Fashion
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What Hosiery to Wear with a Black Cocktail Dress

A reader wrote in and asked me what hose to wear with a black cocktail dress, and I opened it up to my Facebook page.

I love asking reader questions over there.  I have such a great community, and we always get some great input. If you ever have something you want me to put out there, feel free to email or message me and ask! Fashion questions are the most popular, but you can ask {almost} anything.

This question was so popular and got such a variety of responses that I decided to write a post about it. If you’ve ever wondered what hose to wear with a black cocktail dress, this post is for you!

What Hosiery to Wear with a Black Cocktail Dress

What Hose To Wear with a Cocktail Dress

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.

We see a lot of tights and booties in the magazines, but are they really 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.

MANY opinions were expressed, but I think it’s pretty safe to say the most popular response was to go with sheer black hose, but nude hose and tights got some votes too. Some ladies swear they will only go with bare legs, no matter what the temperatures.

One of my friends is a stylist at Nordstrom,  and she emailed me privately to share her take on this issue. Here’s what she had to say:

Pantyhose/tights are NOT out. I only recommend a bare leg in the summer or fall — never winter. I’m a personal stylist at Nordstrom, and I steer women towards a semi sheer tight by DKNY. It is not as heavy as an opqaue tight or as sheer as pantyhose.

If your dress is quite formal, definitely go with sheer hose. I do not love all patterned hose/tights. I think they can really take away from the dress. If you want a nude look, Donna Karan does great nude, natural looking hose to match your skin tone.

I also like a nude fishnet by Oroblu which is a tight weave and gives a little texture. Even a few feet away it looks like your leg and not typical fish nets. I wear these during the fall after I’m sick of self tanner and in spring when my legs should not see the light of day!

So there you have it, advice from a bona fide stylist.

I like the idea of the nude fishnets, myself. They definitely lend a modern edge to the classic nude hose.

nude fishnet stockings

Another thing Karen said that made me giggle is, nude hose have come a long way since they came in plastic eggs.

So true. There are a lot of options out there today. Personally, I’m not opposed to a nice quality pair of nude hose in the right shade. If the cocktail dress isn’t black, a nude stocking may be the best bet.

Although sheer black hose can be great with a bold color such as red.

sheer black hose with semi formal dress

As you can see, there are a lot of choices. Proper hosiery depends largely on the dress and the event so take all those factors into account and then make the decision that YOU are the most comfortable with, because if you don’t feel confident, you won’t have a good time.

Do you need help building your wardrobe or shopping for a special event? I highly recommend trying out Trunk Club, a personal shopping service by Nordstrom.

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

  1. Wow, I was just thinking about this the other night, and was going to email you about it. I love wearing black dresses, but I never know what to wear with it. I am generally a bare leg lady, but, as you know, our winter this year is not exactly being cooperative. Thanks for the great advice!

  2. The winter makes it so hard to wear cocktail and formal dresses if you are in a cold climate! I agree, you can’t go bare legged when the temps are sub zero and it’s hard to pick a coat and heels sometimes too! Thanks for sharing these tips!

    Jill
    Doused In Pink

    1. A few years ago I bought a coat for this purpose. It is so long and so warm and so heavy! It’s a big black puffy parka, but it has a nice shaping around the waist so it’s actually flattering. It’s perfect for wearing with dresses. I would wear it with a cocktail dress, but not an evening gown of course. Not that I HAVE any opportunities to wear evening gowns . . .

      1. Hello – I need your help…..So i have a 40th B-day party to go to in Canada next weekend…of course its still cold there and some snow is still on the ground….I am wearing a simple black wool and silk cocktail dress and Gucci Ankle boots instead of evening shoes…….So can i wear tight weaved black fishnets or should i wear sheer black panty hose…..hmmm o rshould i wear nude fish nets……My legs are not tanned….and its not a formal cocktail party………………….All suggestions are welcome ..Thanks

        1. Hi Dawn. This sounds like a fun outfit! I think i might go for one of the fishnet options – probably black. I’m not sure how sheer black hose with ankle boots and black dress would look, and nude would really break up the leg line. I would only do that if you’re long legged and tall. Otherwise, I think keeping it monochromatic is probably the safest bet, but fishnet would give it an edge. Let me know what you decide!

    2. It is fall here and I always go with the sheerest silk black nylons with my black cocktail dress. It is so cool here and if you go with bare legs, you will be cold. Sometimes, just wearing a long black cocktail dress with some vintage looking shoes, with nude nylons just to keep my legs warm is perfect with a vintage bag is all easy classic, comfortable and no fuss way to go. During summer just bare legs with a my favorite shea butter.

      I have to agree with the writer pattern nylons is too overwhelming and takes away from the dress.

  3. it’s so good to see a blog post written about a subject that so many of us – especially those of us over 50 – struggle with. not to mention those of us who live in colder climates. there are VERY few women who’s 50-60-70 year old legs can stand the scrutiny of having them bare – winter OR summer. a good tan surely helps, but age spots, spider veins, jiggly bits, weight and dark spots eventually catch up with even the best looking legs….sad but true. BUT, we don’t want to drop off into a hole and pull it in on top of us, so we are left with few choices and even the best of those make us feel less than stylish. It doesn’t help that the ‘stars’ we all aspire to reach are airbrushed to death leaving us with the feeling we are deformed because we don’t look like them. i’m excited to try some of these choices especially the donna karan options. i’m just a little ashamed it’s so important to me!

    1. Wow! Thank you for this post. I’m 71 and while my face looks younger, my legs and arms look “older “. I want to dress age appropriate, whatever the heck that is, but I do NOT want to dress OLD. My old 73 year old sister is getting in Apri and my granddaughter is getting married in September. I have stressed over finding a dress with SLEEVES and long enough to hide my legs! Panty hose- yes! My question, can you wear the hose with open toe shoes?

      1. Hi Vivian, for sure. Wear very sheer hose! I would not, however, recommend wearing them with open toe shoes. Some women do buy the toeless ones and do that, but I think that looks odd, to be honest. 🙂 Have fun!

      1. I have nude Spanx fishnets and they really are lovely. Very fine mesh and then of course, they’re SPANX too so that always is a plus!
        They’re so wonderful I also found them in black and pull them out for a little interest sometimes!

  4. Love this post! This hasn’t been an issue for me until this past Christmas when I decided to wear pumps instead of booties to my husband’s work Christmas party. I opted for sheer black hose. Thanks for sharing your stylist friend’s recommendation. Have a great weekend! ~Cynthia

  5. Jo-Lynne, how about what to wear to a funeral. Unfortunately it is becoming more frequent as I approach 50. It is snowing today here in upstate NY and I am headed to the cemetery (think what that is going to do to my hair) and then a church service. I am thinking of changing in between. Do you think black pants are appropriate? Thanks for keeping us all trendy 🙂

    1. I too am in upstate NY. Black slacks with appropriate shoes to wear in frozen/thawing/slushy/snowing ground is always appropriate in my opinion for the time of year. I go to many professional events and unfortunately some do involve supporting my husband as he represents his company at a funeral where I do not know the deceased or family. I always go for subdued and appropriate for the climate. I also also opt for the black sheer hose and black pumps for formal events. You can never go wrong with black. I prefer to think of it as classic rather than boring!

  6. I’ve opted for a silver colored one as you can see in “The Party Dress” post i linked up. For me panty hose or tights aren’t just fine but turning into a fashion statement.

    Alex – Funky Jungle

  7. Very helpful post, especially those of us Floridians who have no idea which hose to wear, if need be. Thank you Jo-Lynne!

  8. Thanks so much for addressing this issue of hosiery. I feel much more confident now in my choices. I was one of the last people to stop wearing pantyhose. As I get older I feel that pantyhose would look more appropriate…So I am eager to try out some of the better quality choices…and maybe even the fishnets!

  9. This was a wonderful post. I actually had this problem around the holidays. I wanted to wear spanks as my dress moved better and smoother. I am a size 10/12 and about 5.5. My legs also don’t look fantastic at 51 years old. I searched and splurged on SPANKS with hose attached from Macy’s . I also got the kind that come up to the bra in both nude and black sheer. I really like them. Have only wore them a couple times so far. Have a trip for business with my husband in April to Vegas and they may go with me as not sure a bare leg will look good till a good tan come along.
    Again, thanks for this post. We “hose” girls appreciate it.

  10. Jo-Lynne,
    If you try the nude fishnets, will you let us know how they worked out?
    Thanks- very interested in trying, but can’t afford to spend on a dud. 🙂

  11. Thanks so much for this post. I’m definitely getting those fishnet stockings. What is your opinion on stockings and open toe shoes/sandals? I see the picture has open toe shoes.

  12. I usually play it very safe by wearing nude colored ultrasheer pantyhose (such as Hanes Absolutely Ultrasheer in color of Barely There) with my special-occassion dresses. I am not one to experiment with trendy hosiery because I always second-guess my choices. However, I feel that I am missing out and am looking for opportunities to expand my comfort zone. I will read the postings here and hopefully a few can inspire me to try on styles of pantyhose that can turn heads- hopefully in a good way. Thank you Jo-Lynne.

  13. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog. This was very helpful. I live in Chicago and I normally don’t wear dresses in the winter. I’m making an exception for Valentine’s day. Thank-you!

  14. I have to go to a dinner and the dress code in casual cocktail. I want to wear this fancy black top with crystals around the neck. I want to know if I can wear black footless leggings with it. Dinner is March 19 in New Orleans.

    1. LOL, casual cocktail! They do come up with the funniest dress code labels these days! 🙂 I think that should be fine, as long as the top is long enough to cover the essentials. 🙂

  15. Love your blog! I wrestle so many times with what to wear with a black cocktail dress. I find that it depends on the event. if I am going out on a work related event I’ll tend towards a pair of sheer black hose like Hanes Silk Reflections. If I am out with the girls for a night out, I try to be a bit more fun and wear sheer black dot tights. I love the idea of fishnets and will definitely give them a try. Thank you! 🙂

  16. Can you wear black nylons to s summer wedding. Dress black with coral top. Need answer soon

    1. Hi Connie, I would probably wear a nude shoe and nude nylons or go with bare legs (depending on the formality of the wedding and how comfortable you are with bare legs) to keep the outfit lighter for summer. I hope that helps!

  17. I am 38 so I remember when pantyhose were a staple for any formal event. Going to buy pantyhose for prom or a wedding was an event separate from getting my dress or shoes. It was so important I went to a boutique in my town just to shop for my hose. Fast forward 20 years and times have certainly changed. So yeah now a days you might not find me in pantyhose at a wedding in August, but if it’s a formal dinner even in the summer I still wear nude or a slightly tan hose. In the winter, unquestionably I will wear black or tan pantyhose. Alas I don’t have a boutique in my city to go out to, but I do find Norstroms has some high end brands that really compliment my outfits.

  18. Hi
    Can you wear black sheer hose with a pink/black net dress? A wedding next weekend with formal reception to follow
    Thanks

    1. Hmmm…. It would depend on your shoes. 🙂 I would probably not do black hose in the summertime, unless it’s the only option – and make sure they’re super sheer. 🙂 Maybe a very sheer nude would be better?

  19. I just found this post and I am relieved to hear that hose is not out entirely. I always feel very under-dressed without it, even in the summer. I love wearing toeless hose with sandals. It’s not easy to find, but I have purchased it from Amazon and Kohl’s online (not in store).

  20. I have a black cocktail dress and am trying to decide on hose/shoes. I have black pumps, but prefer black open toed sandle with a heel. Do I or don’t I wear hose?

    1. Hi Ronda, with an open toed sandal, I wouldn’t wear hose. There are some toeless hose and things, but I think they look odd. I’d do self tanner, lotion, and go bare legged. 🙂 Hope that helps!

  21. I have an evening formal wedding in November. I plan to wear a knee-length navy lace dress with nude lining. What color shoe and hose do you suggest? Is all navy too much?

    1. Hey Sue, that sounds lovely. I would wear the sheerest of nude hose and navy or nude pumps. Nude pumps would be nice and keep the lower half light and the spotlight on the dress. 🙂 Or a metallic shoe would work too.

  22. Hi, I’d need your advise..
    I’m going to ware black knee-length long sleeve lace cocktail dress with toe closed black shoe for my Christmas party. Is it appropriate to go bare legged?

    1. Hi Dalit, I think in most situations it’s fine… as long as it’s not an ultra-conservative crowd or business situation – but for a Christmas party, I’m sure it’s fine. I usually go with bare legs unless it’s super cold.

  23. I have a black velvet dress with the top being lace (sheath) I have sheer black hose but wanted to wear gold metallic pumps with ankle embellishments do you think that’s to much should I wear black pumps or nude hose ..its for NYE 

    1. Hey Pamela. I think you can get away with it for NYE. It’s supposed to be fun and festive. 🙂 But if in doubt, switch to nude hose. I generally prefer nude hose with a lighter color shoe.

  24. Hi Jo , enjoy reading your posts. I notice you mentioned Donna Karen sheer hosiery a lot in your blogs. You say they are very durable and sheer which I guess can be a good thing, I believe from what I saw they are very expensive. .I was wondering if they are so durable how many wears do you get out of a pair? Also, have ever worn No Nonsense or leggs brands? They seem to be much cheaper and they can be found at almost any store these days. Just wanted your opinion on these. 

    1. Donna Karan also has a line called the Nudes, which is ultra sheer and appear as though you aren’t even wearing hose(hence the name, I guess). I prefer them for lighter colored dresses and if I’m wearing a heel that’s not black or a dark blue or red.  And just my two cents: I always wear nylons…mostly thigh highs, but also pantyhose, depending on my hemline.  For reference, i’m 37, and I’m 5’8″.

  25. “Nude” pantyhose should match the color of your leg skin tone as closely as possible, then it looks fine with black shoes. I hate red, purple, magenta or any other colored shoes with black dresses, I think it’s a clownish look. Get a salesperson to help you (when COVID is over) if you can’t match your skin tone. Nude hose have never been “out.” If you’re not going to be outside longer than 5 minutes, just go with bare legs in the winter, nobody cares.

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