Kate and her flesh-toned stockings are the talk of the town - but can nude tights ever truly be chic?09:10:00
How did nude tights become the height of fashion? That the once rather dowdy look is now finding favour with the editor-at-large of the oh-so fashionable Japanese Vogue, Anna Dello Russo, is all down to one family. You guessed it. The Middletons.
‘Kate Middleton is quite old-fashioned... but when she was wearing fleshy, nude stockings it looked so avant-garde,’ she said. ‘I think she has the kind of personality to make them modern.’
While you might not take her word for it that ‘fleshy, nude stockings’ are suddenly the height of fashion, it seems the Middleton effect — both Kate and Pippa favour nude tights — has sent sales soaring.
Style statement: The Duchess of Cambridge has worn flesh-toned tights on all her recent engagements and during her tour
Debenhams saw sales of sheer tights lift by 65 per cent in the two weeks following the Royal Wedding in April. This spring/summer, following the royal tour of Canada and the U.S., when Kate wore sheer tights almost every day, sales were up a quarter on last year.
Marks & Spencer, too, saw sales of sheers soar by more than a third compared to 2010. The best-selling sheer tights at M&S this year have been the 10 Denier Ladder Resist Tight in Natural Tan, selling nearly 40 pairs an hour.
Even chic American women — long stalwarts of the bare, tanned, hairless leg, even in the depths of winter — are adopting the look.
‘The demand for very sheer, nude and transparent looks is being driven by London,’ an executive at tights company Kayser-Roth Hosiery told Women’s Wear Daily. ‘It’s about being elegant.’
Since the mid-Nineties, sheer hosiery has been abandoned by women, worn only if the office dress code demands it. I haven’t worn a pair of tights for 20 years because I think they look unstylish. Those orangey American tan tights are seen as something our mothers used to wear.
Before Kate came along, none of us would have dreamed of wearing tights, other than black opaque ones.
Kate knows she needs to appear with flawless legs (i.e., no cellulite, veins or bruises), but also that opaque black tights, which she adored in her student days, are no longer elegant enough.
Like Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Kate has opted for sheer and — voila! — suddenly, a tanned, bare leg looks a little cheap and disrespectful.
Runs in the family: Kate's mother Carole and her sister Pippa are also fans of nude tights
Joanna Townsend, hosiery buyer for Debenhams, which has brought out a range of sheer tights for different skin tones, says: ‘Nude hosiery is a woman’s weapon to fight the onset of winter, when wearing black opaque tights is too depressing on a golden autumn day.’
Soozie Jenkinson, head of lingerie design at M&S, thinks sales are also on the rise thanks to new technology making them easier to wear.
‘Our sales of sheer tights have increased this year, not only thanks to Kate Middleton, but because we’ve used innovative ladder-resist technology,’ she says.
MEN IN TIGHTS
A form of tights were first worn by European men in the Middle Ages to make horse riding more comfortable
‘My favourite Autograph sheer hosiery creates a flawless, airbrushed effect — like make-up for your legs.’
I hate black opaque tights: they are just not grown up enough. And while women believe they are flattering, they can make legs look like sausages, while the shiny opaques attract attention.
I was initially resistant to this new nude craze, feeling tights to be a bit too ‘old lady’ for me, but I applaud that this is one new trend that is forgiving rather than exposing every flaw.
These new tights are nothing like the ones my mother wore: they don’t sag, they rarely ladder or even catch, they don’t have ugly dark toes and heels, and they offer support, too. I put the leading brands to the test, which included me sitting with a rather scratchy cat on my thighs.
Falke 10 denier Fond de Poudre in Brasil, £16
I have a pair of thick wool tights by this brand, but they soon became bobbly. These sheer tights are completely matte, which I find perfect for day. The fit is great (I hate the crotch near my knees), but the 10 denier failed to cover my cellulite. Recovery is good, even after several washes. Unsnaggable. 4/10
Donna Karan 10 denier in shade 2, £17.95
Billed as ‘invisible’, I don’t like these at all. They are hard to pull on and wrinkle badly, while the reinforced tummy and upper thigh aren’t strong enough. However, they do come in eight shades of nude, which is commendable. 4/10
Fogal Caresse very sheer (no denier Rating) in Blossom, £24.50
WHICH DENIER IS BEST?
Fogal has the best range of colours of all the brands, with every skin tone under the sun, and rainbow colours, too. Are these worth the price tag? These are matte, but not sheer enough: it is far too obvious I am wearing tights. Virtually unladderable. 5/10
La Perla 8 denier in Ambre, £15
These have a sheen, the range of nude colours is good, but the legs are cut a little short, giving me that mid-thigh gusset feeling. 5/10
Wolford 8 denier ‘naked’ tights in caramel, £12
Now we are getting somewhere. As someone used to bare legs, anything above an 8 is too artificial looking. These are light, with a slight sheen. Although the sight of tights over knickers is hugely unsexy. 6/10
Marks & Spencer bum, tum and thigh shaper 15 denier tights with shine, £12
‘Look slimmer in seconds,’ says the packaging. And actually, I do feel my thighs are streamlined, my tummy held in. But it is an unattractive, surgical looking garment and the crotch is too low. 6/10
By Jasper Conran 7 denier ladder resist tights with cooling finish and open toe, £5
Sales of Jasper sheer tights were up 95 per cent over the spring/summer period versus the same time last year. The non-slip sole is excellent, especially in high heels, although I find the lack of toe (designed so you can wear them with open-toed shoes) a bit creepy, as your feet are a different colour from your legs. 7/10
Autograph at M&S 7 denier bare cooling sheer oiled in nude, £4.50
Sales are up 74 per cent — and no wonder. These tights keep you cool in warmer weather and over-heated offices: they are made using a Japanese yarn, which releases a cooling sensation as you wear them. These are my favourites: it is bare legs, but better, like moisturised skin. 9/10
Debenhams 7 denier sheer tights in olive, £3.50
These don’t have a foot shape, so I can’t tell if I have them on back to front. The dark ‘pant’ part is a bit ugly, but the legs have a nice sheen. This is the best colour for me so far: the key is to choose something slightly darker than your skin tone. 9/10