Style + Career Style

Ask the Edit: How to Style Tights for Work

You asked for it, and you got it!  How to make your tights work for work.

The 2-out-of-3-Rule.

Styling your look from the waist down, there are three elements: dress/skirt, tights, shoes.  Two of these three elements should always be the same color, and those two elements should touch.  Here are some examples.

shoes and tights match // dress and tights match

I prefer when the shoes and tights match.  I think it’s an incredibly sleek look that slims, lengthens the leg, and looks more professional.  And whether you’re 18 or 45, you can make this look work during the winter months.

The Best Tights.

Your tights need to be as dark and opaque as possible.  For a whole explanation on denier and opacity, as well as a plethora of recommendations, see this post from last month.  The short version of the story is that these 100 denier Spanx Luxe Tights are my favorite.  They’re thick enough, dark enough, and gosh darnit people like them!

The Shoes You Need.

As I mentioned, my favorite ensemble for work is black tights with black shoes.  Period.  There are three types of shoes that work best with this look: pumps, ankle boots, and tall boots.

Notice I didn’t say flats?  I think flats and tights can look very juvenile, especially round-toed flats.  So if you must wear flats, I recommend pointed or almond toe flats.  Ankle straps, suede, and embellishments need not apply.  Thinks super basic, like these Sam Edelman flats.

As for the pumps, round toe or pointed toe, dealer’s choice.  But much like the flats, simpler is better for work.  You almost want the tights to blend in with the shoes like they’re an extension of your body.

These Trotters Gigi heels are the ultimate basic round toe.  They remind me of my beloved J.Crew Mira Pumps, which they no longer make and I own four pairs of for safety.

For a pointed toe, these Kate Spade Licorice Pumps are the ultimate classic.  If you need a more affordable shoe, these Nine West Flax Pumps are a good choice.  Prefer a lower heel?  These Michael Kors Flex heels are simple and comfortable.

In the market for boots?  If you work in a casual office, you can get away with these gorgeous Frye flat, riding boots.  For an unembellished, classic tall boot, these Nine West Fallon boots are the clear winner.  They’re the sleekest option you could hope for in an affordable price.

If you prefer ankle boots, these Kate Spade kitten boots are a lot of fun and they’ll blend seamlessly with your tights.  These Dune black suede boots give a similar look for half the price.  This Marks and Spencer leather stiletto boot also caught my eye.

Final Thoughts.

The key to making tights work for work is making them look as unobtrusive as possible.  You want it to look like your cloaked your legs in black by creating a seamless look.  So get the darkest tights and the simplest shoes and add other pieces as needed.

Addendum.  

There’s a bit of confusion that I want to clear up.  Just because I used black tights as an example doesn’t mean you can only wear black tights.  Black are the most professional option and the easiest, but that doesn’t mean other colors aren’t perfectly appropriate.  Navy, grey, dark brown, all great options.  In my younger years, I used to wear a dark purple dress and dark purple tights.

Navy, grey, dark brown, all great options.  In my younger years, I used to wear a dark purple dress and dark purple tights.  If you do navy tights, navy shoes.  Grey tights, grey shoes.  It’s just tougher to get a good color match as the shade of your shoes will vary from the tights (most of the time), so just get as close as you can.

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LEAVE A COMMENT

    38 comments

  1. Rachel says:

    I always try to follow the 2 out of 3 rule. It really does make for a sleeker look, especially black tights and black shoes.

    One question though – how do you deal with situations where the rule just won’t work? For example, a cream and navy striped dress. I want to wear brown boots ankle boots, but brown tights just seem wrong. I usually do navy tights and brown boots, but I was wondering if you have a better suggestion. Or do you know of magical brown tights that look good.

    November 8, 2017/Reply
    • Rachel says:

      I second this! Always don’t know what to do if I’m wearing a camel skirt or navy dress…black tights and heels would feel like a fashion faux pas!

      November 8, 2017/Reply
      • SM says:

        So I have worn a navy wrap dress with brown tight and cognac knee boots and the combo works well. Throw in some gold tone jewelry and it pulls the whole look together well.

        November 8, 2017/Reply
        • Rachel says:

          What brown tights do you wear? I’ve never been able to find pretty ones. They always look like some weird dried poop color.

          November 8, 2017/Reply
      • Belle says:

        It’s a strong look, to be sure, but I don’t find it to be faux pas at all. I like navy and black together. And camel with black is a classic. If you wanted to do dark brown with camel and navy with navy, that’s fine. Navy dress and navy tights with burgundy or charcoal pumps would be nice.

        November 8, 2017/Reply
  2. Crystal says:

    I agree with your rule. And it’s pretty straightforward for black, navy, or gray.

    Do you have any suggestions for matching cognac brown booties/boots? The only recommendation I’ve seen (that makes sense to me) is nude-for-you microfishnets. But the last time I wore any, someone actually asked what was wrong with my legs. :/

    November 8, 2017/Reply
  3. Sof says:

    If I’m wearing tights, I can’t get heels to stay on my feet unless they have some sort of strap. I can’t be the only one! Does anyone have a favorite to recommend? I’m in the market at the moment.

    November 8, 2017/Reply
    • Rachel says:

      I have a pair of black round-toe pumps from Clarks (they’re actually cute, I promise!) that never slip with my tights. Highly recommend!!

      November 8, 2017/Reply
    • Lauren says:

      This annoys me too! I have a low block heel from M.Gemi that work with tights (the Dolcetto), but surely there is a product out there to just stick in the heel and make it work.

      November 10, 2017/Reply
  4. MK says:

    On the navy question — I find it so impossibly difficult to find navy tights that match navy shoes, or navy tights that match the navy background of my dress or skirt. (Not to mention the fact that it’s difficult to find navy shoes, period!) I feel like with black, it doesn’t matter as much if the blacks aren’t exactly the same, but one navy blue can really clash with another navy blue. Any thoughts/solutions? Also, second the question on what to do when cognac boots or booties are the right call. Are navy tights okay? I often “solve” the problem by wearing my knee-high cognac boots with bare legs (well, socks in the boots, but invisible), but that’s not the greatest if it’s 30 degrees out.

    November 8, 2017/Reply
    • KatE says:

      Belle, please chime in on the navy + tights (what color, and what color shoes) questions! Would love to hear your answer.

      November 8, 2017/Reply
      • Belle says:

        So navy is the same thing. IF you can find super opaque navy tights, do navy shoes. Or if you want to do a navy dress and navy tights do charcoal, or black, or burgundy shoes.

        November 8, 2017/Reply
  5. Shelley Ahmed says:

    What if you wear a navy skirt and navy tights? How do you style this with shoes? Do you just wear a navy skirt, black tights and black shoes??

    November 8, 2017/Reply
  6. Holly Gotightly says:

    Thanks Belle–but this advice is really conservative. Essentially your guide to wearing tights is–“only wear black tights.” The fashion world has passed that advice by. Black tights are great–but there are so many great options in burgundy, olive, and gray that you can really stay conservative and fashionable without sticking to black. Some of the most professional, yet intriguing looks currently are a mix of a conservative outfit with tights serving as a pop of color. Cobalt, purple etc. really can deliver on an outfit. You have offered a great starting point–but there are lot more options out there than simply black.

    November 8, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I didn’t say that. Of course, you can wear navy or grey or brown or dark purple if that’s your preference. I think the black is the easiest and the most professional but it doesn’t mean the others are wrong.

      November 8, 2017/Reply
  7. KCV says:

    With respect to navy dresses/skirts – I just wear black tights. Navy and black are no longer a faux pas. I think the faux pas in that case would be mismatching the navy color in your tights!

    With respect to cognac colored boots/shoes – I work at an old school investment bank, and they’re not work appropriate. However, I would think they would look the best with no tights.

    November 8, 2017/Reply
  8. Tina says:

    Does anyone else have trouble wearing pumps with tights? I find my heels are always slipping out.

    November 8, 2017/Reply
    • Jo says:

      I have that issue too. I wear black booties a lot with tights.

      November 8, 2017/Reply
  9. Airlie Loiaconi says:

    I second the Land’s End tight recommendation in the previous post. Their plus size tights are excellent!!

    November 8, 2017/Reply
  10. Jo says:

    I agree with this rule which is why I hate winter clothes. As someone who like you mostly wears dresses and skirts, all I wear is black shoes with black tights in the winter. What are your thoughts on matching gray tights with gray booties or pumps?

    November 8, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      It’s tough to find matching shades of grey because the tights might be darker or lighter than the shoes, but if you can get close, it’ll work. Just take the shoes to a Macy’s and see what they have.

      November 8, 2017/Reply
  11. Katie C. says:

    I agree that, if at all possible, shoes and tights should match. I also love suede black shoes because I think they create an even more seamless look (they don’t reflect light so they look super dark). I’m loving these right now https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/louise-et-cie-jianna-stacked-heel-pump-women/4248909?origin=keywordsearch&keyword=louise+and+cie+pump

    http://www.thepolishedblog.com

    November 9, 2017/Reply
  12. Kate says:

    This is so helpful. I’m just disappointed that there’s no way to make tights and flats work.

    November 9, 2017/Reply
    • RachEL says:

      I wear tights and flats all the time. I never wear heels, so 90% of the time, I’m in flats. It’s not as dressy of a look as heels, but I disagree with Belle that it looks juvenile. I love the way a black dress, black tights and leopard flats look. I will say that colored tights (aka not navy, black, brown, gray) and flats looks a little toddler-like, but I think neutral tights and flat are no different than bare legs and flats in warm weather, which all flat lovers do.

      November 9, 2017/Reply
      • Belle says:

        I see that. My true complaint is when you see the flimsy ballet flats with the little bow on the front with tights. It might just be a bad mental connection in my own mind, but I just think of little girls in white tights and flats.

        November 9, 2017/Reply
        • Sharon says:

          Sorry, Belle, I think that’s just a bad mental jump on your part. You can tear my (black) rounded flats and black tights from my cold dead hands. 🙂

          November 10, 2017/Reply
          • Belle says:

            Fair enough.

            November 11, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      There’s not NO way. Tights with a strong almond or pointed toe flat works. And I’m sure there are round flats with a sleek enough style they would work, I just haven’t seen any (yet).

      November 9, 2017/Reply
      • Lauren says:

        Amen. Get a good pointed toe flat and make it work.

        November 10, 2017/Reply
  13. Alilson says:

    Loving all the opinions on tights! I’ve always gone with the most opaque black tights possible, but just this year picked up a pair that’s sightly less so and I really like them with a black pencil skirt and pumps. I think it’s a little more chic. With a shorter, or less simple skirt I still go totally opaque, but kind of like this idea- https://www.whitehouseblackmarket.com/store/product/velvet+pencil+skirt/570219433?color=001&catId=cat1170002
    Am I crazy??

    November 9, 2017/Reply
    • SC says:

      I feel really juvenile and ridiculous in opaque black tights…they are really not for me. They look nice on others, but it’s a personal preference for me. My absolutely favorites are the Commando brand in sheer black, they go with every dress and skirt I own. Pricey for what they are but they last forever and don’t itch!

      November 9, 2017/Reply
  14. AEM says:

    Hi Belle!
    I read your 2 out of 3 rule during my senior year of college several years ago and it has stuck with me. Thanks again for sharing–I feel like it is a great guideline to bring back each fall!

    November 9, 2017/Reply
  15. Nicki says:

    This post was so useful! I normally stick to black tights + black shoes! I always feel like a dark tight with any other color shoe makes me look like Minnie Mouse. But maybe matching the tight to the dress will alleviate that and allow me to wear some of my fun shoes in the winter!

    November 9, 2017/Reply
  16. Lee says:

    This is much needed as winter is coming. I love my cognac riding boots but also struggle with the issue others have mentioned–what color tights for these boots (and I work in a casual environment so the boots are totally appropriate)? I’d love to see some pictures of cognac boots with various tights and dresses/skits combos to give us a visual aid. I will say that I have sometimes used a pair of brown tights that have a cable-knit type pattern on them with my cognac boots and felt like that was “okay.” Thanks for the help!

    November 9, 2017/Reply
  17. mB123 says:

    What are your thoughts on sheer black pantyhose? I tend to prefer it – does it read as more formal? Dated?

    November 11, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Dated.

      November 11, 2017/Reply