Successfully Deploying Your Tights – Updated

How to wear tights

I’ve gotten so many requests for tights-related advice this season that I figured it would be worthwhile to update and re-publish this post which contains what I consider to be the easiest guidelines for making outfits with tights look great.

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 black. 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 includes many bright colors, but the teal of the tights works within the mix since it shows up in tights AND necklace.

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


These burgundy tights are very close to the color of my boots. There’s no burgundy anywhere else in this outfit, but had I worn bright red boots or shoes, the tights would’ve seemed a bit more incongruous. But since both tights and boots 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?


Honestly, this is the technique I struggle with the most and utilize the least, but it definitely bears mentioning. In this outfit these turquoise tights are the most visible turquoise element. (There’s a bit of turquoise in the bag and earrings which creates unity within the outfit, but even if you swapped in a black bag and silver earrings this grouping would still work.) The rest of the outfit is mainly black and white, so 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.

In addition to these guidelines, here are some other posts about tights that might be helpful:

  1. Reader Request: Working those Colorful Tights
  2. Toasty Legs: Recommendations for Warm Tights
  3. This Week I Love: Textured Tights
  4. My Pinterest board featuring outfits that include tights

How do YOU make your tights work within your wintry outfits? Any other tips to share?

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  • These are great tips on pairing tights with any outfit. I’m definitely going to use some of these ideas once it starts getting cold again down here in Florida. If you have a chance, check out my blog for a chance to win a $50 gift card to either Anthropologie or J.Crew. Moody Girl In Style

  • Anne

    Thanks for the tips Sally. It is unusually cold this winter here in gold country. I mistakenly went out yesterday in cropped pants. My ankles are still frozen! I will be wearing a wooly skirt and tights today and hoping that I don’t generate too much static electricity. I have not ventured into colored tight territory but maybe next winter. I’m wearing colored pants this year and that is a huge step up for me. Stay warm.

  • That’s pretty much how I wear tights. I have a black sweater dress that is really comfy and warm but kind of boring. I LOVE wearing hot pink tights with it so I can be all comfy on a cold or bloated day and the pink tights draw your eyes to my legs rather than my belly. I recently bought some patterned tights and I’m finding the same dress helps me get comfortable with the tights before moving them into other outfits.

  • Shaye

    I struggle with deploying colored tights. My outfits are usually so colorful, that extra element to consider just feels like too much. Yesterday, though, I paired mustard tights with a vintage dress that had the same color in the print – that worked pretty well. It helped that the rest of the dress was colorful but not super bright.

  • Sam

    My new tights obsession is Sparkly Tights! They work for me because I do love simple black sweater dresses or monochrome dark skirts/top when it’s cold out, and they just makes the outfit a little more interesting. But maybe I am weird because most people prefer to save them for glittery events.

  • I just love the turquoise tights. Inspiring me to branch out from black, gray and navy!

  • cecelia

    I have a hard time with tights that don’t match my shoes cutting my legs in half visually- I’m only 5’3″ so I need all the lengthening I can get! I like the idea of color with all black outfits, but it is tough on me.

  • Eleanorjane

    Hmm… must try again to haul out those lovely lilac tights. I’ve worn them about twice in the months I’ve had them.

  • Great post, Sally! Love the clear way you laid this out (and so many cute outfits, too)!

  • Bee

    I don’t give it much thought.  I put on a skirt, put on a top, put on tights (not always in that order), accessorize (or not) and head out the door.  

  • Ooo, I love the “bodysuit” technique. That’s the perfect way to show off a bright/colorful/crazy skirt! I also like the pop of purple tights & purple scarf. Where do you buy your tights?

    Thanks for the tips!

  • heather

    I just discovered a website with $25 merino wool tights (which is a steal compared to Smartwool). Just ordered a pair, will update if they work!