Sal, thanks for this post. I loooove colored tights, but have had some trouble esp. with a turquoise pair I just acquired. It’s not a color that appears alot in my wardrobe but hubby really liked them, so I’m trying to figure out how to wear them. I do have a matching camisole and a pair of earrings, so I think together those items may work. Your blog always gives me so much to think about! Have a great day.

  • I love those mauve textured tights!!

    I never put too much thought into my tights. I also don’t match too often

  • Oh I would do anything for that adorable green plaid dress!! Well one in my size. It is so cute! I also love the plaid skirt. I don’t really do tights, always been too insecure and really didn’t know how to incorporate them. Great post, thanks for all the great tips. As usual, AWESOME!

  • Nanina

    LOVE the article!

  • spacegeek

    I don’t like to look color-blocked too much, so the statement tight is out for me.
    I usually match/complement shoes and tights, and frankly, it just occurred to me that all of might tights are neutrals. Grey, brown, black, nude fishnet. Oh well, color me conservative.

  • Beth

    I love your suggestions!
    Two questions- does the match in the “color appears elsewhere in the outfit” have to be EXACT? I’m working on an outfit now that would repeat a berry color in the skirt with a berry tight, but they are not EXACT, thisclose, but not exact.
    Also, what are those ankle boots in the last picture? I love them! I thought clicking the pic would take me to the original post but it didn’t. πŸ™

    • Sal

      Beth, those are Nine West, but at least three years old, possibly older!

  • Tights are by far my favorite accessory, and I love all the looks you have going here! When all else fails, if I don’t feel like my tights are ‘matching’ enough, I just throw a pair of knee high socks or ankle socks over them and make sure those match my belt/shoes, or top. It give me more freedom with my tights.

  • Kat

    I like all of these methods. I decide which tights to wear depending mostly on where I’m going and what the personality of the rest of the outfit is. For casual days one of my go-to combinations is graphic tee, denim or other plain skirt, wild tights in colors coordinating with the tee. (My one big shopping vice is tights–I have a drawer full. At least it’s cheaper than a shoe obsession.)

    I just wore SarahN’s color combination this weekend–black sweater, gray skirt, black boots, teal tights! I like wearing all neutrals and bold tights; it helps that my legs are my favorite body part.

  • Awesome post Sal, and it’s given me more ways to think about incorporating tights. Usually I am a fan of having the tights complement one of the colors in my outfit, and I almost exclusively wear them with boots.

  • Thank you for posting this! It’s very helpful for me. I love tights! I collect them every winter.

    I’ve been a lurker for a while but I wanted to come out and say how much I enjoy reading your blog! I look forward to the new entries!

    I added your blog to the favorites list on mine … hope you don’t mind?

  • Katharine

    I often tend to match tights to my bottom, rather than my top (matching top to tights with a different-coloured skirt brings up too many memories of the 80s and early 90s for me). I’m also fond of the “statement tight” with an all-black outfit — current favourite: mustard tights.

    I have a lot of over-the-knee socks, and often layer them in harmonising or contrasting colours over my tights — the tights keep them up, and also keep me from looking as though I’m trying to be twenty (with freezing cold upper thighs).

    My nemesis is grey tights. I like all-grey outfits, but GAH greys are hard to match, and what seems to be an ordinary “charcoal” tight will often prove to have an off colour cast compared to my “charcoal” clothes, or to just be wrong. It also took me a surprisingly long time to track down off-white tights, and when I did, I paid an outrageous amount for them at American Apparel.

  • You’re inspiring me to play with more tights! I’ve been sticking mostly to black and white lately and it’s getting boring. Oh and that amazing green plaid dress – I die.

  • Kate

    I use tights as a colour-block too, which I think is different from making a statement.

    For example, today I wore a maroon dress, mustard cardigan, gray tights and black shoes.

  • I have to start by saying I love your BLOG. I check it everyday! πŸ™‚
    I am going to repost your posting today on my blog, it was a genius approach to wearing tights! Which is what my blog is all about. Keep up the great work πŸ™‚

  • Rachel K

    I’m much more of a patterned tights girl than colored tights. I haven’t ventured past black, brown or navy yet, but this is actually the firrst season I’ve tried tights. I’ve developed a love of argyle and lace-type patterns and hope to purchase little dots next. Living in FL only affords a very small window for wearing tights so I don’t know if I’ll venture into brighter colors this season, but hope to work my way up to at least purple next winter. I almost bought some red ones, but chickened out!

  • This is a great way to break it down. I hadn’t really thought of it in these terms before, but this is generally how I style my tights as well.

  • Lovely tips! Tights do not have to be daunting. And I am a fan of super bright tights. I often find myself going for black tights with black shoes to give myself an extra long leg. I need every little bit I can muster!

  • LOVE tights….. but I only wear them in neutral shades, blended with the shoes. (I have short legs). I love the techniques you’ve outlined, though. Don’t know if they would all work for me, but I like how you’ve broken it down. Thanks!

  • Ten

    So useful! This sort of thing might seem like child’s play to some, but it’s nice to have a point of reference for people who don’t take to wearing tights as easily.

  • This is a great post, Sal. I am huge fan of wearing tights and I usually wear a neutral color (grey or black for the most part), that I make sure is otherwise represented elsewhere in my outfit. However, I also have purple, yellow, bright blue and violet tights that I usually wear to make a statement, so I don’t worry if the color of those tights are reprensented anywhere else in my outfit. For me, it’s fun to do it both ways.

  • Pingback: Candy Dish: Awesome Opportunity : College Candy()

  • Thank you for this post. I love wearing tights, so some of these tricks/questions will be very helpful!

  • Pingback: LadyMags Links of the Week | Fashion Pulse Daily()

  • I’m petite, which doesn’t bother me, but I’m also big in a few places, so I like to go for the lengthening look only to make myself look thinner. Thus, I like to blend in colors similar to my skirt and/or shoes (I really like the all-three effect, at least with denim/navy/navy or black shoes, etc.).

    I would go for more “fabulous” risks, but living in Florida, I rarely get good tights weather, so I only have a few pairs (mostly new this season, at least) thus I kept it safe for now.

    I really miss MA!! I have come up with or discovered great ways to layer and keep warm, but now it never gets cold enough to use some methods. I miss the cold, really! Global warming is scaring me for the FL summers, for one thing, I’m jealous of all that snow for another (my bf aka the would-shovel-more-burdened is not) and there are other reasons, like the great culture in MA, but mostly THE FOOD!

    At least we have GREAT shopping in South Florida! (But tax on clothing :-(.)

  • I do all of these (gee, and I didn’t even know I did until you pointed it out in this post!). I love tights that make a statement especially.

    I must say, wow, that green check dress is STUNNING on you, Sal. You look like a movie star from the 40s.

  • Pingback: Tips for making simple outfits more interesting, daring, and fun.()

  • Pingback: Purple Legs for Mardi Gras? Playing with Color, “Rut-Buster” Style | The Frump Factor()

  • Ana


    That is awesome way to present the tights. I loved all of them. They look good on you and so on any one else… Tights are always a wordrobe essentials… I like all four but the the tonal style, and own statement making are my favorite … Thanks for sharing.

  • Pingback: Progress Visible: Style Tricks Learned from Blogging | The Frump Factor()