InStyle's fashion director Arabella Greenhill looking warm AND stylish

InStyle's fashion director Arabella Greenhill looking warm AND stylish

This time of year always sparks off the same old question in the fashion world – tights: yea or nay? If you listen to many fashion editors, look at street style pictures or flick through November and December issues of magazines, you may well assume that to wear tights is to be totally off-trend. Even if you’re in New York in February and it’s snowing (see New York Fashion Week for details).

But none of the people you see online or in magazines are real people – they are people who get driven around in a warm, toasty car from one warm toasty, venue to another. They are people that still have a blow dry (seriously, why?!), and bother with (or can afford to have) pedicures between October and March. They are not people who have to stand at a bus stop every morning. Nor are they people who, actually, don’t really like their bare legs anyway, and look forward to the first ‘tights day’ of the year so they can wear a skirt with confidence again. They are not people who – like us - despair when we are told “no! To be fashionable, you must not wear tights!”

So let me give you permission, right now, to bring out your favourite pair of opaques. Just follow Team InStyle’s simple rules, and you’ll always look cool in them too…

1. The higher the denier, the better

Very thin black tights might be a bit more rock n roll, but they’re much less forgiving on the legs (particularly if you have knobbly knees like me!). Plus they ladder really easily. To quote our deputy editor Emily Dean, “anything under 50 denier has to go as I don’t want to look like a WPC”. I love Heist's brand new tights - they suck your tummy in as well as looking great. 

2. Short skirts need tights

If you’re a fan of a mini, bare legs in the office just isn’t an option. By the time you’re sitting down at your desk it’s a few inches shorter and therefore, verging on obscene. A nice thick pair of tights keeps it acceptable. “I pair opaque black tights with a-line mini skirts and pointy flat shoes”, says InStyle’s Isabella Silvers. “It makes the 60s Edie Sedgwick look I love slightly more office appropriate.”

InStyle's fashion features editor, Hannah Rochell (me!), in a VERY short skirt and very thick tights

3. No nudes please

There is never an excuse to wear nude tights, particularly in winter when you have no reason to pretend you have bare legs. The biggest offender is nude fishnets…I mean, WHY?!

4. Brogue lovers - grey ribbed tights are your friend

If you’re a fan of the preppy look – all buttoned up shirts and tan brogues – you need some grey tights in your life. Masculine flat shoes generally look pretty awful with black opaques, but grey woolly hosiery has just the right edge to work. Take it from me – I haven’t worn heels since 2011. I love this pair from Falke; they might be a touch on the expensive side but they last for years (I must have had mine for four winters now).

5. The perils of coloured tights

I once wore some green tights to the pub thinking they were cool but had to take them off half way through the night because I felt too much like Robin Hood. Yellow tights just look like chicken legs. And anything pink or red looks like a bad, unseasonal case of sunburn. But hey, if those are the looks you’re after, go for your life.

6. Really consider your shoes

As well as the ‘no tan shoes with black tights rule’, there are LOADS of other things to consider. “I quite like wearing black tights with black patent brogues (rather than plain leather ones) so they're the same colour but there's a texture contrast”, says our features writer Lucy Pavia. Top tip. “My personal rule with opaque tights is the more feminine the shoe, the less inclined I am to wear tights,” adds Emily, “so no sling backs, no stilettos…but yes to high heeled boots and block heels”.

InStyle's fashion director, Arabella Greenhill, in classy block heeled boots

7. Take the shine off

Who thought shiny tights were a good idea? Because they were wrong. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to tell when they’re still in the packet, but avoid black opaques that have a sheen as it weirdly has the effect of making your calves look wider. And no-one wants that. I really like Marks and Spencer’s wool blend range for a matt finish (they feel nice too).

8. Ribbed tights are fine…but that’s as far as your pattern should go

Cable knit tights are almost OK but please, if you must wear them, make sure you get the pattern vertical all the way down your leg, not twisting around your foot because you weren’t looking properly when you put them on. And while I think everyone should go through a stripy tights and denim cut-offs phase in their teens (it’s a rite of passage), that’s a look to ditch over the age of 19. Oh, and the less said about floral tights, the better…

9. What to do about white trainers?

So your white trainers have become an essential part of your look, but they’re not so easy to wear with tights. I wear my adidas Superstars with thick, woolly ribbed black tights and go for full-on contrast, picking out white details in the rest of my outfit (see below - and look how pleased I am about it!).

Read more: Freezing? Shop InStyle's faux fur scarf edit...

And if you MUST go bare legged…

“My top tip for if you want to go bared legged when it's colder is to wear proper ‘Bridget Jones pants’ that go up to your bra and down to you knees. They're perfect for wearing under culottes - which can look a bit weird with tights - for an extra layer of warmth.” George Driver, InStyle’s beauty assistant

“Tights make me feel claustrophobic. So instead I use a really oily cream or a body balm and rub it in really well, wiping off the excess so that you have, essentially, an invisible pair of tights! Nuxe spray oil works well too and if you wear sun tan oil you smell of holidays as a bonus.” Amy Bannerman, InStyle’s fashion editor