H&M

Halfway through the Harry Potter series, a truth becomes so clear that it can no longer be overlooked. There would be no need for the adventures and the books if Harry just listened to Hermione. At each point she gives sensible advice, mainly along the lines of 'let's talk to the grown-ups' that would result in them not getting into unnecessary trouble that results in people getting hurt or killed. I fear that there may be a parallel with me, this blog and my friend Laura. Fortunately, the consequences of me not listening to Laura are just wearing uncomfortable tights rather than my godfather being killed. 

Laura is right about almost everything, and just like Harry and Hermoine, I owe her my life. Well, I owe her the fact that she once arranged for me to get out of Nepal when I got stuck there, but at the time it felt like she could do magic. When told about the blog, Laura pointed me in the direction of H&M. I was put off by the fact what she actually said was that they did good maternity tights and didn't listen to her. 

But as always Laura was right. H&M tights are very good. I got the 20 Denier (it is August after all) 4 Pack for £3.99. That actually makes them fractions of a penny cheaper than Walthamstow market. Think what I could spend that on. They fit really very well indeed. And actually stay in place nicely all day. No rolling down when you've been loafing a bit at your desk or after a big lunch. Only two problems with them. First there is no way of telling front from back, which as you know is important when you are wearing them often. Secondly, they did catch a bit. But that matters less when they cost less than a pound. Straight to the front of the queue. 

 

Next

I'm sorry it's been so long without a post. I got distracted by Brexit. Before the referendum I did my first political campaigning. Handing out leaflets to strangers is more time consuming and less fun than you think. It cuts into your tight reviewing time. And after the referendum, I've been too busy arguing with people about what the vote means. But six weeks since the referendum I think I can return to my blog.

This review is of Next. A shop that confuses me almost as much as Cornwall voting to leave. Come the Boxing Day Sales, come the stories of people camping outside overnight to go to the Next sales. And so follows my confusion. The clothes at Next aren't incredibly good or amazingly expensive. Why do people value their comfort and time so little that they are willing to queue in the cold for so long? Yes, almost everything is on sale in the Next sale. Yes, they do generally have larger discounts than other retailers. But people should have more going on in their life than that. While I would never do it, I can understand the people who queue for once in a lifetime events. Or if I was saving hundreds of pounds maybe. But £40 off a dress? I don't think so. But I guess what I've learnt recently is that I struggle with the decisions of many people in this country.

Scoring 

These tights were bought for me by my mummy who is much more of a Next fan than I am.  And I think they were the body shaping range (thanks Mum!). But they were too tight, and started to roll up and slip down. Definitely not the body shape that I want. 

Falke

Don't worry, I'm not just going to be testing expensive tights. My glamorous colleague Samantha has suggested Sainsburys; lovely Laura has suggested H&M. I promise to return to the high street soon. 

These Falke tights have been in the drawer for a while, waiting for that most horrible of events, a hot day spent in the office. Many fashion experts would have you believe that me, Kate Middleton and your gran are the only people who wear tights when its hot. They are intent on making me feel like a freak. Its a much more extreme take on the view that it is not socially acceptable to wear black tights. Because if you wear tights it gives away the fact that you can't afford to take taxis everywhere. And if you can't afford to take taxis everywhere you must be a complete nobody. But if it's not socially acceptable to wear black tights, let alone nude tights, why do so many places sell them? Could it be because your feet really hurt if you wear shoes without socks or tights on a hot day? And most people have better things to spend their money on than taxis? Although maybe if I stopped spending so much money on expensive tights, I would have more to spend on taxis. 

We met Falke last time when we were reviewing Burlington. Falke has a whole line in wedding socks and tights. What the fuck is a pair of wedding socks? Is someone saying, 'You know you've spent £15,000 on a massive event. But I'm sorry its not going to be a special day unless you have special socks. And not just a pair of really nice socks, but a pair that has been marketed as wedding socks.' Even I think that's mental, and I spend about 2/3rds of my awake time thinking about tights. Can't help but think that this is more of this fashion industry bullshit. 

Scoring

Falke's non-wedding tights are nothing special. I don't know if they save the comfort and fit aspects for the wedding line, but if I was wearing these at my wedding, I would worry about sagginess. As well as a tendency to roll down, which might lead my guests to speculate if this was a shotgun wedding. 

This pair was £12 (it was 20 denier - hence being worn in hot weather. Proper opaques are around £25). Doesn't meet cost effectiveness targets at all. 

Burlington

Recently I've mainly been watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, a programme about a 1930s Australian toff who investigates murders in between sleeping with gorgeous men.  The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher (yes, Phyrne is a brilliant name choice for anyone looking for one) wears fabulous clothes and hunts down backstreet abortionists. The books go into even more detail about her hiding birth control from customs officials. Very unlike Miss Marple. 

Phryne (I believe after 3 series in two weeks, we are on first name terms) has a assistant called Dot who is often seen mending Phryne's stockings. It's actually a bit of a feature in the books - Dot finds that it calms her down while Miss Fisher is out chasing white slave traders. Which leads me to the question: How do you mend stockings? Are these nylon stockings? Doesn't that take enormous care and a very fine needle (Phryne wouldn't put up with obvious patches near her silk underwear)? Or are these the equivalent of my thick opaque tights? I fear this blog may be distracting me from bigger picture issues. 

This week we have been wearing Burlington tights, as we are unintentionally in the expensive tight section of the blog. I'm not actually entirely clear whether Burlington is a brand or a pattern. That sort of confusion is not going to win me Tights blogger of the year. I'm going to have to up my game if I'm going to get anything to go in the trophy cabinet. Its made by Falke, the people who make posh socks, but everything under the Burlington brand has that argyle pattern. But it does have a completely separate section on the website. I'm going to go with a brand specialising in argyle that has been bought by Falke. 

Scoring

The rule with luxury goods is always go really expensive. Brands that are entry-point luxury are never worth it - they don't have the high-quality ingredients and they haven't been hand-made. They are basically just a mark-up for a brand. Whereas, top of the range stuff is often made with much better stuff by much more skilled people, and often actually has a smaller profit margin than the cheaper stuff. I feel like this has happened with Burlington. At £18, its cheaper than Wolford and Heist, and boy is that clear. Nowhere near the quality or fit of the other two. So if you're into expensive tights, just pay a little bit more. 

I can however, wholeheartedly recommend Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. It may be the most feminist programme I have watched in a long time. 

Heist

You can probably imagine that I have complained many a time about my tights. Never however, has my significant other decided to go into the tights business in order to bring me the tights I deserve. 

If only I was married to Edzard van der Wyck, who went into the tights business when he realised that his wife didn't much like her tights. According to the story, related here, his wife wasn't even really complaining about the tights. He had to really push her to get her to discuss all the things she didn't like. I don't really understand this. Ever since I've been doing this blog (a whole month now), people have been telling me their tales of things they don't like in their tights. Gussets (obviously), tights that get a hole in the toe because of flat feet, seams in general, laddering, and of course, the question about how to wash them.* I think Edzard van der Wyck and I would get on. He apparently did a lot of testing with 67 women (oh! To have been one of them) to see what they really wanted from tights. Turns out it's obvious. They want high quality, no seam tights, with different waistbands. Yes! You can choose the waistband--high, for those of us who want more support around our stomachs, and low for those crazy people who want a pair of tights resting on their hips. Why has no-one thought of this before? WHAT HAS BEEN WRONG WITH TIGHT MAKERS? WHAT HAVE THEY BEEN DOING? 

Scoring

These are good, good tights. Like really good. No, better than that. They come in a little black box, with not a bit of cellophane in sight. Already from the packaging they are much classier than any other pair. And they fit perfectly. All day they are in the perfect position. No sagging or rolling down or anything. They do cost £22 though. But unlike Wolford, we have no idea about whether they are long-lasting pairs of tights. There are no enthusiastic reviews saying that they last decades. Heist has only been going for a matter of months. They feel good quality though--on a par with Wolford, so if Wolford's can last years, I suspect that Heist's might do too. It's a big bet though. On effectiveness they are great, but on cost effectiveness not so good. I do reserve the right to move them up the league the longer they last. 

*Caitlin Moran thinks you should wash them in the shower when you are washing your hair. There's something icky about that to my mind. 

John Lewis

When I was a kid, my birthday treat was a Chicken Tikka Masala takeaway from Marks and Spencers. I really liked it, and was only allowed the decadence of paying for a ready meal on special occasions. These days, that's quite a boring everyday dinner for me. I still really like it, but its nothing to get excited about, and certainly not a treat.  I have just had a haircut that cost £58. I regard that as quite a reasonable price to pay for a haircut, but if I was to tell my mum that, she would suck her teeth. My life is quite far away from what it was as a kid. 

I think my mum knows that I regularly shop in Waitrose, although we don't talk about it. It's a don't ask, don't tell situation. Today in Waitrose I thought about buying the 'Essential' Chocolate Eclairs. The least essential item anyone has ever come across. In fairness to Waitrose, actually a lot of its standard items are cheap. In fact, when in Morrison's with my mum, I often walk around saying 'that's cheaper in Waitrose. So's that.' while she restrains herself from hitting me. These John Lewis tights, actually bought in Waitrose, are cheap. Not Walthamstow Market cheap, but nowhere near only-buy-on-your-birthday-expensive. 

Scoring

An alright pair of tights. A little baggy, no way of telling front from back, but fairly comfortable. £8.50 for three pairs is good value. I expect better from John Lewis, but I'm not entirely sure how. 

Wolford

Here we are then. With the queen of tights. I wasn't expecting to get here so soon. Over the years, as I have sought a good quality pair of tights, I have seen Wolford, gone as far as to pick up a packet, but no further. Never would it occur to me to spend £25 on a pair of tights. But then, getting into the tights, I read a review of Wolford on John Lewis's site. The review said that these tights are expensive but last decades. DECADES. What lasts decades? 

We do have some mugs in the cupboard that are more than a decade old. They are pretty badly chipped and stained, and if I was less of a cheapskate we wouldn't have them. I only recently got rid of a top that I was given when I was seventeen, but anyone who saw me in it lately knows I should have got rid of it earlier. I have a handbag of my gran's which might even be 50 years old, but it has only lasted because it hasn't been used. My actual handbag is showing signs of serious wear after a year. So I am so intrigued by these tights where reviewers say they can last decades. If they can, then the cost benefit analysis is pretty clear. You'd need to spend £250 to have enough tights for the decade. I easily spend more than that in a ten year period. So if they are the perfect pair of tights after all, then no question. 

£25 is the entry price for Wolford tights by the way. They sell tights for £145 (which doesn't stack up on a cost benefit analysis). The tights I go for are the Velvet de Luxe 50. 

Interestingly, unlike most tights, the washing instructions don't specify handwashing. Which then opens up a possible future world for me where I never have to buy tights again, and I can put them in the washing machine without any guilt. 

Scoring

So very close. There is an obvious huge increase in quality compared to the normal tights. They are just off the scale in terms of quality. This is a highly comfortable pair, you can see why it is called Velvet de Luxe. They also feel very sturdy, there is a part of me that believes that they could last for decades. They have all the other hallmarks of good tights, no ridiculous seam, a label. The problem is fit. Just slightly too short. Like a centimetre or so, and then it would be perfect. They don't roll or travel down, they are just slightly in the wrong place.  

 

 

Topshop

Now that I'm a semi-professional tights blogger, I've been getting recommendations about where to buy my tights from. Topshop's recommendation comes from Caitlin, who works in TV, and is therefore much more fabulous than me. Caitlin's also much taller than me, and thinks that tall women are badly served by the tights market. The Oxford Circus branch of Topshop is a frightening place with its hair bars and cupcake merchants and pocket-monied teenagers trying on outfits in the middle of the store. The high from the sugar in the cupcakes forces people to spend money, making this shop one of the most profitable in the country. 

I would also say its one of the dustiest in the country. The shop could do with a robot hoover (my other obsession) zooming around picking up the dirt. The black tights on display were a bit dusty, putting me off them, so instead I bought an orange pair. I think orange tights are the sort of thing women on television wear. I also pick up a fleecier pair. 

Scoring

Both pairs are a good fit. Both pairs fail the ability to tell front from back. The fleecier pair get a bit baggy around the ankles throughout the day as they don't have the elastic. The orange pair hold up quite nicely throughout the day, and was pretty comfortable, and didn't roll down at all . They were a very good pair of tights. They were quite expensive at £6 for a pair, but a very good pair of tights. Just showing you should always believe what people on TV tell you. But also people on TV are probably paid more than me. 

 

Uniqlo

In a former life, I used to know a lot about stock control in fashion. Stock control is how fashion retailers make money. Its all about not having lots of stock left over that you have to discount; discounting destroys profits margins and it destroys your brand. So this means that you have to make hard choices about your manufacturing base. You can make your clothes in cheaper manufacturing countries that are further away, and therefore take longer to get here. If you do this, you are not going to be able to get the latest designs to the shops a few weeks after Fashion Week. Or you can make your clothes in more expensive closer countries, meaning that they are more on trend. This also means that you don't have to order all your clothes at once; if they don't take too long to get into the shops you can see how well they doing, and then order more of them if they are popular. This is the route of Zara which changed fashion retailing when it came to the UK. Very tight stock control means it doesn't have to discount too much, so can actually sell things fairly cheaply without destroying its profit margins. So if you see something you like in Zara or H&M, you should buy it quickly. It might not be there in a fortnight. 

Uniqlo manufactures in China, which means that it's cheap, and the stock doesn't vary too much from year to year. They add a fashionable cut or line, but on the whole they deal with the basics. This means that they are not taking huge risks with making something far out there, which doesn't actually sell. A good place for tights you might think. Retailers who are making the same product year in and year out should have it sorted. 

Scoring

My previous purchases at Uniqlo have been their thermal tops, which have been cheap and warm. I was confused by the fact that my tights are neither. These are £4.50 for one pair. I don't know what justifies that. According to the pack they are 92% polyamide and 80 Denier but they don't feel like it - as I say not quite warm enough. In terms of comfort and fit, they are alright. Nothing to mark them up or down on. They don't have a label or anything to mark which was is front or back, so do fall down on that. Overall,  nothing to differentiate them from Debenhams or M&S apart from the fact they are more expensive.   

Tezenis

Now that it's gone live, I've had a few comments about my blog. Mainly that comment is 'Don't you have enough to do.' Obviously, yes - NCIS doesn't watch itself - but nothing as important as sharing my quest for a perfect pair of tights. Men don't seem to understand the quest. 'This is not what I thought you were going to write about.' They seem to think that I should be blogging about 'more important things' like housing policy or pensions. Some people think the quest is impossible: like period pains and childbirth, ill-fitting tights are just something we women are punished with. I don't believe that. People thought that there was no way to tell longitude, or that anaesthesia couldn't be used in childbirth. A fair amount of medical research money is currently going into trying to cure period pain. And I will find some tights that fit. Probably I will win some major prize for my efforts. 

I'm also getting more suggestions for places to try for tights. Nobody suggested Tezenis, the italian underwear store. I bought these on a whim while walking past the Oxford Circus store. Turns out they are owned by the same people who own Calzedonia, who are currently languishing at the bottom of the league. 

Scoring 

One of my colleagues asks me at lunchtime what tights I'm wearing and how they are doing. She gives my muffin top a quick feel, and shrinks at the result. 'No. That's exactly what you don't want, they are too tight at exactly the wrong point.' Her swift diagnosis is true. 

They also fall down on the criteria of being able to tell front from back, as they have no way to mark them. But at £6 for 2, they do better on cost, and are fine in terms of comfort. So Tezenis joins Calzedonia at the bottom of the league. 

 

My favourite bit of feedback on the blog: 'This is a concept with real legs.'