SEXY, SASSY AND SINGULAR: Kova and & T dress, $452 at www.shopbop.com;… (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)
When black polka dot tights went down Balenciaga's fall runway, paired with immaculately draped skirts and soft velvet dresses, they provided a fresh take on the leg wear generally seen as either heavy and opaque or sheer and old-fashioned. Patterned tights have become a key accessory, adding another texture, print or layer to an outfit.
Whether lacy, pinstriped or dotted, patterned tights add a playful quality to an otherwise simple ensemble. Treat them as you would any other item of clothing. Don't mix a busy pattern or heavily textured tights with an equally busy blouse or dress. The tights should add a pop of quirkiness or subtle sexiness, not create a Punky Brewster-type mishmash of pieces.
Lace top and lace tights? Not unless you want to look like a Victorian curtain. Pair lace tights with something solid in color and flat in texture, like a simple black dress and some colored ankle boots. Dark tights are the most flattering, as black minimizes the size of a leg. A pinstripe or any vertical pattern will create length, as will a great pair of heels, of course. Dark tones are the most versatile and look great during the day with flats or knee boots, and at night with heels or metallic oxfords.
But caution: Wearing dark tights is not a valid excuse to don a skirt or shorts that are too small for you. If an item is too short or unflattering on your body, it shouldn't be in your closet. Tights don't turn "too small" into "just right."
Wearing lighter-colored tights, such as a dove gray or soft ivory, will introduce a romantic element to your outfit. Pair them with a vintage-inspired dress and lace-up booties for a look that's more glam than granny. Stick with a sheer weight when wearing a lighter color. Thick or nubby tights add bulk and make the leg look shorter.
Tights can transform an item from day to night, summer to winter. A black mini dress worn with sandals in the summer becomes a chic holiday look with sexy zigzag tights. And tweed shorts become nighttime appropriate with diamond-print wool tights and a cropped black blazer.
As an interesting and generally inexpensive accessory, patterned tights play well this time of year, breathing new life into existing pieces and adding a pop of unexpected texture.
ON THE COVER: H and M dress, $49.95 at H&M; Forever 21 tights, $6.80 at www.forever21.com; Nine West shoes, $198 at select Bloomingdale's; Vita cuff, $200 at www.vitafede.com; Melinda Maria bangles, $6, at www.melindamaria.com; H&M beret, $12.95 at H&M.