Britches and Hose

This weekend, as New York’s best-dressed females traipsed around in skirts, boots and bare legs, one of fall’s preeminent trends lay mostly in wait, expectantly blanketing entire walls of the larger stores on lower Fifth and spilling out of baskets or pails in every tiny boutique. It’s hard to wear tights when it’s 80 degrees out. And so the Fall of Tights looked more like the Fall of Fluorescently Pale, Bare Legs. (Or of black leggings, which were supposed to be over, thank you, but which are conveniently footless, allowing for the flip-flops we’ll all still be wearing come November.)

Not that we don’t still have big plans for our tights. They were everywhere on fall runways, from Burberry Prorsum, Catherine Malandrino and 3.1 Phillip Lim (basic black), to Anna Sui (metallic), to John Galliano (red, orange, green, pale blue, brown). The Gods of Fashion did not consult their science textbooks, though, because the hottest fall tights are either thick, mod-inspired opaque or textured and woven, almost long-underwear-like—not altogether dissimilar from what you wore on Outward Bound in the early 90’s.

And so they wait patiently for a cold day. “They’re not selling,” said Larae, a salesgirl at Mink on Mott Street in Nolita, which peddles gold and silver metallic and brown wool stirrup tights, which are open-toed and open-heeled, possible nods to Miuccia Prada’s much-discussed color-block stirrup knee-socks for fall. “None of our winter stuff is selling. I mean, we’ve sold a few coats, but not like last year. But people are still interested in the tights—they’re trying them on.”

Kara, a stylish young salesgirl at Poppy on Mott Street, said she sells two or three pairs of $35 Ilux Ribbed Sweater Tights a day, despite the weather. “People are like, ‘Oh, it’s fall, I should buy tights!’”

At T&M, a charming boutique on Avenue B, salesgirl Karen agreed that “leggings are over. Tights are big.” And as for which tights: “Gray and black are the biggest. The patterns won’t make it. I buy so many tights. … This winter I’m only going to wear tights and boots and a dress all the time.” (It is our continued mania for dresses, perhaps, that has sustained the past few years’ focus on legwear).

To some, the current fixation on tights is old news. “I don’t think they ever really went anywhere!” said stylist Karla Welch, who, with partner Kemal Harris, works for Nylon and Interview magazines and for celeb clients in the music and film industries. “They’re such an easy trend to get in on, because they make your legs look so incredible. You’re going to look much thinner. I’ve always worn them, and I’ve always put my clients in them.” One particular client, the Indie singer Feist, “always performs in matching tights,” said Ms. Welch. “If she’s wearing a red dress, she’s going to wear matching red opaque tights!”

Ms. Welch dates the resurgence of tights to Marc Jacobs’ layered, oversize fall 2006 show. “And even before that, with Marc by Marc, when he really started layering. And Kate Moss was wearing them years ago. But she’s a catalyst for everything.” Tights are no longer tied to layering, she noted. “Now it’s not sloppy—it’s very chic. I’m standing in Club Monaco right now and all the mannequins are wearing black opaque tights!”


AT THE NEWLY revamped Wolford Boutique on Greene Street—which is to tights what La Perla is to brassieres—women bought winter tights with relish on a recent Sunday afternoon, balmy weather be damned, though two salesgirls shook their heads solemnly when asked if the tights business was quite as hot as expected this year. The various textures and materials were laid out like carpet samples near the register, allowing a customer to compare the relative merits, for example, of the black “Merinos” and “Winter Soft Logics.” Salesgirl Julia helpfully explained that she wears her Merinos with “brown flat boots and a big plaid shirt.” Her Winter Soft Logics, on the other hand, were reserved for sweater-dresses. “The other day I wore my Polars—that was a mistake!” (Polars are Wolford’s thickest, most wintry tight).

The most popular tights at Wolford, according to Arden Hess Rowland, director of public relations and marketing for Wolford North America, are the “famous” Velvet de Luxe opaques, which come in 12 colors from “grape juice” to “Galapagos green” to “anthracite.” Chunky woven knit tights, she said, are also in demand. “I would say that this year we really focused on black,” she said. “I did 42 runaways in Bryant Park for fall 2007 Fashion Week. Oscar, Carolina … We did them all. Designers had to put the tights down the runway.”

Britches and Hose