Ask Allie: Are Pantyhose Stylish?

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Since I'm in my 60's now, I am uncomfortable in dresses without hosiery. Is it ok to wear them now? Or is bare legged still the trend?

how to wear sheer hosiery pantyhose style fashionable

Three cheers for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge who brought nude hose back en vogue. While the bare legged trend isn’t going anywhere, because of Kate there’s far more stylish sheer hosiery options available in stores and no one will wrinkle their nose at your choice to don hose (sorry, I just had to!). Below are my tips for wearing hosiery, and my favorite brands of pantyhose and tights:

Nude Pantyhose

If you’re wanting to wear sheer natural-looking stockings, you won’t find them at your neighborhood CVS. Quality is key for finding sheer, well-fitting, and natural looking pantyhose. The hose should be as close to your natural skintone (no matter how pale you are); tan legs with fair arms and face is NOT stylish. Donna Karan’s ‘The Nudes’ comes in seven different colors so you’re more likely to find a natural looking shade for your skintone; the quality is excellent, they’re sheer and not too shiny making them like BB cream for your gams. ‘The Nudes’ come in toeless, high waist, control top, sheer to waist and even plus size so you can find a style that is most comfortable for you. I’ve also had luck with Nordstrom’s in-house brand. It’s a little bit cheaper and I think is a bit more visible when wearing, but still elegant. Nordstrom’s Sheer Control Top Pantyhose come in nine different “nude” colors, and are available in plus size. If you’re a fan of thigh high stockings (also known as stay ups), you can’t beat Wolford; while they’re pricey, they’re well-made, natural looking, and one of the few brands I’ve found that stays up without putting dents in your thighs. I prefer their Individual 10 which come in six shades, aren’t shiny, are sheer, and cover imperfections nicely.

Sheer Black Pantyhose

Black sheers came back in style a few seasons ago and have again become a classic. While black stockings were popular for daywear before, this time it’s best to keep them for evening events. As with nude pantyhose, choose a pair that is not too shiny, high quality, and as sheer as you can go while covering that which you wish to cover. Since black sheers are for evening, it’s more acceptable for them to have a bit of sheen or have a higher denier (are thicker/more opaque). I’m a fan of SPANX’s black sheer stockings, which are pretty durable while still looking elegant. Their In-Power Shaping Sheers blends a control garment with pantyhose reducing the layers under your cocktail dress; their All The Way line is an elegant alternative to support hose, offering not just tummy control but ankle and leg compression to improve circulation.

Opaque Tights

Opaque tights are still a style mainstay this fall and winter. While I’m partial to very opaque non-shiny black tights with black shoes to create a long line and not compete with my dress, these days most any level of opacity and any color is acceptable and available in popular retailers. Shiny tights can look cheap and more like dancewear, a matte finish will look more expensive and be more versatile. For a traditional level of opacity, I’m a big fan of Nordstrom’s Everyday Opaque Tights. These are durable enough to last more than one season, and have enough transparency that they can work for less formal evening affairs.  Not only that, they come in regular and plus sizes!

For truly opaque tights, I again recommend SPANX. I adore their reversible Tight End Tights, which have extra thickness not just for opacity but warmth and no shiny finish. I’ve accidentally had these go through the dryer and come out still wearable which shows how durable and well-fitting these tights are! While their reversible tights have a higher waist that some may not like, their ‘Blackout’ version has a lower waist and the same thickness and opacity and the original Tight End Tights have a classic waist height and are still a bit more opaque than Nordstrom.

If you’d like a blend between sheer hose and opaque tights, DKNY’s Semi-Sheer Tights are a great choice. Durable like their traditional tights and with a subtle shaping top that doesn’t dig into your waist, these come in neutral colors that would look great peeking out from a feminine floral midi skirt or a pair of tall leather boots.

Patterned and Fishnet Stockings

This may not be advice you desire, but if you’re looking for advice on how to wear patterned, fishnet, or novelty hosiery you probably shouldn’t wear them. These are very tricky to wear; one misstep in regard to hem length or shoe choice and the whole look can go from classy to trashy. If you wish to dip your foot into creative hosiery, I recommend starting with something subtle like a nude fishnet, and pair with a longer skirt or tall boots. See how you feel, see what honest friends think, and then go from there.

Alternatives to Pantyhose

These days, there’s a plethora of products that will do for your legs what foundation and concealer do you’re your face. I like Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs (I’ve had better luck with the lotion than the spray), which blends seamlessly, looks natural, and is water and sweat resistant. You can read my review of Sally Hansen Airbrushed Legs here. Self-tanners have improved greatly over the past couple of years but I still am klutzy enough to end up with streaks; I’m a fan of Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer, which offers a subtle tint to legs after several days of use. The gradual color means less chance for orange fingers or streaky ankles.

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  1. Well is all up to the person to wear or not to wear I say even though I love a woman in nice hosiery but not for me to say otherwise. I wear daily under my pants like most men do so not to be ridiculed and called names. Am straight not a fetish not a CD it’s about fashion liking the way one’s legs look plus the benefits.

  2. I love wearing nylon tights – with a good girdle up over them as well. Tights are great for health and circulation and the girdle great for back problems, both fabulous in an Irish winter!

  3. I grew up wearing hosiery and to me it finishes off an outfit beautifully…but, all I can every find is control top hosiery and that is not a beautiful look unless you are the size of a pencil. If there is the least bit of fat around the middle all you get is a flat bottom and a muffin top. Is there a brand that doesn’t flatten the bottom and sits on the waist naturally. I had rather have a smooth belly than a squeezed flat belly with a harsh line and a muffin top sitting above. Would love some feed back and suggestions.

  4. I will give you my perspective as a transgender lady. For the past 10 years, after having everything done except the final surgery, I have successfully lived, worked, been promoted, and enjoyed life in a woman’s role. Because almost nobody is aware of my status except HR, I freely receive compliments about my wardrobe, fashion, and personal appearance to include my figure; moreover, shortly after earning two degrees, I literally had to start life over and relearn how to present myself in order to be viable and productive in the job market and in life after hormone treatments and minimal cosmetic surgeries.

    That said, I do not understand the animosity and vitriolic discussion about the hosiery one chooses to wear. Fashion magazines and on-line comments routinely scour about whether or not a woman should have nylon fabric on her legs. Personally, I go bare legged and also wear hosiery to include thigh highs, nylon stockings, and pantyhose. The outfit worn determines what is appropriate for my legs along with hairstyle, shoes, cologne, makeup, etc. Ultra sheer fashions are my pantyhose of choice since they present a bare look which highlights my legs and does not veil a part of my figure. I also find wearing pantyhose without panties is more comfortable and less restricting; the feel of double undergarments does not work for me. In my case, if the dress or skirt is tight and short, wearing a nude smoothing thong suffices just fine.

    From my viewpoint, spending disproportional amounts of time discussing some else’s fashion choices makes no sense, especially when they are productive and present themselves well.

  5. I love wearing pantyhose. …. wore them growing up my whole life. I think that they can be fashionable. They are also helpful in cold weather:)… but they do make our feet a bit smelly?…..right ladies? hehehe

  6. Hosiery – Not just for weddings, church or other “special” events.

    Black sheers – Not the only choice! Nude sheer or ultra-sheer hosiery, when closely matched to skin tone, looks absolutely amazing!

    Set up a poll that features a non-model women’s legs (waist down, showing part of the dress or skirt) in various heels, pumps, flats, etc. Same women, same shoes. One pic of her in sheer hosiery that matches her skin tone and one bare legged. Pics side by side. Then one with pics of a women in opaques (tights) and bare legged, same women, same shoes, same picture distance and angle. Do several of these, using the same women for the side by side comparison, in various combinations of skirts/dress, heels/flats/boots and hosiery, ultra-sheer to opaque, etc.

    Do the poll without notifying the participant that it’s a poll about hosiery (or bare legs), but start the poll featuring sheer (or ultra sheer) vs bare leg pics and then opaques vs bare leg. Some women (& men) will know right away what type of poll it is, but not all.

    100% guaranteed, the majority of women & men will say the legs with hosiery look better, even though its the same (non-model) woman. And, most likely, the sheer hosiery would win the most “up” votes (vs the opaques). And, more than likely, a higher percentage of men (than women) will like the hosiery look in dresses and skirts vs. bare leg.

    You intentionally pick out a beautiful dress and sexy, gorgeous shoes and then go bare legged? Doesn’t look good. Hosiery completes the look. Legs looks better, smoother, more elegant, etc.

    Bare legs are…well, bare. Great for shorts, great for swimsuits, great for wearing with flip flops. You know, the casual or beach scene look. Not so great for paring with dresses or skirts. Looks incomplete and too raw when matches with a dress or skirt.

    There is a poll on stylebistro called “What Do You Think of Wearing Tights Under Shorts?” As of now, 81% like and only 19% dislike. Mind you, this is about the more casual look of opaques (not sheer/ultra-sheer) with shorts (not even dresses or skirts). Hosiery does look better than bare leg, in many situations.

    Besides, there are so many new types, new technology out there since prior to the 90’s. The sheer/ultra sheer skin tones look far more natural and appealing than before. As a bonus, there are of course many options for giving the appearance that you’ve lost a dress size (tummy control, especially with high waist, bum lifting, leg messaging, etc). There are even some that are made specifically for hotter climates such as the Silkies 65 Degree Control Top Sheer Pantyhose (in regular & toe-less). There are even hosiery that have a G-string affect made by Trasparenze (& others), if your into that, anti cellulite hosiery made by Solidea (& others), moisturizing hosiery made by Solidea, Cette (& others) and non-slip sole hosiery made especially for high heels by Marks & Spence, Frappe, Verano (& others).

    Like Kate Middleton, Beyoncé, Zoey Deschanel, Sofia Vergara, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and many of the younger 20 somethings from Disney, many more young and middle aged women should take notice that hosiery just looks better with dresses and skirts and has come a very long way in the last decade or so!

  7. I don’t think the Donna Karan “The Nudes” come in regular plus size, just petite plus. I’ve never seen anything but plus petite and the size chart at Nordstrom tells the same tale. It’s infuriating.

  8. I am 46 years old and work with technology companies in the DC metro area. With few exceptions, I wear hosiery with skirts and dresses. I like opaque tights as much as anyone, but they look out of place at temperatures above 60 degrees and are too casual for formal business attire. I have a large selection of colors for my casual winter outfits only. Patterned sheer pantyhose tend to look costume-y and I can’t pull off that kind of look. For work, I’ll wear buff (I’m very fair), off-black, or black. Occasionally, I will even wear–don’t faint–sheer navy, which so far has not resulted in anyone’s mistaking me for a flight attendant.

  9. I think the thing about less than perfect legs is that it is fine for them to be bare in the hot weather when it is a comfort choice – but why suffer in the cold to show them off? I veer between bare legs in the summer and opaques and some of the dreaded pattern in winter. I bridge the gap sometimes with some fishnets – I quite like nude (though hard to find) but also wear black and brown. Since I almost always wear flat shoes I think I avoid the slut trap! I even own some bright orange fishnets, but haven’t braved them yet. But mostly I stick to trousers in the ‘transition’ periods. A few other thoughts about sheer and summer.One reason I gave up sheer tights was that I always wore them once and then threw them away – not because I am extravagant but because they laddered! I really was quite careful putting them on and taking off, but the ladders happened anyway. The cost, especially if you buy quality, is horrendous. Also, if you are going to wear sheer tights in summer, that presumably rules out sandals or anything open toed. And also, you should think about skirt cling. I find that even some lined summer skirts are lined with a cotton fabric which is nicer than synthetics to wear with bare legs but will cling like mad if you wear tights. Also some shoes are just better with bare feet. There is a friction between the lining and your skin that keeps them on – but put on tights and they keep slipping off.

  10. Alison, this post is blowing my mind! I don’t think I would have given the sheen over Kate’s legs a second thought if you hadn’t pointed out that she is, indeed, wearing sheer hosiery, and she looks perfectly chic! I probably haven’t even glanced at a pair of nude pantyhose with any consideration in 10 years. But here I go — this is about to GET REAL.

    Also: I’m from freaking Michigan, the land of the ice and snow, where the midnight sun and the hot springs flow (and other Led Zeppelin lyrics probably) so I’m all for leg coverage based on temperature, but can I just say that the anonymous comment in here about “women over a certain age” is a total bummer? Is it really so traumatizing for people to acclimatize themselves to seeing imperfections on women? Stop making grown up chicks feel shitty for having normal, fallible human bodies and you’ll get used to seeing it, dude. Jesus. I guess I’m probably just annoyed because my own biggest pet peeve is people without the balls to attach their name to their bitchy opinions.

    1. My mom is 71 and still does bare legs and looks fantastic, but she has great gams and has maintained a yoga practice for over a decade. My legs as I get older are starting to look… well not the way that makes me comfortable. I could see myself choosing sheer hosiery in the future for my own comfort level and confidence. I don’t believe there is a rule for any age group, there are always those who prove those rules are wrong and dated!

  11. One of my biggest pet peeves are women over a certain age who don’t wear pantyhose/tights, particularly in the work place. As we get older, our legs get veiny, knees start to sag, and the general color and condition deteriorates. It is very unflattering for older women to go without pantyhose/tights. Plus, I think it looks odd when women wear closed toe shoes with no stockings at any age – just plain uncomfortable and will make your shoes smell after a while.

    I also find it ridiculous when women of all ages go bare legged in the dead of winter in the northeast (although it seems the younger women do this more). I don’t know even know how women can leave the house like that! That is like a man going to work in shorts and dress shoes without socks in February.

    1. “One of my biggest pet peeves are women over a certain age who don’t wear pantyhose/tights, particularly in the work place. As we get older, our legs get veiny, knees start to sag, and the general color and condition deteriorates. It is very unflattering for older women to go without pantyhose/tights.”

      Then look the f—k away, you dumb b*tch. Just because you’re so insecure about yourself that you feel the need to hide your legs away from the world with uncomfortable hosiery doesn’t mean we all have to.

  12. I am not overly fond of hosiery. However, having gotten that out of the way, I believe they are appropriate, and are absolutely necessary in less casual settings, and during cooler weather. Kudos to Princess Kate for bringing them back (when they should have never gone “out” in the first place); it would be great if the first lady could follow this example.

    I am a woman of color, and sheer hosiery choices for me tend to be a bit more complicated. My preference in sheer hosiery is Hanes thigh highs, which I buy in a pack of 3 pair at a Hanes outlet for under $20. If I can’t find my color in thigh highs, I go with the regular to-the-waist hosiery, which might add a couple of bucks to the price. I rinse them with Hosiery Mate to prolong their life span.

  13. I’ve been running into pairs of “The Nudes” at Marshall’s and TJMaxx. As always with those places the sizes/colors aren’t reliable, but if you’re someone who wears stockings it’s worth a look through the bin.

  14. Except in summer, I prefer to wear pantyhose with dresses and skirts, and have found Secret Silky Control Top to be sheer, not shiny, and available in a color to match my very pale legs. Unfortunately I tried the palest shade of Airbrushed Legs (the lotion) and it was startling orange on my legs. I too find the Jergens Natural Glow good — I also like the Olay version. Both end up giving a natural look.

  15. I never knew patterned tights were so scary! I think that if you go for a subtle pattern (like a small fish net or small polka dots) they’re really no different to plain tights. I do steer clear of the more violently coloured ones and patterns as a) the rest of your outfit has to be plain so as not to compete and b) they highlight your legs and my legs aren’t my best feature.

    1. I think the difference is that you know that the rest of the outfit needs to be plain, and you need to be aware how a pattern will draw attention to your legs. The biggest thing I see is women trying to treat patterned hosiery as a solid, pairing lace or dots with printed dresses or conservative business suits. While I believe everyone should wear what makes them feel good, working with women of different ages, sizes, and styles I’ve learned that what patterned hosiery works on one does not work on another, and it gets far too complex for a general blog post.

  16. Dance wear tights are actually very good quality, and much cheaper than many street wear brands. ( and most aren’t shiny at all!). They DO run much smaller than street wear though, so be sure to read your labels! I like body wrappers and prima soft. I also like those fleece lined tights for winter.

    1. Hey don’t give up on the sheer hose I prefer them ovet tights, except winter time..I can wear the nylons all year. The Duchess Kate is a perfect example.

  17. I’m all for joining the pantyhose bandwagon, but after so long without them, it’s really hard to go back. I am now a huge fan of opaque hose, though, thanks to your recommendation of Nordstrom’s brand.

  18. I’m a fan of Smartwool tights. They are pricey but they last and are made of merino wool. It’s like having a sweater on your legs!

  19. I wear tights year round, screw what’s fashionable! But then, I have a defined gothic aesthetic that this works with 🙂 Also, I really love Calvin Klein tights, they come in a variety of sizes & are very durable (I have pairs that are 4 years old, & again, I wear them all the time, so they get a ton of use).

  20. Opaques and patterns for me. I hope to never wear a pair of nude pantyhose again (too many years in the corporate world!). Great post, xox

  21. I absolutely ADORE hosiery! Maybe it’s just my church upbringing, but I honestly cannot imagine going without them except for in the most extreme heat!!

  22. Great post, Allie! I’ve always wanted some nude fishnets but cannot find them (aside from dance – type ones). Any suggestions there? Here in SoCal we are still completely on the bare legs train…so much that the idea of natural color hosiery makes me nervous. This from an Alaskan girl who used to wear bone/white hose with some outfits. GAHHH! ( Was a little clueless up there in the last frontier! )

    1. We in DC are still on the bare legs train as well, but I think it’s ridiculous to choose to not wear skirts because you feel uncomfortable in bare legs. I don’t wear them… yet but the older I get the more I see the appeal. As for nude fishnets I have a pair from Commando that are at least 8 years old and still in great shape, may be the same as these:

    2. Spanx also makes fishnets, and last time I checked they had nude and black, as well as a couple of other colors. Mine have worn like iron, so I haven’t had to repurchase in years.

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