this thing's incredible

I Can’t Do a Triple Axel, but I Wear Figure-Skating Tights All Winter

Photo: Rachael Griffiths

There’s a stereotype that women from the north of England don’t sacrifice aesthetics for comfort in winter. Southerners remind us of this every chance they get. And, generally speaking, the idea is that we won’t as easily swap cute outfits for practical, warm ones when temperatures plummet. I’m from Liverpool, and my signature look is a skirt paired with either knee-high or ankle boots. In winter — if the rumors were true — that would mean adding a pair of tights, gritting my teeth, and enduring unsolicited inquiries of “Aren’t you freezing?” But despite my northern roots, I can’t hack the cold. What actually happens is I’m forced to stash away a good chunk of my favorite outfits for an entire season.

That changed last November. I was in Cambridge visiting a friend, and we set off for a festive afternoon of ice-skating followed by mulled wine (never the other way around). She’d been a competitive figure skater as a teen and kept it up as a hobby later, so she had all the gear. I’m talking skates, toe guards, and figure-skating tights. She offered me a pair of the latter “to keep warm.”

Of course, figure-skating tights keep you warm. They feel like at least a 100-denier pair — silky when rubbed between your fingers but super-stretchy, so you can move around. They don’t tend to snag on a rogue nail as you pull them on. There was another thing: Although they’re thicker than my usual 40-denier tights, they’re much thinner than any thermal or fleece-lined tights I’d tried in the past. Giddy that I may have found a solution to translating my signature look to winter, I later ordered a pair.

I was genuinely ecstatic when my knee-high boots zipped over the figure-skating tights with ease. But there was still a problem: They looked weird. Because of their stretchy lycra, they have a slight shine and were a subtly different shade than my skin color. I needed a way to camouflage the figure-skating tights so that they’d look like skin. It made total sense to then treat the tights as though they were skin and layer them under a pair of regular black tights. One look in the mirror, and I knew I’d cracked it: While on their own, the figure-skating tights had looked so much like tights masquerading as legs, they were now imperceptible. And even with the added layer, both pairs of tights were still thin enough to easily zip into my boots. A year on, they’re still going strong.

You should hand-wash them whenever possible. I ruined enough pairs of dancing tights in my tweens to know that stretchy pairs don’t stand up well to being knocked around a washing machine or dryer. If you do have to put them in the washing machine, choose a low temperature and never, ever tumble dry — they’ll shrink.

I’ve bought a second pair, just so I don’t have to hand-wash the same ones every time I want to wear them. Now when I leave the house in my signature pairing with my hidden thermal layer of warmth, I’m set for winter days and nights. No more shivers. And when people ask, “Are you not freezing in that outfit?” I can say, “No, actually. Not at all.”

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Skating Tights Keep Me Warm All Winter