Yes you CAN wear fishnet tights and not look tarty!02:53:00
Urgent news from the front line of fashion: opaque tights are over. Make way for the arrival of sheer, patterned tights in all their forms.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been paying attention at the Autumn/Winter fashion shows for the past month.
Not to the models’ hosiery, you understand, but to that of the women watching the models. It is here that trends are actually born.
And from the front row to the back, the world’s most fashionable turned up in a variety of black fishnets, meshes and lacy designs.
Last week, I counted four women from rival magazines, and the 61-year-old Parisian style icon Carine Roitfeld (Tom Ford’s muse and former editor of French Vogue), all sitting with their legs nonchalantly crossed in lacy, black leg-wear.
Tights manufacturers ought to be cracking open the champagne as we speak. This turnaround has the potential to shift the fortunes of an industry.
With the sighting of every new trend, there’s a cringe-and-recoil moment when rational women think: I won’t be wearing that! Fear of fishnets is one of those. I understand. I felt it, too.
The obstacles to overcome are twofold: first is the obvious vulgar association with tarts and strippers, second is the perfectly understandable horror of an intricate pattern stretched unattractively across a bulging calf or less-than-svelte thigh.
But hear me out. What I’m talking about is all of a piece with the gradual move towards a more grown-up, sophisticated way of dressing.
The reason lacy legs are becoming do-able is because of the graceful emergence of the longer-length skirt or ‘midi’.
It is already with us and, from what I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, set to continue — the shows for next season are also full of fit-and-flare dresses with swirling skirts and handkerchief-point hems, all of which hit far below the knee.
It’s an elegant shape, made for women rather than young girls. But there’s a problem with this skirt length: how do you fill in the gap between hemline and ankle in a modern way?
The trouble is, plain, opaque tights instantly turn the whole look depressingly nun-like, and pale, bare shins are, well, beyond the pale.
So voila: time to break the habit of a lifetime, throw caution to the wind and experiment with a new leg look. As a pioneer, I can guarantee this works. The owner of a terrible pair of legs, I have stubbornly sat out the last decade’s fashion for bare legs, fake tan and short skirts.
But I can wear a midi — I’ve been stockpiling since I found one at Zara two years ago — and for evening dos I’ve been trotting them out with micro-fishnets and high heels.
So far, the world hasn’t ended. And my twentysomething daughters haven’t laughed, which is always a good sign.
WEAR patterned tights with long skirts so they only have to work from mid-shin to ankle.
KEEP the look subtle — go for a small, more-flattering mesh design.
LACY legwear works best with black outfits or solid colours.
FISHNET socks with black trousers and high heels give a flash of evening glamour.
The charm of this look is that you can experiment without fear. If you get it wrong the first time, no great harm done.
For the best quality on the High Street, try Wolford (available in John Lewis). Its Valerie Diamond Dot and Sibylle Diamond styles (both £35) are eminently wearable and will work perfectly with midi-length skirts.
Jonathan Aston (available at House of Fraser) is also worth a try, offering a true fishnet for just £6, alongside a variety of geometric, floral and even animal-print designs for between £10 and £15.
So have I completely mastered my fear of fishnets? Not entirely — I still have to work up the courage to wear a pair to a fashion show.
I do secretly admire those advanced ladies of style who did. It pleases me that this turning of the tide towards discreetly powerful glamour is being led by the generation of women who spent the Eighties and Nineties clad in nothing but black, opaque tights.
Our time is coming — and if a person can indicate that with an expenditure of no more than £35, well, where’s the risk in that?