The Great Hosiery Debate Goes On

To wear or skip pantyhose is the most hotly debated topic I cover in professional dress. It’s human nature to want to be ultimately comfortable and to also follow what others are doing; however, this is an area where you should really stop to think about your environment, superiors/peers and your goals.

Something you may not know is that study after study shows that women who wear hosiery are viewed as more capable than their bare legged peers. They also typically earn more money.

Why, you may ask? A couple of reasons…Hosiery gives a more finished look to professional clothes; they give you a barrier so that you’re showing less skin (another pro dress guideline,) and they send out a non-verbal (subconscious) message that you take care of the details.

Those are pretty darn good arguments for pantyhose! The cons? Of course, they uncomfortable and especially hot in warm weather. (I probably didn’t need to point this out, right?) The other con to wearing pantyhose is that a lot of people view them as frumpy and old fashioned—No one has ever told me they’d like to be perceived as either of those! I think this may have a lot to do with the type of pantyhose one is wearing. Nothing is worse than semi-opaque “suntan” or “nude” pantyhose.

So here are some guidelines for you to consider when you’re deciding whether to don or skip hosiery:

-If your company dress code says to wear hosiery, do it! About a million years ago, I managed the Jr. department of a major department store, where the dress code required pantyhose. I had a few younger employees who always came to work without them, and I always called them on it. Once I overheard one of them say, “All Dana cares about is whether we wear pantyhose. She never notices when we do a good job.”

-If you work in a business casual environment where pantyhose aren’t required or the company standard, and your legs are smooth, vein free, and blemish free, consider skipping them. This guideline holds true especially if you work with people who are mostly younger than you.

-Self tanner is miraculous!

-If you’re wearing a formal skirt suit, especially for a presentation, go for the pantyhose. I think it looks rather silly to wear a suit with bare legs.

-Look for really good pantyhose to avoid the “frump factor.” You may need to invest in a few pairs to find out what really works for you, but it will be worth it to find ones that make your legs look absolutely fabulous.

-Try nude fishnet pantyhose, dotted or other patterned hose for more of a style  statement…definitely not old fashioned. (Look for the fishnets with a solid back to them, so your skin isn’t poking out.)

So now you may be wondering whether I wear pantyhose. In the winter I wear tights of all sorts. Most of the time in warm weather I skip them, but I use self tanner and sometimes a little concealer on a pesky scar. I wear really nice, sheer hosiery when I’m wearing a skirt suit in warm weather. Now, as I mentioned this is a pretty hotly debated topic. Many people have pretty strong thoughts. I’d love to learn yours!

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17 comments on “The Great Hosiery Debate Goes On

    1. Hi Tiffany,

      I can’t say I have a favorite brand. I don’t wear them all that often. I look for plenty of Lycra as I have skinny ankles and they can sag! Remember, sheer is best. As simple as it sounds, try the little samples stretched tight over your arm, and choose the one that looks most natural. I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you! I’ll try on the samples. By the way, what is your opinion earingsearing black hose with black skirt or sheath dress suit? I used to wear black but stopped and I think I did because I wanted a more natural look. Thank you for opening a discussion on pantyhose!!

        1. Good luck! You’re right, black sheer nylons are considered very formal and are only for night…until the trend changes and they show them for day time:).

  1. From a man’s point of view, I can tell you that as a manager, I would prefer to have women work for the company who take care of the details, in their dress and appearance, as well as their work. Employees represent the company and my department, and I would be a lot more confident in women who dress well, look put together, and have a flair of professionalism about their appearance. The same is true of men. No matter how well any employee performs, if his or her appearance is slovenly and careless, then customers and top management will question that person’s competence.

    Women spend gazillions of dollars on cosmetics for their face. Few women have perfect leg skin, and pantyhose is relatively inexpensive cosmetics for the legs. If you are going to impress people and advance in your career, take care of the details in your appearance as well as the details in your work.

  2. Dana, I used to love to wear skirts, but can honestly say that I don’t anymore because of the hose debate! Knowing that my legs are no longer flaw-free, I find it easier to wear pants. But with summer coming, maybe I’ll try finding some new sheer hose. Any suggestions for the unsightly veins that still show through? Do you use regular concealer?

    1. Hi Denise,
      I think there’s a chance that you’re being a little too hard on yourself. Your veins may not be as noticeable with nylons on as you may think. You might try getting a few second opinions. Yes, I use regular concealer that I apply with a brush. When I look down, I can kind of see it, but when I look in the mirror, it’s invisible.

  3. Great article, Dana. I’m a publicist for the new men’s lines of hosiery, which is not the subject here.

    However, I would add to your comments to the ladies an additional one that might make their hosiery less uncomfortable: If you buy cheap, ill-fitting pantyhose, they’re going to feel itchy and sag, and slide down all day long. The more expensive brands contain more lycra and hug the body better. Higher nylon content equals more itchiness.

    And finally, if the little chart shows you as a Size ‘Q’, don’t try to fool yourself into thinking you can wear ‘B’, much less ‘A’. Nobody else is going to know what size you buy, so get one that fits properly and you’ll be much more comfortable. Also, the sheer support styles will also make your legs feel lots better at the end of the day.

  4. Thanks, Steve. I have to agree with you on your advice. I recommend nice ones, and I usually go up a size if I’m on the edge of the chart, as I have long legs.

  5. I think this entire debate is rather silly. I am not questioning your statistics that women who wear hose earn more than women who don’t; I have no reason to believe you are not correct. However, it is surely a sad commentary on society. Of course any employee should not dress in a slovenly fashion; but bare legs are surely not slovenly. Both men and women should be free to dress comfortably, as they choose without being penalized on the job. I would surely not look down on any woman who chose to not wear hose at the office; sadly it sounds like I may be in the minority.

  6. I totally agree with you that bare legs are not slovenly; however, nylons or tights provide a more finished, polished appearance leading to more credibility and higher salaries. How comfortable men and women should be in the office is a completely different debate. Thank you for your comment.

  7. Hi Dana,

    I can see both sides of the debate which is why I constantly vascilate. Can you recommend a store where one can purchase a wide variety of decent quality hose that won’t break the bank?

    Thanks!!

  8. Hi Memory,

    I recommend Nordstrom Rack. They often have hosiery that has been at their full price store, and the nice thing is that the return policy is liberal if you decide not to keep everything you purchase. Talk about breaking the bank…a gazillion years ago, when I worked in retail and wore them, the heavy rolling racks always banged my ankles ruining numerous pairs. Nylons are a lot better these days!

    Oh, be sure to experiment with small patterns to vary your look.

  9. Wow. This is certainly an interesting blog. I’ve worn just about any brand of pantyhose on the planet and found what I believe are the highest quality and comfort to wear. Give Berkshire ultra sheers a try in a control top. These are one of the few that won’t bag in the ankles or knees even though the leg is all Nylon. They must be using a very high quality fiber. A tip I learned from reading a review was to turn these pantyhose inside out before putting them on. It puts the smoothest side of the knit outward and keeps the hose from moving on the foot or leg and actually gets rid of any itchiness. These hose make other ultra sheer brands feel rough by comparison when worn this way. Simply an amazing sheerness. I literally can wear these hose 24/7 without any discomfort this way (and I generally select a tighter size). The ONLY downside to wearing them inside out is that you will have the toe seam outward which will be concealed by your shoes anyway.

    Interesting concept above in earlier post by Steve. Hosiery for men? It brings curiosity and intrigue to the imagination. It could be a future trend setter.

    *jane*

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