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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.

Published December 31, 2007. Last updated August 30, 2017.
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 [email protected].

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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