Black opaque tights are the hosiery default for most women across the winter months. But the more fashionable types will be leaving them in the sock drawer this party season. Sheer black tights – previously viewed as the preserve of 80s glamourpusses – are the easy party-dressing update for winter.
Retailers have seen the popularity of sheer styles growing over the past few years. Marks Spencer report that for every pair of opaques, a woman will buy three pairs of sheer tights. The high-street chain has responded by diversifying its range. It has introduced Warm Toes this year: sheer 10 denier tights with merino wool toes to keep their wearer warm and stylish at the same time.
Sales of sheers are up 13% this winter at mytights.com. “Whereas sheers and semi-sheers in recent years have been unfashionable, now you walk down the street and see women of all ages wearing them, with black being the hot favourite,” says mytights.com’s Laura Godsal.
The sheer revival started on the Saint Laurent catwalk in September. For the brand’s spring/summer 2015 collection, designer Hedi Slimane paired skirts with very sheer black and grey tights. They brought an edge of off-kilter glamour to a collection based around groupie style, where the black opaques of the 60s, favoured by the likes of Edie Sedgewick, may have been a more obvious choice.
Celebrities have quickly adopted the trend. Rihanna wore a Stella McCartney jacket with only a pair of sheer tights at December’s British Fashion Awards and Rita Ora opted for sheer hold-up stockings. Taylor Swift, Kate Moss and Alexa Chung have all been spotted in patterned versions.
The Duchess of Cambridge, meanwhile, favours natural sheer tights. “After decades of opaques being the go-to, the ‘naked leg’ phenomenon was sparked when Kate Middleton channelled the elegant ladylike look,” says Soozie Jenkinson, head of lingerie design at Marks Spencer. Maria Williams, lingerie buyer at Net-a-Porter, says skin-coloured sheers are the most popular on the site, and sales have doubled since last year. She puts this down to “the huge trend of the micro mini skirt” and customers wanting the bare-leg look throughout the year.
The feeling in fashion circles, however, is that the current vogue for black sheer tights may be a one-season wonder. The opaque will rise again because it works as a style statement and is wearable for people of different ages and body types. The appeal of sheer tights, by contrast, is limited.
“I would say that to wear sheer tights you have to have good legs and enjoy wearing heels,” says Rebecca Lowthorpe, the assistant editor of Elle. “Somehow they go together.” She adds that sheers only really work for a younger generation for whom they are a novelty. “It’s an era – the late 70s, early 80s with Lorraine Chase, orange blusher, green eyeshadow, lots of hairspray and sheer polka-dot tights,” she says. “All of which is fine if you weren’t there the first time around.”