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What Hosiery to Wear with a Black Cocktail Dress

This time of year, not a day goes by that I don’t get asked what hose to wear with a black cocktail dress, so I decided it was time to update this post!

Eliza J Cascade Ruffle Cocktail Dress (option/option) // Kendra Scott earrings // crystal frame clutch

Let’s face it. This IS a conundrum if you live in a cold climate. When winter events demand semi-formal attire, most ladies opt for a cocktail dress. But WHAT do you wear on your legs?

Some say that flesh-colored pantyhose are OUT. Others say they’re perfectly acceptable. Tights and booties are trending, but are they appropriate for a semi-formal event? Then what about the myriad of colored and textured hose?

Bare legs are the easy route. At any other time of year, that works okay, but when the temps are below freezing and your legs haven’t seen sunshine in months? Notsomuch.

Are pantyhose in style in 2022?

T.Tahari Tonya Pleated Sleeveless Sheath // Sam Edelman Beth Pumps // Kendra Scott earrings // Spanx Nude Fishnet Tights

Pantyhose are neither in style or out of style right now, but they are always appropriate for a semi-formal event when it’s cold outside.

Over the years, this topic has been discussed ad nauseam here on the blog and in our JLS Insiders Facebook Group, and I’ve learned that opinions on this matter vary greatly by region.

Many women in the southern United States and on the west coast say they would rather be caught dead than be seen in nude pantyhose. They consider them frumpy and dated.

But those of us who live in the northeast or midwestern states are more likely to wear some type of hosiery in the wintertime. It gets downright cold here, and by the time the holidays roll around, most of our legs haven’t seen the light of day in months.

So what type of hosiery looks the most current, and what are “the rules” as far as color and type of shoe? Let’s discuss!

Should I Wear Hose With A Black Cocktail Dress?

It depends. When deciding what hose to wear with a black cocktail dress… or any cocktail dress, really… you have three options:

#1. Go without.

Eliza J Cascade Ruffle Cocktail Dress (option/option) // Stuart Weitzman sandals (similar)// crystal clutch

If you don’t care for pantyhose and you’re comfortable going without, that’s perfectly fine for all but the most conservative of semi-formal events. (If it’s a business event, you may want to ask around and see what the other women are going to wear to be sure you look appropriate.)

I wore the outfit above to a black tie optional October wedding, and I opted for bare legs because I wanted to wear strappy sandals. Which brings me to my next point…

When going without hosiery, your shoe choices are virtually limitless.

Strappy sandals are acceptable with cocktail attire, even in the winter, as long as you’re comfortable exposing your feet. Just be sure to make time for a pedicure, and if you wear nail polish, it shouldn’t be chipped or wearing off.

A closed toe pump or a slingback is also perfectly fine with bare legs as long, as they match the formality of your dress.

If you’re self-conscious about the appearance of your legs, self tanning products have come a long way! Clarins has long been my favorite, but there are many other options available, including Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs. I’ve never tried it, but some women swear by it.

#2. Wear pantyhose that match the color of your skin.

(These hose are darker than they look here; I think the lighting is making them look lighter than they are.)

Spanx Nude Fishnet Tights // dress (option/option) // earrings // clutch // pumps

Nude hose have come a long way since they came in plastic eggs. There are lots of good options these days that look very natural.

If you can swing it, I highly recommend the Wolford Individual 10 Sheer Tights (or the control top version) because they are beautiful and look so natural. They also come in a variety of colors to match most skin tones. Yes, they’re spendy, but they’ll last you a long time if you take good care of them.

The Falke Invisible Deluxe Control Top Tights are also really nice, or a more wallet-friendly option is the Calvin Klein Ultra Bare Infinite Sheer Control Top Tights.

Another option is the Spanx Micro Fishnet in Nude, which is what I’m wearing here. Fishnet adds a subtle texture to the look and doesn’t carry the baggage of potentially looking frumpy that plain nude pantyhose do. Commando has a great version of these as well.

Spanx Nude Fishnet Tights // Schutz Pearl Pumps

As for shoes, I’m old school on this one. For a semi-formal event, I only wear closed toe shoes with nude hose, but you have a lot of color choices. Black works, of course, but you can also go with shoes in a fun color such as burgundy or green, or a metallic like gold or silver.

Again, just be sure the style of the shoe aligns with the formality of the dress.

Before I the Schutz Pearl Pumps arrived, I took pictures of this dress with suede block heel pumps. While they’re great shoes with work wear or dressy casual attire, they aren’t dressy enough for this cocktail dress.

Marc Fisher Zala Pumps (great shoes, but not dressy enough for this outfit)

If you don’t want to go with bare legs, and you’re not a fan of nude hose, you do have one more option…

#3. Wear sheer black hose. 

Falke Invisible Deluxe Control Top Tights // dress (option/option) // earrings // clutch // pumps

If you choose to wear black hose, I would be sure they are verrrry sheer. Last week, I took pictures of this outfit with the Wolford Individual 10 Sheer Tights and Marc Fisher Zala Pumps, but they were both too heavy for this dress.

So today, I just took some new pictures with the Falke Invisible Deluxe Control Top Tights in black and the Schutz Pearl Pumps. and it looks so much better!

It significantly elevates the look to wear ultra sheer black hose, and the shoes are a big improvement, as well.

And with black hose, I generally stick with black shoes. If the dress wasn’t so conservative, you could potentially do a bright red or a metallic, but I think black hose and tights look best with black shoes.

As you can see, there are lots of options for hosiery with a cocktail dress. The most important thing is that YOU feel comfortable with your choice, because if you don’t feel confident, you won’t have a good time.

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13 thoughts on “What Hosiery to Wear with a Black Cocktail Dress

  1. I needed this post, no cocktail parties in my life but when dress up occasions pop up in cooler weather I never quite feel dressed without some sort of hosiery. Seems like I always go for a black dress. I’m with you, the off black hose seem to weigh the dress down but the nude options look perfect. Love the Calvin Klein and the fishnet ones, placing my order today so I’ll be ready next time!
    I also really need some closed toe black pumps, can you share the ones you have in this post, love the pointed toe and the heel height is perfect.
    Thank you!

  2. Perfect timing! We have a neighborhood Christmas party tomorrow night. The attire is “holiday attire” and most neighbors actually get pretty dressed up. I’m planning to wear a dressy black taffeta skirt, a plaid blouse and the pumps you’re actually wearing in this post! (Wonder where I got the idea (link) for those from???? 🙂 ) We will be walking over to the party and we live in the Midwest so I have to wear something on my legs! I wish I had time to shop the links, but I will be heading over to my local department store to pick up some sheer black hose for tomorrow night. Enjoy this last shopping weekend before Christmas!

  3. Such a great post! I am attending a black tie event next month and will probably be wearing a dressy black or navy cocktail dress. I have ordered several in a couple of sizes and hopefully one will be flattering. My plan was black sheer pantyhose, but now you have me thinking about nude. Do you think one is dressier than the other. Also, I wanted to wear black pumps and may need to buy a dressier pair. Unfortunately, my heel limit is about two inches or so, BTW, I live in the cold Northeast. I’m open to any suggestions you have! Thanks!! Anne

    1. I think it depends on what you like. I actually think the sheer black is dressier, but if you want to do a color or metallic shoe, I’d go with nude. I just updated this post with pictures with more sheer black hose… see what you think!

      Kate Spade does some nice lower heels, like this – https://shopstyle.it/l/bQiai
      This one is similar – https://shopstyle.it/l/bQias
      You could do something like this – https://shopstyle.it/l/bQiau
      Or this, if the nude hose are verrrry sheer, the open toe is ok – https://shopstyle.it/l/bQiay
      I also just found this – https://shopstyle.it/l/bQidO

  4. I’m definitely team hose .. I feel like for formal / cocktail events they make the outfits more elegant .. agree with all of your recommendations 😃

    1. I am of the same opinion, Nikki. I think in the case of a semi formal/formal event hose add an element of class and elegance. I also think in a professional circumstance, hose are appropriate. With sundresses, casual dresses, relax and go with bare legs.

  5. Great post! I thank you for your (always!!!) thoughtful post and the extensive choices and recommendations. Merry Christmas, JoLynne! Thank you for keeping us cute!

  6. Thank you for this post! I had a funeral and other formal events to attend recently and searched high and low on your site plus other influencers for ideas. Very limited posts on dresses for special occasions lately. Lots of outfits with jeans etc or holiday dresses. I’m guessing Covid limited our social engagements to formal events therefore not many recent posts on dresses. . I would love to see more posts on different dress silhouettes ,cover ups and shoe/boots/booties ideas for all occasions. Some of us in 50+ crowd prefer not going sleeveless especially in the winter? Anyways I ended up wearing knee high boots with a similar black dress and a camel colored jacket. Thank you for all your hard work and efforts in keeping us in style !! You make a difference!

  7. I laughed at your comment about southern women, because I was literally just thinking “nope”! Think it’s because we were forced to wear pantyhose as kids! Plus our winters are mild enough that we can technically get away with not wearing them. I do stick to closed toe shoes to at least keep my feet warmer. If it’s super cold out I’ll wear black tights. I think the key is to make the finish of the shoes match them (like the shoes you listed above or suede heels vs patent leather). I agree it’s a regional and personal preference.

  8. I think one’s opinion about it really gets back to whatever the way we (individually) were brought up by our moms’ “sartorial guilt conscience” (LOL) instilled into us. I mean: it’s like remembering the way your mother made a big fuss over what your First Holy Communion outfit was, because she wanted EVERYTHING perfect. THAT kind of thing, obviously, becomes ingrained in your psyche growing up aaannnddd — you subconsciously follow it through the rest of your life as a habit (also, as well, strangely like a sense of “guilt”; from remembering what your mother said when you were young!).

    I know I often veer-off on a tangent (sorry, lol!); however, just a story I’d like to relate about this concerning having gone to a funeral somewhat recently. I couldn’t believe it the way people brought their kids (under 10 y’s.o.) IN *PAJAMAS*(!) — or: the way most of the guests there whom were younger than 40 (women and men), had outfits on mixed with jeans or athleisure(!). I wore a black dress similar to like yours, with black tights and like a 3/4 (black) bolero-length jacket as a coverup. Anything less, in that situation, would’ve made me otherwise feel like I’d walked in from off the street.

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