Reader Request: Working those Colorful Tights

How to wear colorful tights

Waaay back in February, SarahN dropped this one into the suggestion box:

I’d love a feature on how to dress around colored tights. I just bought a teal pair and have no idea what to with them. You wear them with such aplomb, I’m sure you have some great tips.

I know many folks are still dealing with summer heatwaves, but fall is just around the corner! The time is ripe to tackle tights, and so we shall.

I adore tights, and consider them a quick and easy way to inject even MORE color into my cold-weather outfits. But I was interested to discover the I have posted relatively few bright-tights outfits to the blog! I figured this was one of my staples, but it’s really not. I rely on neutral tights and colorful garments more often than not. But here are some outfits that included vibrantly colored tights, and why I think they work.


Already Pretty outfit featuring leather motorcycle jacket, plaid dress, red tights, wedge boots, stud belt
If you’ve got a black and white mix, an all-black ensemble, or any other neutral-reliant outfit going on, using super-saturated tights as the lone pop of color looks fantastic. Even though this dress has some color in its print, the fact that it’s a busy print allows those fiery red tights to really shine.


Already Pretty outfit featuring Frye boots
If you happen to have bright tights and bright footwear to match, you can make your legs look a mile long by pairing them. Best to keep other elements of the outfit a little more subdued, but try to pick up that bold color somewhere else. Here, there’s a bit of that vibrant pink in the print on my dress.


Already Pretty outfit featuring Eileen Fisher cardigan, Gudrun dress, conac boots, wrap bracelet, long pendant necklace
Not all colorful tights are eye-searingly bright, and gorgeous muted tones can work wonderfully in legwear. Pair them with colors that have similar properties – duskiness, jewel tone values – and you’ll look chic and elegant. The burnt orange tights here are the brightest element of the outfit, but they work beautifully with the burgundy and tan.

Already Pretty outfit featuring teal blazer, polka dot dress, magenta tights, magenta scarf, black Coclico boots

I’ve heard some women say that they worry bright tights look like an awkward afterthought. But as soon as you incorporate the same shade into the upper half of your outfit, you’ve created intentionality. Those magenta tights would’ve looked a bit odd if my top half had been swathed in peacock blue alone … but with the same-colored scarf peeking out, the outfit is united.


Another simple way to make bright tights appear intentional is to repeat their color in an accent piece. Scarves are the most obvious choice, but jewelry and belts work wonderfully, too. Here, the teal in my belt makes those teal tights look like a natural choice.


Already Pretty outfit featuring CAbi moto, gray wool sheath dress, red tights, Coclico boots, Desigual scarf
This technique may be a little more advanced, but I think you folks are up to it! Reflecting the color of tights in an accessory makes the tights seem intentional, but you can also make the tights do the heavy lifting. If you’ve got two pieces that ALMOST go together but need a bit of bridging, tights can help. Here, the print on the scarf makes the black jacket and boots, gray dress, and red tights make visual sense together.

Bright tights aren’t for everyone. They are a bold choice, even when they’re just peeking out beneath a skirt and tall boots. But they can feel playful and joyous, adventurous and unusual in the best possible way. If you can find a bright tight formula that works for you, embrace it! It’ll make the long, dark winter go by so much faster, I swear.

Originally posted 2010-09-07 05:10:00.

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31 Responses to “Reader Request: Working those Colorful Tights”

  1. Elizabeth.

    I have a zillion pairs of coloured/patterned tights! I wear them to work to make my customers smile, on cold grey days to cheer myself up, and tights in team colours to cheer on my football-playing boyfriend. The only time I ever wear black tights really is to my casual second job that has a strict dresscode – luckily at my "real" job I can wear whatever I like!

  2. Ann M.

    This is fantastic- I might be a bit too much scared of colour still to try my hand at coloured tights, but posts like this give me hope.

  3. Anonymous

    I love bright tights, but sometimes I think they can accentuate heavy legs like mine. So instead, I wear them under a pair of black sheer patterned tights like fishnet or other patterns that aren't opague. It adds just a hint of color without being overwhelming.

  4. poodletail

    Sal, you have great legs for colorful tights. Mine, on the other hand, look like those of a Swedish masseuse. Black tights or leggings only for me.

  5. Esti

    That second-to-last photo has long been one of my favorites among your outfits, despite the fact that not a single one of its colors are in my rotation. The proportions and way everything plays together are just amazing!

    I am a big fan of colored tights, but my most favorite thing in the world is to replace my standard black opaque tights with a pair in a dark shade of grey… the look stays neutral and go-anywhere, but going just one or two shades lighter completely changes an outfit.

    Now I really want to wear tights to work and school, even though it's going to be 84 degrees out today. Sigh.

  6. Kat

    I have quite literally a drawer full of colored tights and love them–I'm not much of a pants person so when the weather gets chilly they come out in full force. (Though I stick to subdued tones for the office…)

    Do you wear any patterned or printed tights? I'd love to see what you recommend for those.

  7. Sal

    Kat: Patterned tights are my personal style challenge for the fall/winter season! I've got loads of them that almost never get worn, and want to experiment. Will definitely update you as the season progresses …

  8. Rad_in_Broolyn

    I love the red tights with the black and white, and plum tights with the navy. So beautiful!
    I am color-shy, and I accept this. Since most of my clothes are pretty neutral, I use colorful tights to add some brightness to more neutral outfits.
    I also lust after patterned tights or black/neutral tights with crochet/diamonds/designs. Way for upcoming fall!

  9. Sheila

    I love patterned and solid coloured tights. One way to take the scariness out of bright tights is to layer a fishnet over them (black over hot pink, moss green over burgundy).

  10. bubu

    I LOVE this post. I have not delved far into tights or leggings in the past but am very excited to do it this winter (almost enough to be excited for cooler weather – almost, but not quite!). Could you mention which brands you like for both tights or leggings? thanks!

  11. Sal

    bubu: I'm pretty equal opportunity when it comes to tights and leggings … but my DKNY tights have lasted forever, and I love Hue tights and socks. For leggings, Kohl's has some decent offerings, and a HUGE range of sizes. I also hunt down leggings on

  12. Simply Playing

    I love striped tights and usually pair them with neutrals so they shine. Sometimes I carry the dominate color in a top or sweater. Loved this post and fabulous outfits by the by!

  13. Kristin

    Huzzah for tights weather! Only just last winter did I open the door into colored and patterned tights for myself, and I'm so glad I did. Thanks for collecting these pics and tips into one post, Sal – it's a fantastic reference for one of my favorite accessories!

  14. Marianne

    I love colored tights, despite the conventional wisdom which says that girls with thick calves should stick to black. I hardly ever wear pants, even in the depths of winter, so I rely on colored and textured tights to keep things interesting.

    My favorites are dark red, purple, teal and royal blue. I tend to use them as the single colorful element, or coordinated with an accessory like a belt, scarf or cardigan.

  15. Rebecca

    I tend to either wear colorful tights with neutral outfits, or I'll use them to provie a contrast color to a solid colored dress.

  16. SarahN

    Once again, you come through for me! Thanks so much, Sally. I am so ready for cooler weather. I pulled out my fall/winter clothes over the weekend and now I will plan some outfits around your tips.

    1. Brown corduroy shirtdress, brown argyle tights, grey boots.

    2. Grey wrap dress, teal tights, brown boots.

    3. Navy shift, teal tights, grey cardigan, neutral shoes

    Now I'm on a roll!

  17. J.Rose

    You call that pink dress "subdued"?!
    (P.S. I love the second to last outfit.)

  18. lisa

    Fantastic tips, Sal! I only have a couple pairs of colourful tights and I mainly wear them with black dresses to alleviate the darkness of the dresses. If the tights seem a bit "too" colourful with what I'm wearing, I'll tone them down by layering black lacy tights on top.

  19. Eurotrip Tips

    I personally prefer to wear colourful thighs either as the single colourful element or reflected in the accessories.

    ps i love your patterned lilac thighs!

  20. fröken lila

    i love colourful tights – i have loads of purple ones, red ones, green and yellow (i do however need more blue ones..) and at least three or four pairs with bright flower patterns. since i'm now only allowed to wear black tights at work i love the colourful ones even more and try to avoid black ones at home entirely.

  21. Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    Great looks. As a lover of bright tights, I do some of these techniques but I've never really thought about how or why they work. Thanks for clarifying and adding some new ideas into the mix for me.

  22. Ann

    thank you for posting this! target currently has a rainbow collection of tights and i want them ALL…but i was so afraid they'd sit unworn in my drawer!

    YAHOO!!! guess where i'm going tonight?…:o)

  23. GlitrVamp

    Tights are definitely a cold weather staple for me! I am just more comfortable in dresses & skirts than dress pants at work, so I wear them a lot. I love the dramatic look of the black & white dress with the red tights. I've never really considered what techniques I use when putting colorful tights together with an outfit. You can bet I'll be paying more attention this year now. Thanks Sal, you always know how to get me thinking of my wardrobe (and beyond) in new ways! 🙂

  24. sartoriography

    This is an excellent post! I'm a huge fan of colored and patterned tights and I think you've done a great job of showing the many ways they can be worn. Well done! I especially love the one w the matching accessories. Such a good way to show off subtle colors.

  25. Candice Virginia

    Your photos in this post are INCREDIBLE! This post inspired me to try the bright tight look again. I've only ever done black! 🙂

  26. Future Lint

    Great ideas! I'm SO excited to bust out my colorful tights and knee high socks again!

  27. lopi

    Tights season is gonna take a while to come here in Greece… Bookmarking this for later inspiration!

  28. Charlotte

    wow, a really inspiring post Sally!!
    I already have tonnes and tonnes of pairs of coloured tights but you've really inspired me to try them in different ways- thank you!!
    I'm going to save this post for the future!!

    Charlotte xxx

  29. missy

    Where do you ladies get them? I currently use Hue. Is that still a good brand to buy or do you recommend another?