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The Intelligent Consumer: No need to dare to go bare

Naked legs are for fashion victims only. Here's what to wear with a pencil skirt and stillies
Unless you are a 16-year-old female Geordie teenager, bare legs are not an option for December. So, why are all the mags photographing this season's pencil skirts and peep stilettos on models with bare legs? You can imagine the fashion editor pitching her December shoot to the editor. "It's going to be fabulous. We're shooting short skirts in Lapland. Don't worry, darling. Eugene can spray the girl's legs with perma tan to cover up the frostbite."

Style Police doesn't want to hear about a fashion editor's artistic integrity. Nor do we believe the old "suffer for fashion" chestnut. Of course you can wear tights with this season's skirts and stillies. Mary Flack of Fenwick says: "Classic opaques don't feel right this season. Women want the luxury of sheers when they are wearing an evening dress. Nude sheers don't work as well as classic blacks when you are wearing strappy stilettos with peep toes. Christian Dior's black 10-denier sheers (pounds 4) are a winner. Oroblu's 8-denier sheer blacks are a little more expensive (pounds 6.50), but they are cobweb-fine. The opaques that are successful this season are by Wolford. You need to buy the anthracite grey satin opaques (pounds 15), which feel smooth as a kitten's tail."

Patterned tights were all over the high street, in every magazine and nowhere on the streets of London. "The problem with pattern is that they emphasise your legs," says Flack, "which is fine if you have great legs. But most women don't want to draw attention to their legs at the best of times." Even the late Diana couldn't make diamante bows or seams look anything other than tacky. Stockings drive men to distraction and they seem appropriate for Christmas. But ask yourself whether stockings and suspenders make you feel sexy or like a B-movie porn star. Be honest.

Sorry, but the more you spend, the better the quality of the tights. There is no way around it and you don't want to be grappling with clear nail varnish in the middle of a smart party because you economised. "A lot of people are still suffering from the Donna Karan fashion rule of the Eighties: opaques are the only tights to wear," says Wallpaper's fashion director Anne-Marie Curtis. "Try a pair of black sheers under a pair of slouch pants or a longer dress with peep-toe, strappy sandals. Then graduate to the pencil skirts. Jonathan Aston's nude microfibre fishnets (pounds 3.50) are fabulous. You can't even see the fishnet until you get up close and personal. Levante's high-gloss black sheers (pounds 4.99) are the tights I used in my December shoots."

You may think fishnets are too red- light for you, but take Flack's advice: "Fishnets have been such a popular choice for winter 97. Maybe it's the new musical Chicago - Bob Fosse dancers in black fishnets - which showed women that fishnets do give 'em the old razzle dazzle. Fishnets are sexy and, surprisingly, look better on an older woman. Oroblu's microfibre fishnets in black (pounds 8.50) are lighter weight and less coarse than the traditional fishnet. They cling to the legs beautifully and don't spiral because the actual fishnet is so fine. I'm a fan of Jonathan Aston's navy fishnet (pounds 3.50) because it is a little less extreme than the classic black fishnet tights. I've seen women layering fine fishnet on sheer black and that works beautifully with the right stilettoes and knee-length pencil."

Style Police is in sheer heaven.