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Stockings with Open-Toed Shoes: Faux Pas or Faux Problem?

By Amalah

O wise Amalah,

Your recent Smackdown post “What You Wore” inspired me to ask a question. It was this quote that did it:

“The only piece of your advice that I didn’t follow to the letter was open-toed shoes with pantyhose. I’ve been cursed with spider veins since the age of 14 so I either wear hose, pants, or tell people I have a tattoo of a road map on my legs. Nordy’s control-top jet black sheer stockings: 3 for $10.”

Oh, how I can relate to this woman. For years I’ve avoided wearing skirts because I am self-conscious about my legs (very pale, with spider veins galore). Which is sad, because skirts are cute! And fun! But… how should I manage the whole shoe and stocking situation? I have NO IDEA what to do about it.

I find myself eyeing two types of skirts: just-above-knee-length, and then longer ones, like below the calf. But I feel like I can’t wear knee-length skirts because it seems like the bare-leg look is the thing right now, yet my legs are too hideous to do that, and a friend of mine told me that nude stockings are totally out when it comes to casual dressing so I can’t even sort-of hide under those; and for longer skirts, which show less pale-hideous-leg but still enough to be an issue, the only solution I can think of to hide my legs is boots, which seems oh-so-70s it’s just ridiculous.

So. Can you pretty-please dole out some pearls of wisdom on what a pale girl with road-map spider veins can do in the shoes-and-stockings department to look decent in a skirt? (Or, if it’s impossible, feel free to just say so. At least I could give up wondering about this issue and turn that brainpower to something else instead, like deciding what kind of foundation primer I should try 😉

If it makes you feel better, TONS of your fellow Smackdownateers can relate, because yours is easily the dozenth question I’ve received on this very topic. And I have ignored you all, because ’tis a bit of a sticky wicket, because if I tell you what I really think I will sound like a heartless fashion-slave bitch. But! Here goes.

I cannot stand open-toed shoes with stockings. There. I said it. The seams never stay put under my toes, the open parts of the shoe always rub and catch and run, and above all, it just doesn’t make sense to me. If you need to wear stockings, that suggests that it is COLD outside, and thus TOO COLD for open-toed shoes.

“But,” you say, “what about all the strappy open dress sandals for Little Black Dresses”
“Yes,” I say, “these are for the brave souls would are okay with freezing their precious little asses off on New Year’s Eve. The rest of you need to buy some closed-toe high heels and be done with it.”

But seriously, what do I know, and why would anyone care what I thought of their hosiery lifestyle choices? It’s not like I’m going to all these fabulous parties and silently surveying the room for nylon-encased toes to get all judge-y about. I guarantee you I will not even notice.

I am talking about my own getting-dressed choices. I love my black control-top hose, and I pair them with my favorite classic black stilettos or my retro-ish round-toe pumps. I also love my peep-toe and strappy shoes, and I pair them with naked, well-moisturized legs (Aveeno Continuous Radiance to the pale leg rescue!) and a skirt that covers my own problem veins (the back and side of my right thigh, where I was chewed on by a German Shepherd in high school).

I would also NOT discount the boots thing. The right boot and the right skirt length is a fabulous look for winter. You should still see a decent bit of leg or knee — no boots that go up UNDER the hem of your skirt. That makes you look stumpy.

Fashion mags, by the way, are chock-full of photo spreads that go against everything I’m saying here, with lots of chunky colorful tights and hose paired with sandals and all sorts of open-toes shoes. Apparently EVERYBODY in London does it, if cursory blog searches are to be believed.

If you are cool and young and possibly an Olsen twin, you should totally go for it. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I am too old to keep up with this shit, and am sticking by my own rules. This is probably the first step to being one of Those Moms and Those Grandmoms who still sport the same hairdo and high-waisted jeans and thinks she still looks cool and with-it and ring-a-ding-ding.

(I also think that a lot of the youngsters these days are dressing like hot mess bag ladies, so I am getting CROTCHETY since turning 30 four whole days ago.)

I could probably get used to stockings with peep-toe heels, provided the peep is very small. See? I am not completely unmovable.

But I am also not completely hip and fashion-forward, obviously, and I don’t expect anyone else to be, unless they happen to live on a catwalk in Milan. Then you might want to stay up-to-date, I think. So your friend says that nude hose are totally out with casual dresses. I tend to agree (I only wear them with suits or other conservative business attire these days), but if they make you feel more comfortable in your skirts? WhatEVER, wear them. Maybe…try some nude fishnets instead? But mostly, eff the rest of us and what we think and stop stressing about it.

(I have no comment on these things or on footless tights — I bought a pair of footless tights once and never wore them because they made my legs look bizarre and stumpy. Which is pretty much my opinion on the first link. Biz. Arre.)

Now for the non-fashion-related part of this entry, which is: is there anything you can actually DO for spider and varicose veins?

Unfortunately, in terms of getting RID of them, there’s nothing over-the-counter that will work. If your veins are painful or red or otherwise inflamed, see your doctor. Your insurance may cover some treatments if your veins are causing you pain besides just a big cosmetic headache. Medical treatments of veins (which include everything from injections to lasers to surgery) are actually quite effective, and there’s no reason to live with pain in your legs if you don’t have to.

There ARE things you can do to avoid getting more veins (which are a super-common side-effect of pregnancy, bleh). If you do wear heels and boots, make sure they aren’t too tight, and avoid standing in them for long lengths of time. If you are stuck standing, lift your heels up and stand on you toes, then repeat 10 or 20 times. (This exercise improves circulation.) (As do…dun dun duuuun…SUPPORT HOSE. HA.)

(Pregnant women should wear support hose whenever possible, by the way. I personally destroyed about 135 pairs during frantic lumbering dashes to the bathroom because OMFGIHAVETOPEEEEEEE.)

Avoid crossing your legs while sitting (try keeping them elevated whenever possible) and get plenty of exercise. Lots of leg stretches and lifts and even jumping rope helps. And as if you needed ANOTHER reason for trying to drop that last bit of extra weight, yep. Being overweight dramatically increases your odds of vein problems.

I’ve yet to hear a really good temporary cosmetic fix for veins, although a few online articles mentioned cold compresses can help minimize the look of your veins, which might be worth a shot before heading out all bare-legged and wild for the evening. I also had a friend who would apply her foundation and blemish concealer to her legs (usually still under nude hose or fishnets, but she swore it made a difference).

Oh, and regular leg massages will help improve your circulation, so start dropping hints about some spa gift certificates. You NEED them! It’s practically a PRESCRIPTION massage! The pedicure is just a BONUS, so you’ll look EXTRA GOOD when you leave the hose at home and wear your cute open-toed shoes.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Francie

    December 31, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    And, I too can relate to this problem – I have super-pale and veiny legs and HATE wearing stockings. One thing that I have found works quite well is this spray stuff that Sally Hansen sells (get it at your local drugstore for about $6.) It’s called “Airbrush legs” and it’s basically like spray-on foundation for your legs. I was skeptical of it but would try anything, but it makes your legs look really nice and shimmery. Also, there are those stockings that have no toes, (not the footless ones but just toe-less) maybe try those?

  • elle

    December 31, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    I’ve noticed, on recent trips to the USA, that you are woefully under-provided for in the tights department. (See? you don’t even really have a word for them.) In a rather posh department store on the East Coast last winter I was BEGGED by 3 different women, in the space of half an hour, to divulge where I’d got my by-now-rather-tatty grey opaques from. Could have been any British High Street clothes shop or chemists; I really don’t know. My undies drawer is stuffed full of tights, in all hues, textures and densities. Here in the UK you can buy them EVERYWHERE, de rigeur throughout the winter, whatever length of skirt.
    In the States I’ve found decent opaques in Victoria’s Secret (in a sale, years ago) and lots in Urban Outfitters last winter.
    For open-toed shoes, I second Amalah’s suggestion of sandals tights (again, you can get ’em easily here) — perfectly comfortable, and excellent for posh evening summer wear, especially if you’re outside and it gets chilly.
    Does ship to the USA?

  • kalisah

    December 31, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Right there with you, babe – and you, too, elle.
    No no NO stockings w/ open-toed shoes. I’ve given up on hose altogether, in fact. I live in the south, so it’s bare legs in the summertime and tights (or boots, or when it’s really cold, tights w/ boots) in the winter.
    I’m a BIG fan of tights. I have a whole drawer of them too, elle. Mostly black opaque but also some brown and gray, and some cableknits. They look great with this season’s maryjanes. Another cute trend this season is a not-black skirt or dress with black tights and shoes. Think Gossip Girl in gold sequined party dress & black tights. Love it.

  • Olivia

    December 31, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Personally, I don’t like the look of pantyhose with sandals or strappy shoes, but with peep-toes they are okay. I also think women in cold climates who wear strappy shoes in the winter are just crazy. Me? I like to have feeling in my toes.
    Wear what makes you feel comfortable, though, and don’t let anybody give you a hard time about it. It’s a personal choice.

  • Kelly J

    December 31, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    While I generally eschew stockings whenever possible (I live in Texas, for Pete’s sake!), I have worn the toeless hose things that Amalah linked to and they aren’t bad at all.

  • elle

    December 31, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    PS Sheer-toed tights is what recommend for wearing with open-toed footwear:
    Happy New Year, Amalah and everyone!

  • Sarah in LA

    January 1, 2008 at 12:29 am

    I agree with Olivia – I would only wear hose with peep toe shoes, but not open toe/sandals. I think it looks weird to have a sausage-like encased foot in a sandal or open toed shoe. My peep toe shoes actually look really cute with fishnets, and even better when I wear knee-high fishnets with pants – they’re pretty darn comfortable!

  • Melissa B.

    January 2, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I am a HUGE fan of knee socks and skirts. Warm, just a peekaboo of knee showing, and you can wear them with casual outfits.
    Socks avoid the whole I have to pee but I am wrapped in nylon problem.
    I love for decently priced, well made socks!

  • binky45

    June 9, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I think the bare-legged look has gone too far. I agree the wearing hose with a sundress in july looks silly but no hose in the winter looks just as silly. It’s not sexy ladies. I also agree that open toe shoes with stockings looks tacky.
    Stockings are sexy!!! WOMEN, WEAR THEM!!!

  • Texas girl

    August 27, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    My mother always said to wear hose with open toed heels. She said thought it looked trashy not to, and I agree. I always wear high heels with open toes, and I wouldn’t be caught dead without hosiery on.

  • Darrell

    October 9, 2008 at 2:55 am

    I like hosiery with any style dress skirt sandal shoes or heels they just give that finished look to what ever your wearing .

  • Michelle

    January 12, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Anyone who finds this old thread on Google and still needs a good source for tights, check . I’m not affiliated with them, other than that I needed something awesome to complete a New Year’s Eve outfit. We Love Colors hooked me up with hot pink opaques, plus magenta wide mesh fishnets to wear over them. I looked hawt 😉

  • Tom Blevins

    March 30, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Ok first understand that I do not mind if women wear bare legs despite my listing some of the downsides. What I don’t like is that *all* women *always* wear bare legs and never hose even when it makes their legs look better because they don’t think they can do this with open toed shoes. I’m a guy who likes nice legs and can appreciate a coordinated professional look on a woman.
    General barely on topic rant:
    Like all fashion trends this is based on what we know. In the 90s bare legs (and corporate casual) became all the rage. And many young women who grew up then will always prefer that. I grew up in the 80s and a former girlfriend I know still loves shoulder pads. She just thinks they are great. I’m not trying to pull rank based on age but those who grew up in the 90s not only saw a rejection of hose but they saw a rejection of professional dress. The hose were just one part of that general rejection. Offices that used to be full of men and women dressed in suits are now full of portly men in kakis and short sleeve plaid shirts, and women, well, in all sorts of things. So certainly if a woman has on some sort of suit any sort of suit it will seem plenty professional. If a guy has a collar and sleeves longer than his elbow he is “dressed up.” Or so the children from the 90s think. I’m not trying to make this into a generation war. Instead I’m saying just please try to understand that certain things are sometimes trends that really have little to do with true aesthetics. From the 80s we had all sorts of things we thought were cool. In the 90s a generalization can be made that there was a rejection of professional looks.
    Ok now on to the specific question: Can women wear hose with open toed shoes?
    The answer was no if you are living in America in the late 90s. But it is yes if you want to look professional. Women couldn’t wear flatter hair in the 80s but in later decades it is recognized as fine if there hair isn’t so high. In the late 90s women couldn’t wear hose with open toed shoes but now if you want to look professional and coordinate its fine.
    One objection that you often hear is that open toed shoes only purpose is to show your pedicure. Well no. That’s sort of like saying the only purpose to wearing footwear other than boots is to show off that tattoo on your ankle. Or the only reason to wear a sleeveless dress is to show off how well shaved your armpits are. Yes if you have fungus and dirt on your toes and hair in your armpits then don’t wear open toed shoes and sleeveless dresses until you wash and shave. But there are other reasons for these styles of clothes.
    Why do they make open toed shoes? Because it is a shoe style. That’s all there is to it. Some shoe styles are sling backs showing the heel some shoes show more of the instep or side of the foot. Sandals and peep toe show toes. It’s simply the style of the shoe. It’s not all about the pedicure. Believe it or not, it also has to do with how well it coordinates.
    That’s a key to professional dress – coordination. Often when I see someone complain about hose and open toed shoes they will show a picture of the foot and the foot alone. They do *not* show how the footwear and the overall look goes even up to the knee of the leg!
    When a woman wears a skirt hose help her foot and toes *match* the color of her legs. This uniformity of look is a key to looking coordinated. This is why toeless hose are ridiculous. People can see that that “does not look right” and of course it doesn’t hose makes you look uniform and coordinated but when the toes are different it defeats this purpose. Bare skin is blotchy, some is better than others but generally it’s never as uniform as legs in hose.
    So when you’re wearing a skirt, hose are good not only because your legs look better but also because any part of your foot (toes heels instep) that is exposed will better match your legs and give you a more coordinated look.
    What about if you have pants on? Well the same thing goes. Even though you won’t have an exact match between your legs and exposed part of your foot you should coordinate. What does that mean? It means if your pants have a fabric that you should wear hose or socks with then wear them, if they don’t you don’t have to wear them. For example if you have professional wool pants wear hose. If you have casual cotton pants you don’t have to and probably shouldn’t wear hose. If a man wears a wool suit and no socks just his dress shoes how does that look? Well women are doing that now and people who are old enough to see how much that clashes cringe.
    It’s a shame to see women avoid something that makes their whole leg and outfit look more uniform and professional because they are so myopically focused in on a seam in the toes. Zoom out a bit and look at your whole outfit. You’ll see that hose can pull everything together and yes even the toe area from open toed shoes will coordinate.

    • AdorableDork

      May 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm

      Thank you for such a well-thought-through opinion and comprehensive answer! This makes me feel so much better about the prospect of wearing sandal-foot hose with peeptoe shoes to an upcoming event! I’ve never gone bare-legged and agree that hose makes one look so much more put together. Contemplating toeless styles, I knew there was something off about them, but couldn’t put my finger on it.