We Tested a Bizarre Runway Trend to See If It’s Wearable

Some trends simmer for months before they reach a boiling point in our collective consciousness; others emerge fully cooked and ready to consume in a matter of days. Colored tights fell definitively in the latter camp when they recently emerged in perfectly digestible trend form, and thank goodness they did because winter is almost over and I hate to think how they would have manifested in July. Body paint?

Fortunately, that question can remain safely rhetorical. Colored tights were EVERYWHERE during fashion month, both in street style roundups (see: Tamu McPherson, Thania Peck, Courtney Trop and Sai De Silva) and on the runways (see: Saks Potts, Adam Selman, Tom Ford, Shrimps, Dolce & Gabbana and Jacquemus), and thus they were, quite immediately, a “thing.”

But were they a “thing” that would translate beyond the four weeks of fashion’s most balls-to-the-wall time of year? Were they actually wearable in an everyday sense? Would people don them for plebeian activities ranging from Wednesday morning meetings to Sweetgreen runs?

None of those questions are rhetorical — not anymore, at least, because Haley and I spent three days last week wearing tights of the rainbow-hued variety to work, and we wrote up a full report on our heavily researched findings. Scroll down for our looks and thoughts, and meet us in the comments for continued discussion.

Day 1

Harling: Perhaps my lack of forethought can be excused given this was my first day of colored tights boot camp, but I ended up fully panicking when I got dressed that morning. I had no idea what to wear, even though I had bookmarked multiple colored-tights inspiration Instagrams over the course of fashion week. I ultimately decided to just put on an outfit I’d worn previously and knew I liked and simply add the tights to it like a casual garnish.

The thing is, colored tights aren’t garnishes. Their unbridled propensity for statement-making bears absolutely no resemblance to the subtle flavor a sprig of parsley might impart upon a roast chicken. Nay, the colored tights are the chicken. The outfit really has to be built around them, and not the other way around. I learned this lesson on day 1, and for that I am eternally grateful. In conclusion, I didn’t love this getup, but I was excited to try again.

Haley: I planned this outfit the night before because I knew getting dressed in the morning would result in a panicky disaster. Harling’s a much quirkier and more colorful dresser than I am, so I knew colored tights would be more of a stretch for me, style-wise. As I played around in my closet, I soon found that green tights were particularly tough to style because I didn’t love them with pink or red (the main colors I have in my wardrobe beyond neutrals), nor did I like them with black or white (very ’90s Hot Topic).

Once I realized they worked well with gray (less contrast), I grabbed everything gray I owned and put it on. I ended up loving this outfit! The overwhelming grayness of it made the tights more palatable and seem less like a “pop of color” in the cliche sense.

Day 2

Harling: On day 2, I woke up prepared and ready to take on a pair of kelly green tights like love interest Kermit the Frog deserved and never got. One of the Instagrams I bookmarked was from Courtney Trop’s account featuring her in green tights, black high-heel sandals and a black dress. I know what you’re thinking: That outfit description sounds exactly like the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. You’re not wrong! It does! However, I bookmarked the Instagram because, despite the association, it looked positively chic, in my humble opinion.

Or maybe “despite” is the wrong word; maybe it was precisely because of its witchiness that it looked cool. Witches are known fashion icons, after all. Hocus Pocus proved that pretty definitively, but I digress. I ended up liking my outfit a lot, though I did feel the need to explain it during a coffee I had scheduled that morning. (“I swear I don’t usually dress up my legs like green beans — this is for a story.”)

Haley: Another way I avoid the cliche “pop of color” is by going FULL COLOR. Wearing hot pink tights under this red dress was actually the one outfit idea I had when we set out on this experiment. But styling in my head often fails me, and once I put them on, I was at a loss for how to finish the outfit. What ended up pushing me forward was a pair of silver flats that offered just the right amount of clash, which inspired me to add my blue puffer and eventually my red sweater for a non-disruptive layer in between.

The Uggs came into play when I had to get to work the day after a snowstorm. When I put them on, I thought, Wait…are these better? When I got to work, Elizabeth and Harling insisted I wear them instead of the silver ones, which I was fine with (way comfier), but I did feel a bit like an off-duty celebrity who didn’t want to be papped. I liked this outfit though! I didn’t feel entirely like myself, but I liked being pushed out of my comfort zone.

Day 3

Harling: I decided to give the tights what they wanted on my last day and really leeeeean into lavender. This delicious puff of a coat from Saks Potts made that initiative relatively seamless. This outfit was such a treat to wear around the neighborhood. Purple tights make normal activities like buying coffee and dispensing water from the watercooler feel glamorous. When I went to Sweetgreen for lunch and stood in a line of people wearing head-to-toe black, I felt like an eccentric celebrity.

Haley: I knew for the last day that I wanted to try wearing tights with something other than a dress because I rarely wear dresses in my everyday life. But I found it surprisingly challenging to make tights-under-shorts not look teenager-at-a-rock-concert. What ended up solving that problem was dressing them way the hell up: black turtleneck, white blazer, black loafers, attachable fur collar, pink coat. All of it together ended up making this outfit feel delightfully extravagant. It ended up being my favorite of the three!

Final Word: Yay or Nay?

Harling: As fun as this experiment was to conduct, I’m not sure I would actually wear colored tights on a regular, everyday basis. Perhaps it just takes some time to acclimate to them or I need to ease myself in with some less saturated shades like pale yellow or white. I can see why they were a popular street style staple during fashion week because they can take an outfit from zero to 100 faster than a feather boa, but this power can be tricky to wield on a random day in March when you’re standing on a subway platform and just want to blend in.

Haley: As for whether I’ll wear tights going forward…maybe. It definitely wasn’t EASY, and I still don’t think tights are a perfect match for my more casual/boyish style. But they did made me look at my closet differently and approach outfit-making from a new angle, and that made the challenge worth it.

Lessons Learned?

Lesson #1: Style around the tights. They are not a last-minute add-on.

Lesson #2: If you don’t want them to “pop” in an obvious or show-stealing way, pair them similar colors or a lot of color in general.

Lesson #3: When in doubt, COMMIT.

Photos by Edith Young.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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