News, Culture & Society

Why I’m walking away from the tyranny of tights: MAGGIE ALDERSON

I am writing this in a state of great discomfort, with the sensation of a tourniquet tightening around my waist. It’s actually making it quite difficult to concentrate, so constantly am I aware of the pressure around my equator.

What is causing this physical irritation? Wearing a pair of tights for the first time in 19 months. The pandemic stopped us enjoying most things in life, but did at least free us from the tyranny of Lycra-powered lower-body claustrophobia.

With no offices, workplaces, professional events or fun parties to go to, we didn’t have to wear tights. Even for work meetings and cocktail gatherings via Zoom, you only had to dress from the waist up.

I would fight my way back into an underwired bra for the odd Zoom quiz and even garments with buttons, but the lower areas continued to rejoice in track pants (Juicy Couture, I’m not an animal) and socks. Lovely, lovely socks.

Maggie Alderson explained why she will be wearing trousers this winter, despite the ultra-flattering effect black 50 deniers have on legs (file image) 

How quickly this luxury of core comfort has softened me up. But now we’re migrating back to the office and venturing out, far more of us are having to squeeze a pair of polyamide boa constrictors onto our bodies.

I’d actually forgotten what it feels like to wear tights. So I went upstairs and put a pair of the blighters on. The black 50 deniers I’ve been wearing since the 1980s for their ultra-flattering effect on the legs.

The result? Even worse than I remembered it.

And the seemingly ever-tightening grip around the middle is made even more annoying by the presence of a skirt waistband at the same level. The confluence of the two competing pressures makes me practically writhe in protest.

A sensation I can remember right back to my school days. No wonder I never got the hang of long division, half of my attention would have been distracted by the war going on around my waist.

I’ve tried a few different settings to alleviate the pressure while I sit here, first pulling the hyper-elasticated waistband of the tights up towards my bra, which worked for a bit, until it rolled back down to the waist, exerting an even firmer grip in the process.

Then I pulled the top of my tights up and over my skirt waistband, rolling them both down, which did help on the comfort — but created an additional bulky roll of fabric round the middle, next to the rubber ring of squidgy belly spilling over the top of it.

So I’m two tyres on my way to Michelin woman. And fully reminded of all the reasons I have hated wearing tights — the clue really is in the name, isn’t it? — my entire life.

Even when I was young and lithe and the muffin top wasn’t an issue, I can remember feeling trapped in them.

Maggie (pictured) said you need tights if you want to wear legless clothing in October unless you are a hardy bare-legged party girl

Maggie (pictured) said you need tights if you want to wear legless clothing in October unless you are a hardy bare-legged party girl

Toes getting snarled up inside shoes and generally feeling constrained and unsanitary in the specific lady area we are advised requires an element of air circulation for health. We wear natural fibre undergarments, or at least (whisper the word) gussets, only to ensnare it all in an unbreathing nylon prison. It’s not nice.

The question is, why do we endure this torture? And the simple answer is: skirts and dresses. Which are so nice and afford us a whole other universe of clothing choices, which — even in modern times — men are largely denied. But if you want to wear legless clothing in October, unless you are a hardy bare-legged party girl (or seriously committed fashionista) who eschews hosiery in all climes, you really do need tights.

Some workplaces insist upon them (if not Ascot’s Royal Enclosure, any more) and I need to wear them because I’m over 60 and unless gloriously brown and generally in care-free holiday mode, I like to keep my leg skin to myself. And the various kinds of visible veins inscribed upon it.

Also, in the case of those black opaques, they are wonderfully flattering. My first thought when I read that the miniskirt is back for all ages was: ‘Yay!’

Because while my mid-life midline doesn’t bear scrutiny, I was quite excited to get the relatively slender thighs out — or the lower slopes of them, at least — enrobed in that inky black. Until I remembered what wearing tights is like.

Maggie said she has no desire to ever go back to wearing tights, preferring to wear jeans or track pants this winter (file image)

Maggie said she has no desire to ever go back to wearing tights, preferring to wear jeans or track pants this winter (file image)

So what are the alternatives? Well, I’m old enough to remember the first widespread availability of tights, which started out in the U.S. as the appallingly named ‘pantyhose’. (The first ones were stockings sewn on to actual pants, so I suppose we should forgive the name).

Without tights, there wouldn’t have been the great miniskirt revolution — before that, women had to wear stockings and suspenders. Arguably the only thing more uncomfortable than tights, although at least they do let a bit of a breeze up.

Prior to the invention of suspenders, it was stockings held up by garters, which I can’t imagine were too comfy either, but the same, in principle, as what I consider the only feasible alternative to tights — hold-ups.

I much prefer them for wearing under a dress, because you don’t get the unsightly seam — and accompanying bulge — around your middle which can so spoil the line of an unbelted frock.

Although it does have to be said that after a few washes, they can be a bit fall-down, rather than hold-up. I have been known to abandon them mid-party on such occasion. (The modern variety stay in place more through the slightly adhesive quality of the tops, rather than the garrotting thigh grip of the early versions.)

So no, this winter, with the pressure of my fashion editor days behind me, I shall be living in trousers, the true alternative to tights torture. Be it my beloved jeans, track pants for cosy days, linen for summer, I live in the things. And after today’s experiment, I have no desire to ever go back.