In fall, a young girl’s fancy turns to thoughts of tights — especially those elusive cable-knit sweater tights, that I want and lots of people want and they just don’t seem to exist in a plus size. Sigh. Aside from this glaring omission, though, I often end up buying (or at least wanting) new tights in fall, no matter how many I already own. It’s like searching for the perfect shoes that go with skirts and pants and have enough of a heel to show off your calf muscles but are still easy to walk in for miles. Every summer I search for the sandal version of these Holy Grail shoes, and get disappointed when I can’t find them; every fall I get gloomy that I haven’t found the Holy Grail tights.
Anyway, about a month ago, The Rotund linked to a Fatshionista post on tights. If you didn’t see it then, you owe it to yourself to check it out now, because it is an amazing repository of resources on tights for fatties and inbetweenies (and presumably, by extension, non-fatties as well). A glowing review prompted me to check out Tights Online, specifically their Sternlein tights (after revamping the website, they’re now stocking other makers, but at the time of the review they primarily carried Sternlein).
Let’s start with the down sides: These tights are not cheap. They are an investment, as tights go. The tights labeled “plus size” only seem to come in black now, though I could swear there were a couple other colors before the redesign. Even the non-plus tights don’t come in a wide range of colors, though there’s a nice-looking wine color and a forest green. They have just a little bit of a spandex sheen to them when they’re on, whereas I prefer light to simply fall into my tights and disappear. They get a weeny bit of ankle sag, which is cute with chunky shoes but less so with pumps. And at 5’7″, I could use for them to be just an inch longer.
Now the good news: they are otherwise AWESOME. I typically wear an 18W in pants, and I ordered a straight XL that fits with basically no problems (though if I get another pair, I may try out the 1x, on the theory that it might be a smidge longer and stretch a little less, showing less shine). If you’re up to 5’6″ and up to an 18, you should be fine in their non-plus sizes; if you’re my height, you may find that when the waistband sits comfortably at your waist, the heels tend to rise up a little above your heels. (Once I get everything situated, the tights fit great and don’t budge for the rest of the day, but there’s some tugging when I first get dressed.) The tights are snug all the way up, rather than having a constrictive waistband — the top is actually more like the tops of leggings, with a covered waistband and extra room for your butt. They don’t pinch or twist, at least not that I’ve experienced. And they haven’t gotten crotch holes even after several wearings, which for me is kind of a coup.
I got a pair of the wool and a pair of the cotton, and I think I’ll be glad for the wool, but honestly even the cotton ones are quite cozy. If you wear tights in the summer, definitely opt for the lightweight cotton. The wool tights are not scratchy at all, and both pairs are well-made and seem extremely durable.
That’s really the miracle of this brand: the construction. If those tights you bought at LB where the waistband’s all stretched out so you have to pin them to your skirt are Kraft dinner, these tights are a New York strip, substantial and luxurious. I used to despair of wearing skirts in winter, because even my beloved E.G. Smiths would slink down so the crotch was nearly at my knees (I don’t know if that was a size mismatch, or if I was just too tall for those tights). I still kinda hate wearing skirts to work because I have to bring extra shoes instead of just keeping my Keens on and my boots don’t fit well in my gym bag because I need a new gym bag… but at least my legs will be reliably warm.
(Here’s how much I love the E.G. Smiths, by the way: I may get a new pair to replace my hopelessly greyed-out ones, even though I know they tend to be too short for me and get crotch holes. Why? Because they’re SO FREAKIN’ OPAQUE. Also, like the Sternleins, they have comfy waistbands and a butt panel.)
I also bought a pair of ribbed tights from Avenue that are the first tights ever to be truly long enough for my legs (and then some!). They will not keep me warm, but they’re nice-looking, and fairly well-made as stockings go. Plus they were cheap AND I had a coupon! The ribbed tights are now sold out, but I may get a pair of their microfiber tights or their chevron tights, which I assume will be similarly constructed — give them a shot if you’re freakishly tall like me. (I mean, 5’7″? Come on, people, I am NOT that tall. Make two lengths of tights if you can’t handle it.)
For once, I feel well-equipped in the tights department! And I may even have found Holy Grail shoes, though I don’t want to jinx it yet. My one pair of nice pants that fits is too short and shows my ankles if I cross my legs, and they’re unlined cotton so they won’t get me through the winter; I have two workable pairs of jeans, three with a belt; I only have one belt; and I don’t have a hat. But tights are really coming together for me.