Tights, like jeans and school shoes, are very boring things to spend money on. For most, all three are essential items, and all three must be comfortable to wear. Muffin tops, burning soles and crippling thigh-chafing are not okay, but still we insist on buying cheap, shitty pairs when we should be investing in long-lasting, high-quality ones.
To the casual observer, tights are tights. There are subtle differences in colour, texture and opacity, but generally they are skin-tight Lycra leg-bags, designed for warmth and covering up in the winter when you can’t be arsed to shave. Oh, sometimes an outfit calls for tights simply because you anticipate getting a bit tiddly later on and a thin layer of Lycra between your lady-parts and the big wide world makes all the difference when you accidentally stack it in public, but they are certainly not the star attraction. And they are positively, absolutely not there to be sexy. Never has the glamorous heroine stripped down to her underwear only to reveal a pair of 120 denier tights hoiked all the way up to her bra (don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about). Never in a movie has a nubile young lady reclined on a chaise longue with a tantalising flash of her reinforced gusset. No, tights are a wonderful, essential part of getting dressed, but they are behind-the-scenes workers. They are the brains of the outfit.
However, I have recently had an epiphany. It came after I bought a three-pack of really shit tights in Sainsburys for just over a fiver. Of course, I wasn’t expecting miracles for £5.49, but in the shop they felt seductively soft. And they were great the first time I wore them. The problems began as soon as they came out of the washing machine; they lost their softness and became itchy, bobbly and misshapen. They gave me saggy knees and wrinkly ankles, and although just under £2 for a pair of tights is cheap, it isn’t such a bargain if you can only wear them once or twice before looking like one of the elephant-skin weight-loss people off Embarrassing Bodies.
The most irritating thing is that I find myself conned over and over by ‘new and improved quality’ stickers that permanently adorn supermarket packaging, so I’ve made this mistake at least a hundred times by now. It’s amazing how long it took me to learn than Tesco are never going to start taking tips from Falke when they manufacture their hosiery.
Eventually, after the 3000th pair of supermarket tights had effectively disintegrated, I decided I was done with crap gear. It was time to splash out on a pair that, with care, would last a very long time. I don’t know why I didn’t come to this conclusion sooner; a couple of years ago I bought a pair of purple Aristoc tights in the sale in Debenhams and they are still almost as luxuriously soft as they were the day that I bought them. AND I’ve put them through the washing machine. AND once I walked home in them from the students’ union after my new shoes proved a little too extreme for five hours of non-stop student boppery.
Suppressing my natural inclination to not spend stupid amounts of money on things that nobody notices, I decided that I was going to have to buy some Wolfords, the granddaddy of all posh stocking stockers. The prices are eye-watering, and they’re almost never in the sale. A pair will set you back anywhere between £14 for some lightweight basics and £120 for some ludicrously extravagant limited edition stockings. Generally, I find you can never go wrong with a really smashing pair of black opaques, so I chose a pair of Velvet De Luxe 66 Deniers. When they arrived I found them to be disappointingly un-silky. Slipping into my old purple Aristocs feels like my legs are being folded into the sweet embrace of a freshly shaved unicorn, or something, so I sort of expected a pair that cost nearly a tenner more to feel even better. But they didn’t. They felt like pre-wash supermarket tights.
In the interest of giving Wolford the benefit of the doubt (and also because I had already tried them on and couldn’t send them back), I wore them around all day, and although it was subtle, I did notice a difference. They sort of suck you in, not in a restrictive Spanx-y sort of way, but in a way that felt like they were gently moulding my legs into something a little smoother and less squidgy. Supportive. Sort of like a bra for your thighs.
But the proof of the pudding is in the washing machine, because let’s face it, nobody can really be faffed to fanny around washing things in sinks with soap crystals. Ignoring every brain cell that was screaming at me to heed the very strict instructions and not put them in the machine, I put the Wolfords on a 40 degree wash with the rest of my laundry. And here’s the thing. They were perfect when they came out. And again the next time. And the next. No bobbles, no ladders, no crotch-around-the-knees issue. After every wash the thread was completely uniform. No blotchiness or puckering, no saggy old lady ankles. And that, after years of supermarket-bought opaques, is a bloody miracle.
Side note: technically, stockings and hold-ups also come under the hosiery umbrella. I am wholeheartedly in favour of both, although anyone who can be fucked with a full-blown suspender belt every day is either a professional seductress or has too much time on their hands. For those occasions that call for one of these fiddly beasts, the best piece of advice I can pass on is to wear it under your knickers, not over the top. It’s, uh, more practical (thanks Dita von Teese!) For everyday, utilitarian hold-ups I highly recommend Jasper Conran’s opaques from Debenhams. I wear them almost every day.
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