Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Hosiery Rules, Part II

Dear Belle,

I just started my first job working for a Defense contractor in Crystal City.  I wear skirts every day, but yesterday, a co-worker told me that I need to start wearing tights.  She told me that in the winter, it’s frowned upon to wear a skirt without them.  Is this true? 

I’m from California, so I guess I don’t know these rules.  But I guess I’ll be buying my first pair of tights soon.

Thanks for the blog, it really is a public service.


Frankly, my hatred for Uggs, Crocs and Vera Bradley not withstanding, I tend to give the old fashion rules the brush off.  So I may not be the most accurate arbiter of the strict Southern dress code that some offices live under.  But I would be interested to know if this was her perspective or the opinion of the office as a whole.

I would watch to see how the other women in the office are dressing over the next few weeks.  The warm weather won’t have entirely dissipated, and bare legs should be fine for a bit longer.  Just see how the other women are dressing and then decide.  It’s best to tow the party line until you’ve been there for awhile.

Bare Legged Woman.  Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bare legs in the winter time.  As long as you’re not so pale that you could blind your co-worker, there’s no reason why you must wear tights.  Except, of course, for the fact that you will probably freeze to death without them.  

If this is your first time wearing tights, let me share with you a couple of rules that I do abide by.  Most of the time.

The 2-Out-Of-3 Rule. As previously discussed on this blog, I hate when women wear high heeled tall boots to work with bare legs.  Something about it, just strikes me as vaguely unacceptable.  But this is more of a personal preference than an actual faux pas.

Thus, I developed what I call the 2-out-of-3 rule.  If you are wearing tall boots, flat or high heeled, your tights must either be the same color as your skirt or the same color as your boots.  

So when I wear my navy skirt with my cognac flat boots, I wear them with navy tights.  When I want to wear my patterned gray skirt with my black boots, I wear black tights.  

I think matching the tights to either the skirt or boots (or both) creates a more professional, sleeker look.  It also makes you look taller and leaner.  And we like taller and leaner, don’t we ladies?

Open or Closed.  While I used to cringe in agony when I saw a woman wearing tights with sandals or open toed shoes, I’ve actually warmed up to the idea.  

As long as the tights don’t have seaming in the toe that sticks out like a sore thumb, I don’t see any reason why you can’t wear tights with open toed shoes.  Provided, of course, that the shoe and the tight are the same color.  This is non-negotiable.  

Ankle Socks.  This season, women are starting to embrace the idea of wearing socks with their high-heeled shoes.  This trend is probably a reaction to the Mad Men-inspired vintage frenzy that we’re in right now.  And while this trend is very fashion forward and might be too much for most women, I think it can be cute when done correctly.

I prefer the look with a T-strap heel or an ankle strap heel.  I just think that it looks more polished this way.  

I also prefer it with a nylon sock over the chunky wool sock.  But if you inspect the street style photos from last week’s fashion extravaganza in New York, you’ll see this look pop up more than a few times.

So if you want to try it, feel free.  If it’s not for you, then don’t force it.

To sum up, I never wear flesh toned nylons though I have been known to wear a pair of nude fishnets when my legs get beat up.  I occasionally go bare legged in the cold weather months, though it’s rare.  And I never wear tall boots and a skirt without tights.  


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  1. Meg says:

    Belle, you said you wear nude fishnets when your legs get beat up. I golf and ride horses, and I get strange tan lines, occasional little bruises and lots of bug bites. I always wear sheer nylons with skirts just to make my legs office acceptable. Do the nude fishnets give the same coverage? What brand do you suggest?

    September 20, 2010/Reply
  2. G says:

    so if i just bought some BEAUTIFUL beige suede heels with a peep toe (they look a little like booties with cutouts) i cant wear them with dark tights? what kind of tights can i wear them with? i kind of think they'll look funky with dark tights and obviously the toe seam tucked under…

    September 20, 2010/Reply
  3. Belle says:

    Meg- I find that the fishnets sort of blur everything that's underneath, so they act like camouflage. I like the DKNY brand because the pattern is smaller. But Spanx and Hue make a nice pair.

    G-I would try it with a skirt that matches the tights and see what happens. Try wearing them to church or brunch and see how you like them when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the windows of the businesses as you pass by. I'd wear nude fishnets though and call it a day.

    September 20, 2010/Reply
  4. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    I'm a nylons girl. As a former jock, I have a TON of scars on my knees, legs and ankles from various collisions. So, all flesh tone nylons for me in the warmer days and tights for cooler. The also make everything look nice and smooth. Who can hate that? As for the peep toe problem, I personally (personal opinion!) think they are unprofessional to wear. No one needs to see your feet no matter how cute your pedi is. Plus, I think it's sort of of unhygenic to be running around public areas with your feet hanging out. God knows what you can pick up around here!

    September 20, 2010/Reply
  5. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    Sorry, one more thing on the professional front. I recall feeling terrible for a great staffer in a recent meeting. She has a lovely slim figure and was wearing a great dress and no hose. However, when she was at our meeting and sat the dress lifted up to her thighs. By nature of sitting on the chair, her legs looked like like a cellulite mess. It was very noticeable. I felt bad for her. Just something to think about.

    September 20, 2010/Reply
  6. Belle says:

    I could not disagree more on the peep toes question. I think you may be the only person to ever argue that they are unhygienic.

    September 20, 2010/Reply
  7. ~M says:

    Anything less than tall boots is unhygienic and nylons don't provide very much protection, but that's why you wash your feet when you come home.

    September 20, 2010/Reply
  8. J says:

    Ok, so what about the new colored tights that I've seen in recent catalogues and mags? IIt would be hard to do you “2-of-3” rule with a color other than neutrals. I just got some pretty “beet” colored tights, can I wear them with a black skirt and black pumps? or black peep-toe booties?

    September 21, 2010/Reply
  9. Belle says:

    I think if your skirt matches your boots your good on two out of three. You could also do a denim skirt with a cognac boot, that way you're keeping tights and boots in the same color family.

    September 21, 2010/Reply