Reader Mail: Are colored tights ever conservative enough?

Are Colored Tights Ever Conservative Enough for Work? | CorporetteToday’s question is an interesting corollary to Thursday’s discussion on opaque tights…

For the fall, can you rock colored opaque tights (subdued forest green or burgundy) in with an otherwise conservative skirt suit/sheath dress? I work in a tech firm where only the business unit, which I’m not in, fully suits up. Problem is, there are so few women in the company and offices so scattered I can’t take cues from my female coworkers. Any thoughts?

This is interesting, as we were just drooling over the Ferragamo ad (pictured) while flipping through Harper’s Bazaar.

There are a few different ways to wear colored tights, obviously.  There’s the look above — head to toe color —  which, on the Ferragamo models, looks oh so chic and fashion-otherwordly, but in real life has a tendency to look like a bad ’80s movie.  There’s the “layered” look — wearing a lot of colors, amongst them colored tights; for example, a gray skirt, yellow tights, purple blouse.  There’s the “mod” look, wearing a loose-fitting, fairly drab dress (for some reason, the more potato-sacky the better) that is a few inches above the knees with a shock of color in the tights.  And there’s the “matchy” look, meant to elongate the legs, such as wearing an army green wool skirt with matching army green tights.

We’ve tried all of these looks and, honestly, for us, not many of them work for the office.  The mod look works well on the weekends, particularly if you’re going to be very active because you can wear flat-heeled boots, opaque tights, and be quite comfortable, stylish, and covered.  The other looks tend to look too clownish or odd.  But maybe that’s just us.  If you decide to try any of the looks, start conservative; for example, wear a pair of navy tights with a gray skirt and a black sweater and see how you feel that day.

Readers, what do you think — have you found a way to wear colored tights for the office?


  1. And, if I may hijack a bit, what do we think about patterned tights? Segment on the Today show about that, and now I’m sort of jonesing for point d’esprit stockings. . . Not for the office?

  2. I have a few pairs of dark, solid colored tights (deep purple, burgandy, forest green) that I wear with my winter wardrobe of black and grey dresses and skirts, usually with black or grey flats or heels. They’re all pretty thick, so I mostly wear them to keep warm. That’s the most I would do. I think that bright colored tights (pink, bright blue, red, etc.) look juvenile, and I wouldn’t wear them to the office. Also, make sure your colored tights are thick enough. If not, and your skin shows through at stress points I think they look kind of tacky. Maybe they could be layered over black for extra warmth or opacity? I haven’t tried it, but I wonder if it would work.

  3. Erica Foley :

    I work in a medium conservative office (suits and dressy business casual). In this environment? Navy, maybe. Gray, maybe. With any other colors I think one would draw unwelcome attention. But again, I may just be showing my age…

  4. I would wear black, grey, navy, brown tights to the office definitely. Burgundy and dark green, maybe, probably with a dark grey/brown/black outfit. Bright color, no, only on weekends.

  5. The layered and mod looks are definite no-no’s in the office in my opinion. I do think that you could get away with the matchy and the head-to-toe looks in a business casual office if (and only if) you stick to darker colors like navy, charcoal grey & chocolate brown. Last year, I wore a charcoal grey sweater dress with matching grey tights and grey Mary Janes. I would not wear these looks to important client meetings, interviews or court!

    I think patterns can work too for a no-meeting, no-court day if they are very subtle. A bold show-my-flesh pattern like fishnet, on the other hand, is not for the workplace (unless you’re working the streets – LOL).

  6. I wear a lot of grey, black and brown tights, with and without subtle patterns. I define “subtle” as something with one color, limited flesh exposure, and small-ish pattern. (Note – be careful with patterned tights. What looks like a tiny pattern in the package can grow quite huge when you stretch the tights out to put them on. I bought a pair once that I thought would be small and delicate, but I when I put them on at home I realized they made me look like a court jester.)

    I think a muted colored tight could work if the rest of the outfit is very neutral and monochrome. Similarly, when I wear patterned tights, its usually with solid-colored pieces everywhere else and standard heels or flats.

  7. Anonymous :

    I think the last look mentioned would be fine– a colored skirt with matching tights. But I have to agree with everyone that it should be a muted color, like the green skirt and green tights. But then you have a question of what shoes go with that? I’d say a dark brown would look nice, but you’d have to make sure it was a “loud” combination.

    I think the above-mentioned all gray outfit would be nice for the office too, on a more casual day.

    • Anonymous :

      Oops, that was supposed to be “wasn’t” a loud combination…

    • Brown shoes with a green skirt and tights just says “elf” costume to me.

      • I agree – I read green skirt and green tights and immediately thought “Peter Pan!”

  8. divaliscious11 :

    I wear grey/brown/black etc… and some fine patterned tights, but never brights…brights are Sat/Sun wear, and I don’t go to court……

  9. RE: colored tights for the office I think the “rules” are: they should be dark, they should be muted, and they should match exactly either your skirt/dress or shoes, but not both.

  10. i work for a federal judge and have on a purple skirt and grey houndstooth tights today :)

    • Anonymous :

      excellent! That’s just how I would wear tights in chambers as well, but probably not on a day I would be in court.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m a law clerk for a fashion-conscious federal judge, and based on my discussions with her, I think dark (gray, black, or brown) tights would pass muster in her courtroom if paired with an appropriate skirt suit or sheath dress/jacket combo. I do not think brightly colored tights would be appropriate for federal court, and I personally would not wear them to work in a big law firm (where I practiced before clerking) or to my current job.

      As for patterned tights, diamond or perhaps a herringbone pattern if they were small and/or subtle. I wouldn’t wear them to court, but I wouldn’t be talking about it afterward if someone did. Lace, fishnet, dots, hearts, huge flashy diamonds, or anything along those lines seems inappropriate to me.

  11. I’m a government attorney and work in a business casual office. I am also twenty-five. I wear colored tights, but ONLY dark colors. Navy, gray, black. Patterns are great. I actually get lots of compliments on my patterned tights from other women. But, I like diamond patterns and such. I don’t like lacy patterns and fish nets are trashy for work and a definite no in any working environment. State attorneys are very liberal on dress, but we would all agree that the tights should stay dark…

  12. housecounsel :

    I don’t think I’ve ever worn anything but brown, gray and black. I am a huge fan of black diamond pattern tights worn with boots and a skirt, with only an inch or two of pattern between boot and skirt. That said, I wouldn’t wear any of the above to court.

  13. housecounsel :

    PS the Ferragamo models look absolutely amazing.

  14. Love the Ferragamo models. They look to be wearing not totally opaque hose, btw.

    I wore, in office only, an aubergine Eileen Fisher sweater knit skirt and turtleneck with matching-ish tights and suede shoes a lot one winter a couple of years ago. Didn’t feel out of place.

    I agree that the colors need to be dark, and match at least skirt or shoes.

  15. I’ve worn dark purple tights to the office before. It only works with an otherwise very conservative outfit (pencil skirt or black/grey sheath dress, with jacket or plain cardigan) and dark, very nice shoes (pointy flats, for instance). I also think it’s definitely a younger look, but I’m one of the youngest people in my office anyway.

  16. I too have been drooling over the Ferragamo ads for the past few months as well.

  17. I love tights. I’ve worn a subtle patterned tight in grey and black with a conservative dress and matching shoes – i.e. black shift dress, black heels, and a grey tight. And I agree with everyone else – burgundy, navy, grey, and I think even a cream (what I have on today!) are fine for the office. I think you should think of a colored/patterned tight like a piece of statement jewelery and keep everything simple around it.

    I would avoid bright colors and tights that look like sweater material, or are ribbed – I think they are too casual. Much as I love them, these are for the weekend.

    • I think that ribbed tights and cable knit tights can be office appropriate if they are in dark colors (black, brown, grey, navy). I wear cable knit tights a lot in the winter because they are warmer than anything else that I’ve ever tried. I will admit that they don’t stay put as well as I’d like, though.

  18. Is anyone else having bad mid-90s flashbacks brought on by colored tights? Remember Hue? I loved really loud tights in junior high and cannot wear anything other than dark grey or black without feeling like I’m 13 again.

  19. I see a lot of you mention brown tights. I’ve had a consistent problem getting brown tights to match my brown skirt/shoes. They are never quite the right tone. With shoes, I usually just go darker than the skirt and it’s ok. However, throw brown tights in there, and it’s now 3 shades of brown that seem quite jarring.

    Any tips for getting browns to match? Any other colors I could wear instead? Thanks.

    • For me, I wear dark brown tights with a cream or light brown (khaki-colored) skirt. I agree, its hard to match dark browns. I typically wear my tall boots with my brown skirt b/c of this exact problem.

  20. Well, it seems that in the dressier offices, bright colors are used as small accents and never large portions of one’s outfit. So I probably would err on the side of conservative in this case.

  21. I definitely agree that dark tights (even dark green or burgundy) or subtle patterns are fine in the office. and I think the head-to-toe one color look is great as well.

    but what is the alternative to tights anyhow in the winter? with the new “no-hose” look entrenched, pantyhose any time of the year look funny to me now. but then in winter, bare legs look even odder. what to do? wear black or grey or brown tights only all winter?

    • Yep, that’s what I do. Spend most of the winter wearing either pants, or black/black tweed skirts with black tights and black boots (the tights only show when I sit down). Biglaw business casual – I never go to court but I do wear these outfits to client meetings.

    • Erica Foley :

      Well, with the weather cooling down I am starting to see hose here in NYC again – and not just on women “of a certain age”. The no-hose look was definitely more of a thing this year, but we’ll see how long that attitude lasts in the coming winter weather.

      • Anonymous :

        thanks Ladies! if they’re back to wearing hose in NYC, then it MUST be ok! (and I’m probably close to that “certain age”) I have trouble finding pants that fit well (small waist, big hips!), so I usually stick to skirts & dresses unless it is really cold. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often in the ATL. Off to look for tights at Ann Taylor Loft…

  22. Pants Pants Pants. That’s my answer to what to wear, winter and summer.

  23. I feel this topic is going to bring up the fishnets debate again!

  24. I have to say I’m so glad now that I live in hot & sunny (or rainy) Singapore and NEVER have to worry about all of this!

  25. Michelle H :

    To C.Z.’s comment– anyone else ever try to wear two tights at once for better opaqueness? Does it work?

  26. I bought tights from Ann Taylor loft this weekend. Just to let you know, they are very opaque! I have gray ones on today with a gray jacket and a purple scarf dress and gray shoes. It’s a little after nine and I’ve already gotten two compliments.

  27. Layering tights works for me – specifically black sheer hose under a patterned tight that shows a little too much skin on its own. That way you are completely covered but still have a bit of texture, which is nice. In the winter I live in long skirts, tall boots, and thick tights. I have never been able to do brown tights, I never get the color right either. In that case I stick with nude sheer hose and try to wear the longest skirt/highest boot possible to keep out the cold. As for colors, I keep them muted – gray, off black, burgundy, dark green. I do love the patterned tights in black, and have successfully worn nude fishnets (small weave, so it looks like tiny diamonds, Calvin Klein used to make them). I work in financial services.

  28. Where can i find those beatufiul red handbags in the ad?

  29. millelilly :

    I’ve always thought tights made my legs look childish. I don’t like the way they look with shoes for some reason– too bulky. I always wear hose with skirts and dresses, for the sleek look it gives.

    I think patterned hose, including tiny fishnets, are appropriate for the office if worn with a conservative outfit.

  30. I’m a litigator (PD) and wear coloured tights all the time. Usually with a dark suit, as my only pop of colour. If I’m wearing brown or black tights, it’s usually with lighter-coloured brown or grey skirts and a dark jacket.

  31. nancy pipal :

    The one and only way tights are ok for the office…head to toe same color dark neutral…grey, brown or black. That means brown suit, brown shoes and brown opaques. No exceptions, ladies. Please save all the other opaques and tights for evenings and weekends.
    And it is never , never ok to wear patterned hose of any kind to work [unless you work in an extremely trendy boutique].
    nancy pipal
    executive presence and personal style consultant

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t agree. The big question is how it looks on you. If colored tights make you look childish or heavy, don’t do it. If they make you look like the Ferragamo ladies then rock on.

    • Nancy, you sound like such a boring hag…i would never EVER take fashion advice from you! i work in finance and i wear pattern tights ALL THE TIME!

  32. I’m a 50 year old partner at small firm that does primarily federal practice. I sometimes wear dark tights in the same color as my skirt. For example: dark brown tights with a dark brown skirt and dark brown plaid wool jacket. Done with matching shoes, it can make your leg look longer and can make an unmatched suit look a teensy bit more formal. A silk charmeuse blouse also helps with the formality part. Jewelry is also important to feminize this otherwise british tweedy look.

    That being said, I rarely wer unmatched suits to court, but would wear the above outfit to court in very cold weather.

  33. Anonymous :

    Try black fishnets OVER black opaque tights for a textured pattern look that is extremely subtle. I wear this look with knee length black skirt, black leather pumps and a grey or camel sweater on top. With pearls, it looks very professional. You can barely tell I have fishnets on, it really only appears as texture, which is subtle enough yet with a hint of fashion. I’ve had many complements.

  34. Sweater tights in a cable-knit or ribbed pattern with knee high heeled boots and a skirt that hits at least an inch above the knee or longer is fine in my office for fall or winter.

  35. Colored or patterned tights are just fine, as long as they fall within the office culture where you work and go well with your outfit. One company I worked at wouldn’t tolerate outlandish colors, but another was totally open as long as you didn’t look too crazy (one girl in our office sometimes looked like a prostitute in her tacky shocking pink tights).