Tights with Shorts
Recently, the Stockingirl blog has made quite a few mentions of one of my favorite trends from my teenage years: tights worn under a pair of shorts. I know it will come as a major shock to everyone who reads my blog, but I really enjoy showing off my legwear. What might be more of a surprise is that I'm not a huge fan of wearing very short skirts. I just have a very difficult time tuning out the idea that I might be showing off the lady parts unknowingly, so it's hard for me to relax if my skirt is more than a couple of inches above the knee. Wearing a pair of shorts takes care of that anxiety and lets me show off a few more inches of the hosiery.
Now, as someone who, in the 80's, owned a pair of red and white polka-dotted rayon shorts that she often wore with white tights and a pair of red suede flats that had a gold medallion on them, I can attest that it is a look that is really easy to get wrong. Even then, I knew I felt best wearing a pair of denim shorts with black tights. I think I'm going to go on record now and say that I still think this is the gold standard of the shorts with tights look. A monochromatic look is a very close second.
Let me re-iterate. This is a danger-zone kind of look. You can very easily dip into "My EYES!" territory and injure others if you get this wrong, as captured by malingering at Flickr.
There are issues other than the shorts and tights going on with this ensemble, starting with the poor fit of the shirt and jacket. However, keeping our focus on the shorts and tights, if The Busy™ is happening on the legs, the rest of the outfit needs to be simple as all get out. These tights are way too busy to wear with tweed shorts (which are not even in the same color family as the tights) and a jacket that is possibly made from yak and seems to have ripped up toilet paper glued on it. She seems to have also made the shorts herself by scissoring up a pair of her former tweed trousers and leaving them unhemmed. Obviously, there is a long tradition of cut-off shorts. These, however, look like what would happen were Martha Stewart to decide to get herself a pair of Daisy Dukes.
Keeping it simple and as classic as possible with the shorts with tights look is really important because it's already a little different than what people are used to seeing and it is surprisingly easy to confuse the general public.
Style Du Monde shows Sarah Rutson, the fashion director of a very popular chain of Hong Kong department stores, rocking the ever living daylights out of the shorts with tights look. The length of these shorts is perfect for her, the little distressed details are fun (notice her perfectly trimmed hem, though) and she has kept her accessories and other clothing really classic and perfectly put together. Although she is wearing a lot of different things, the coordination is so tight that the impression is just holy cow and fabulous. One thing she's doing that's a fave for me with shorts and tights is wearing a tailored blazer, which helps the tights make sense again and dresses up the shorts.
However, even someone as stylish as Ms. Rutson can make me question the shorts with tights look. It's that fraught with peril.
There's something that's not right about these shorts with this outfit. I think it's the shape and the length most of all, but the distressing seems to be too much here, too. It's one of those times where I can't say exactly what's bugging me, but putting my thumb over the shorts improves the outfit a hundredfold. I think this would have looked fabulous with black wool shorts.
All in all, the shorts with tights look can be a really fun way to show a few more inches of legs than you might be comfortable showing in a skirt. It's not the time to get crazy with the rest of the outfit, in fact it's probably the time to dip into the more classic areas of your wardrobe. I am guilty of high crimes against fashion while wearing shorts with tights, but I hope this year I'll be making up for what I did 20 years ago.
I'm adding some photos of some longer shorts with tights in response to the comments on this post. It's definitely possible to wear the look with a longer short as long as the shape is right. I've thought about it and I think the thing that bothers me the most about the third Sarah Rutson photo is that the shorts are baggy through the thigh and then pull in at the cuff, so they look almost like bloomers. The length is also not exactly right on her, but it's definitely possible to venture out of short short territory with tights and look fabulous, as evidenced by the photos below I've borrowed from a Stockingirl post on the shorts with tights trend at New York and London fashion week. (photos from style.com)
What do you guys think of shorts with tights? Are they serving up the hotness or do they make you want to escape to your special place?