The Best Tights
If we were to recommend the best tights money can buy, they would be the Wolford Velvet De Luxe 66. We came to this conclusion after considering more than 50 pairs of tights and testing 16, with our top four choices worn by three different-sized women in three different cities during winter of 2014. Yes, they do cost some money ($45)—more than the $15 tights many of us are used to buying. But they’re worth every penny: They’re durable and comfortable, come in a wide range of sizes and colors, don’t sag or have an awkward waistband, and fit all of our testers well.
We started by surveying Sweethome readers to figure out just what you all want in a pair of tights, and “durability” was the overwhelming answer. If you’ve been buying tights for long, chances are good you’ve suffered from the rips, tears, and pills that are endemic to cheap tights.
Are there tights that won’t rip, ever? No, probably not—if you look hard enough online, you’ll be able to find people whose Wolfords have let them down. Unfortunately, part of the nature of tights is that they rub up against rough edges, like boots and zippers, which will eventually lead to wear and tear even in the best fabrics. But we found that the Wolfords handled that stress with aplomb, never tearing or ripping during our tests, even when treated roughly. Ultimately, the price is worth it considering they will last you through several seasons.
But if you’re aghast at the expense, we’ve found two runners-up that were also durable, if not as attractive or comfortable: H&M’s 100 Denier Opaque Control-Top Tight and We Love Colors’ Nylon/Lycra MicroFiber Solid Color Tights. They’re both about $13. And if you’re stuck in really cold weather, we like the Wolford merino wool tights and the Plush fleece-lined tights, which might be pricey but are also very, very warm.
What we mean by “tights”
How we picked
Surveying the world of tights is a formidable task: Most clothing brands produce at least a few pairs of tights in differing colors, opacities, and styles, and we found narrowing down which ones are great and which ones are not to be a difficult endeavor. At least a hundred, if not more, were dismissed during our initial research. We even looked at ballerina tights after a tip from a friend, expanding the field even more. Ultimately, it took dozens of hours to narrow our options down to the 16 finalists we tested hands-on.
Editorial round-ups on tights are easily found: New York magazine, Refinery29, Slate, and Good Housekeeping have all tested tights (or at least asked experts what their favorites are). There are a lot of brands people consider “the best,” but consensus kept coming around to a few consistent candidates.
As mentioned earlier, we posted a survey asking our readers what they thought and we looked at the ones they recommended. We also eliminated a few brands after a number of readers complained about consistent quality issues, like Target’s tights, which received a huge number of negative comments.
These tights, plus the top-rated tights on Amazon and Zappos, brought our list of candidates to a staggering 54 pairs.
Narrowing the field down to viable testing options was much more difficult. Without getting our hands on the tights themselves, we could only rely on a few measures. First, we looked at user reviews—were there consistent complaints about durability or fit issues? Second, sizing. We eliminated all tights that only come in two sizes or less, because there’s just no way you can be the “best tights” if you only fit a small segment of the population.
We also looked at the finish and struck off any tights that were too glossy or shiny. They might be great for specific instances—going out at night, perhaps—but aren’t often a good fit for a professional environment, and the best tights need to be versatile. Last, we looked at opacity: Our survey indicated that only 3% of readers are interested in sheer tights, so we eliminated any tights that weren’t at least semi-opaque.
Then, I narrowed down the field to four finalists: the DKNY Women’s Opaque Control Top Coverage Tights, H&M 100 Denier Opaque Control-Top, We Love Colors MicroFiber Solid Color Tights, and Wolford Velvet De Luxe 66 (plus one wool and fleece-lined finalist each).
I then shipped each of our top four off to our editor-in-chief, Jacqui Cheng, who lives in Chicago, and our kitchen editor, Ganda Suthivarakom, who lives in Los Angeles. We’re all vastly different heights and sizes and live in different climes: I’m 5’6” and of average weight, but pear-shaped with a thin waist and larger thighs. Ganda, who is 5’4”, size 8/10, describes herself as having a long torso, short legs, thicker waist, and smaller hips. Jacqui stands at 5’10” with an average size 12/14 (US) build in an hourglass shape. We each wore the finalists for a full day.
Our pick: Wolford Velvet de Luxe 66
(As a side note, we’ve learned that if you sign up for Wolford’s email newsletter at their online shop, you’ll receive a 10 percent discount code—making the Velvet De Luxe only $40.50.)
When we started researching this article, one of our writers (and the editor of PSTOL.com), Erika Stalder, told us Wolford would be the answer. We set out to prove her wrong, but we couldn’t.
In our stretch test, these tights came in at about the middle of the pack, recording 3.89% stretch. That’s about where they should be—too little stretch, and they’ll be more confining. Too much, and they’ll stretch out (and stay that way) over time.
These tights fit well and are comfortable to wear. You can purchase the Velvet De Luxe in five sizes, and although the stated weight on Zappos only goes up to 176 pounds, we found there to be a fair bit of leeway—the large size can fit someone a fair bit heavier than the top end of the chart, though this also depends on your overall height-weight ratio. (If you are looking for bigger sizes, we do recommend We Love Colors, which has a wider range of plus-sized options).
Our testers loved how they fit. “Very smooth, not too tight around the midsection. Smooth middle,” Ganda said. Unlike some of the other tights, like the Danskin Ultrasoft Microfiber Footed Tight and the Bootights Ankle Core Tight & Sock All-in-One, the waistband is soft and non-restrictive. It’s not a control top, but it does smooth out the midsection a bit without the seam digging into your skin. There are no unsightly, bumpy ridges along the front center seam. And it hits at the perfect location on the stomach, not so far up you have to tuck it into your bra and not so low it creates a muffin top.
Touching the Velvet De Luxe just feels better than the other tights we tested, which tended to have a rougher texture attributable to a higher spandex percentage. “You can tell by touching the fabric that it’s of higher quality than some of the others,” Jacqui said after wearing them. Maryland said tights with a high percentage of spandex “feel like a rubber band stretched to the max.” While the feel of the tights isn’t truly vital to a great pair of tights, it does make the experience of wearing the Velvet De Luxe more pleasurable.
The Velvet De Luxe come in eight colors on Zappos including several shades of nude tones, providing enough variety for people who want something more than plain black. There are even more if you buy from Wolford’s site (although I did have some credit card verification issues when I purchased, so if you want a nude or black color, I recommend purchasing from Zappos).
At 66 denier—a figure that measures yarn’s weight and thickness and ultimately indicates the garment’s opacity—they’re perfectly semi-opaque, dark enough to smooth out blemishes and discoloration while sheer enough that your legs don’t look like black yardsticks. But if you want your tights a little sheerer, or more opaque, Wolford’s got you covered: the Velvet De Luxe 50 are just a hair more sheer and the Mat Opaque 80 are a fair bit more opaque (and $7 more expensive).
We are far from the only ones who love the Velvet De Luxe: At Jezebel, Tracie Egan Morrisey said her pairs have gone through “a lot of wear with no tear,” with one lasting five years before ripping. StyleBlueprint’s Liza Graves said, “These hose are super soft and thus are harder to snag.” Good Housekeeping named them one of their top five tights, saying they “are a real luxury. Testers couldn’t get over their soft feel, comfortable waistband, and opaque leg.” TightsFashion, a tights review and comparison site, said, “These are perhaps the best opaque tights that we have seen.”
Flaws but not dealbreakers
We wish the Velvet De Luxe were available in even more sizes. Our readers complained that it’s difficult to find excellent plus-sized tights and we definitely agree, even though we found the large size could comfortably fit the lower end of the “plus” category. They just don’t go up high enough to cover everyone, although their range of sizes is definitely more generous than many of the others we looked at.
They’re also not terribly warm—although, excluding the wool and fleece-lined tights, none of the pairs we tested kept us particularly toasty in the extreme cold. The best thing we can say about any of them is that they’re better than bare skin, and the Velvet De Luxe definitely are. If you’re looking for extra warmth during a polar vortex, this isn’t it, but no pair of nylon-only tights will make a huge difference in that matter anyway.
There is, of course, the price, which is quite expensive. Paying $45 for tights is a luxury, but if you’re tired of dealing with mediocre tights that rip immediately or you wear your tights in professional settings where the Velvet De Luxe’s sleek appearance will really benefit you, these are a must-have. Frankly, they’re the best tights out there, and well worth $30 to upgrade from a mid-price pair that likely won’t last as long.
Budget alternative: H&M
They stretched 5.75% in our tests, which is a little more than we would like and will likely lead to some stretch over time, which I’ve noticed from personal experience as well. But especially considering how cheap they are, we’re willing to overlook some small issues.
For one, they’re extremely comfy. We’re not sure you could use the word “comfy” to describe the Velvet De Luxe, which are certainly comfortable, but in a different way. I would lounge around the house in the H&M tights, which have an incredibly soft fabric that feels almost like leggings. Conversely, though, they don’t feel as smooth and luxurious as the Velvet De Luxe, and they definitely don’t look as good.
They’re only available in black, and 100 denier are definitely very opaque—if you’re looking for completely black tights, these are the ones for you. Their 55 denier tights are semi-opaque, and appear to have the same comfortable control top. And if you’re looking for color tights, check in stores, which sometimes have a drastically different selection than their online shop.
Even though the H&M are cheap and of generally good quality, long-term notes from my own personal pairs indicate they just aren’t as durable and long-lasting as the Velvet De Luxe. They do resist tears and nicks well, but pilled a fair bit over time. The fabric also stretched out, making them looser and less well-fitting.
They’re still a good deal and should hold up great for at least a year, but if you compare one year of the H&Ms fitting well at $14 to three years of the Wolfords—which would cost $15 per year—the Wolfords absolutely provide more than $1 of added value. There’s a lot to be said for the sleek, professional look of the Wolfords, which have the ability to multitask for job interviews and nights out that the very-opaque H&M tights just don’t have.
An alternative for color fiends or plus sizes: We Love Colors
Ganda, however, said, “I’m surprised at how much I like these. … Warmth moderate, good comfort, not too constrictive, nice matte color, no weird rolling waistband.” For me, I found the waistband too high and a bit tight—but still, drastically more comfortable than any of the other pairs we tested.
One of their biggest advantages, though, is their generous sizing. We love how many options there are for plus-sized ladies (although you may need to buy through a separate listing), and they’re definitely the best-fitting, most comfortable option.
Step up—something warmer for those arctic winters
Both Jacqui and I loved the Plush tights, with Jacqui saying, “I would recommend these to anyone who lives in any kind of wintery climate regardless of price. How much are these? Who knows, I don’t care.”
Ganda found hers “really comfy at first, but they slipped down over the course of the day, like way down.” Jacqui didn’t run into sagging problems with her Plush tights, which may have been a side effect of being taller than the other two testers. If these fit you, they’re fantastically warm, but unfortunately, they’re not for everyone.
Ganda said they are “warm but not stifling,” and Jacqui said, “I actually like these better than all of the nylon/lycra alternatives,” particularly noting their opaqueness. Most opaque tights tend to give the wearer a one-dimensional look, but the Wolford Merino manage to look opaque, professional, and like legs. They’re not as comfortable as the Velvet De Luxe by a long shot, but if you’re a wool fan—or want warm tights that aren’t fleece-lined—these are the best we’ve found.
I do wish they’d stretched a little less than the 6.22% they did, which is a bit of a blessing and a curse: They definitely are easier to squeeze into than the other wool tights we tested, the Falke Soft Merino tights (which stretched about 3%), but unlike nylon and spandex tights, wool won’t quickly return to its original shape after being stretched, so we worry about how these will stand up over time.
The other tights all three testers wore were the DKNY Opaque Control Top Coverage Tights—and we all complained about sausage leg, where our thighs felt stuffed into the tights. These were far too uncomfortable to wear and the fabric was clearly of a lower quality.
While my hopes were high for the Spanx Tight-End Tights, which a lot of women love, my pair developed several large holes after only a few wears. For $28, tights should last more than a few days. We considered chalking this up to a lemon, but Jacqui, who wears these tights regularly, said the Velvet De Luxe are still superior even if the Spanx hadn’t torn: “They felt better and nicer (not that Spanx feels crappy, because they don’t, but the Wolfords felt REALLY NICE). And yes, I actually rip my Spanx tights constantly.”
Kushyfoot’s Microfiber Tights do have a comfortable footbed and can be found in drugstores. But in testing, they were just that—drugstore tights. The fabric feels cheap and nicks easily; ultimately they can’t compete with the pricier tights. If you’re in a drugstore and desperate, they’re better than L’eggs or whatever other crappy brand your drugstore carries, but they’re really only worthwhile in a pinch.
We got a lot of recommendations for dancer’s tights, including the Danskin Ultrasoft Microfiber Footed Tight. However, their thick, elastic waistband makes weird lines under day-to-day clothing and just isn’t comfortable.
The Capezio Soft Footed Tight is another dancer’s tight, and it suffers from the same style of painful elastic waistband as the Danskin.
HUE’s Sheer to Waist Opaque Tight has a devoted following, and comes in more than a dozen bright colors, but I found they developed nicks very quickly and the fabric bunched up in dark rings around my legs, giving the tights an inconsistent appearance.
The Trasparenze Cortina Soft Opaque Tights were soft but quickly got nicks and small snags, and the microfiber fabric wasn’t nearly as high-quality as the Velvet De Luxe’s. For the price ($22), the quality just isn’t there.
American Apparel’s Opaque Pantyhose are only available in two sizes and reviews indicate those sizes run small and short. Not very versatile.
The Urban Outfitters UO Opaque Tight only come in two sizes, and reviews indicate they aren’t terribly durable.
A lot of you liked the Express Body Shaping Full Tights, but with only two sizes available, they just won’t work for a lot of women.
Uniqlo’s Heattech Tights were another favorite, but also only offered two sizes, again limiting the versatility.
The popular Falke Opaque Pure Matt 100 Denier Tights suffer from the same problem: limited sizing options.
Hanes Silk Reflections Opaque Tight can be found in many drugstores, and they aren’t worth much more than the $6 they’ll run you: Amazon reviews (and personal experience) complain of rips and snags after only a few wears.
Unless you’re very small and can fit into girls’ sizes, the Angelina Professional-Grade Ballet Tights are only available in S/M or M/L.
Assets by Sara Blakely Terrific High Waist Tights have decent reviews, but the waist is just too high for most people. These could be a promising shaping tight (they’re made by Spanx), but for everyday use, they miss the mark.
The Cecilia de Rafael Miss 320 Sheer to Waist Seamless Low Rise Pantyhose are only 20 denier, making them way too sheer for most people.
We eliminated the CK Calvin Klein Women’s Matte Ultra Sheer tights for the same reason: 15 denier just isn’t opaque enough.
While the Commando Ultimate Opaque Matte Tights promise a no-pinch top, that promise comes at a price: According to reviews, the tights fall down quickly and often.
The Ellen Tracy Complete Opaque Tight appear to be discontinued, even though Amazon still has them regularly in stock. We’d rather not risk them suddenly disappearing.
Foot Traffic’s Combed Cotton tights have decent reviews, but we’re not a fan of the thick elastic waistband, which is just begging to make creases.
Falke Merino Wool Blend Tights should have, theoretically, had more give than the Wolford Merino tights, but in practice that wasn’t true. These suffered from a huge gap beneath the crotch, making walking in them extremely uncomfortable. Ultimately, the Wolford were the more comfortable and attractive wool tights.
Smartwool’s The Tight II have brand recognition without the quality to back that up. Reviews are consistently terrible, complaining of poor fit, scratchy materials, and a lack of warmth.
These FootSmart Fleece Lined Tights weren’t nearly as soft and supple as the Plush tights, and much less snug—they fell down any time I moved.
Reviews indicate the Noble Mount Fleece Tights aren’t actually fleece-lined—just warm microfiber, which makes sense, considering the inexpensive price ($12). Plus, complaints that the tights are too short and rip easily make these a pass in favor of the far-superior Plush tights.
What makes a good pair of tights?
When we asked our readers what they wanted in a pair of tights, they really only cared about two things: fit and durability. Other factors play into it (color, opacity, control top), but the best tights need to score an A+ on both those metrics before considering more features.
In terms of fit, a pair of tights needs to not only offer a wide variety of sizes—what good are tights that only fit some women?—but also fit properly once you’ve determined the size you should wear. Poor fit is particularly noticeable in a few areas: below the crotch, where ill-fitting tights will sag, requiring frequent re-adjustment trips to the bathroom; on the waist, where they either can pinch and restrict or, conversely, be too loose and fall down; at the knees, where bad tights form rolls that my ballerina friend describes as “elephant knees;” and at the ankles, where poor fit creates sagging fabric that mimics cankles.
No two bodies are alike, and even if a pair of tights fits most people, there will always be a few people for whom they don’t work, through no fault of their own. We can’t expect a pair of tights to fit everyone, but we do want it to fit the vast majority of people.
Durable tights shouldn’t rip, tear, snag, pull, pill, or do any of the other annoying things that make a pair look trashy. Big caveat: No pair of tights will survive forever, and even the best might, in a stressful situation, rip. But they need to survive day-to-day usage, not ripping or pilling because they’re rubbing against leather boots or zippers or tearing because your fingernails were a fraction too long when you put them on.
As for the other factors, there are a few guidelines: According to our survey, as mentioned earlier, most people want their tights in a semi-opaque to opaque black. That’s also a great pick for a pair you can wear for both work and play. And even better if it’s available in basic nudes (for all skin tones, natch) and even even better if it comes in fun colors. But those are pluses—at the very least, you want the basic black. In terms of control top, you can take it or leave it, but we erred on the side of eliminating control tops we found too restrictive. Some women will really want a shaper, but if the tights aren’t comparably comfortable to non-control-tops, better to pass it up.
The care and maintenance of tights
Sometimes, tights rip because they’re crappy; other times, they rip because they’re poorly cared for. Wolford has detailed care instructions which can apply to any other brand of tights as well: They recommend washing by hand in lukewarm water using a mild and gentle liquid detergent and hanging to dry. (Some of us here at Sweethome cheat by throwing them into the washer on a delicate cycle, then hang drying.)
Wolford’s Velvet De Luxe 66 are the best nylon tights you can buy. They cost $45, but they’ll last for years and are durable, well-fitting, and good-looking. If you’re on a budget, we like H&M’s 100 denier control-top tights, and We Love Colors has great multi-colored options—but neither of those are as comfortable or will last as long as the Velvet De Luxe.
Man vs. Tights, NY Mag, October 2, 2011,
The Absolute Best Pair Of Black Tights You Can Buy, Refinery 29, February 26, 2014,
Hosed: Which pantyhose are best?, Slate, December 27, 2005,
Top 5 Tights for Women, Good Housekeeping
Originally published: March 27, 2014