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Stocking up: how to style colourful tights – winter’s warmest fashion trend



If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll know I moved to Sydney from Melbourne last year. As I navigate this city’s slightly different climate, I’m constantly struck by how my old rules of dressing don’t apply.

Sydney’s humidity means it’s not always necessary to take a jacket, and almost every time I’ve left the house in wool, I’ve been too hot. As far as I can tell (although we are only in May), winter dressing in Sydney seems to be for fun rather than the cold (the rain is a different story).

Nevertheless, opaque stockings were a prominent trend at Australian fashion week earlier this month, appearing on the runway in Viktoria & Woods, Liandra Swim and P.E Nation. They were often styled with sandals or knee-length boots and appeared as bright red pops of colour, or in pale mauve, florals, green and, of course, black.

If this sounds to you like a recipe for a fashion faux pas, you’re not alone. Here, industry experts explain how to make colourful tights work for you.

Give an outfit a leg up

“Hosiery can be used to inject interest and playfulness into looks,” says Karla Clarke, the Australian stylist behind the Viktoria & Woods runway show. Clarke recommends using colourful tights or stockings with a distinctive fabric to change up an outfit.

Whether it’s matching the colour of the tights to your skirt, shorts or dress – such as pale green tights under a pale green skirt or contrasting bright colours such as reds and pinks to neutrals and black – both strategies make a “strong statement”, she says.

Another way to add texture is by playing with colours and layers. For instance, a Scanlan Theodore spokesperson suggests layering colourful tights beneath neutral-coloured mid-length skirts or dresses and styling them with a knee-high boot to “reveal just a slither of the [tights], adding allure”.

Attenders show off colourful tights and statement socks at Australia fashion week. (L-R) Hannah Beaden and Sarah Fraser at the Blanca show, Rowi Singh at the Emma Mulholland on Holiday show, and Karen Leong at the Madre Natura runway show. Composite: Getty Images for AFW

What type of tights to buy

Since comfort should always be a priority, the team at Poepke, a boutique in Sydney, recommend buying tights with plenty of length through the legs so you don’t end up “pulling up falling-down tights all day”. Always check the measurements provided on the box to ensure you’re buying the right length.

When it comes to denier (the thickness of stockings), be mindful that different opacity versus sheerness will change the impact of your outfit. Poepke recommend a sock-style density in a soft cotton elastane rib, whereas Clarke prefers classic stockings that are uncompromising on quality and feel, such as the high-end brand Wolford.

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Clarke says a pair of stockings in 10 or 15 denier – on the sheer end – is “sophisticated and timeless for the evening”, while more opaque tights are good for “fashion play or experiment”.

Most tights will be made of synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester. If you prefer fibres that aren’t made from plastic, keep an eye out for viscose-rayon, lyocell, wool or cotton, although these will generally have been blended with elastane for stretch. One way to ensure breathability is to buy tights with a cotton-lined gusset.

It’s also worth inspecting the waistband. If you like to feel held in across your stomach, a wide compression band or control top will be the way to go. But if this makes you feel uncomfortable and constricted, a narrow waistband will be better. Reinforced toes will also mean your tights are more resistant to developing holes from nails poking through.

Over-the-knee socks

As an alternative to tights, the Poepke team recommend wearing over-the-knee socks. “They are perfect for a little flash of colour under a skirt with a slip-on clog or teamed with a pleated suit pant and lace-up shoe,” their spokesperson says. They recommend brands such as Simone Rocha, Baserange and Issey Miyake in romantic florals, olive greens and pastel pinks.

For a preppy look, style with brogues and pleat-front shorts and a shirt, or a miniskirt and a knit vest. You can also style over-the-knee socks with heels or sandals to make an outfit more playful.

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