Lesley’s Late-Season and Therefore Possibly-Not-That-Useful Guide to Tights

By | February 10, 2009

There are three things I hear really, really often:

1. “Whoa, how many dresses do you own?”

2. “Do you EVER wear pants?”

3. “Where do you get your tights?”

The answers are:

1. A whole lot. I haven’t counted, but I would guess it’s more than a couple dozen.

2. Yes, but generally only on weekends, and always only under dresses.

3. How serendipitous – that’s what this post is about!

I am compelled to reassert this, as it doesn’t always come through adequately in pictures: I am quite fat. I wear, generally, between a 24 and a 28 from most major manufacturers. When I’m shopping for clothes, sometimes the biggest size available at Lane Bryant or Torrid is not big enough. This does indeed give me more options than folks who reliably outsize these stores, but it means I have markedly fewer options than smaller folks. As a point of reference, I am about 5′9″ tall, my calves are about 21″ around at their widest point, and my thighs about 30″. In case the pictures of me already plastered on this blog are not enough, you can see more of my actual legs in action doing the important job of holding up my body on my Flickr stream.

I get my tights from a few places, and have strong opinions on all of them. Please keep in mind, however, that your mileage may vary dramatically from mine. Everyone’s shaped differently and tights that work for me may not work for you even if we’re the same overall size or weight.

Avenue: In a curious twist, Avenue’s house brand tights seem to have vanished from their website. All they’re showing right now for tights are the Sara Blakely Assets things you can also buy at Target (and which I will not be reviewing here because I Don’t Do Control Top, Ever). It’s possible that this is because they’re gearing up for spring, but I’ll talk about them anyway. Avenue’s tights can be extremely hit or miss – occasionally I’ll get a pair and find them pre-punctured for my convenience with a big random hole. This has happened more than once. The pairs that come into my possession hole-free are wildly comfortable (I get them in size E) and long-lived; I have Avenue tights from last year that look like new. But they can apparently be a bit of a gamble. Avenue does offer some muted colors outside of the standard black and brown (their grey and burgundy tights are my favorites) and some great textured and patterned versions that are impossible to find anywhere else in larger sizes – this year they had argyle and chevron-patterned versions that were really striking.

Jessica London: Do you have insanely long legs? Have I got tights for you. I’ve not ordered tights from Jessica London since last year, but holy crap do they ever run long (in the larger sizes, at least – the tights may very well get longer as well as wider when they’re sized up). They also come in colors! Yay Jessica London! They’re only available in packs of two (this has always bewildered me, but okay) and the quality is good but not outstanding. Also, the sizing can be completely random; if I’m buying clothing from Jessica London, I generally need a 28 or a 30. If I’m buying tights, I actually need to size down, which goes against all my hard-won tights-buying wisdom.

Lane Bryant: Evidently Sara Blakely is plotting dominion over all our fat asses, since the tights currently on the Lane Bryant website are all Spanx, all the time. Nevertheless, Lane Bryant also has house-brand tights, usually in the fall, and they’re just okay. Part of my “meh” reaction to them is that their largest size is just a little bit uncomfortable for me. I have a cute pair of lace tights from LB which I sadly never wear because they have the aforementioned hated control top. Basically everything here, even the patterned stuff, only comes in black and brown, which is boring as hell. That said, their tights are true to size and hold up well.

Torrid: I have had three pairs of Torrid tights in my life, and I am not hugely fond of them, mostly because they’re usually both a bit too short (yay, falling crotch! my favorite!) and a bit too snug in the thighs (yay, lack of circulation! my favorite!). To their credit, though, if you can fit them, they’re of reasonably good quality and offer some truly crazy-ass tights options, as well as some crazy-ass tights-like but not-really-tights options (purple lamé leggings, anyone?). The fucking accursed Spanx are present here as well. GO THE FUCK AWAY, SARA BLAKELY. I DO NOT WANT MY ASS COMPRESSED.

We Love Colors: Up until they revamped their plus size tights section and added a version with lycra in it, I hated this place. Their old tights (don’t buy those!) were 100% nylon and I’ve yet to meet a single solitary soul who had a good experience with them. The crotch slid down, they bunched at the ankles, they didn’t fit right in the thighs; everyone complained. Their new lycra-blend tights (that’s the good, buying-friendly link) are more expensive but worth it, since they’re actually wearable (after all, what’s the good in saving $6 a pair when the cheaper ones don’t get worn?).

This is where I get basically all of my colored tights at this time (BUT ONLY THE LYCRA ONES, in a size E). I have worn them all season long, almost every day since late September or so. I wash them in the washing machine on the delicate cycle and then hang them to dry. Despite all this abuse, only one pair has a teeny hole developing in the crotch area – and since it’s in the crotch area, it’s not going to run down the leg, so I’m not stressing about it.

In conclusion: old, non-lycra tights bad; new, lycra-having tights good.

That pretty much sums up my sources for the tights I wear daily in the fall and winter (and part of the spring). I hope it’s helpful. Is there someplace I’m missing? Have you had great luck elsewhere? Let us know in comments.

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