In search of high-quality winter tights and leggings
January 11, 2018 6:47 AM   Subscribe

You have tights and/or leggings which are warm, comfortable, flattering, and durable. Tell me about them.

I recently moved to a cold place and have decided that my winter wardrobe will be sheath dresses with cardigans, warm leggings/tights, and tall boots. Only problem is, I'm really struggling with finding the warm leggings/tights -- they either don't last (they pill or snag easily), they strangle my waist, or they're too short/fall down. Can you help me?

My stats: 5'7", 155 lbs, curvy/pear shape. Dress size 10-12.

Bonus: not black, gray, brown, or navy. I like colors and patterns. But I also do need better options in the basic colors too. For leggings, seamless is preferable. Footed is always preferable to not footed.

Brands I've tried: We Love Colors (the only vaguely warm ones are the microfiber, which the M/L dig into my waist and the XL fall down), Berkshire Cozy Hose (these come the closest but can dig into my waist), these (too short / waist rolls up), these (wayyyy too short), and these (very comfy, but they pill horribly).

I'm not saying money is no object, but I am a person who will drop a bit of cash for clothes that are comfortable, durable, and flattering.
posted by rabbitrabbit to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
The only colorful color they have is red, but these Uniqlo Heattech leggings are very warm and durable. I like footless, myself, because I find that inner wear breaks at the feet before anywhere else, so if I can avoid the feet, they last much longer.
posted by xo at 7:00 AM on January 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Wolford tights are my go-to in the cold North Eastern winter. I have a pair of tights that I've had for 6 years now and they are in great condition still.
posted by mooselini at 7:18 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

They all seem to be in neutral colors, but I'm wearing Hue Sweater Tights right now, and they're very very warm, and I'm not far off your size. I'm finding them in an argyle pattern, but it's a low contrast, dark brown argyle. But if you have room for some neutrals, they're great.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:28 AM on January 11, 2018

Smartwool is not broad in color selection, but they have some fun textures and patterns in their tights.
They are super warm, very durable(mine last at least 3 seasons of daily wear) and have a reasonably forgiving fit.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:34 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might want to look at leggings from Torrid ( I have a ton of them. They are reasonably priced especially if you shop sales. Their 00 size says it's for a size 10 and their 0 size is for a 12, so you can probably find a pair that fit. They have a wide variety of colors and prints, including fun prints like Star Wars. In my experience, they stay up, are comfy, and wear well. I am wearing a pair of purple plaid ones today, in fact.

Caveats: 1) they are footless leggings, but I like that because I can pair them with SUPER WARM WOOL SOCKS. 2) They are stretchy cotton, so they are not the warmest you can get. I do have one pair of fleece leggings I got from Torrid that are warm and cozy, but those are a seasonal item that they don't always stock.

To have the best of both worlds, you could potentially get some of the very thin, snug fitting thermal long underwear (silk is lovely, there are also polyester ones that work well) and layer UNDER your leggings, which would insulate better than leggings/tights alone. Or you could wear the Torrid ones in the spring/fall and get some thicker wool ones for winter.

In my experience, just one layer on the legs, even if it's a warm layer, usually isn't enough to make my legs warm, so you may want to experiment a little.

Hope this helps!
posted by oblique red at 7:45 AM on January 11, 2018

I have had a few pairs of Trasparenze Jennifer Merino Tights and have found them to be pretty great. They are definitely tights-weight, not leggings-weight, but they are warm and they come in pretty colors. They're a bit on the expensive side, but they did not pill much except maybe at the inner thigh. Most of my tights' snags have come from the zippers on my boots, but I've never figured out a way to cover up the zipper while still having working boots.

On a related note a fun way to get a cool pattern without sacrificing warmth is to wear lace or other patterned tights over another pair of (warmer) tights. It's very subtle if you go black-on-black, or you can do purple-on-yellow or whatever if you can find them! And lace/fishnet tights are usually very stretchy compared to opaque tights so I find fit doesn't matter quite so much.
posted by mskyle at 7:48 AM on January 11, 2018

Doesn't meet the bonus color/pattern criteria, but for black, brown, and blue Heat Holders thermal tights are making me happy and comfortable this winter. Well, they do also have a purple, but it's a very subdued purple. They're relatively cheap ($12 on Amazon), so that's in their favor. Machine washable (though I air dry them). They have tights or legging versions, no control top. The size chart seems accurate - it looks like you'd be on the border between M and L, so I'd probably go with L so that they'd be denser/warmer.
posted by Kriesa at 7:50 AM on January 11, 2018

I have some leggings that I absolutely love from Sweetlegs. The waists don't roll or dig, the fabric doesn't pull, the knees don't bag. You're right between their regular and plus size range, I think, so you could potentially pick up one of each and see what feels better to you. They have super cute patterns (I have a pair that's covered in tiny succulents!) and frequent sales, including one right now.
posted by mishafletch at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2018

I live at 8000 ft in the snowy mountains. Bizarrely, my favorite and warmest leggings to wear here are my Victoria’s Secret yoga pants with the fold-over top. I definitely didn’t buy them for warmth, but they’re the thickest I’ve been able to find. I wear them with a sports bra, tshirt, huge oversized sweater, beanie and my hiking boots when I need to run out the door (it’s cold but sunny here).

VS’ size range might not work for you, but doing a search for “fold over yoga leggings” and making sure they’re on the thick side might get you closer to some that you comfortably wear around your mid-section.
posted by Snacks at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2018

Google polartec power leggings and find where they're on sale reasonably. Sierra Trading Post has them fairly often. Thats the only really warm material for leggings that holds up. They are $50-80 each regular price but I have some that are close to 10 years old and still wearable.

Wash with regular clothes and hang dry.
posted by fshgrl at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2018

My holy grail after *decades* of searching is Primark's Velvet Plush Leggings. They are cheap AF ($8?!), and I've only been buying them the last two winters, but so far they are outperforming and outlasting the leggings and long underwear I used to buy to an exponential degree. SO thick and opaque and fluffy and warm. We just had that cold snap in Boston down into the negative teens and I had to be somewhere in a skirt - I was only a little cold with these as my only leg layer, and I've found that if it's in the high teens and 20s, I'm perfectly fine with this legging-skirt combo. (Plus wool socks, which won't apply to you, but I *hate* tights, so leggings plus socks into boots it is for me.)

I'm hard on leggings and tights because chunky thighs - I've been through most of the brands mentioned above (Smartwool, Uniqlo, Wolford), and despite two of those brands having the audacity to charge me $70+ per pair, none of them lasted longer than a season for me without developing holes in the inner thighs, even if I layered with a pair of bike shorts or under trousers to try to make them last, and the latter two weren't nearly as warm as when I made the move towards fleece-lined leggings. (And I honestly didn't find Uniqlo's Heattech to be warm at all - any hint of wind between tall buildings or crossing the Charles was sheer misery and chill for me.)

They are a bit high in the waist and long in the leg for me, but they don't fall down. (For reference: 5'0, size 10-14 brand-dependent, long torso, short inseam.)

Looks like you can only get black ones online, but in-store, I've seen other colors, though it seems to be a different one each season.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:55 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Primark cozy fleece leggings and tights. They are cheap as chips but have held up well over 2+ seasons of wear, with lots of boot rubbing, coat friction, bad weather walking, and public transport sitting. They haven't pilled, torn, or thinned out. They only have black leggings and grey or navy tights but they have been my go-to during this cold winter. And at <$10, hard not to try, even if you just get one pair.
posted by stillmoving at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Is there any way to buy those Primark leggings online? I cannot figure out how to buy from their website.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

I also have a strong preference for footed legwear and I've had a lot more luck with traditional opaque tights than sweater tights. Depending on how your legs are shaped, you may need to size up a bit in sweater tights to avoid having the weave stretched out at the thighs, but that leads to fit issues everywhere else.

I find the 80 or 100 denier Calvin Klein shaper tights to be a pretty-good all-purpose tight, even in - 26 Celsius weather. I think they exist in colours other than black and charcoal but they're hard to find. I also wear Hue super opaque control top tights throughout the winter. The colour selection is pretty good most seasons (lots of jewel tones this year) and the neutral shades tend to show up at TJ Maxx-related stores for pretty cheap.

For reference, I'm 5'5" and 150lbs, so also a size 10ish, but pear-shaped and long-torsoed, so I might have an easier time getting tights to fit at the waist than an apple-shaped person of the same size.
posted by blerghamot at 9:50 AM on January 11, 2018

I am wearing Hue Super Opaque Tights right now and I love them. They're really thick, and the control top is smooth so they don't give you muffin top.
posted by radioamy at 10:07 AM on January 11, 2018

I don't know about the durability because I'm not a skirt-wearer, but I bought a pair of Capelli fleece lined opaque footed tight (this looks the same, but I bought mine at my local Meijer (I'm in Ohio)) and wore them to a winter work party where I had to wear a dress, and I was warmer than I ever am when wearing pants. They were very stretchy/roomy and the top went up really high. I'm a little smaller than you, about 5'6" 130-135 lbs., but pear shaped and thought they fit great. I've contemplated wearing them again under pants, they were so comfortable.
posted by jabes at 12:57 PM on January 11, 2018

I just bought a pair of these bamboo fleece leggings from Voila Designs (a small Canadian company). I have only tried them on so far, but the reason I was willing to spend (they are not cheap!!!) on these was a glowing recommendation from a friend, who says she wore her pair basically every day last year and that they remain super comfy and in reasonable shape. Now that I have tried them on I understand why... they feel like a hug, seriously. The fleece is so plush and the high waist is totally soft. I think they look nice as well, and they come in several colours and also in printed options.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:50 PM on January 11, 2018

rabbitrabbit, I've been buying my pairs in-store, so I just found out that Primark doesn't sell online, just lets you use their website to "create outfits" for later reference. Seems ridiculous in this day and age to go to the trouble of compiling a website with that number of items and *not* let people buy them easily. :( Sorry about that!
posted by Pandora Kouti at 11:48 AM on January 12, 2018

I like Hue tights for crazy colors and Wolford for super luxury. My secret to making them warmer is that I buy them up a size. I have long legs, so i don't end up with wrinkles when i do this. ymmv.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:41 PM on January 12, 2018

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