Monday, 28 September 2015
The Dressing Well Blog
Mary Lou Andre

Is Hosiery History?

By Mary Lou Andre

While word on the street in some circles is that traditional pantyhose are history, we could not disagree more. The "executive presence" discussion regarding all types of hosiery has as much to do with industry, company, ethnicity, situation, age, leadership goals, body type, personal style and, of course, common sense than what is "trending" at the moment.

When chosen well (yup, ditch any "nylons" with a 1970's orange tint!) and coordinated with suiting, business separates and formalwear made of fabrics that nicely connect to the lighter look and feel of its fabrication, pantyhose can help you:

  • create business boundaries with key stakeholders
  • communicate respect for yourself and others
  • add significant polish to your overall look

Modern pantyhose are designed to help with all these desirable professional objectives while also helping to smooth the body in all the right places. As a professional in charge of your own personal brand, you need to decide when (and what type of) hosiery is right for you. For the purpose of this article, we will be talking about two primary types of professional hosiery: pantyhose (aka modern nylons) and tights.

It's all About Options (& Brands)
Admittedly, we have many stylish and sophisticated women in our midst who regularly forgo any type of hosiery from May to October. Many are blessed with skin that looks great without hosiery. Others go the distance with personal grooming routines (and expenses!) to give them flawless skin. When non-hosiery looks that combine stylish clothes with appropriate hemlines and footwear is thoughtfully selected for business, a fashion-forward persona is established that can give the wearer a competitive edge, especially when working for hip and creative brands.

nude hosieryDressing Well Stylists Carolyn Lieberman and Sarah Zengo look extra polished and professional wearing "modern" pantyhose at an early spring firm fashion event.

I personally coach a handful of beauty industry professionals that fall into this category. They are a smart and sophisticated group ranging in age from 35-65. They travel all over the world where non-hosiery looks are standard year-round so having many stylish, business appropriate, non-hosiery dressing options is part of their overall dressing strategy. However, they still understand the power (and appropriateness!) of pantyhose for many professional situations (especially in the US) and regularly put them on for important meetings as they grow their careers through boardroom interactions and presentations.

The Donna Karan nude collection of hosiery is what we often recommend for women (including women of color) looking for a hint of coverage with a flawless finish. Both Hanes and Calvin Klein offer more cost-effective options that have a similar sheen. Many mall stores such as Ann Taylor and Talbots offer nudes that fit a variety of body types while also providing superb coverage and polish without breaking the bank. Another key aspect to today's more flattering and comfortable pantyhose options is the fabric content of both the "panty" and the part that covers the leg. Those made with a percentage of spandex and/or Lycra in addition to nylon throughout are more comfortable, sheer and flattering. They also tend to last longer when well cared for than those made of 100% nylon.

In addition to nudes, we regularly recommend black, off-black and various shades of sheer gray pantyhose in the cooler months. The key to wearing any shade of pantyhose well is how each connect to the fabrication and color of the rest of an outfit. While there are certainly other pantyhose colors suitable for work, most of the professionals we work with prefer sticking with nudes and blacks. Adding gray is enough of an appropriate style statement for many!

Tights: A Happy Medium
When it gets cold, women who do not like to wear pantyhose at all slip into pants or wear dresses and skirts with tights. The main reasons cited are comfort and warmth, although some do say that they feel frumpy in pantyhose any time of year. When paired with other cool-weather fabrics, tights can be very professional in both business casual as well as business formal environments. Think knit dresses with tights and suede pumps (or boots or booties if you are more edgy in your approach to style) to visually picture how to make tights work for you professionally. As long as they are not too distracting or "sexy," patterned tights can offer extra style when well-coordinated.

After October 1st, we encourage most of our clients with a seasonal temperature change to ease back into their hosiery of choice. Some like to put pantyhose back on in September which makes sense too. It does start to cool down and there is definitely a "back to business" vibe in the air. May 1st is the other "hosiery" date we share as the approximate time when bare legs and pantyhose start to work better than tights. If you feel your personal best in pantyhose all year long, by all means, carry on!

Personal Parting Thought
I presented at a conference in June wearing a conservative yet stylish dress that landed at my knee, a light-weight black jacket, fabric pumps with a patent heel and my favorite brand of nude pantyhose. Even though it was warm, the conference was indoors and the air-conditioning was blasting. Not only would I have been freezing, but I would also have felt ridiculous not wearing pantyhose. I was at the front of the room and did not have my summer tan going yet. Because I felt good with the way I put myself together, I had better energy and was able to connect with the audience at my best level.

Even though I personally prefer tights in cool weather and bare legs in warm weather, reaching for pantyhose is easy when I have the right brands in my arsenal and I have a good sense of what my day entails. An organized and thoughtful approach to style saves me every time!


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About the Author

Mary Lou Andre

Mary Lou Andre is a nationally recognized wardrobe, dress code and corporate image consultant, speaker and author. She is founder and president of Organization By Design, Inc., a Needham, Massachusetts-based wardrobe management, fashion and image consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations understand the power of being appropriately dressed in a variety of situations.

Learn more about Mary Lou » 


Linda Woodard 2015-09-29 10:06

One area not addressed was cocktail attire. What to wear with that little black dress after 10/1. Sheer black hose or black tights or nude? Or does it depend on the dress?
Thank you! Love your newsletter.

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 13:00

Yes -- it depends on the dress, time of year and footwear you choose. I have a great Theory light-weight wool, sleeveless black dress that I wear all year round. In the summer and early fall I forgo hosiery with it. Early spring I tend to wear nude pantyhose and a black patent shoe with it. In the winter I have paired both tights and off-black pantyhose with it. Because it is sleeveless, what I layer it with dictates the hosiery/shoe combo. I've had it for years. It is the perfect length and a serious go-to -- the damn dress should write me a check at this point as I have worn it so much!

Karen 2015-09-29 12:14

And should hose match the shoes or the dress?

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 13:11

It really depends. Take the little black dress for example from the above post. If you wear black shoes and black pantyhose with it, it will look ok but a little severe. Nude pantyhose with black shoes lightens it up. However, black tights with black suede booties can make a black dress look hip and fresh, especially if you add a sweater, shawl and/or some bold jewelry with it. A black dress with a nude shoe will look good sans hosiery or with nude hosiery -- black would look funny. Its all about balancing the look. The devil is in the details for sure. Our stylists are all experts on completing outfits with the right shoes and hosiery choices to make each individual we work with shine!

Kelly 2015-09-29 12:17

I'd love your thoughts on nude tights. I'd also love to know your opinion on options (brands) for tights. Thanks for all your blogs, I read and love every one!

Mary Lou Andre 2015-09-29 13:52

Nude tights are tricky. You need a pretty good eye to pull them off well. Those with a pattern will be a little easier to incorporate as they will not look as "matt" or "lifeless" on the leg. I recently worked with a client with one of the most fashion-forward wardrobes of all time. We spent some time on her weekend causal wardrobe this time around. She had great legwear including expensive nude tights. We paired them with very trendy chocolate boots and some fun leather skirts etc. They certainly called attention to her long, lean legs in all the right ways for her weekend style persona. You really need to piece together the colors, fabrications and functionality of the each outfit and take it for a test drive in your house before walking out the door. Dressing well is about feeling comfortable in your own skin and owning your style. This particular client truly models this concept. Also, like everything else in the world of fashion, if an item is light-colored, it can look cheap if not well made (and that usually means you need to pay up -- especially when wearing light-colored hosiery!) My personal favorite cost-effective brand of tights is HUE. They have just the right amount of coverage, spandex and lycra to make them truly comfy and wearable all day long.

ann hassler 2017-02-02 15:01

Where can I find HUE tights.

Beth 2015-09-29 12:51

Thank you for the article on hose! Having lived in Florida and in a much more casual lifestyle for many years, I can't remember wearing hose more than a few times. Now that we have relocated and are back in the Boston area, it is wonderful to see so many professional women in hose, a look that compliments their professional wardrobes! I have had the best success regarding fit and style with hose from Talbots.

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 13:31

Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Beth. I agree with your observations.
Welcome back to Boston!
Mary Lou

Susan 2015-09-29 14:38

I am almost 60 so I was brought up wearing nylons. I work in a "business professional environment" where I am the oldest woman and mostly the only one wearing hosiery. Of course my legs are also over 30.
But what do you recommend between the bare foot and the closed toe pump. Those little "ped" foot coverings often peak out from my shoes. Bare toes hurt my feet. Thanks.

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 14:57

We feel your pain (literally!!)
I have purchased some of those "peds" myself and agree it is annoying when they peek out. I only use them with very casual shoes in the spring and fall. I put my bare feet in professional pumps and hit the road -- I only choose shoes that are comfortable for daywear -- I do admit I will suffer in my footwear at night if a pair gives me the look (and height!) I want. One thing I do at home is put dryer sheets in the toes of shoes I wear sans hosiery in between wears. This keeps them fresh and odor free. It also keeps them from drying out which aids in them being more flexible/comfortable on the feet. Hope this helps. If you are wearing skirts that land at or just below your knee with a modest heel, I say continue wearing hosiery. The brands mentioned in today's blog really do add polish (while camouflaging less than perfect legs) without looking like old-school "nylons!!"

DebbieLM 2015-09-29 15:16

Thank you for the timely post. I am a New Englander and grew up with somewhat strict dates for hosiery and wearing white! I just bought a teal/black knit dress with a leather edged collar and exposed zipper for my son's November wedding in Houston. I am wearing deep magenta heels and would like a recommendation for brand and tint for sheer black stockings. Years ago you gave a color recommendation for light Hanes (maybe Barely There?) Do you have brand and name for black? A friend also suggested the DK nudes for my rehearsal dinner dress which is a much lighter looking garment. I notice there are several nude color ways. Do you have suggestions? I might have to purchase them on line. I am happy to hear your hosiery rules match mine. I am not keen on going bare legged except during hot summer months. My 63 year old legs need help with the finishing touch. Thank you and your staff for your thoughtful posts. I would love to see you write another book!

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 15:34

Congrats on your son's wedding. An exciting time for sure. Your outfit sounds great. I am going to have Sarah Zengo on our team answer this for you. She has been working with a lot of moms of brides and grooms of late and can offer some suggestions.

Sarah 2015-10-01 09:09

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for your post! My personal favorite brand to recommend is Donna Karan and there are two black tones to go with - Black or Off Black. We love to pay attention to detail with slight variations to connect your hosiery back to your dress. If the leather collar is more brown than black, wear off-black hose. If the leather collar is black, wear sheer black. You can’t go wrong with sheer black so don’t stress! In general, off-black will give you a softer look (also great for daytime black); sheer black always works well for evening/formal wear.

For "nude" I go with Donna Karan Signature Collection (not "the Nudes") and the color is "nude". Other colors available there are buff and black. This particular "nude" color is great for me because it's a barely there look with a slight sheen. Just looks classy and I'm sure it's what I have on in the above photo! (Navy dress on the right is me.)

You might enjoy using our Fast Fashion Advice service – 3 photos critiqued for $30 with a quick turnaround! You could send a photo of your rehearsal dinner outfit, wedding outfit, and one with your accessories for the weekend!

Best of luck and congrats on your family celebrations!

DebbieLM 2015-10-01 12:18

Sarah, your comprehensive reply is invaluable! I will consider the offer for the turn around advice in mid October. Meanwhile, I have stockings to order! Many thanks for your attentive response. I love fashion and style !

BetsyW 2015-09-29 15:19

I have to wear support hose due to some swelling in my ankles and feet, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, support hose is shiny and looks unattractive to me. I end up wear pants and long skirts mostly, but would love to wear a dress with some support. Do you have any recommendations? Thank you!

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 15:36

Sorry, Betsy. This is out my range of expertise. I suggest doing a Google search. You are bound to find something suitable!
Best to you,
Mary Lou Andre

Sabina 2015-10-08 14:14

Hi Betsy,

Dressing Well web manager Sabina here. I was looking up an article on hosiery for Mary Lou this afternoon and found this interesting tidbit that might be helpful for you.

From a recent Wall Street Journal article:
“German legwear brand ITEM m6 just launched in the U.S. an ultra-sheer line called the Invisible Tights, which comes in four colors. A spokeswoman for the brand, which also makes medical-grade legwear, says the hosiery acts like a compression tight, enhancing circulation. Its slogan is the “new naked,” and best-selling colors are called “powder” and “sun.”

They don’t mention how shiny they might be, but I figured with a name that includes “invisible”, it could be worth checking out! Here’s the link to the ITEM m6 website:

Lee L. 2015-09-29 18:54

Thanks for a terrific article to show my 20-something daughter. Young women usually look okay without pantyhose, but a lot of "older women" do not. I think it really looks 'polished' to wear hose. It will be interesting to see what happens down the road! (P.S. I love your book!)

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 22:45

Thanks, Lee. The generational hosiery debate is interesting for sure!

Laura 2015-09-29 19:20

My question is about fit. I have an apple shape, and have a terrible time getting panty hose to stay up. Usually by the end of the evening I have taken them off and thrown them in the trash. Any suggestions?

Mary Lou 2015-09-29 22:48

Hi Laura --
I suggest going to Talbots and consulting with a salesperson. They have regular, petite and plus size hoisery. I bet you can land on one. Good luck!

Lucille Hume 2015-09-29 21:26

I believe professional women should not go bare legs in the executive office. I very sheer pantyhose that is almost not there is a better way.

I have seen some bare legs that should not have been on display.

Carol 2016-02-17 05:57

What about sheer hosiery if you have varicose veins? I would love to wear dresses with sheer hose, but the veins still show. Or is there a brand to offers better coverage?

Paula 2016-03-04 14:27

Good afternoon. My question is the same as Carol's. I am a professional and would love to go with bare legs but I have a few varicose veins on one of my legs; I feel I need to cover it. I am not worried about the heat as my office is air conditioned. Is there such thing as a sheer or nude pantyhose which will help cover the veins?

Kathy 2016-03-15 15:11

Hi Carol and Paula, I have two recommendations for you. The first is from Talbots, their control top have great coverage and come in a variety of colors, they are sure to have a neutral nude to match your skin coloring and cover up the varicose veins. They are a little bit heavier in feeling. They other brand I have used to help clients with varicose veins is Hanes Reflections. Clients love them, they feel great on, good coverage and nice colors to select from. Now is the time of year to break out your nude hosiery!


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