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.

  • Pat

    Great post!! I love your humor and knowledge of style. Minnie is cute but not on my legs!!
    A faithful fan,

    • Hi, Pat! Thanks! I appreciate your faithfulness and your compliments! Next time you see a woman in black tights and colored shoes all you will think is Minnie Mouse!

      • me

        you post great articles to read keep up the good work

      • connie

        I personally don’t think black tights with color shoes is that bad. Black tights with white, brown, nude, grey or blue shoes blend in pretty well. Unless by color, you meant the really colorful ones such as red yellow green lol

  • Cheryl Schwarz

    Loved all of the photos!! I also don’t like the dark tights, light shoe look, and open toe shoes with tights just doesn’t make sense to me. Thx for a laugh Bridgette

    • Anytime! My favorite was the witch under the house! That was the first thing I thought of with striped stockings.

  • TC Hollis Wagenstein Hurturk

    Another great article with helpful advice! I don’t share the current disdain for pantyhose. I find them comfortable and somewhat protective (do you know who sat on that seat before you did?). Naked skin touching an airline seat (or lavatory) has an especially strong “ick” factor. And, while my aging legs are still shapely, my skin tone and texture aren’t what they used to be. Pantyhose enables me to feel dignified and confident in the shorter skirts I prefer. Frankly, I think I look better with “stockings” than without them, and many of my Boomer peers agree.

    • Patricia Ames Korosec

      Thank you! I totally agree. Polished legs in pantyhose/stockings with heels: priceless. Exception is in the spring/summer with a summer dress; think Hawaii (wish I lived there!)

  • Leonard Spock

    ALL women , no matter what age look better in hosiery, its a more finished look.
    and mandatory with a dress. Its also prettier and sexier, then bare skin. But thats secondary.
    women that dont wear stockings, paterned, or tights, Are missing a huge fashion choice,
    and I personally would never hire someone in bare legs, its unprofessional/

  • jools

    you totally lost me at “no woman needs a white bra” – umm hello, try wearing any other coloured bra under a sheer white shirt. Black looks ridiculous, nude and you look naked.

    • But why would you want the outline of your white bra to show? The whole point of a nude bra is so it is invisible.

  • Jay

    This is such a mean spirited article. Glad you had fun policing and shaming women’s bodies. Utterly ridiculous

    • In what way is this mean spirited? And how in the world does it shame bodies?

  • Boy Tights

    I’m a boy but I love wearing tights normal?

  • Ainsley

    With all of the focus on women being comfortable with themselves and their choices, and not being judged or ridiculed, this article is quite damning of many particular fashion choices. I know they’re all the author’s “opinion”, but they seem to be presented as if they’re fact. In truth, white tights can look very cute, classy (and even sexy!) with the right outfit (and yes, with black shoes!); coloured shoes look fabulous with black tights (talk to Taylor Swift if you want to see how yellow goes with black – she doesn’t look like any Minnie Mouse, I tell ya!), and open-toed shoes look great with opaque tights – I have no idea why someone would think they don’t. If the author is too “scared” to try and pull-off some of these looks, that’s her business, but don’t try to ward off the rest of the female population from having fun, experimenting with outfits, and breaking free of the current boring trend of nothing but black yoga pants and running shoes (or sandals, depending on the season… ugh). I love wearing tights of all colours, with various styles of shoe, and never get anything but compliments and very positive attention from men and women alike! And one final note: if anyone is having problems with tights/pantyhose not fitting correctly, it’s not the hosiery’s fault; you need to select brand and size carefully! Once you find the right fit, they’re like a second skin and you’ll love ’em.

    • kittychi

      When you come for fashion advice you are going to get an opinion. Do you want it to just say “do what looks good on you?” I don’t get why you would read this article in the first place.

  • me

    am a straight male and I wear all colors and styles love them all nothing like a quality pair of pantyhose or tights whether it be male or female we all have legs. I love wearing for warmth, support, the way they make my legs look the feel is a great fashion. I don’t wear openly just because of society and their ridicule and name calling but if I could wear openly I would wear them properly with shorts no need to expose anything that’s nasty and if men are going to wear sheer hose they should shave nothing worse than hairy legs showing under hose. I wear cause I like to no fetish involved its clothing to me that I love wearing under my pants when out when home with shorts or a mini skirt which is less constricting and cooler in summer I see nothing wrong with men wearing if done right why not women wear mens clothes men should be able to wear tights and pantyhose if they want got many pictures in pantyhose and tights usually with a mini skirt and heels but only at home might think that’s weird but am not trying to present myself as a woman I dress for pictures only to at least make the outfit look proper hers one picture below I don’t think it looks to bad

  • Elena Davis

    Great article! I never liked wearing pantyhose before and i definitely think thigh highs are better. but I’ve learned to like tights that really make my leg look shiny, and not make my skin look washed out. i tried a pair of tights at and at target. surprisingly, paying a little more for tights has actually made my tight last longer

  • Lorena Toro

    Pantyhose has always been worn and will be worn no matter if they are supposedly out of style or not,and I I don’t agree that they are out of style . I think it makes an outfit look “finished” and your legs amazingly smooth and even.

  • God there are a lot of really ugly legs about. People whether they’re female or male should cover those bare legs up.