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.

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  • Cristina

    Haley, I love look #1, but #3 is a LEWK. Oh my gosh, it’s makes me think of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast but translated to womens streetwear. It looks amazing, despite that weird reference haha.

    • Madeline Bauer

      Agreed!!! My wardrobe is almost entirely black/grey/navy but that outfit is making me want to go out and buy everything lilac

  • Here to argue against lesson #1, as someone who has worn colorful tight for years, year round. You don’t have to plan around the tights. They really can be last minute, you just have to lay out all of the colors you think could work the best with your outfit.

    This is how you wear tights on a regular basis – especially in the winter – hide your black tights. Have at least one pair of each color of the rainbow. Always make tights an option when you’re deciding on wearing a dress or skirt. Also, hot tip for winter dressing: opaque tights conceal leggings.

    • Colored tights are my favorite accessory. You guys did FANTASTIC! I love all of these outfits.

  • Haley, that grey fit with the green tights — LIIIIVVVIINNNNGGG

  • Xenita

    both of your day 3 looks are to DIE

  • Kathleen FitzPatrick

    You both totally hit it on Day 3! Love all the looks.

  • Anna Impson

    GUYS. I tried this trend over the weekend. Even before reading this or knowing you guys did this experiment. I got the lavender tights from Amazon (I thought I got one pair and realized I got two!) and put them under blue jean shorts. I topped it off with a long white button up under a cashmere dark grey turtleneck paired with some quirky black and pastel Adidas x Alexander Wang shoes. It was a look for sure. And Haley, I totally get what you’re saying about the teen at a rock concert, and I have no idea if this was a good outfit. These tights are a tough look, and every time I looked in the mirror I had a different feeling about what I was wearing. Do I love this? Is it too weird? Does this even go together? So many emotions, but know, you didn’t do this alone.

  • eva

    i am super bummed that a few of my FAVORITE colored tights [mustard, indigo, teal lace] went to the evaporated elastic waistband graveyard this year.. i am PUMPED to replenish. i legit have been wearing this ~trend~ since 1993 and my favorite look is… black turtleneck/mini..the tights in whatever color and black flats [oxfords or ballet] then a statement coat/blazer/cardigan with a touch of the tight color

  • katfish

    Color-wheel opposites, provided the warm/cool tones work, are always a win. The warmish lav with warm duckling yellow feels “yay spring”. Do that with cool pale yellow and it falls into “Easter dress pastel for church”. The hot red/orange/pink layers are really tasty. None of these outfits are “wrong”. Every one works. Since I don’t wear tights (I am 57, had 20 years of enforced panty hose, so no thanks) I will crochet up a fast scarf to add color to an outfit. But I am loving these stylings!

  • Emily M

    I actually want to try a look like your #1, Haley or your #3, Harling, which is saying something as I rarely wear color at all, let alone two full leg-worths of it!

  • I love the outfits

  • dayman

    This is such an easy, cheap way to change things up, and Day 3 outfits are perfect! (Maybe lesson #4 should be when in doubt choose purple tights?) I don’t even like lavender that much (bc it looks bad on me honestly) but Harling’s day 3 outfit might be changing my mind?

  • ashley

    You (one) can frame a wall size #3 bestie portrait and hang up as eye catching and engaging artwork

  • Haywood Jablowme

    I like putting on tights and beating off.

  • Mariana Rodrigues

    I love it! Kudos to both of you for trying something out of your comfort zone! Day 2 and 3 are my favorites, especially 3 because the looks are so chic yet so playful, like you both are going to a 5 o’clock tea hosted by Chanel on steroids – yes this is a compliment!!!!
    Personally I think colored tights never go out of fashion, it’s just a matter of adapting it to one’s personal style. I like tights A LOT so this article made my heart sing!

  • vss

    When I saw the teaser pic I thought this was gonna be a story about themed dressing with your friends. A sort of thoughtful twinsies dressing. Hayley and Harling look so cute together!

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I like colored tights. I’d like to have the lavender ones.

  • Annie Demarest

    Ummmm buying those light purple tights immediately Harling!! Agree that Day 3 is a huge win but I honestly love all of the outfits.

  • Pernilla

    top looks here, but I can’t believe you guys published an entire article about coloured tights without a single Blair Waldorf mention!

    • phillyspice

      Right?! That’s all I was thinking, too!

    • MakeupMaven22

      All I could think about was “Heathers”- truly the OG of colored tights greatness!

  • Ashley Roxanne

    I once owned a pair of electric blue tights like the pair you are wearing Harling! I was an early tween in the 90’s and ordered them from the American Girl catalog😂. I paired them with a black skirt that had a ring zip up the front(the only thing I was allowed to buy from Gadzooks) an electric blue matching ribbed turtleneck, and Black velvet loafers. I am pretty much wishing I had that exact outfit right now.

  • Julia Park

    Colored tights were MY THING in middle school. My friends were always apprehensive when we went out in public and I wore THE tights (they were a hot pink-ish red), but I was committed to the look. So committed. Still love a good shocking tight.

  • Allegra

    I love the look of colored tights under a long skirt so they are peeking out, like Harling #3 and Haley #s 1 and 2. Looks so chic and seems like the most approachable way for me and my neutral toned wardrobe to give it a try!

  • Mariana Rodrigues

    ps.: also, when I read the title, I thought the article was not going to be about this “Bizarre Runaway Trend”, but rather Gucci’s human heads and baby dragons that you guys wrote about hahah!
    I was already imagining Harling strolling around New York with a funky outfit and a dragon poking out of a bag… now I’m disappointed, colored tights are nothing compared to that xD

  • Katie

    The lavender on Day 3 is SO sick!

  • Anne Dyer

    “Casual/boyish style” me -> nutshell

  • I loved when you really leaned into the full color coordination. It feels much more with it. Stay fearless! I don’t think colors tights will ever make it to my legs though!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  • MC

    lol this looks crazy. We have all this talk about progressiveness in all areas but why are we still falling for this “fashion” shit?

  • Dana

    Day 3 was my favorite for both of you hands down. I bought some deep plum tights months ago. I still haven’t worn them because living in Florida tights don’t seem as practical. You guys give me some courage to experiment with them during the winter months.

  • I absolutely love the fluffy feather boa + light purple tights look, on Hayley. It suits her rather well!
    ‘Would I wear coloured tights myself? Well, I’ve pretty much done so in the past, and matched the whole lot. I didn’t wear the tights first, quite the opposite, as I do like my colours!

    Goes better with a dress and boots I’d say, so that you can actually see ’em. These tights are not for hiding!

  • Harling the mauve and mustard combo in #3 is frrrrresh. I had been a mustard skeptic but those boots and tights are just making me feel things.

    • Ema Dell’Orto

      I usually hate lilac and I was convinced because of the tights. And the yellow boots of course

  • Fabiana Copelli

    but why are the same tights $51.81 on amazon.ca???? 🙁

  • Kelsey

    That lavender outfit is SO INSPIRING!!

  • Jana Nysten

    Girls, I loved this! I actually pinned all of your styles – though obviously my preference is with @Haley (Sorry @Harling, I am just not that much of a colorful person…) and my favorite is the first grey/green combo?! Loved that very much.

    Personally I do colored tights quite a lot. Have a boring office job that is kinda skirt and shirt/sweater. But white tights and white sweater with a black pencil go great. So do grey ones with beige dresses. And I have red ones as well, wear them with black.

    (In fall I went for orange and yellow, which was really nice to combine with cream colors and browns, though I‘m trying to get away from that blunt color palet and be more daredevil… ordered the green ones…)

    Never thought that something I have been doing for a while is featured here…

    Feel like a #fashionunicorn

  • frenchyface

    Man, number three is such a look on both of y’all it kind of puts the others to shame. Seems the lesson with colored tights is come right or not at all.

  • A very sexy Kermit the frog in Am Königsweg by Elfriede Jelinek was probably my favourite thing in the production at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. Even if you don’t understand German I recommend watching this video to appreciate how sexily a guy wearing green tights and a frosh mask can dance.

    • Dagmar

      Clara – das Lied ist super!! Thanks for the share!

  • Gigi

    It’s amazing how even the pix show a steady lean into familiarity with colored tights, it’s so cool to see from a style stand point. The woman who can just “throw something on” & have an immediate understanding of style is always lauded, & I love the honesty in just not quite knowing what to do with a trend that others have mysteriously clung to without dropping their mask. Bc by the third picture, the outfits are so inspired, it was hard to believe that neither of you weren’t really too sure if you liked wearing them. The pink & red clash is so classic, but the yellow fur collar? Amazing!! and Harling, the lavender with yellow boots is such a sophisticated choice I’m speechless. I can’t wait to tell ppl at work today about these combos 👻

  • Sam Stanley

    harling – I want ALL of ur coats!

  • Gal Stern

    Colored tights are definitely not every-woman’s choice, you need to have a character and a big love for colors. I am a textile designer, I produce hand-printed tights for 9.5 years and I must say, selling colored tights isn’t easy. So, I’ve been concentrating on “easy to digest” colors. Gal, @sterntights

  • Emily Jo Fabiszewski

    Harling: The only criticism I have is that I thought you were wearing a tiara in the third outfit (purple) and when I noticed you weren’t, I felt strongly that there SHOULD be a tiara. You would automatically be transformed into Glinda from the Wizard of Oz, on Easter (!!)