Tried & Tested: The Perfect Pair: Opaque Tights are a Winter Staple, but which are the Best Buy?

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The Independent Culture
How did we exist before opaque tights were invented? They miraculously slim down rounded legs, they resist splintery desks and friendly cats, they are warm as well as elegant, and they mean you don't have to shave your legs all winter. Plain black remains the basic wardrobe staple - but should you invest in expensive essentials, or stock up in your local supermarket? We asked our panel of experts to test five different pairs of plain black opaque tights: Aristoc Ultra-soft, Fogal Milano 185, Knickerbox Velvet, Marks & Spencer's version and Tesco Velvet. Read on, to discover which pairs are likely to end up round your knees by lunchtime, and which are worth laying in a whole winter's supply of.


Sascha Behrendt, ex-model, booker at London model agency Storm; Sally Brampton, novelist and fashion journalist, former editor of Elle; Andrea Cockett, paediatric nurse, and Helen Storey, fashion designer.


Each panellist marked each pair of tights out of a maximum 10 points for fit and comfort, looks, durability, washability and value for money. Their scores were converted into a star rating, to give an at-a-glance guide to the best buys.


Ultra-soft Opaque Tights ( pounds 3.99)

Scored well for fit, less well for looks and durability.

Sally Brampton's favourite pair, which she found 'overall the best for looks, comfort and value - though with a habit of creeping down your legs. I found myself doing the tight hitch in public - not attractive. A slight tendency to look streaky.' Other testers also

criticised the poor colour of these tights. Andrea Cockett said: 'These had an uneven appearance and visible colour differences, which made my legs look mottled and rather unpleasant.' Sascha Behrendt praised the fit, but added: 'They had those small lines on them that I hate. They're OK, but they're not very sexy.'


Milano 185 Opaque Pantyhose ( pounds 17)

Scored well for looks, poorly for value for money and durability.

In spite of their high price, for comfort and fit they were Helen Storey's favourite: 'By far the superior product. Like sprayed-on cashmere. Almost like not wearing any]' Sascha Behrendt also thought they were the slinkiest: 'A pair one would be happy caught half-undressed in - really soft and fine, the sexiest, silkiest pair. Wouldn't last more than two washes.' They were less popular with our other two testers. Sally Brampton found them 'slippery. I kept sliding off my chair at work. They snagged quickly.' Andrea Cockett said: 'These had pulls in them five minutes after I put them on.'

****KNICKERBOX .TX.- Velvet Opaque Tights ( pounds 5.99)

Scored well all round; our testers' top choice.

Andrea Cockett's favourite, because 'they fitted well, had an even colour and were soft to the touch'. The rest of the panel also praised them. Sascha Behrendt found them 'a good large fit. The grain is small and fine with no horrible lines. The best black colour out of all the pairs tried.' Sally Brampton thought they were 'overall very good, very comfortable, wore well'. Helen Storey found them 'comfortable, not luxury - good value for money'.


Opaque Tights ( pounds 2.50)

Good on price, not on quality.

None of our panel picked these as a favourite, and they were criticised for poor looks. Sascha Behrendt found them 'the least comfortable. Had to really tug them up. Nasty lines that don't look pleasant close up.' Sally Brampton criticised them as 'scratchy and shiny. A very low price, but that doesn't make them value for money.' Andrea Cockett found their quality and fit inadequate: 'They wore very quickly, had pulls all over after only one wear. Required regular pulling up]' Helen Storey, however, praised their toughness: 'A good balance between support and ease. I'd have liked more of a matt look. They felt like they wouldn't ladder, and that they would last.'


Velvet Opaque Tights ( pounds 3.99)

Scored well for value, but poorly on fit and comfort.

Sascha Behrendt's favourite: 'Brilliant value; fine grain, smooth with a slight sheen.' She was the exception, though; the rest of the panel were less enthusiastic. Sally Brampton criticised the harsh fibre and the sizing - 'Small was perfect, and there's no way I'm small.' Andrea Cockett also found the Tesco tights 'rough to touch. They ended up nearer my knees than my waist by lunchtime.' Helen Storey rated these the lowest: 'Days of wearing underpants over one's tights to keep them up as a girl came flooding back. Too see-through, itchy. A joy to shed at the end of the day.'

(Photograph omitted)