What are you wearing on your legs? If you’re one of the fashion crowd, the chances are nothing at all. These women will go bare- legged and make do with a light coating of moisturiser until the snow is piling up in the streets.
As for the rest of us, we’re back in trousers with socks and rootling around the back of the drawer for those built-to-last black opaques —quietly grateful to be back to blanket leg coverage after a long summer of limb pruning.
Only not so fast. Don’t burn your opaques just yet but — klaxon alert — the tights you need to be wearing now are sheer, as in 20 denier, just like the ones you wore with a puffball skirt and court shoes back in the 1980s. And these tights are not just for evening with your velvet cocktail frock — they’re your all-the-time tights to wear with everything.
This is a big part of the big change of the season — the shift towards polished, put together, elegant clothes — and for that you need polished, elegant hosiery.
Forty-plus denier looks way too heavy now, not to mention a bit dowdy — and industrial strength. If you want your denim skirt and furry jacket to have the right frisson of polish and glamour, you’ll need to break out the sheers.
Jennifer Lawrence, pictured, striking a stylish ensemble during an event in Las Vegas earlier this year
If you want last year’s block colour dress to keep working through the autumn, add sheer black tights and glossy bootees. And if you’re partial to black and monochrome, that dense top-to-toe look is lightening up with sheer tights and kitten heel slingbacks.
Even if you’re wearing knee boots, a glimpse of sheer stocking in the front split of your skirt is what looks modern now. So, although your heart might sink at the thought of giving up your bomb-proof tights, think of it as a way of future-proofing the clothes you own: sheer tights will keep your dresses and skirts and even your cropped trousers looking on point.
There’s no avoiding the practical downside — sheer tights will ladder more easily and you’ll have to take more care: moisturise first and take off rings before you put them on; make sure they’re long enough — hitching up is the big cause of snags; and opt for styles with the fewest seams so the fewest stress points.
That said, sheer hosiery has come a long way since we were last struggling with it, especially if you’re prepared to pay a bit more.
TIPS FOR GOING SHEER
Wash in a laundry net.
Don’t go below 20 denier.
Only wear black.
Wear for day and night.
Top of the list would be Falke Pure Matt 20 Tights (£18, falke.com) arguably worth it for the minimal seams/durability points, but otherwise head straight to Marks and Spencer for a three-pack of 20 denier (£5, marksand spencer.com), and put them in a laundry net before you put them in the washing machine.
It’s also true that sheer tights are not the zero maintenance option — you won’t get away with furry calves in 20 denier — but they give more coverage than you think and work a bit like air-brushing, as well as contouring.
You may feel safer in sturdy opaques, but I guarantee you’ll feel more sophisticated and sexier in sheer tights — it’s just a matter of getting used to them again.
The ideal denier is 20 — don’t go any lower or you’ll be lucky if they last more than one wear — but if in doubt 30 denier, although officially semi-sheer, is a good place to start. Again, try Marks & Spencer (£8 for a three-pack) or Charnos (£6.50, johnlewis.com).
Lily Collins pictured looking glamorously chic at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in April
Model Gigi Hadid pictured on the catwalk during a Chanel show in 2020, sporting a pair of sheer tights
And whatever you do, don’t turn against them before you’ve given them a chance. It’s not that long since we accepted beyond doubt that there was nothing so appealing as a leg in sheer tights.
If you have a quick flick through your fashion icon Rolodex you will come up with Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (those were stockings, but still, black and sheer and they’re on the poster they’re that good); Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s; the models in the Robert Palmer Addicted To Love music video; Princess Diana in that revenge black dress — all wore sheer black hosiery.
Pretty soon you’ll reach for your midi dress and wonder how you could have stuffed a pair of virtual leggings underneath it. Already they feel like tights made for your Rainbow Warrior niece, not so much you. This is how it starts. Next we’ll be upgrading to leopard-print underwear.