The Ultimate How to Wear Pantyhose, Stockings and Tights Guide

Questions about how to wear pantyhose, stockings and tights are something I get asked about all the time.  I recently received an email about this and decided to address it.  This reader asked me the following:

 I never know when or when not to wear stockings.  Did stockings go out of style decades ago?  I really like wearing skirts and dresses but I don’t like to freeze.  How do you choose the color?  I’ve been told that nude stockings are off limits always!  Can you please shed light on this confusing topic?

When did stockings go out of style?

how to wear Pantyhose and stockings There is no definitive answer to when wearing stockings went out of style.  However, what I believe is that classic, nude stockings seemed to have lost momentum when the movie Disclosure starring Demi Moore released in 1994.  Based on Michael Chrichton’s book, with the same name, Disclosure explored the double standard of sexual harassment in the workplace.  If you remember, Demi Moore’s character, Meredith Johnson, was a high powered executive known for not wearing stockings with her skirt suits.  Despite the fact that the movie is nearly 20 years old, and few probably even recall this reference, from that moment women abandoned their pantyhose for bare legs at the office.  So, yes, wearing pantyhose did go out of style decades ago, but they seem to be on the upswing again with Kate Middleton recently wearing them.

If your legs are cold put a pair of stockings on

For goodness sakes, if your legs are cold put some tights or stockings on.  Frostbite isn’t worth being trendy.  Besides, with all the options that expand past a classic pair of nude nylons, if trend is important, you can wear a pair of opaque tights.  In fact, they even make fleece lined tights now and companies, like Uniqlo, make tights that hold in heat and keep you warm.
I feel about wearing stockings like I do breastfeeding an infant– while there may be a lot of outside pressure to breastfeed a mother has to make her own decision.  The same goes for wearing stockings.

How to choose a stockings and tights color

Let’s start with classic nylons and stockings.  While it is okay to have an emergency drugstore pair, if you don’t want you legs to look like they are made of wood, go for better quality.  If you are looking for ultra-sheer, Falke makes hard-to-see stockings.  Other brands that are very sheer are Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Wolford.

When it comes to color I’d stick to opaque tights, unless you are purchasing black sheers and, in this case, I’d go for an off-black over a true black, which is slightly lighter and more leg flattering.  I don’t think there is a woman on the planet who needs to own a white pair of stockings, just like I don’t think there is a woman on the planet who needs to own a  white bra.  So you can cross that color off your list.

Moving into colored tights, right now they are very trendy.  To choose color, what I would suggest is that you look at the predominant colors in your wardrobe.  For example, my wardrobe is brown and grey based so I have several pairs of brown and grey tights.  Having no reason for black tights I don’t own any. You can never go wrong with neutral tights.

Moving into colors beyond basic neutrals, this is where you can make a fashion statement, however, I still suggest proceeding with caution because once you move into color you’re creating a focal point with your tights.  If your legs are heavy or short, stick with darker and richer tights, like eggplant, burgundy, navy and hunter green.  If you want to make more of a statement you can go for brighter colors but be sure you know which shoes you’ll wear with them.  This is why sticking with richer, opaque tights shades are the best way to go as these richer colors will work better with a dark pair of shoes.  If your tights are too light or bright your leg won’t look as seamless in them, because a break between your feet and legs will be created, which can potentially make your legs look shorter and heavier.

My favorite tights brand is Spanx Tight-End shaping tights in their high-waist style.  I like them for a few reasons.  First, these tights are basically indestructible.  I have had one pair for several years and I have actually put them in the dryer and they’ve held up. Secondly, I like the high-waist feature because they create a seamless line over my tummy.  When tights are too short an unflattering bulge can get created over the waistline of the tights.  With Spanx Tight-End high-waist tights you get the tights and shapewar in one.  I like efficiency and I don’t like wasting money on anything that falls apart after one wear.

Open-Toe Shoes and Pantyhose

Not unless you want to look like a ballroom dancer.

Wearing stockings with open toed shoes has to be one of the hottest debated fashion topics on the planet.  While I would never in a million year wear a pair of hosiery with open-toe shoes, I know there are many who do.  Personally, I’d rather even out my legs with some Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs and run from heated point A. to heated point B. with my legs bare.  If you’re on the other side of the debate something to consider are toeless stockings.  There are plenty of brands that sell them and if you get a pair sheer enough you won’t be able to tell you are wearing stockings with exposed toe holes.

Black Tights and Colored shoes

Not unless you want to look like Minnie Mouse

I don’t mind colored tights with black shoes but the opposite often looks weird.  I don’t know, I just think of Minnie Mouse whenever I see it.

Opaque tights and open-toe shoes

Not unless you want to look like a hipster

One thing I’ve seen a lot of is wearing  a pair of opaque tights with open toed shoes, like taking a summer wedge into fall by wearing them with tights.  While I don’t think it is a bad look on the right person, it’s a fringe-y trend that doesn’t work for everyone.  If your work environment is more corporate, if you feel old for more experimental trend or it just isn’t your thing, put your open toed summer shoes away until the weather gets warmer.

Striped Stockings

Not unless you are under 20, or a house recently fell on you.

Striped stockings, crazy patterns, even something called Melting Tights are all fine if you choose wisely.  Personally, I think patterns like stripes and really crazy patterns belong on someone younger than older.  If you are going to partake leave the rest of your outfit really simple and use patterned tights as your accent punch.

White Stockings

Not unless you are five, and definitely never with black shoes

This is why I cautioned against white tights and stockings.  Unless you are a child, they look juvenile and silly.

Lace Stockings

Not for work, unless you work in the oldest profession

Lastly, let’s talk about lace tights which can be very sexy and can make a basic dress look more interesting, but are rarely appropriate for the office, especially if it is conservative.  Fishnets have become more acceptable at work as long as the net size is small.  I feel the same about lace.  A small, subtle pattern can work in an office environment, but anything to exposed or daring is best kept out of the workplace.

I hope this guide on how to wear pantyhose, stockings and tights gives you some helpful direction.