I used to love brightly colored and patterned tights. I had a drawer full of them: pink and purple and bright blue, with planets and stars or blue skies and clouds or psychedelic op-art patterns. Putting them on made me feel happy and exuberant and full of life. I especially loved them because I was fat, and I was self-conscious about a lot of my body… but I was totally happy with my legs, and loved showing them off and calling attention to them.
Then as I got older, brightly colored and patterned tights started feeling not quite right. In the metaphorical language of fashion and style, brightly colored and patterned tights are very much a youthful statement: they read either as “nine year old girl” or as “quirky, free-spirited young woman.” When I started getting older and started wanting my style to be less kooky and wild, and more elegant and put-together, they didn’t really fit in. It’s one thing to wear hot pink tights, or psychedelic op-art tights, or tights with blue skies and clouds on them, when I was twenty-five. Once I got into my forties, it started seeming… I don’t know. Like I was trying too hard. Like I wasn’t accepting and loving my age, and was trying to look younger than I was.
But this made me sad. I loved brightly colored and patterned tights. They’re playful and cheerful and idiosyncratic — qualities I enjoy, and want to express in my style. Plus they were one of my signatures, a big part of my fashion identity. I was sad to let them go.
And I recently had an epiphany about how to make them work with my current wardrobe and style.
That epiphany: Knee-length skirts and knee-high boots.
If I wear brightly colored or patterned tights with a fairly short skirt and with regular shoes or ankle boots, the tights take up a lot of visual real estate. They become the entire focus of the outfit. “Wow, those are some interesting tights you’ve got there!” But if I wear them with a skirt that comes to just above the knee, and with boots that come to just below the knee… all of a sudden, the tights aren’t the main story. They add just a little splash, a few inches of color and/or pattern, to an otherwise elegant and put-together outfit.
And sometimes, that little splash of color or pattern is just what I need. I have about eighty jillion pairs of black boots that come to my knee or just below the knee (I wear knee-high boots a lot). I have about eighty jillion black or gray skirts that come to just above the knee. It’s a good look for me. But it can be a bit of a boring look. Especially if I’ve already run through all my colorful and/or patterned tops, and they’re all in the wash. If I wear a black or gray skirt and a black or gray top and black boots — and I have a wild splash of blue and purple and green psychedelia just at the knee — it bridges that gap between “kooky free spirit” and “elegantly put-together,” in a way that makes me very happy, and that feels very much like me.
So I want to hear, especially from the other middle-aged folks out there: What are your thoughts on brightly colored and/or patterned tights? And are there other youthful items in your wardrobe that you’ve found creative ways to reclaim, in a way that works with your age?