Dhaka, Bangladesh
Black tights or bare legs? Autumn's crucial style debate returns

Black tights or bare legs? Autumn's crucial style debate returns

There are three fundamental questions that must be addressed at this point in every year. Question one: is it time to switch the heating on? Question two: whose family are we having for Christmas? And, drumroll, question three: can we wear black tights? The first two are mere detail; the third is everything. The opaque tights issue is a thorny one in fashion. It divides women along class and generational lines. Class lines, first, because going bare-legged in winter is a high-maintenance choice. To put it bluntly, having your legs bare in winter is no hardship if you have a driver waiting; it is perfectly doable if you must wait four minutes for an Uber; it is a battle if your bus isn't coming for 20. Anna Wintour invented bare legs as a power move. The New York fashion week held in February is sometimes -10C and snow-drifted, sometimes just chilly, but never balmy. Around the beginning of this century, Wintour ditched black tights and started arriving at shows with bare legs and "nude" Manolo Blahnik slingbacks. The messaging was similar, in a funny kind of way, to that made by the Duchess of Cambridge in her three appearances on the steps of the Lindo Wing with newborn babies. Heels on, hair coiffed, teeth gritted. They tell the world that this is a woman who has the privilege of backroom staff, but who is also a tough cookie. And then there is the age divide. Bare-legged is the aesthetic of the Instagram native, the default setting of the members of a generation who are always "on". Years before the reinvention of holidays as a performative popularity/beauty contest, the ditching of black tights signalled commitment to keeping up appearances. Kate Moss, the last of the great 20th-century icons, still wears black tights; the It girls who came of age in the 00s don't. When black, opaque tights make a partial return to catwalk favour, as they do every season or three, it is often in homage-to-the-90s form, with ankle strap sandals and slip dresses. So, I am afraid to tell you that you have no option this autumn other than to brave the cold in nothing warmer than a pair of pulled-up sports socks with your cone-heeled mules. Joking! Don't worry, you can totally wear tights. The traditional 60ish-denier opaque made an appearance this year at no less rarified a collection than Valentino couture, worn with feather-trim heels. But, for maximum style points, Balenciaga is leading a revival of scuba-thick, super-high-gloss tights - as thick as the stretchy part on a Kardashian over-the-knee boot. Cosy. Sadly, as those of us old enough to remember saving up pocket money for a pair of Wolford velvet opaques know, the best-of-the-best hosiery is eye-wateringly expensive: the peak wet-look tight, 150-denier high-gloss with a back seam, is £48.99 in black by Cecilia de Rafael.

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