Tights As Pants Are Trending For 2023 — I Tested

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Photography courtesy of Bottega Veneta

The viral trend begs the question: do we *need* pants? I set out to find an answer.

By Natalie Michie

Date January 25, 2023

You may be wondering how I ended up here. Well, thanks to a series of life choices and an unreasonable amount of time spent on TikTok, I have been called on by forces greater than myself (celebrities; my For You Page) to investigate a pressing issue: Do tights qualify as pants?

The thought first crossed my mind in November, when Kendall Jenner stepped out in Los Angeles wearing a Bottega Veneta leotard and navy sweater plucked straight from the runway with nothing but sheer pantyhose on her legs. A few months prior, Bella Hadid was pictured grabbing a slice of pizza in New York City wearing boxer briefs in lieu of actual shorts just days before Kylie Jenner attended Loewe’s spring show wearing white undies with tights. These now-viral looks have served as an indication of the fashion industry’s newfound love affair with pantless ensembles.

Take the Fall 2023 menswear shows, where tighty-whities were styled with knee-high leather boots at Louis-Gabriel Nouchi, and JW Anderson debuted an assortment of leggy underwear looks. At couture week, Dior served up skimpy ruched bodysuits as stand-alone outfits while Ronald van der Kemp presented theatrical blazers with black underwear peeking through.

Don’t even get me started on the Spring 2023 ready-to-wear shows. Del Core, Coperni, Aniye Records, Alessandra Rich, Victoria Beckham and Bottega Veneta each offered their own iterations of going pants-free, be it via bare-legged models sporting embellished underwear or sleek briefs paired with pantyhose. Suffice it to say, this style has been months in the making. And if TikTok has anything to do with it, it’s going to be big in 2023.

On the app, #tightsaspants has amassed over 200,000 views and rising, with many creators citing the eldest Jenner sister as their inspiration. As the  subversive aesthetic grows in visibility, however, it has been met with strongly worded dissent and contentious questions — the main one being, “Why?” But I, for one, see the appeal of not wearing pants. After all, putting together an outfit should be easy. Why not simplify things by scrapping one of its main components? With that in mind, I decided to put the tights-as-pants look to the test.

Photography courtesy of Natalie Michie

For wary beginners like me, an oversized blazer layered atop your leotard is an accessible entry point to the trend, as it offers some comfortable coverage. This can be easily thrifted or purchased at retailers like Dynamite and Simons. Come time to choose a bodysuit, opt for one with bikini backing instead of a thong, which can be found at Zara (pictured), Everlane, Skims or Velvet Rose. Finally — and I cannot stress this enough — wearing sunglasses, despite the sun having very much set, adds a layer of anonymity that makes the whole thing feel more attainable.

The next (and most important) step in venturing out with no pants is accepting that it will be a little confusing for everyone. Some might visibly pity you for forgetting your trousers, others might assume that you’re trying, and failing, to pass your blazer off as a dress. To prepare for these reactions, I got some practice. After three days of wearing my bottomless ensemble around my apartment and studying the effortless aura of those on my TikTok feed, I was able to muster up the confidence to actually wear it out in the world.

Upon entering a crowded bar on a Friday night, I felt an unusual breeze on my legs (expected) and some lingering stares (also expected). As I sat nursing my negroni sbagliato, I admittedly had trouble convincing myself to get up and walk around. But once I did, I was hit with a welcome realization: nobody cares. Sure, I could feel eyes on me from the surrounding tables as I passed by. But that momentary chagrin was usurped by the giddy sense of achievement I got from wearing such an experimental outfit.

Pretty soon, I felt a liberating sense of delusion kicking in. (“This is perfectly normal.”) Followed by baseless overconfidence. (“I don’t need pants like all of you!”) Then came the important questions. (“Do they think I’m Kendall Jenner?”) I may have been pantless in public, but in my book, I was serving a high-fashion hosiery look. Herein lies the beauty of the tights-as-pants trend.

Photography courtesy of Natalie Michie

Because it looks a tad ridiculous on everyone, it works on everyone, regardless of age, size or gender. And though nay-sayers have deemed it an impractical celebrity fad, this style has been around for decades. Risqué tights-based ensembles were especially popular in the 1960s, when hosiery was worn to push back on traditional expectations of womanhood. Actor Ann-Margret famously paired a crewneck sweater with nylons in the 1964 movie Viva Los Vegas. And model Edie Sedgwick was renowned for her signature uniform of leotards and stockings during the same decade. Once you get past the initial wrongness of wearing tights as pants, it can be pretty empowering.

Would I do it again? Actually, yes. Will it be part of my regular wardrobe rotation? Probably not. The moral of the story: Don’t live in fear of looking weird. And if you, like me, resolve to be increasingly untethered to traditional fashion rules, consider biding adieu to conventional bottoms, even just for one night. You may learn a thing or two about yourself.

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