Summer Tights or bare legs ?


Tights or bare legs? Summer's most perplexing question
There used to be strict, if unspoken, rules about whether it was acceptable for women to go without tights in the summer. 

It’s an annual dilemma, at least for older women. When warmer weather comes, should we ditch our comforting, security-blanket opaque tights, trousers and boots for – bare legs?

Or must we cover up our ageing legs at all costs and however high the temperature for the sake of sparing onlookers the hideous sight?

In the olden days, it was easy enough because there were strict rules, even if they were unspoken. Only children and perhaps very young teenagers were allowed to go bare-legged. Older women wore stockings or tights all year round; except maybe on holiday or on the beach, and sometimes even then.

Even as late as 1994, a style guide for women advised wearing tights with dresses or skirts at all times, if you wanted to look smart and professional.

Now, perhaps, it’s different. When highly fashionable women such as American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, now in her mid-sixties, defiantly never wears tights, should we follow suit? Then just recently the ever-glamorous Joan Collins, 81, appeared at a formal function in a skirt suit and no tights, admittedly amid much tut-tutting from the style police.

Bare legs on older women can look horrible, but nowadays tights in summer might look even worse. Although chains such as Next now have a large selection of extremely sheer flesh-coloured tights, when you put them on they still look like surgical stockings, instantly ageing you by about 10 years.

But the problem doesn’t end there. Winter-white bare legs are beyond ghastly and as you get older your legs take on a hideous blue-ish hue, as well as being mottled and veiny. Fake tan always looks blotchy, however carefully you apply it and in any case, it only lasts a day or two as well as coming off on white or pale fabrics. Salon spray tans give a smoother look but at most, they only last a week, plus they are expensive. And the tan still comes off on bedlinen.

And then, ankles, or ‘canckles’, a particular hazard for the ageing woman, look even worse when naked to the world. Tights do at least have a slightly slimming effect. So what is the answer? Permanent leg purdah?

Before making a final decision in my own case, I turned to NJ Stevenson, a fashion lecturer, curator and author, for advice. She is lucky to have endless long slim legs, plus she is my daughter in law. She said: ‘We’ve got to a point in fashion where personal preference takes precedence over rules.

"By the time women get into their 30s, they know at what point in the year they are ready to take their tights off and it becomes an annual routine. It’s much more to do with confidence than age. If you have the kind of skin that looks soft and even-toned, you are going to be happy baring your legs whether you are 20 or 70. After 40, (NJ is 45) you do begin to get a bit more self-conscious about veins and baggy knees and because of that you might op for longer skirts."

She added: "Why shouldn’t older women show their legs in summer? Is it because younger people don’t like to be reminded of ageing? That seems retrospective and barmy."

She did say that she couldn’t see her mother-in-law (me) keeping her tights on in summer.

She’s right. I have made the decision to ditch my tights in summer although I would never wear above the knee skirts or shorts with bare legs. Or at all, actually. My own solution to being acceptably tights-free is to make sure I go to the tanning salon all winter so that by the time I am ready to bare, my legs are already a decent, non-streaky shade of mid- brown.

Admittedly, they do look a bit as though they are covered in creosote, but it’s a better look (I believe) than either dead white legs or the dreaded tights in summer, both of which just look as though you’ve given up on fashion and aesthetics.

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