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The question

Opaque white tights: Too little-girly? Do you have to wear pale shoes with them – is black too much of a contrast? And what do you think of the old rule that says your shoes must be a darker shade than your hose?

The answer

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I have received so many questions about pantyhose etiquette in the past few months that I suspect there is some moment of societal transition going on, a national sock soul-searching: This is the year the historians will remember as La Crise des Bas (or Strumpfkrise, depending on their university).

Well, I am delighted to help shape this momentous change. I can tell you with great authority – authority not on fashion but on the male gaze – that opaque white tights are always miraculously attractive and no seasonal diktat or neurosis should ever trump that. They won't look girly when you pair them with your magnificent towering patent red pumps or with whatever other daring colour you choose for your feet. There is indeed a convention, frantically repeated by elderly aunts getting you dressed for weddings in small towns, that pale shoes demand paler hose. Just one glance at the woman I saw dancing on New Year's Eve in charcoal stockings and taupe suede pumps would convince you forever that such injunctions are necessary or interesting only to those who would not dance.

Let this be the year then of absolute freedom and originality in your choice of stocking.

Russell Smith's latest novel is Girl Crazy. Have a fashion question? E-mail

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