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 60 pairs of tights and testing 26, with our top four choices worn by three different-sized moms. 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.

The $45 Wolford Velvet De Luxe 66 tights are more durable and comfortable than others we tested and never tore or ripped during our tests, even after rough treatment. We tested them with three different-sized women and found they’re worth every penny. If you’re looking to save some money, though, we have a few cheaper options as well.

We started by surveying 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: Silky Toes Women’s Microfiber Opaque Tightsand 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”

The word “tights” means something different to everyone. To clarify, in this article we’re seeking to uncover the best black, footed leg coverings that are semi-opaque to opaque—what most Americans would consider “tights,” and which can be worn in both professional and personal settings. Only a small percentage of respondents to our survey were interested in nude tights, so we eliminated tights that only came in nude from our research. We initially planned to exclude wool and fleece-lined tights as well, but enough people requested them that we ultimately included them as part of the competition.

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.

Our pick: Wolford Velvet de Luxe 66

The Wolford Velvet De Luxe tights are super durable and long lasting. They fit well on our diverse group of testers, both smoothing and flattering. Plus, they come in a variety of sizes and colors.

The best tights are Wolford’s Velvet De Luxe 66. They’re certainly pricey at $45, but the quality justifies the expense, as these are the closest pair we could find to what a tight should be: super durable and long-lasting; well-fitting, even for our diverse group of testers; smooth and flattering; and available in a variety of sizes and basic colors to fit all shapes and skin shades (if you do happen to be on the hunt for a nude tight).

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.

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: Silky Toes

Silky Toes Women’s Microfiber Opaque Tights with Control Top cost $14 and are nearly as durable as the Velvet De Luxe. Like the Velvet De Luxe, they showed very little wear from the velcro test and had no tears or rips after several days of wear. However, the fabric did show a few small nicks—less than a millimeter in size—that we didn’t find in the Velvet De Luxe.

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.

They’re still a good deal and should hold up great for at least a year, but if you compare one year of the Silky Toes 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 Silky Toes tights just don’t have.

Step up—something warmer for those arctic winters

f you’re looking for tights that will actually warm you up in cold weather, we recommend either the $35 Plush Fleece-Lined Tights (available on Amazon) or the $65 Wolford Merino Tights. Both are warm, but they have completely different feels and which one is best for you will depend on whether you prefer the softer feel of the fleece-lined tights or the rougher feel, but more refined look, of the wool.

The competition

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.

Friends highly recommended the Bootights Ankle Core Tight & Sock All-in-One, and to be fair, the concept is pretty nifty: Instead of just nylon all the way down, Bootights connect the nylon to a sock, which makes wearing boots easier—no need to layer and less risk of your boots tearing up your tights. Unfortunately, it fails in execution. The nylon feels like that of a much cheaper pair, nicking quickly, and the waistband dug painfully into my stomach. Plus, they stretched a shocking 10.39%, the most of all the tights we tested.

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.

Body Wrapper’s Adult Supplex Supremely Soft Full Footed Tights seem to be a decent ballet tight, but availability (and sizing) is limited except in specialty shops.

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.

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.

Almost all tights are composed using both nylon (or polyamide) and spandex (also called Lycra or elastane), usually consisting of about 75-85% nylon. Some might have nominal (1-4%) amounts of cotton; others replace the nylon with microfiber polyester. Realistically, wool or cotton tights will be the warmest, but they don’t fit and stretch as well as nylon and spandex tights. Nylon makes tights soft and smooth; spandex gives them support to keep them from falling down. As a general rule, the higher the percentage of nylon, the more luxurious they will feel, but a moderate amount of spandex is absolutely necessary to ensure good fit.

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 cheat by throwing them into the washer on a delicate cycle, then hang drying.)

While Wolford says you should wash your tights after every wear, we think that’s a little extreme; The Hairpin gives a slightly more reasonable guideline of every two to three wears. Take care when putting on tights, as well: Keep your toe- and fingernails neat, put on wrist jewelry after your tights, and don’t pull the fabric too tightly.

In conclusion

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, check out the other we have reviewed  – but none of those are as comfortable or will last as long as the Velvet De Luxe.

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