Legs: a user's guide

They may be a career girl's new best friend, so she had better make an effort to stand out from the crowd, writes Melissa Mostyn

Slither, slither. With the revenge of the Eighties female viper - sharp tongued, snake-hipped and sleek - just one stiletto toe away, comes the news that legs are to replace cleavage as the new erogenous zone. This should draw sighs of relief from hassled, style-aware career- women the country over, for after all, since when has a deep cleavage indicate a good head for business?

Yet micro-minis demand micro-thin legs and maxi-time in which to wriggle them back over your hips. If you do not have either (and to be honest, who does?), then it is worth re-examining the emerging autumn looks.

Thankfully, hosiery trends being a reflection of those in clothing, the latest offerings are diverse enough to satisfy everyone. Dignified herringbones, serious greys, determined reds, and brisk pinstripes appear in such a variety of new ranges from Aristoc, Wolford and Hue that one pair can give an old suit an instant Nineties edge. But how do you mix shade and texture without compromising on gloss?

Subtlety is the key. In terms of pattern and colour, Aristoc Diamond Opaques (pounds 6) and Hue Deco Diamond tights (pounds 9.95) are sneaky enough to complement that new charcoal grey Calvin Klein shift well with alcohol- rich shades of juniper, dark brandy and claret, while for the same price, Hue's Herringbone Control Top design (pounds 9.95) also safeguards against the hip thickening effects of herringbone and speckled tweed skirt-suits.

Thanks to traditional City associations and the way they line up and elongate the body's contours, pinstripes are another big trend for winter as the catwalk takes its cue from the office. Careful neck-to-ankle dressing in co-ordinated stripes can reinforce the impression of power and authority, which might explain the emerging vogue for pinstriped tights. The best pair, Wolford City, combines black discreetly with stripes of truffle (dark brown) and PR cosmic (grey to you and me), which looks more expensive than its brash Metro design, and has the indulgent feel of good-quality washed silk. With tights like that, how could you resist signing a cheque for pounds 19?

In response to the resounding popularity of its flexuous Follow Me tights last winter, Wolford has also brought out a variation called, aptly, Comeback (pounds 25). With a palette of purple, evergreen and truffle, Comeback is as warm and thick as the original and revises the lacy design with a scaly network of squares. A more refines (and cheaper) alternative would be Wolford Optical (pounds 19), an embossed cable-knit pattern snaking down the legs.

If you prefer minimalist slink, Aristoc Slimline plain-knit tights streamline your stomach and legs like never before, giving the perfect foundation for the season's lean tailoring.

Because of the high control factor and the use of Lycrasoft, which feels like cashmere as you stroke your leg, Slimline has the psychological benefits of making you feel more efficient and in control all day. Once you have put them on, you will never want the day to end.

Slimline is not the only plain-knit range launched by Aristoc this season. The brand's pioneering Bodytoners have been extended with Tummy Control (pounds 6) which have a fine tummy-hugging satin panel with a cotton lining. VPL perfectionists can eliminate their anxiety - and its source - in one smooth glide with a pair of seam-free tights.

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