Tuesday, September 26

Grandmas Love It, and It Girls Do Too: How Hosiery Had a Big Comeback in 2023

Hosiery is one of the world’s greatest innovations. Even ancient Egyptians knew the value of a good pair of socks—the civilization innovated knit socks with a unique split-toe design all the way back in 300 AD. Socks were also a status symbol among Europe’s nobility dating back to the 12th century. Hundreds of years later, when hemlines started to rise, stockings energetically entered the picture. And with DuPont’s revolutionary introduction of nylon stockings in the 1940s, the marvel of hosiery became even more accessible. Over 60 million pairs of nylon stockings were sold. In 1959, Allen E. Gant had the crazy idea of merging underpants and stockings all into one. He named it pantyhose, and now, here we are in 2023 in a renaissance of the medley of hosiery the world has to offer. Tights, socks, and stockings have all been fundamental to the evolution of fashion. They have a deep pragmatic purpose, but they’re also a key part of creative expression. After numerous trend cycles of bare legs being a major theme on the runways, hosiery is returning to the spotlight—and in all forms. From tights and stockings to socks (of all heights) and even stocking-like things, hosiery has become a big part of 2023’s trend conversation. Designers such as Miu Miu, Gucci, and Tory Burch have helped put them back on the map, centering pieces like fishnet tights and chunky ribbed socks within their collections and styling them in a diverse assortment of ways. For a look at just how impactful hosiery is shaping up to be this year, along with the hosiery trends to watch, keep scrolling below.

For the perpetually cold, socks are more of a necessity than a fashion statement, but with the designer endorsement of the accessory, why choose? When Miu Miu’s fall “schoolgirl meets Wimbledon” collection went down the runways last year, a bevy of ballerina flats and chunky ribbed socks soon followed. Miu Miu is one of those brands fashion people closely keep tabs on, so it was not a surprise that its sock-heavy styling made waves among celebrities, content creators, and models. But outside of the balletcore bubble, chunky socks are always a solid combo with “ugly” sneakers.

New York–based designer Sandy Liang has a knack for making niche accessories pop. She’s done it with coquettish hair bows (they’re all the rage on Instagram), but it would also be fair to pinpoint Liang as a driving force behind the proliferation of knee-high socks. The designer featured them in almost every look of her spring/summer show, pairing them with (again!) ballet flats and sporty sneakers. It’s interesting to see knee-high socks float their way back into the mainstream fashion consciousness, as they’re often left out in favor of tights or crew socks, but Liang (along with several other brands) is making a strong case for their return.

From the footless to the eccentrically wrapped, we’re living in the age of unconventional hosiery. Its ambiguity makes this type of piece hard to categorize with full confidence (are they tights or socks?), but maybe that’s the point. It’s so eye-catching that it becomes the clothing itself.

Long live fishnets! Easily one of the most prevalent items during fashion month, netted tights made appearances at Alaïa, Tory Burch, Victoria Beckham, and Gucci. The latter made creative use of the hosiery essential—layering colorful fishnets underneath see-through skirts, shimmer-fringed coats, and glamourous satin gowns. Over at Tory Burch, not a single ankle was exposed without a layer of fishnets worn over them. The designer paired the tights with corsetted dresses, midi skirts, and elegant coats, prompting hoards of editors to seek out a fresh pair of fishnets immediately after the show.

In 2023, we’re seeing the Skittles approach to tights—the slogan “taste the rainbow” is perfectly applicable here. Seemingly no color is off-limits. Shades like tangerine, lime green, and Pepto Bismol pink are getting plenty of play among the fashion crowd, coordinated equally saturated clothes.

Hosiery trends come and go, but black tights are forever. They tend to go with everything, and you don’t have to shuffle between several stores to find a decent pair. Everyone owns them, but not everyone knows quite what to do with them. Looking to the fashion crowd for inspiration here’s some advice: first, grab a sleek minidress or a leather trench coat, add a pair of revenge heels, and your sultry siren look is complete. 

Red is shaping up to be a color of the season in more ways than one, hosiery included. One way to do it is to take notes from Valentino, David Koma, and Gucci and opt for red pantyhose, but red socks and knee-high stockings are also worthy options. In case some sartorial inspiration is needed, Who What Wear editors have mastered how to style red hosiery.

Now, we’ve entered the gloriously chaotic side of hosiery: options ranging from obscure prints to message-adorned tights and hosiery complete with cutouts and bows. Here, they’re not just in a supporting role—they are the star. Cult brands Nodress and Tyt are two of the players expanding the creative potential of what hosiery can be, from screen-printed pantyhose to coquette-inspired stockings.

While not as pervasive as black tights just yet, white tights are slowly but surely emerging as a hosiery trend to watch. It’s so close to exploding into a bigger theme this year that we’re giving it an honorable mention. White lace tights were a key look during Chanel’s F/W 23 show, and Miu Miu paired white fishnets with miniskirts for its fall show in Paris. 

Rhinestones are quietly trending their way up again—thanks to a little help from the rhinestone-obsession of the Y2K revival. While bedazzled tights are far from a novelty at Gucci, their appearance at the brand’s show last month means their time still hasn’t fizzled yet. 

Up next: We Style Magazine Covers—Here’s What We Think About This Season’s Wildest Trends 

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