bal harbour blog

Getting A Leg Up

Fashion News
Hilary Rhoda, photographed for Bal Harbour Magazine by Russell James, wearing a La Perla bodysuit and Wolford tights.

By Mackenzie Wagoner

For the Spring 2017 collections, head-turning moments were served not by a flash of unexpected skin, but with the strut of a well covered leg. Tights in every color, pattern, and opacity took strides down runways. Inciting actual gasps from his Parisian audience, Demna Gvasalia flexed his forte for need-it-now fetishism at Balenciaga with brilliant seventies floral printed spandex liberated from the dregs athleisure and applied to pairs of pointed tip boots that extended all the way to the hip.

Anthony Vaccarello envisioned Saint Laurent in sheer black swaths of fabric that left knees and nipples barely obscured. And, putting her ever smart relatable spin on the trend, Phoebe Philo trotted out peeks of red, white, and tan nylons flickering from beneath Céline’s gorgeously tailored midi skirts and cropped leather flares. It’s not that Joseph Altuzarra, Domenico Dolce, and Marc Jacobs were feeling a sudden urge for modesty—tights, after all were created to set their wearer free.

Siblings of the riding breech, the second-skin legwear was initially conceived for Anglo-Saxon men to increase mobility and prevent equestrian chafing. It was the color that distinguished the man in the tights. Lower classes wore stain-resistant black while nobility slipped into white, exemplified by Hans Holbein the Younger’s progressive 16th century portrait of Henry VIII. Without the standard trappings of a king (crown and scepter), the royal’s confident stance, gaze, and impeccably pale tights communicate his social and political place. It wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that stockings migrated from the legs of men to those of women, where their shifts in styles became inextricably tied to changing tides of hemlines. Suffragettes gave glimpses of their gumption and their silk- and wool-covered ankles marching in just-off-the-ground skirts. Laissez-faire flappers required knee-length fringe and even more flexibility, provided by a thin rayon barrier between newly exposed skin and cold winter air.

Mary Quant’s mini skirts provided ample room for its mod sixties wearers to subvert nylon, a last fulcrum of modesty, with technicolor shades and graphic patterns. And with the midcentury invention of Lycra, every weave evolution since has escalated the clothing genre’s balance between style and utility—offering control top shapewear, insulating fleece lining, and ultra thin denier for subtle washes of color. These days, even the wellness world is getting a leg in the game, with the new aged healing obsession reaching its apotheosis via crystal-embedded compression legwear by Item M6 meant to improve circulation, stimulate acupressure meridians, decrease cellulite, and detoxify through far-infrared radiation.

Not exactly your grandmother’s pantyhose. Which is all to say, whether you’re communicating glamour, feminism, adventurism, or just good vibes, this season, tights will help you walk the walk.


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