How to wear tights

by Sylvia

how to wear tights

I received a request from Martha S. recently to write an article on how to wear tights for fall and winter. This is a very good topic so here are some of my thoughts.

Why you should show off your beautiful legs

For many women over 40 their legs are true assets. Apart from the knees they are not prone to aging so quickly and it can add a lot of sex appeal to your outfit. Therefore, the general advice for many women over 40 is to show some leg for a hip and youthful appearance.  Although this is easy in the summer, it can be challenging for women like me who easily get cold. Tights are a perfect solution, but how can you wear them and still look hip and youthful?


I really like opaque tights and you can get them in any colour these days. With the colour blocking trend still going strong, you can really play with the colour of your tights and make it fun. If you want a more conservative look than go with the colour of your shoes or skirt. Wolford Velvet Deluxe are good ones and so are Spanx Tight End Reversible Tights, which have a different colour at the back. Great neutral colours to own would be black, grey, brown and navy. Great fall 2012 trend colours would be burgundy and cobalt blue (both would look fantastic with either black or winter white). Do not wear opaques in nude and make sure you create a nice balance with the colours in your outfit.

black opaque tights

I like how Jessica Quirk from What I Wore creates a very graphical look with the colours of her clothes and black tights. You can do this with different coloured tights as well so long as they are not too see-through. Although Jessica matches her shoes to her tights on this occasion, this kind of look can look equally great with shoes in a different colour that comes back in the outfit.

wearing tights with colour

If you like to use pattern or colour, you can do so as long as your tights are in balance with the rest of your outfits. See how the tights don’t stand out in the image on the left? It blends in nicely with the rest of the outfit. Catherine from Not Dressed as Lamb also creates a colourful graphical look with this outfit and her tights fit right into it.

Sheer tights

Sheer tights look best in (bearly) black or very see through nude. I feel that this, together with fishnets, is the only way to wear nude tights if you want to create a modern look. Sheer nude tights that are frequently recommended are the Donna Karen nudes. In the below picture sheer black tights look very chic with the yellow dress. The Duchess of Cambridge has been credited for bringing nude tights back into favour.

sheer tights


If you want to up the sex appeal even more then this is always a consideration, but be sure to keep the rest of your outfit very classy. I would stick to black or nude only for fishnets.

pattern and fishnet tights

Catherine from Not Dressed as Lamb uses colour and tights to create a completely different look with this dress. the dotted tights create a quirky creative look, while the fishnets are chic for the office.


Flower patterns and printed pants are very much the trend right now and you may want to incorporate this trend with your tights. However, do so with care. Using patterned tights can very quickly look wrong or trashy or just draw too much attention on your legs and away from your face. If you like to use pattern, I would stick to a subtle pattern in one colour. Make sure that the pattern blends in with your outfit and it can look great. Here is how I wore printed tights recently.

burgundypartyoutfit (1 of 6)opt burgundypartyoutfit (3 of 6)opt

Knee highs

Knee highs can be great under trousers and some long skirts. Follow the same guidelines as for tights. Of course you should never be able to see the end of your knee-highs.

What to avoid?

  • Flesh coloured opaque tights. These are very aging and generally don’t give you a flattering look. Some designers feel that you should avoid flesh coloured tights altogether, although I believe that very thin and natural sheer tights can look very nice with the right clothes.
  • Never show your reinforced toes of tights and knee highs in shoes.
  • In fact avoid wearing tights with sandals altogether.
  • Don’t wear socks over tights. That should be left to the teenagers.
  • 2 hue tights, too bold patterns, too bright tights.
  • Any runs and holes.
  • Also be sure to shave your legs before wearing tights.

These were my guidelines on how to wear tights in a nutshell. Use them as rough guidelines only and use your own creative flair to create a great look! Below are a few tights that you can buy online now.

Below are some suggestions on what tights to buy. Good online shops include:

Did I cover everything? What are your tips for wearing tights?

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marla

I’ve lived in a humid climate for so long and have not worn any type of stockings, that it’s hard for me to put on tights. I just hate the feeling. I love the look though.


2 Sylvia

Yes, it’s been a while for me too. But it’s definitely a look I would sport often if I lived in a colder climate… Although not featured here, I really love the look of skirts with opaque tights and booties!


3 lisa

First, you’re very beautiful. Second, thank you for a very interesting read – I live (literally) in tights, I’d wear them to bed even (when it’s cold). Thank you, agree with you on all the points 🙂


4 Rita

This is sooooooooooooooooo timely for me!! I’ve been tiring of just wearing pants/jeans in colder weather and love the look of tights/skirts (either dressy or casual) and have actually bought both, but haven’t stepped out of my box to wear them yet. I’m thinking today is the day, though!! Thanks for the excellent tips!


5 Sylvia

Great that this was helpful for you Rita. It’s such a pity that I can’t show you more looks with tights myself, but they are just never necessary here…. Good luck with finding some great combinations!


6 Marianne

Opaque tights are the only ones I wear with a dress. Coloured ones as well, but always in a colour that matches the dress,. I have a grey jumper like dress and then a grey cardigan and I wear it with yellow opaque tights and a scarf in the same yellow[ochre]. And it doesn’t look ridiculous, I hope.


7 Sylvia

Sounds great Marianne!


8 Greetje

I am not very good with opaque coloured tights. I bought 3 colours this season but have not worn them yet. In the past I wore red tartan tights with a black dress. That was fun, but I threw them out this year. Not my thing anymore. Too wild.
Anja and I discussed yesterday, that it might be really nice to wear a red dress (check) with a black and white polka dot scarf / cumberband around the waist (check), black boots (check) and black opaque tights with a polka dot (to be bought).
I agree with your suggestion Sylvia, to go for a black dot on black tights. Not a white dot on black tights. Too much probably. But then again, it might be nice.
The thing is…. I really always wear hold-ups (you know, those stockings with a rubber band at the top). Much more comfortable and much more elegant. Unfortunately there is not much choice in hold-ups.
I have plain black opaque hold-ups and found out that they are much nicer than sheer stockings when there is a bit of leg showing between boots and skirt. If I wear shoes, I wear sheer hold-ups. It might just be a habit. I always thought my legs would look nicer with vaguely black or really thin see-through nude stockings. But perhaps that is just habit.


9 Sylvia

Really thin tights really show off your legs and very often look very good. Opaque tights are warmer and can often create a hipper look. You can play with colours as well, which is fun.


10 Tangobabe

I must own between 50 to 100 pairs of tights and maillots. Some sheer in black or color, but most are opaque in every color of the rainbow. Further, some fishnets in black, red, purple, glitter, etc. And opaque tights with patterns, prints and with a lace pattern.
I also have a dozen pair of hold ups, in color and fishnet, but they don’t ‘stick’ on my skinny thighs, so I stopped wearing them. I find them very handy, with skirts and dresses from all lengths and with pumps and boots alike.


11 Sylvia

Yes, you should show off some nice fall looks with them Anja!


12 Heather Fonseca

I wore opaque tights the other day and my husband said it reminded him of when we were dating. I wore black tights with everything in the late 80’s and early 90’s. the skirts got longer and I stopped. Now I’ve started wearing them again. They’re very flattering in black as they make the legs look slim and long.


13 Sylvia

Yes, I wore them lots too with shorts!


14 Leslie

Thank you for the suggestions. I do have a question, how to wear tights when one is 5’2″ and plus size?


15 Sylvia

I would choose tights in the same colour as your skirt or dress. Then also match with the same colour boots. This will have an elongating and slimming effect.


16 tommi

I disagree with the “not wearing with sandals” theory. If done right, that can look good. just not flip flops — unless you’re wearing sheer pantyhose with them. 🙂 We should encourage more men to wear hose and tights with shorts, also.


17 Michael

I too wish more men would embrace the notion of wearing shorts and tights. I danced for 15yrs and from classes to performances, at some point tights were a requirement. I did leave the studio wearing athletic shorts over my tights once in a while, and no one batted an eyelid; could be the city life, who knows? I’ve noticed more fashion designers are trying incorporate tights into their menswear clothing lines. It’s only a matter of time!


18 Marcel

I was surprised, but quite pleased, to read your favorable comment about men wearing tights with shorts. I have always been quite insecure about openly wearing tights and/or sheer nude pantyhose with dressy shorts, culottes, etc. Of course I find the look attractive and becoming for women, but I am afraid of looking clownish or absurd to others–even though I personally prefer to show my legs shaved and in a sheer nude pantyhose instead of following the “normal” style of displaying bare, hairy, pale male legs. Could you give me the benefit of any thoughts you may have about this topic? Is there any way to minimize the appearance of being in bad taste?


19 Gael

I like tights, but the look seems so 1980’s. I wore them in so many colors then and was into what we now call color blocking like it’s fresh and new. Hose or tights with open toes are just a big fashion no-no, but living in a warm climate, we really need another option as we age other than bare legs. Footless tights had a short run, and What Not To Wear said that nude fishnets could also be worn with open toes. I’ve done that, and I’ve seen a couple of others do that, but sunless tanner seems the only viable option still.


20 Sylvia

I like bare legs in a warmer climate and don’t even mind them pale. In general your lower legs still look very nice when getting older. It’s mainly the knees that would benefit from cover up. That is one reason I prefer to wear skirts and dresses that hit the knees.


21 Daenel Vaughn-Tucker

I agree with everything here. Except the no socks with tights. I do wear socks and tights together. I absolutely adore the look. And it keeps my toes (which are always cold) warm. I also like tights with sandals. Just not on me.


22 Sylvia

Hi Daenel, yes this looks has become trendier also lately and when done right can still look good. As with all ‘guidelines’ here at 40+Style they should be taken lightly and broken as you please 🙂


23 Jodie filogomo

The greatest tights for us in the colder climates are the fleece lined tights. I’ll even wear a pair of other tights under them for additional warmth!!! Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean we have to look frumpy!!!


24 Sylvia

Right now (as I’m shivering in a cold Netherlands) that seems like a GREAT idea!


25 Glenda Bibbero

Sylvia, it said that the Duchess brought back the acceptance of nude tights. Have any of the fashion sites embraced that yet? I so miss wearing hose with dresses in the Summer. I live in California and “Summer” lasts a long time. LOL What are your thoughts on the nude tights as far as current trends go?


26 Sylvia

I think nude tights are great so long as they are very sheer. I actually often prefer the look to darker tights (like black) as I feel bare legs (with or without tights) brighten up a black look.


27 Diane

I love love love wearing tights! I especially love wearing the ones that have a high waist because at my age of 69, the high waist helps smooth my muffins {:>) Does anyone have advice about what to do when the high waist starts to creep down after a few hours? At times I wish I had suspenders to help hold my tights up! HA!


28 Sylvia

I often wear an extra knickers over my panties… That really helps with this.


29 Barbara

HA! I tried that, Diane– suspenders! I used 1″ wide strong elastic yardage, and crossed the ‘straps’ in the back. I pinned them to the high-waist panty tights I have. It sort of works, and I have done this a few times, but I find that the little bit of loose skin I have in my rib cage just pushes up under the bra where the high waist leaves off!!!
I am in your age group, and I really thing we can just need to have a little humor about it and just throw away our skin-tight tops. That’s easier. LOL!


30 Martina

How does one wear opaque footless tights? I live in Alaska and I’d like to wear skirts or dresses in the summer with but it’s too chilly for me to go with bare legs and no one wears panty hose here. Can footless tights be worn with sandals or flats? Thanks for your advice!


31 Sylvia

To me those fall in the same category as leggings really. I would much prefer to see a skirt or dress with normal opaque tights.


32 Judy

I love wearing opaque tights during the winter months, I have them in many colors. They really do keep you warm especially if your wearing a dress or skirt..


33 Jennifer

Love this article – I hate my legs, but hate regular nylons almost as much.

These are wonderful alternatives. I so miss wearing dresses and skirts to work….


34 Maria

Hi. just wondering if tights that form just below the knee with a ruffle are still in style for spring/summer 2015? Thanks.


35 Sylvia

I’m not sure about ruffles but knee high leggings with some draping at the knees are still very much in style. I’m wearing them here


36 Kim

I buy skirts from charity shops. So I pay a lot less for skirts of much better quality.
Look for your local charity shops and have a look around.


37 Caroline

I absolutely love wearing tights also and for some reason it makes me feel much more complete and dressed. I think they look good and sophosticated on women of all ages and I also think that men find them sexier also! My dilemma always though is whether to wear sheer nude with a black dress and heals or should it always be barely black? Love to hear what others think.
Caroline x


38 Sylvia

I like the look of sheer nudes with black, especially when arms are bare too. It breaks the severeness of too much black and think it’s very chic. But a sheer barely black is fabulous too. It just depends on the rest of the outfit and your mood.


39 Caroline

Thank you Sylvia, I think you have confirmed it is ok to wear nude with a black skirt or dress. When I do go for nearly black tights though it is as you say going with mood and occasion, I just wonder what you think about a lighter colour of court heel? I love the new trend for nude heels but I always wonder if they look right with barely black tights?
Favourite brands: Marks & Spencer Autograph 7 Denier sheer, Wolford 15 Denier sheer, Jasper Conran 15 sheer. Also absolutely love Marks & Spencer 5 Denier oiled look for the summer.
Caroline x


40 Sylvia

I personally would not wear nude with barely black and would prefer those with nude tights or bare legs.


41 Glenda

I have a very cute shirt dress that is wine colored with cream plaid. I’d like to wear cream tights with it but can’t figure out what shoes I would wear with it. Is this something that can look good or is it best left alone? Thanks for you comments.


42 Sylvia

Booties are very much on trend now, so wine colored booties would be fab. A shirt dress could also look good with brogues or you could wear pumps for a dressier option. For the latter wine tights may be better.


43 Mandy

I love wearing tights and wear them everyday in fall n winter. I get many second looks when I wear tights and show off my legs . I love the new patterns they come out with all the time and the fact that I wear plus size I thank the people that make plus sizes for the larger women.I have been wearing tights for many many years and think that women have more appeal when they cover their legs . couple of favorites are Pretty Polly and Hue also Silkies .


44 Chris

As a male who usually wears tights in sport I frequently wear tights with shorts when shopping or generally out and about in the colder months.
If I wear tan shades then nobody seems to notice but mostly I wear black opaques; sometimes patterned or even tan small fishnet. My legs are quite thin so no bulging muscles – anywhere! I’ve never been one to follow what everybody else else wears.


45 Ariana

I love tights and pantyhose.I wear them every where and every time even in sleeping.because they are beautiful and cute.


46 Sherry Edwards

When wearing boots is it better for the tights to match the boots or skirt colour? Or just wear skin coloured pantyhose. Pantyhose and tights are a necessity for me. I wear them daily. Even long johns under my pants.


47 Sylvia

That depends on the outfit and how long the skirt is and the boots are. I would say the color that feels the most natural and that breaks up your body the least.


48 Kim Sherman

Thick opaque tights are an essential this winter. If you get tired and always wearing black try navy or grey, or if you really want a splash of color go for burgundy.


49 Fern Montgomery

wearing a burglandy colored sweater dress that falls at knee, with burgandy suede 2″ pumps. What color tights? It’s very cold where I live and I am a senior lady.


50 Sylvia

I feel burgundy opaque tights in the same color of the dress would look best and keeps you warm. Gray and black would work too but look nicest when they are more sheer although opaque is definitely an option too.


51 Kim Sherman

Here I am wearing green jumper, red cord skirt and black ribbed tights with black riding boots:


52 Leslie

any suggestions for mid- late spring in new york (normally wear black opaque tights in fall/winter/early spring but need to lighten up)! normally wear knee length dresses and black booties/flats at work.


53 Leslie

any suggestions for mid- late spring in new york – normally wear black opaque tights in fall/winter/early spring but need to lighten up)! normally wear knee length dresses and black booties/flats at work thanks!


54 Sylvia

I would just opt for a more sheer version. Gray sheer tights are a softer option and usually look really nice.


55 Joey

I have discovered that putting some lotion on my legs before putting on tights/pantyhose makes them stay up better!


56 Guus

I wear pantyhose everyday, mostly black under my trouses. I’m a male and the feeling of tights make me happy. I hope soon it wil be accepted for men. I’m not a tranny, it feels softy about my legs.


57 Clarice A.

Our daughter is 15 and finially recieving her Sacrement of baptism in the October 14 baptism class.All of the little.preteen and teen girls wear the traditional,white,short sleeve,top of the knees baptism dresses with a matching bonnet,undershirt,cloth diaper,rubberpants,high waist white tights and white mary jane shoes.It has been a problem in the past that the white tights have a tendency to slide down over the cloth diaper and rubberpants when the girls walk,so now the waist band of the tights is pinned with small safety pins to the waist band of the rubberpants.I will do this with my daughters tights after they are on over her cloth diaper and rubberpants.When all the girls make their First Holy Communions,the tights,diaper and rubberpants is worn under their communion dresses also and the same pinning process is done also.


58 Yvonne

Looking for long sweaters to wear with tights. Any suggestions?


59 Sylvia
60 Hugo Focus

An important factor in buying black opaque tights is the level of opacity you require. Complete opacity will only start at 100 denier, and this depends on manufacturers as some are made of 100 denier yarn but will have a looser knit will not necessarily be completely opaque. Opacity is important if you are covering legs to hide marks, blemishes and leg hair. To ensure total opacity it may be a good idea to choose 200 denier tights, these will definitely be totally opaque. This can be seen in this link where the model is wearing 200 denier black opaque tights.


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