Reader Request: What About Pantyhose?

when to wear pantyhose

Reader Natalie sent me this question:

I’m a bit unsure about legwear – not tights, but stockings. As a kid, my mom and grandmother taught me never to go out in a dress without them. It isn’t proper. As an adult, I am noticing that the rules for legwear aren’t as clear cut anymore. I have been challenging myself to reflect on how I feel about stockings. My feelings are mixed. I’m worried that I either look unprofessional without them, or dated and old with them. Are there any rules on how to wear stockings? How can I make them look young and fun, rather than old and dowdy?

I could’ve sworn I’ve written about this topic before, but can’t find any posts that specifically address the question of pantyhose. So. Let do this.

Bottom line: If you feel more comfortable wearing nude nylons, then by all means do so. As you may have heard, the Middleton ladies wear them frequently, and both are current style icons. Plus I know lawyers are generally required to wear them in court. Hose have come a long way over the years, and today’s nudes can really disappear against your skin. If you wear them, try to find a high-quality pair/brand that works with your specific skin tone.

Now. In my opinion, wearing pantyhose with a casual sundress and sandals may look a little awkward. Wearing pantyhose to a business casual office might seem like overkill. And nowadays most women do bare legs in summer, tights in winter, and hose only for very specific occasions. (Here in the States, anyway.) Nylons are, to some extent, representative of an bygone era and wearing them may date you. Especially if they’re obvious and/or worn in a casual context.

I’m not gonna hand down any rules for the wearing of pantyhose because I don’t really dig rules. This is a question that many women feel very strongly about on both sides, and there’s room in the world for nylon-wearers and nylon-shunners. Some women may prefer to do hose because of scarring or discoloration in their legs, to add color without tanning (fake or otherwise), or because they just feel more pulled-together with them on. Others love tights – and wear sheer patterned tights for transitional seasons – but see hose as a thing of the past. Wherever you fall, you’ll have supporters and naysayers. So you must decide for yourself.

Over to you: What are your thoughts on nylons/pantyhose? Always? Never? Only for formal occasions?

Images courtesy Kohl’s

Originally posted 2014-12-15 06:08:23.

Next Post
Previous Post

23 Responses to “Reader Request: What About Pantyhose?”

  1. Eveline

    (France) I often wear the most invisible tights in end-spring because it keeps me a little warm, improves the look of my legs and protects my skin from the rough fabric of the train+bus. But really, unless you’re with people dissecting your looks : nobody will care.

  2. Danielle

    I HATE the trend to no-hose. Even the starlets in cocktail dresses look terrible with their rope-y, splotchy bare legs. Those of us with veins and scars would like a little camouflage and firming. Finally, I’m tired of the blisters from shoes worn with bare feet, or constantly tugging on those little footlets. My solution so far has been nude fishnets, but it was way easier before.

  3. Kinsi A.

    Growing up in the no-hose era, I hadn’t given this much thought. Considering the anti-blister benefits though, it seems worth considering a nice pair for special occasions. Thanks, ladies!

  4. Susan Ashworth

    I’m in the Southern US, and I don’t see tights. Sheer hose in conservative professions and for dressy occasions. I think it may be that it’s not really cold enough here that tights are a must.

    • Jennifer

      Really? Where are you at? I’m in the mountains of North Carolina, and tights are a must in the winter for wearing with dresses/skirts. A lot of the ladies at my church wear hose in the spring/summer/fall.

      • Susan Ashworth

        I’m in the Richmond VA area. You are probably a fair amount colder where you are. I see tights in stores but never actually see women wearing them.

        • Jennifer

          Oh, cool. I was just curious. I have a friend from Alabama who had never bought tights until she moved here, but I figured all but the most Southern states would need tights in winter. Learned something new.

  5. Heather Harrell

    Most often for me it’s no hose. But in colder weather I’ll break out tights. Nude hose are broken out for when I have to present well. Black hose, nude fishnets, etc are based on stylistic choices.

  6. Natalie

    Growing up, I was often forced to wear pantyhose. I hated them. They never fit right, and often dug uncomfortably into my waist. And they would last for approximately 0.28 seconds before getting a run in them. I haven’t worn them in a decade as a result of my teenage trauma. I wear thick tights and leggings for warmth in the winter, and the minute it’s warm enough for bare legs (and often before that) I ditch them. I don’t have nearly the fit issues with tights and leggings as I remember having with pantyhose, but that may be my teenage memories being more …. dramatic…. than they really were. I might wear them today if I worked in a formal professional setting (if I could get over my angst about them), but I’m in a very casual workplace where they would be out of place.

  7. JB123disqus

    I wear them for job interviews and professional presentations when I want to be more conservative. That’s about it.

  8. PolarSamovar

    My complaint about hose was that they were so uncomfortable. Like wearing plastic bags over my bottom half. I wonder if modern materials science would/has/could come up with stockings that are more breathable?

    Not that I would wear them even so, unless they became de riguer again, which I hope they don’t. If it’s warm enough to go bare-legged, I prefer that. If it’s cool enough wear tights, I’m wearing them. Because I am too lazy to shave year ’round. 🙂

    • Jennifer

      Ditto on the non-shaving. Lol, as soon as fall or cooler temps come, I’m all about the tights. Opaque, sheer, micro-fishnets, patterned, colored, etc. But I can’t deal with the hose. Itchy, tight, and I can’t help but get a run in them. I was constantly buying hose because it was the regular for the grown women in my church to wear them. (I’m in the South.) Well, no more. I’ll shave in the summer, and you can see my lily white legs, thank you very much. In fact, I have a whole grocery bag full of “nude” hose in my car to drop off at my next Goodwill visit.

  9. Ginger

    There seems to be significant regional variation as to whether stockings are commonly worn. If everyone in your profession or circle wears them, then you’ll probably be considered not quite dressed-up enough without them. At that point you have to decide whether to ignore the norm or go with it.
    The big thing I’ve concluded is that one will look totally out of style if wearing stockings that approximate an orange fake suntan. So if you decide to wear stockings go low or subtle color. If you want color and it’s fall/winter then go with tights.

  10. Anamarie

    I live in Minneapolis, MN – I have never heard a rule that lawyers must wear pantyhose to court. I have heard stories from other parts of the country that female lawyers were called out for wearing pants or not wearing pantyhose. That is beyond my comprehension. If it’s warm weather, I go bare legged with closed toe shoes. I’m naturally tan, but would do it even if I wasn’t. I wear tights when it’s cold. I’m currently into opaque black tights with my suits, but have also worn subtle patterns with suits. I also now recall a court clerk commented to me that black hose were too “sexy” for court – in reference to another female lawyer. It seemed to be a generational difference.

  11. Shannon Foster

    I rock the nude hose in the office. I’m 33 and work in engineering on the west coast. Nobody else wears it, but I don’t care. My legs are a wreck from sports, and frankly I don’t wish to share my legs with the males in the office. Hose also saves me from daily shaving. For me, it’s either nude or opaque – I’ll double up black hose to eliminate the sheer effect and provide more warmth against the year-round air conditioning.

  12. Alison Marie Behnke

    I was raised wearing nylons and being told that wearing a skirt with bare legs was borderline inappropriate. (FWIW, I’m 38 and live in Minnesota.) I think that’s drastic overkill…but I’ve also been a bit taken aback by the look of shock and disapproval I’ve gotten whenever I’ve mentioned that I needed to buy a pair of nylons! Still, winter is long and cold here, and sometimes I feel like a nude leg looks best but bare legs are out of the question. So I–like many others who have commented–generally go bare-legged in warm weather, and I absolutely love tights (opaque, colored, patterned, textured) in the winter and as needed in the transitional seasons. However, I do occasionally wear very light nude nylons to dressy winter events. I also recently wore a vintage dress to an evening wedding, and I paired it with black nylons with a back seam. They were fun, and for me they pulled the outfit together in a “devil’s in the details,” retro-sexy way. (The skirt hit me just below the knee…had it been much shorter, I’d have probably gone with nude hose.)

  13. Cheryl Clary Sturgeon

    I’m on both sides here. I hated panty hose because they either rolled down from my waist or bagged at my ankles BUT I absolutely cannot put bare feet into shoes that are not sandals. so my solution is to never wear skirts in colder weather.

  14. samsdeb

    I’m 54. When I was young, nylons were de rigueur in our corporate office. I wore them always with dresses and suits. Now I feel like I would look like an old fart if I wore nylons, but I’m not comfortable baring these legs to the world. So, I stick with pants.

  15. Beverly

    Went from girdles and stockings [yikes! years ago] to pantyhose, thigh highs, and/or tights, but tights and pantyhose seem the same. I get the lovely aesthetic differences [yay, tights], but they’re both SO uncomfortable!! Knee socks, high boots, and long skirts for the winter; bare legs [mostly] in other seasons.

  16. Jennifer Burke

    I wear hose on a very regular basis, but I’m one of the only women my age (26) that I know who does this. They just make me more comfortable. First of all, I’m cold all the time, so I love the extra layer. Secondly, they make me feel less exposed. I don’t feel any pressure to wear them, however, except in church, and I’ve heard my boss complain about “young women never wearing hose,” is a sort of dirisive way.

  17. Chloe Austyn

    I’m an exclusive dress/skirt wearer because I find pants too uncomfortable and difficult to fit. I wear hose for special events, but living in the Southwest, am able to go bare legged 360 days a year, even if it is a bit nippy in the mornings. I actually prefer running tights if I need an extra layer.

  18. claira

    I live in north Australia and nobody (and I mean less than 1% of the population) wears stockings. I couldn’t tell you one person who did. It’s too hot. And nobody cares!

  19. Dust. Wind. Bun.

    So late to the party here but: I’m 32 and I only wear them for formal occasions, and even then, not if I can easily avoid it. I don’t wear tights very often, either – I’ve never found a pair of pantyhose or tights that are actually comfortable around both my waist and my thighs. I even had this problem back when I was a size 5 in high school – I’d buy the largest size, even maternity, and I’d spend the day feeling crushed across the stomach. Leggings, with their thicker material, don’t seem as likely to have this problem, and I suppose I could wear tights that were basically footed leggings, but I don’t really see the point at that point, y’know?

    I don’t wear bare-leg-look skirts or dresses for anything other than special occasions regardless of the season. I don’t keep up with hair removal on my legs and my rule is, if the outfit is styled to display the skin, then I follow the standard American grooming expectations, but if the skin happens to show – capris, swimsuits for activity rather than tanning/looking good, sleeveless shirts for comfort, etc – then it doesn’t matter, so it means I rarely wear display-outfits (the way I judge is, “in this outfit, am I for looking at?”). But I suppose leggings and short dresses or tunics are basically my version? I’m pretty plain when it comes to style, and I don’t do much with accessories, which to me is a category under which decorative legwear falls. UGH Sally I don’t know, I get my style vicariously through you and your team (and your readers!)

    However, what I do when I do need hose? I wear thigh-highs or gartered stockings. Not for any sort of show-off sexy look (the boyfriend finds lingerie baffling and extraneous), but because then I can control the waist and thighs on my own terms – I’m not limited to the sizing combination of waist/length/thigh circumference that the manufacturer expects. I know pantyhose was revolutionary for the women of the garter age, but I refuse to deal with it. (Actually I guess that’s not entirely true: I wore some without complaint under a full wetsuit for insulation and ease of dressing when I did a scuba dive in a quarry lake in Iowa in October…)