I live in Southern California, where we only need warm clothes to fight the chill in over-air-conditioned movie theaters, but I like wearing tights at all times because they easily answer the question: “Is this dress too short?” With a pair of super-opaque tights on underneath, the answer is always, “Nope.” But not just any tights will do — for my money, it’s black tights only, all the time. And that means blackout tights: completely opaque without even a hint of sheerness.
I’ve purchased and worn almost every style of opaque black tights currently available for sale, from the drugstore to Barneys — because while they may seem interchangeable, there really is a different pair of black tights that is the right pair for every wardrobe occasion. After several decades of searching, I’ve found my six favorites — the only ones you’ll ever need.
The Holy Grail
These are the black tights I would have designed if I could quit my day job and design black tights for a living. They are total blackout tights (basically pants in stocking form) and labeled 200 denier (a unit of measure that indicates the density of fibers). They have a little bit of sheen that makes me feel like a ballerina when I wear them. I am five-eight and 140 pounds, and these hit me at mid-hip — and have only the tiniest bit of roll-down right at the waistband. They don’t pill or snag, no matter how many cocktail rings I accidentally drag across them. The only thing is, they do have that annoying control-top bit built in, but finding a pair of opaque tights without that particular feature is like finding a date in the produce aisle: In theory, it could happen, but it’s not likely.
My Everyday Tights
This is my go-to black tight. I wear them everywhere — to work, to bed, on the airplane, at the gym. I buy them by the fistful, and I’ve never had to throw a pair away for a runner — they are indestructible. For a measly eight bucks, it’s hard to find fault with them, but if I were to go looking, I’d say that (1) they come up a bit too high (these hit me at the bottom of my ribs), and (2) they have the built-in control top, which is visible if you wear them with an ultrashort skirt. They don’t tend to roll at all though, so the trade-off is acceptable. Labeled 120 denier, these tights are still super-opaque — meaning I can’t see my ankle tattoos through them. Compared to H&M’s, they’re more matte, so I style them with any outfit that the H&M tights are a bit too shiny for. They come in sizes small/medium up to a 2X, which can accommodate up to a women’s size 24. (A side note: These tights are billed as being part of Target’s brand-new “A New Day” line, but they are identical to their Merona-brand “Premium Tights” of years past, right down to the toe seams.)
For Skintight Outfits
If you’re wearing a body-con dress or skintight skirt, spend the extra money and get yourself a pair of Commando’s very-matte-black, totally sheer-to-waist tights. Even though they are only rated 70 denier, they are still quite opaque. Most importantly, though, they are control-top-free. That means you can wear them with the shortest of skirts and not have that annoying line across the top of your thigh, as with most tights. Commando has even eliminated the hideous elastic waistband regular tights have that can dig into your flesh, and cleverly replaced it with a sleek microfiber waistband that renders them sleek, smooth, and invisible under clothes — meaning no lumps, bumps, or visible seams at all. (Commando also makes my favorite invisible underwear, so this should come as no surprise.)
When It’s Cold Out
Fleece-lined tights have a very thin, fine, layer of toasty polar-fleece material built right into them — they are one of Mother Nature’s very best inventions. They add very little extra bulk to your cold-weather look, but pack a wallop of warmth — it’s like wearing a sweatshirt on your legs. I packed this pair by Plush when I made the mistake of visiting Chicago in January, and felt zero wind chill — even though I was wearing skirts the entire time. (If you’re looking for a bit of extra warmth at a lesser price, try Target’s bargain version of fleece-lined tights. They aren’t quite as warm as the Plush versions, but for $12, they’re a steal.)
To Ease Circulation
Made in Germany of a polyamide and elastane material commonly used in performance sports apparel, these swanky tights have medical compression technology built right in— which is something I desperately need when spending 12 or more hours on my feet every day on set as a costume designer. Compression tights utilize a heavier-than-average elastic to create gentle pressure on the surface veins, so more blood returns to the heart, rather than pools at the feet. It works — my legs feel less heavy and tired after a full day of wearing them. These tights don’t slip, slide, or roll down, and manage to stand up to dog claws, rhinestone bracelets, and acrylic nails without snagging, tearing, or running. It does take an extra 60 seconds or so to squiggle into them, compared to regular old tights, but once you get them on, it’s total bliss.
At first glance, these faux-garter-belt tights appear to be thigh-highs layered over sheer stockings, but they’re actually one garment — and are the fastest way to dress up a going-out ensemble with very little effort. I like to wear mine with dresses and skirts that hit mid-thigh, so people only get a glimpse when I sit down and cross my legs.They add instant sex appeal to even the dowdiest of outfits, are a great way to show off your legs without really showing too much leg, and are actually a great conversation starter. Girls are always asking me where I got mine anytime I wear them. They are labeled one size fits all, but I’ve put actresses who are a size 16/18 in them easily. But take care when putting them on, as rings and bracelets can tend to snag the sheer, upper-thigh portion. And as with all tights, cold-water-washing them in a lingerie bag and hanging to dry will extend their life tenfold.
My pal Lesley Kinzel (longtime body-positive writer and former top editor at xoJane.com), had this to say when I reached out for plus-size suggestions to add to this post: “I have never wanted to design a clothing line, but if I did, I would launch a line of amazing fat-size tights — and make a zillion dollars, because the void is so huge. Finding good tights over a 2X at all is almost impossible, but these drugstore tights from Just My Size are the better of a bad lot. (And they’re cheap.) I can just barely squeeze my size-24 ass into the size 2X ‘A New Day’ tights that you love from Target (I usually need a 3X or 4X in tights, but the Target ones are stretchy as hell).”
Lesley adds: “City Chic also makes decent thick black tights up to roughly 4X (they have their own sizing conventions, so double-check before purchasing). They don’t sag at the crotch or ankle and are surprisingly durable.”
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