How to Wear Tights

How to Wear Tights
How to Wear Tights

One of our most frequently asked questions this time of year is how to wear tights.  A quick search on Pinterest will show you with a million different ideas, from how to wear purple tights with a leather skirt, to fishnets with denim shorts.  I’m thinking, when our readers ask how to wear tights, that’s not exactly what they are after.

So today I thought we would break down the basics and create a simple and straightforward guide showing you how to wear tights.

How to Wear Tights

How to Wear Tights

Before we dive in, a quick note. Every single time I write about tights and pantyhose a gang of internet creepers finds the post and floods our comments with gross inappropriateness. At first it was sort of funny, but the last post got so bad I had to delete the whole thing.  So if you are that creeper I will not let your comment go through. Go find a fetish chat room.

With that said, let’s talk about the difference between an opaque tight, a sheer, and pantyhose. It all comes down to their weight, or “denier” which is just the term used to measure thickness.

An opague tight is 30 denier and above. At 30 denier, you cannot see the leg through the tights.  From 30, you can go all the way to 70 – 99, which is like wearing a sweater on your legs.  In general, 30 denier is the most popular and comfortable.

Anything lower than 30 denier, typically starting at 20, is considered a sheer tight.  At that weight you can see the leg through the weight of the tight.  The lighter the denier, the sheerer the tight, at the lowest denier, around 10, you get pantyhose.

Next up, when to wear what.


Every time I give a speech, or presentation, the number one question I get is, “can I still wear pantyhose?” To which I always say, of course! If they are good enough for Kate Middleton, they are good enough for me. It’s just a matter of which kind you choose.

You want them to look as natural – or not there – as possible.  I avoid the drugstore brands, because really, is anyones skin actually “suntan”?  Hands down my go-to favorite is Donna Karen The Nude Collection.  They come in every skin tone, from almost see-through (me) to deep and dark.  Your legs will look completely natural, and match the rest of your body, but with no flaws.  They aren’t the cheapest option, but they are worth it.

I tend to wear them in the fall and winter, usually to more professional or formal events, with a light to medium weight dress.  That could be anything from something with a chiffon skirt, or an office-appropriate sheath.

Favorite Pantyhose: Donna Karen The Nude Collection

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For slightly more formal, to formal occasions a sheer can be appropriate.  There is some debate around whether they are frumpy – I think they can look chic, especially if you wear them with either a timeless or more contemporary dress.  They work well with cocktail dresses and a suede or leather pointed pump.

Be sure you buy a pair that evenly distributes the color saturation.  You’ll look sloppy if the color is blotchy across your legs. Again, I go for Donna Karen or Wolford.

Another question that comes up is about sheers with a pattern on them.  I’m personally not a fan because I don’t think they do anything to enhance your outfit. The whole point of pulling together an outfit is to create a cohesive look. If you are wearing a piece that steals the show, where your eye goes right to that piece, you lose the cohesiveness.

I think they look cute on some people, but too kitschy for most.  They are not appropriate for work unless you are in an über creative office.  Of course, if you like them, wear them, but if you’re going for elegant, opt for a traditional sheer.

Favorite Black SheersWolford Individual 10 Pantyhose

Tights or Opaques 

Best practice for tights or opaques is to pair them with skirts and dresses of equal(ish) weight.  Sweater dresses, double knits, or stretch ponté fabrics all work well.  Then, your shoe is important.  Skip the pump, or ankle strap shoe and go instead with a boot, they work well with an ankle, knee high or over the knee boot.

How to Wear Color

When it comes to color, I follow the 2/3’s rule.

First, with black, just pair your black tights or sheers with a boot or pumps Generally, sheers work best with pumps, tights work best with boots. Easy peasy.

Yesterday’s post was a good example of how most of us wear tights. and a great example of the 2/3’s rule: a red dress, black tights, and black boots.

Favorite Opague Tight: HUE Opaque Control Top Tights

Now, let’s say you’re feeling saucy and want to wear something other than black.

You can still follow the 2/3’s rule:

Navy dress / Navy tight / Black shoe

Navy skirt / Burgundy tight/ burgundy ankle boot

Grey sweater dress / Grey tights / Cognac boot

This allows you to play a little but keep it conservative.

Remember, these are just guidelines, sometimes, something works and it breaks all the rules. So play a little and see what feels right on!

Related: How to Look Expensive Without Breaking the Bank


How to Wear Tights
Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

  1. Thank you for covering the basics for those of us who tend to be “clothing challenged”. I tend to ask my 28 year old daughter her opinion about everything. Your newsletters cover the “why” behind the “how”.

  2. My challenge is the patterned multi colored pencil skirt. Ex: skirt is textured off-white with a diagonal burgundy and navy pattern. If I pick any of those 3 colors for a top what do I do for tights and boots? Help!

  3. Thank you for making it all easy to understand!! Pet peeve of mine is the incorrect use of tights and pantyhose.. even worse when something’s bare legged cause they “hate” pantihose! As you brought out in a professional or formal environment it brings an outfit together! Dump the cheap drugstore brands and buy quality!! They last, feel lovely and make you more polished!😘

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