Go Way Back: Tights

Tights, those things that cloak your legs from, oh, September to May, haven’t always existed. Before their day, people had to keep stockings—basically, knee- or thigh-highs—in place with the help of garters. Yick. You can imagine what a freaking GAME-CHANGER it was when this magical undergarment came into being, covering you up and keeping you warm-ish from your waist to your toes. Watch it happen below. —bea koch

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The Origin: Both men and women have been wearing some kind of knit, leg-covering situation since Ancient Egypt, but don’t let way-old-school pics of Shakespearian actors and Henry VIII fool you—those dudes are wearing garters. Tights as we know them today—two legs connecting at a waistband—take a pretty long time to emerge, and, like so many good things, they come to us from the theater: Dancers and actresses in the 1940s and 1950s sew their underwear to their stockings so nothing disrupts the seamless line of their legs. Dancer Anna Miller, pictured above, goes ahead and requests special hosiery be manufactured for her so she doesn’t have to deal with all that pesky needle-and-thread business.

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The Evolution: In 1959, Allen Grant (with input from his wife Ethel) invents a new kind of pantyhose that don’t require a garter belt.

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Well, look at that: Just four years later—in 1963—tights make their Vogue debut. image

The sixties are all about the rising hemlines…and the colored tights to match mod outfits. Check out It designer Mary Quant—one of the woman responsible for popularizing the miniskirt—up there on the right.

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Hanes introduces L’eggs and revolutionizes the industry in 1969. These suckers are packaged inside plastic eggs—yah, who knows—and are sold for $1.39, making them an everyday purchase instead of a luxury. image

Julie Newmar, most famous for playing Catwoman, proves she’s a pretty savvy lady: In the seventies, she applies for a patent for her shapewear, which she says provides “cheeky derriere relief.”  image

Welcome to 1985: Princess Di shows us how to work a power suit, with sheer tights in a matching hue.

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Cary Elwes (Westley, duh) and his merry band of men sing about their legwear of choice in the cult-classic Robin Hood: Men in Tights. “We’re men/we’re men in tights/we roam around the forest looking for fights.”

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Caffeine: Not just for beverages anymore. In 2006, Palmers begins marketing tights infused with the upper, meant to help burn cellulite and promote weight loss. Ok, then.

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In 2007, Sienna Miller takes the leggings-as-pants thing one step further: Tights as pants. Her outfit is a clear homage to Edie Sedgwick, another famous fan of tights as pants, who Sienna played in the 2006 movie, Factory Girl.

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The Right Now: John Galliano takes that whole men-in-tights thing really seriously with his fall 2014 runway show. So the future of tights looks bright—and gender-neutral.

So much more historical fun over here!

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Of a Kind

Hansel from Basel plaid tights plus a sweater dress. Thoughts? FEEELINGS? —erica

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Track Star: Dum Dum Girls

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The Vibe: Their music may run the gamut from thoughtful, harmonious ballads to driving, garage-rock beats, but their aesthetic is always consistent: black dresses, slinky tights, and super-thick (and super-fake) lashes.

The One-Song Intro: “Lord Knows”

The Look, Recreated: A sheer robe by Zinke, a lacy Only Hearts bra, mesh House of Holland tights, and false lashes from Georgie Beauty. —julie alvin

Like this? Want more? Click here.

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Of a Kind

Tights, printed by hand by Anntian? That’s gotta make winter dressing at least 21% less painful. —erica

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Of a Kind

What are these? Oh, just your standard hot air balloon tights, brought to you by Hansel from Basel. —erica

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Of a Kind

Sure, sure, you could try to replicate these tights at home. But Shibori Love is there for you if, like me, you just know your creation would turn out the color of baby poo. —erica

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Of a Kind

These Henrik Vibskov tights would make a Saturday-morning cartoon character jealous. —erica

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Of a Kind

Because it’s getting to be that time of the year again: some garden party tights from Pamela Mann, who has got to be one crazy Brit. —erica

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Ann’s Tight-Dyeing Guide

D.I.Y. the coolest, homemade accessory from the designer’s fall collection.

At Ann Yee’s fall 2011 presentation—the designer’s first!—everyone was psyched about the floor-length silk skirts and natty, elastic-ankled pants, but there was also tons of buzz about the totally unique tights, which the designer whipped up in her kitchen. Start with a sheer pair that you’re tired of right about now—or pick up drugstore nude stockings (used for our demo)—and get dyeing.

Bonus: This homemade accessory looks especially cool with a mini and the drapey black chiffon shirt that the designer made with Of a Kind in mind. Click here to score one of only ten.


1. “First, you boil a big pot of water. Then, you start knotting the tights. You just do it in random areas—however close or far apart you want them—to vary the pattern. Just make sure that the knots are pretty tight but not so tight that you can’t undo them. It’s worth dyeing a couple pairs at once because it looks cool to layer them.”


2. “So, the water doesn’t need to fully boil because you don’t want it too, too hot. When it starts simmering, you shut the stove off, put on rubber or latex gloves, and add the dye. You can use any color you want, and I eyeball it. I like to do about a capful of the red liquid Rit dye, a ¼ cap of the black liquid one, and then a sprinkling of the blue powder dye, which is good for highlighting. Then you add a couple tablespoons of salt, which helps make the dye stay.”


3. “You have to really massage the tights to make sure the dye gets in there. Then you wring them out, let them cool, untie them, rinse them, and hang them to dry.”


The final product, as seen in Ann’s fall 2011 lookbook.

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