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Fall is by far my favorite season for getting dressed, and every year I look forward to THE FIRST DAY OF TIGHTS with all the anticipation and excitement that I’d normally reserve for Christmas morning or my birthday (or possibly an open bar). While I hesitate to use the word “expert,” I will say that I am WELL-VERSED in the area of finding tights on the cheap – as the owner of both short legs and many dresses, I wear tights 3 seasons out of the year and have amassed a great many pairs – none of which I paid more than $10 for. So with Wolford dreams and a tiny little budget, I grabbed three pairs of tights from three different stores in the Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan neighborhoods to do some contrast/compare (it’s all very scientific) for a new feature I’m calling “Testing 1-2-3.” Feel free to suggest any other clothing items or accessories you’d like to see here in future columns, but based on the totally awesome weather we’ve finally been having I felt it was MORE THAN APPROPRIATE to start with tights.

Beauty Island (1753 Columbia Rd, NW) is an amazing place for cheap accessories, and tights are no exception. They carry the Nu Leg brand in several different colors, including a popsicle-red and a very classy burgundy. I think the colored tights are like 50cents more, but I picked up a basic black pair for $1.99. They were a little more synthetic-feeling than I prefer (and yes, I know that nylon is a synthetic fabric); very slippery and weirdly soft in a not-so-nice way. They were easy getting on – no ridiculous tugging occurred – and they neither came up too high (which I hate) nor were they too tight at the top (which I hate more – there’s nothing worse than taking off your tights and seeing marks on your skin). After running up and down the stairs twice, dancing around a little bit, and otherwise generally embarassing myself, they were still in place and hadn’t fallen down at all. In fact, they were so comfortable that I fell asleep on my couch at 8pm and when I woke up to get in bed around 11 I had to be reminded to take them off. Basically the only problem with these was the OPACITY; although Nu Leg never made any “opaque” claims I was a little bummed that these weren’t as thick as I hoped they’d be – but they were still a hundred times better than pantyhose and the vertical grain of the material even gave them a quasi-rib effect. I’d wear them with longer skirts and dresses – they’re a little too see-through for anything shorter than knee-length.

I have a love/hate relationship with Washington Supply Company (3180 B Mount Pleasant St, NW). They’re in a basement location and they don’t have a sign – when I went there was a drunk guy laying on the ground yelling but that may not help you, as I seriously doubt that landmark will remain static. It’s totally overwhelming – packed-to-the-gills with a little bit of everything – vintage dresses, no-name sneakers, pre-paid phone cards, and TIGHTS. They’re to the left of the door directly after you walk in, and they carry a couple of different brands for kids and women. I picked up a pair of opaque, flesh-colored Sophia tights – I’ve had a similar pair on my mind after seeing these over at Style Bubble this week. They felt more expensive than the Nu Leg pair and went on just as easily, but they definitely hit a little higher on the waistline (above the navel, which I’m usually not down with; however, this F/W there’s an emphasis on higher-waisted skirts so it really won’t matter that much). After doing my akward-looking stairs/dance test, they had slipped a little bit at the CROTCH (sorry) and ankles but nothing too drastic – and considering the Style Bubble picture that inspired the purchase, I was kind of keen on the slouchiness. Unsurprisingly, these were far more opaque than the Nu Legs (you know, considering the package actually SAID opaque) and they WERE fairly thick, but the nude color made them seem less so – the store also carried them in a great, bright purple color that I’d bet would provide a lot more coverage. While this pair wasn’t quite perfect, I’d definitely wear them with some brightly colored shoes to lend some interest to an all-black dress of any length.

The last pair I tried were grey ( don’t know why they photographed brown…) $1.49 Gold Medal brand tights from Dollar Star (3129 Mount Pleasant St, NW). Falling somewhere between “dove” and “charcoal,” these were a really interesting, wearable color. They felt nice to the touch, and like the Nu Legs and the Sophias they went on easily and didn’t hit too high or tightly on the waistline. After a whole lot of jumping around these hadn’t moved an inch, and they were the closest to completely opaque of all that I tried. I’m totally judging these the best of the three, and I’ll probably head back and pick up a pair of the black and the brown as well – the grey, though, will be an unexpected complement to jewel-toned skirts and dresses throughout the Fall and Winter.

Considering that all the pairs I tried were (at the very least) comfortable and didn’t run immediately upon trying them on, I’d say they were all worth the under-$2-purchase-price. If you’re willing to shell out just a few dollars more, Target sells their Merona brand for around $6; they last forever and have great opacity. And if you want to buy locally (and I know you do), Smash in Adams Morgan has a bunch of cute new tights in for around $10/pair (which is still incredibly affordable). If anybody has any good TIGHTS TIPS feel free to leave them in the comments, and here’s mine: don’t be afraid to throw them in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry – I found this out accidentally after emptying my tights drawer into my hamper and forgetting a few pairs. Just wash the whole load on delicate and hang or lay them to dry. Good as new!