Today’s installment of Dear Commandress addresses a topic that has been vexing many, many Commandress Readers: What kind of tights and hosiery are appropriate to wear in a professional office?
Commandress readers have a lot of questions about appropriate colors, patterns, textures and sheerness for tights and other legwear worn to the office.
For my part, I’ve been genuinely surprised to discover exactly how much I have to say about the topic. Welcome to my Accidental Manifesto. (Shown here: Hue Opaque Tights – Made in the USA – $13.50 from www.hue.com)
I love textured, colored and patterned tights – and I spend a fair amount of time in the fall and winter gauging whether my choice of legwear will be appropriate for whatever I’m about to do. Sometimes these decisions feel more like an art than a science, but there are some basic rules to use as a starting point.
First let’s take a look at basic hosiery options – and their current status in the style world.
(1) Sheer Nude Hosiery
There’s probably no better place to start than sheer nude hosiery, which is unquestionably “appropriate” for the office.
But most women refuse to wear sheer nude hosiery unless they feel absolutely compelled to do so – typically by an authority figure like a judge (to appear in court) or a bride (to serve as a bridesmaid – oh dear). The long-standing conventional wisdom is that sheer nude hosiery is old-fashioned and dowdy – rather than youthful and stylish. It can also be uncomfortable and hot.
But if anyone can reverse this trend it will be Our Lady of Style, Kate Middleton:
I haven’t jumped on the nude hosiery bandwagon – yet, I suppose – but I see the appeal of smoothing out imperfections and adding a slight sheen to your legs.
Although there is an ongoing debate regarding the Duchess’ favorite hosiery brands, the leading contenders are:
- Falke Shelina 12 Ultra-Transparent Tights ($25);
- Philippe Matignon Jade 20 Collant Glossy Sheers ($24);
- Wolford Naked 8 ($30); and
- Wolford Satin Touch 20 ($35).
If you’re feeling curious about sheer nude hosiery – but not curious enough to spend $25 or more – you can find less expensive options in the Hanes Silk Reflections Hosiery Collection ($8-10).
Keep in mind that “nude” means a color that is virtually invisible on your skin – the perfect “nude-for-you” color is different for everyone.
(2) Opaque Black Tights
At the opposite end of the spectrum, most would agree that opaque black tights are also appropriate for the office.
But there are certainly women who do not like opaque black tights – it took me a while to embrace this trend.
But black opaque tights are most definitely “in” – as is pairing black tights and black pumps with fall/winter dresses in any and every color. You may have noticed this trend while shopping online (for example, as seen with the Ann Taylor dress featured above).
More to the point, opaque black tights have been identified by Nina Garcia, fashion editor extraordinaire, as one of The One Hundred timeless pieces every stylish woman must own. (A very enjoyable book, by the way!)
According to Nina, the appeal of a black opaque tight is “not just for the edge it can bring to an outfit, but also because it can miraculously make the leg look sleeker, longer and slimmer.” Yes, please!
Nina champions Wolford black tights in particular because they have “the most opaque/matte combination (no skin showing through, no splotchiness, no shine).”
I would love to try her recommendations:
- Wolford Velvet de Luxe 66 (hint of sheer) – $45 from Nieman Marcus, Wolford, or Zappos; and
- Wolford Matte Opaque 80 (no sheer at all) – $52 from Neiman Marcus, Saks and Wolford.
But, alas, the high price of Wolford tights – and the savageness of my daughter’s velcro shoes – have made me a dedicated fan of Hue Opaque and Super Opaque tights (shown below), which cost about $13.
Sale Alert: Hue Super Opaque (Made in the USA; regularly $13.50) and Hue Opaque Tights (regularly $13.50) are 25% off at Bloomingdale’s through March 30, 2013 as part of Bloomingdale’s Sem-Annual Hue Sale.
Here are some mid-priced black opaque tights that are also worth a try:
- Commando Opaque Tights – Made in the USA – about $34 from Bare Necessities, Shopbop, and Nordstrom;
- Spanx Tight End Tights – Made in the USA – about $28 from Freshpair, Shopbop, Spanx (plus sizes available) and Zappos; and
- Assetts by Sara Blakely – about $15-20 from Bare Necessities, Spanx and Target.
(3) Opaque Tights in Colors Other Than Black
Opaque tights in dark neutral colors (like brown, charcoal and navy) are just as appropriate for the office as black tights. Both Commando and Spanx (listed above) offer these colors. Most Hue tights are available in black and dark brown.
In some offices, it might also be appropriate to branch out and wear tights in other dark colors – such as very dark plums, burgundies and greens. The best sources for unusual dark colors are Hue Tights (about $13.50 from www.hue.com) and Spanx Tight End Tights (Made in the USA; about $28 from Freshpair, Shopbop, Spanx and Zappos.
I emphasized “very” dark colors because I probably wouldn’t wear tights to the office that were easily identified as “purple” (for example). I prefer for the color be more subtle – and I’d save the fun factor of truly purple tights for outside the office.
For example, based on Zappos’ pictures of various colors available in Spanx Tight End Tights (shown below), I would wear these tights to work in Amethyst and Emerald Glow – both of which are very dark. On the other hand, I would not wear Craisin – which looks much brighter than the other colors – to work.
I would wear these types of colors with office neutrals like dark colored dresses and skirts. I would also consider pairing dark colored tights with prints and/or other colors as long as the overall effect remained subtle. For example, to use specific colors that a reader asked about, I might pair the Emerald Glow tights with a gold pencil skirt and the Amethyst tights with a bright blue pencil skirt.
There are many colors of tights that are not appropriate in a professional workplace. For example, bright or pastel colored tights do not look professional and should only be worn after hours.
Further, white tights look very girlish and are never an option for a professional workplace. More generally, I would not recommend wearing white tights for anyone over age 13 or 14.
(4) Tights with Vertical Ribbing
Vertical ribbing is the most basic pattern for tights, and is usually available in black, dark brown, charcoal and other dark colors. Dark ribbed tights are appropriate for most occasions in most offices. As an added bonus, vertical ribbing is also quite flattering because it lengthens your leg.
Because ribbing is a very simple pattern, it looks attractive and work-appropriate paired with clothes in a variety of other textures and/or prints.
In addition, Neiman Marcus carries Hue Classic Rib Control Tights in Evergreen (shown above) and Caramel for $13.50.
(5) Patterned Tights
Here is where things get more interesting! And here’s where I can’t help but sound like a lawyer: some patterned tights are appropriate in some professional offices.
Because patterned tights can be so complicated – and full of potential landmines – I’ve created Commandress Style Rules for how to wear patterned tights at work, which you can find at the end of this post.
But first I’d like to illustrate a few points by sharing The World’s Best Patterned Tights:
I always keep a good stock of these tights on hand in black and brown – and I wear them anywhere and everywhere (and with almost anything) during the winter.
What makes these tights so great? The semi-opaque diamond pattern is reminiscent of fishnets, but is not the least bit flashy. In fact, the pattern is barely discernible around the ankles and first becomes truly noticeable at the knee. The diamond pattern elongates the leg and adds subtle interest to whatever you are wearing.
(6) Wild Card – Nude Fishnet Stockings
Here’s a style I’m curious about and will be trying out soon: nude fishnet stockings. Although fishnet stockings have earned a rightful place at the very top of most never-wear-to-work lists, those lists are targeting the bold and flashy style of black fishnets on fair legs.
Nude fishnets are a different creature entirely, and – when deployed properly – they would look appropriate in some professional offices. I’d love to hear whether you think this look would go over in your office:
The ideal nude fishnet stocking should be nearly invisible – on your skin. This means that it could take just as much time and effort to find the perfect “nude-for-you” fishnet stocking as the perfect “nude-for-you” shoe. And, of course, a woman with dark skin would find that brown – or even black – fishnets are her perfect shade of “nude-for-you.”
One of my upcoming assignments is to find my perfect shade of “nude-for-you” fishnets – and test my theory that they would be appropriate in some professional offices.
* * *
Commandress Style Rules – How to Wear Patterned Tights to Work
(1) When selecting patterned tights to wear to work, choose subtle and conservative over flashy and/or sexy.
(2) Which patterns look professional? Conservative patterns often include elements like vertical ribbing (discussed above), vertical lines, diagonal lines, cable knit, pinstripes and herringbone.
Shown below: Hue Herringbone Texture Tights – Made in the USA and available in Black, Brown, and Cobblestone for $13.50 from Lord & Taylor.
(3) Which patterns do not look professional? Flashy and/or sexy patterns often include elements like floral designs, lace designs, animal prints, backseams and fishnet designs. There are always exceptions, but in general these patterns do not look professional.
Shown below: These tights would look lovely with a cocktail dress, but they illustrate almost every design feature that you should NOT wear at – or within 3 blocks of – your office. Spanx Uptown Tight-End Tights Floral Backseam Fishnet – Made in the USA and available in Black and Nude for $42 from Spanx.
(4) Avoid horizontal lines, which will make your legs look shorter rather than longer.
(5) Patterns with less contrast (i.e., the difference between the darkest shade and the lightest shade of the tights) look more conservative than patterns with a lot of contrast.
(6) Patterned tights in one solid color – i.e., black or another very dark color – look more conservative than multicolor patterns.
(7) Pair less conservative tights with a more conservative outfit – and vice versa. For example, you can wear tights with a more noticeable pattern when you are wearing a simple black (or brown or plum or burgundy, etc.) dress.
* * *
Disclosure: this post includes affiliate links.