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9 Tips to make tights actually look flattering

We hear a lot about leggings these days. Leggings aren’t pants; leggings aren’t tights; everyone loves leggings, blah, blah, blah. If pantyhose (ick, remember those?) are like that weird great aunt you have who visits and leaves her rose-smelling face powder all over your bathroom floor, then tights (you know, the ones that actually cover your feet) have been relegated to the role of Cousin You Have Who Never Leaves The House. So unfair. Tights are a stylish cold weather staple that everyone should have in their drawer and it just takes a few great tips to learn how to make your tights look super flattering.

1. Black opaque tights work miracles. Black opaque tights are an instant pick me up and can actually save you hundreds of dollars. Let me explain. If you wake up feeling like you wish you could lose five pounds in five minutes, you can: Pull on a pair of opaque black tights and add an LBD or sweet little black skirt and oversized black mohair sweater — voilà.

As for how they can result in you having a fatter wallet: You know that vintage yellow dress you bought at a flea market but don’t have the nerve to wear? The one that kind of looks like this one on gorgeous blogger Virginie of Virginie’s Cinema:

Yellow dress black tights

Instead of tossing it, add black opaque tights, boots and a coat and you have instantly toned down the brightness.

2. The smaller the print on tights, the thinner the leg. There is seriously nothing cuter on the planet than these Old Navy heart print tights on Style By Aline fashion blogger Alina Dinh:

heart tights

If you always thought you couldn’t pull off printed tights, you haven’t considered this important rule: Unless you are trying to make your legs look bigger, stick with very small, subtle prints. Then pair with a super-short skirt like this one, but only if your boots are high enough to provide just a peek-a-boo view of your tights. The focus should always be on your overall look, and not just on your tights.

3. Sheer tights should be paired with the most sexless outfit you own. Sheer or transparent tights—I refuse to call them “pantyhose” — are not for the weak. If you’re self-conscious about your curves, they may not be your best bet because they will put your legs front and center. And, because they are already sexy enough on their own, black and colored transparent tights should only be worn with outfits I like to refer to as “sex neutral.” That means: with combat boots, knee-length full skirts, and roomy sweaters = OK. With an A-line shirt dress and pretty heels = fine. But with a tight little satin and lace dress = you run the risk of looking like you’re working the room that night… if you know what I mean.

4. Colored tights can turn any outfit into something special. You know that black dress you always considered drab? Throw a pair of ruby-red tights into the mix and you’ve just created an instant look:

red tights

Image via Jessica Quirk/Flickr

That boring camel skirt isn’t so dull after you’ve jazzed it up with eggplant tights. Say it with me: Colored tights are your friends and not your enemies… as long as…

5. …Your colored tights should complement, not clash, with your outfit. Now that you’ve decided to go out and buy one pair of tights for every color of the rainbow, it’s crucial that you follow a few basic rules. If you’re looking to make a bold fashion statement, go for complementary colors like purple and gold, blue and orange and red and green. If you’d prefer to stick with analogous colors that are in the same family, choose three colors on the color wheel that are next to each other: like greens, yellows and browns.

6. Accept that not all colors are going to work. Unless you have very thin legs or are about to attend a ballet class, white tights aren’t going to work for most adult women. And, according to Heidi Nazarudin, a former CEO turned fashion blogger who created, “green neon tights should be banned.”

7. Put your ballet slippers back in the closet.

heels tights

Image via Lana Eloy/Flickr

Your shoes shouldn’t be an afterthought when it comes to pairing them with your tights. “Unless you have long legs, the silhouette created by a pair of tights really calls for elongation of legs,” Nazarudin said. “Reinforce this by pairing them with heels. You don’t have to wear towering stilettos. Even a half or two-inch heel would make the look more elegant than flats.”

8. Invest, invest, invest. It’s tempting to fill your drawer with $3 tights because that means you can have more, more, more — and we all know how quickly these darn delicate things snag and rip. But Constance Dunn, author of Practical Glamour, is here to remind us that we should invest in our tights because the payoff is worth it. “Higher quality tights will feature richer designs, plus the nuance of color and pattern that cheaper versions lack,” Dunn said. “If your wardrobe budget is particularly thin, stick with black tights, which are damn chic anyway.”

9. Do as a dancer.

ballet dancer

Image via Melissa Dooley/Flickr

If you really want to invest in tights that last and can withstand all of those fouette turns we know you’re doing all over the house, Dunn suggests you buy a brand trusted by the experts themselves: dancers. “The most long-lasting tights are made for dancers, who need coverage that will hold up through hours of movement, movement, movement!” Dunn said. “Dancers’ tights typically feature a high concentration of nylon, whereas everyday woman tights are typically spun from cotton.”

And there you have it — nine tips and fabulous reasons you should retire your leggings and bring back tights!

More on tights and fashion

Shorts with tights: Yes you can!
Sexy legwear trends

Can all body types wear leggings?

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