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The Modern Woman’s Hosiery Style Guide with expert Erica Luster

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Though we still say things like “ugh, I got a run in my stockings,” chances are what we’re actually wearing is tights. This time of year, when all of the legwear options come back into full rotation, here’s everything our in-house hosiery expert Erica Luster wants you to know. Consider it a gams glossary of sorts, a lexicon of legwear…

Leggings

We can’t imagine life without our black, ankle-length fashion staples. Leggings pair awesomely with long sweaters, tunics, or blouses for a day-to-night look. Besides basic black cotton spandex, consider branching out into textured styles like leather and corduroy, shaping leggings and even denim in deep, rich colors. Always go for the highest opacity, meaning: Make sure they’re super-dark to prevent seeing through them. Note that leggings are not interchangeable with footless tights. The latter tends to be less opaque and are meant to be layered under a skirt or pants.

Pantyhose and Sheers

These are two different terms for the same item every woman should have in her drawer: Year-round, they keep legs looking flawless and feeling warm while proving all but invisible. Denier is an important factor in this category. It refers to the weight of the fibers that make up the pantyhose. The heavier the denier, the darker and thicker the hose tends to be. Low-denier hose doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to run easily; these days they often have stronger fibers for run-resistance. Sheers or pantyhose are basically make-up for the legs. They give you an even tone at their most subtle all the way up to a sunkissed glow, and they come in a variety of colors to match your skin-tone. Pair sheers with a skirt, dress or even under light-colored pants. Footless sheers are a smart layering piece to gloss over any lumps and bumps for a smooth look every day. Sheers also come toeless for peep-toe shoes, or in sandal foot for a more seamless look and reinforced toe.

Thigh highs vs. Stockings

Definitely not your grandma’s hose! Thigh highs are really the new “stockings.” Technically speaking, stockings are thigh highs that don’t have silicone, requiring a garter belt to keep them in place. Over time, stockings evolved into thigh highs or “stay ups,” which are garter belt-free and have silicone to keep ’em up where they belong. Thigh highs are for those who don’t like the feel of a full pair of pantyhose or prefer a sexier look. Lace is common on the band portion, lending an elegant look to these wardrobe workhorses. Thigh highs are mostly worn with skirts or dresses, and they come in a variety of sheer nude tones as well as opaques for whatever the scenario.

Tights

Tights, a.k.a. opaques, are a darker form of hose meant for both fashion and coverage. Tights have a higher denier (there’s that word again!) for extra weight and opacity. The higher the denier, the higher the opacity, which results in darker tights. For example, Commando 110 denier are “blackout” tights: no sheerness at all. In the world of hosiery, tights definitely have the most fun. There are faux knee sock tights, textured tights, every imaginable color as well as illusion tights, making them the ultimate accessory with a skirt or dress look. And in the fall and winter, tights are non-negotiable for keeping legs warm without compromising style (have you tried fleece-lined?!).

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Brooke Glassberg
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, calligraphy, travel and her exceptionally adorable toddler and husband.
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