What do I wear with dress shoes?
February 3, 2008 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Ladies of MetaFilter: what socks/hosiery do you wear with dress shoes and boots?

I'm trying to update my wardrobe and dress more stylishly at work. I'm lucky enough to have the choice, and in the past it's been so easy to dress like a slob but I'm trying to change that.

I have black pumps that I usually wear with dresses and skirts, and ankle boots that I wear with floor-length pants.

Right now I wear pantyhose - which I HATE - with the skirts and dresses. I only wear the nylons because without any hosiery, my shoes don't really fit right. My feet sweat and swell and the shoes become totally uncomfortable and give me blisters.

I wear knee-high nylons or trouser socks with the boots, but I don't really like those either. They feel constricting and don't absorb sweat so I always feel like my feet are moist. But regular cotton socks slip down and that bugs, too.

So do you go bare-legged with dresses? My shoes are moderately-priced or cheap; maybe better-made shoes are more comfortable with bare feet? And what do you wear with boots? I'll be buying some knee-length boots soon, so suggestions welcome there, too.
posted by peep to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm pretty fond of opaque black cotton/spandex tights especially with knee-high boots. I don't generally go bare legged unless I'm wearing sandals. I'm also thinking bare legs might be a bit too casual for your workplace, and bare feet will be really uncomfortable with your shoes - think blisters, chafing, other unpleasant stuff.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:09 PM on February 3, 2008

You have two options as far as I can tell:

1) get really well made, well fitting shoes. Try them on without socks and walk around with them on for a while in the store and pay careful attention to where they are rubbing. This will usually require buying either really expensive shoes or the kind that are specially made to be comfortable (like Naturalizer or Dr. Scholls).

2) get the footie type nylon socks. They have them pretty much everywhere- I get mine at Target. These are less than ideal because you can see them when they are bigger than the shoe, but they will cut down on the rubbing and the sweating. I usually do this because getting shoes you can wear barefoot is difficult.

I hope someone has a better solution! I'll be checking back in because I am not totally pleased with either solution.
posted by ohio at 1:12 PM on February 3, 2008

Best answer: You might try tights--they're similar to pantyhose but thicker and more comfortable. Black tights are very in style here in NYC because they keep your legs warm but you can still wear the same cute dress you would in summer. Oh, and you don't have to shave.

Look for brands that have some wool in them, and possibly a reinforced foot/toe. Get something nice. You might be miserable because you're buying cheap stuff that's not really comfy. Been there, bought all my hosiery from Duane Reade, moved on. A few dollars really does make a huge difference.

For the boots, wear cotton socks and footless tights.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:16 PM on February 3, 2008

I usually wear men's dress socks with boots. They come up to my knees, so they're taller than the boots, but nobody sees them when I wear pants. I find that to be more comfortable than nylons.

Silk stockings might be better for your feet than real nylons when you wear the pumps, but I've never tried them. However, silk usually breathes better than artificial substances like nylon, so it might cut down on the sweatiness. I wouldn't go bare-legged. Not only would that look casual, but I always find it really uncomfortable to wear heels without socks or nylons or something like that.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:19 PM on February 3, 2008

Based on what I see on the street, many women do not agree with me, but I think bare legs in winter look ridiculous, no matter how nice your legs are.

I also cannot wear dress shoes (no matter how nice the shoes) comfortably without stockings. I'm no big fan of pantyhose, but there is much to be said for finding a brand that you like. If it's the top of the hose that drive you batty, consider stockings and a garter belt. (This may drive you more batty.)

With boots, since no-one sees the socks, I wear knee-high or at least calf-high socks or athletic socks. (I watch for sales mid-season, since nicer socks are expensive.)
posted by desuetude at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2008

I hate nylons too. I only wear them when absolutely necessary, but I find them constricting and uncomfortable.

It's very cold in the winter where I live, so to be honest, I don't wear dresses or skirts much unless it's warm spring or summer weather. When the weather's warm, I just go bare-legged with dresses and skirts and wear nice sandals--but then, the most dressed-up anyone gets where I work is business casual. I even did this when I was a bridesmaid wearing a reasonably fancy dress--I had open-toed shoes and nylons would have looked stupid, IMO. I do wear nylons with pumps; if I go barefoot, my feet get sweaty and blistered. I don't know how to get around that one.

I mostly wear pants to work, and I wear very comfortable shoes that look like this or ankle boots with a bit of a heel like this with them. I wear them with thin cotton socks that have a bit of lycra to keep them from falling down around my ankles. I always wear this type of socks to go shoe shopping so I know the shoes will fit comfortably over them.

I second the suggestion for opaque tights; wool tights are SO much better than nylon ones. They are warm and they actually breathe.

I also highly recommend spending the money on good quality shoes. When money was tight for me, I bought the minimum number of pairs I could get away with, but made sure they were high quality. It has been so worth it. But then, in my job, I am on my feet a lot, so it would be horribly painful if I didn't get shoes that fit well.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:25 PM on February 3, 2008

Oh, and bare feet are awful. I really don't recommend them. No matter how nice your shoes are, if they start to smell they're usually ruined. I might have particularly sweaty feet, but...

I go barefoot in cheap sandals in the summer. That's what flip-flops were invented for.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:26 PM on February 3, 2008

Best answer: Wool is the answer. Thin wool or wool-blend knee-high socks. I wear trousers so it's not as much of an issue for me, but basically I will only wear socks that have some wool in them. Otherwise it's the clammy uncomfortable or the socks-falling-down, neither of which I can tolerate. This will work under your boots - you could even get Smartwool socks, which are a bit thicker and great, if nobody's going to see them.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:38 PM on February 3, 2008

Incidentally: if you're going to get wool, get sheep wool. I've tried "luxury socks" made of other wools like angora or alpaca, and in my experience they suck. They aren't elastic enough which means the sock loses its shape and falls down, they shed more fibers when being washed, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:42 PM on February 3, 2008

You hate nylons, but how do you feel about winter-weight or opaque stockings? I've worn opaque black stay-ups, as well as the tights others have recommended, through bitter Toronto winters with no problems. If you're ready to go bare-legged, then you probably won't fret about a few inches of naked thigh. You can go the garter belt route if you think the soft elastic around your thighs will bother you.
posted by maudlin at 1:45 PM on February 3, 2008

eek, i never wear nylons. well, rarely.

for the boots, you might like trouser socks or knee socks. with pumps, i often go barefoot and invest in disposable liners. you can even buy washable sockliners.

in either case, you'll want real leather shoes that fit well.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:53 PM on February 3, 2008

I'm in a pretty conservative office, so bare legs are totally out at all times - even in muggy, 100 degree heat. Dresses and skirts require hose, but solid-color wool tights work as well in the winter. I actually have the best luck with the normal versions of hose (without "control" anything), and buying a size too big. They fit fine, and still don't bunch up or anything, but don't feel as constricting.

For pants, I second knee-length wool-of-some-kind socks in ankle-high boots. The wool helps keep your feet dry, and the length make sure they stay up. If it's really warm I occasionally go barefoot in my boots, but only if my cushy insoles are wearing out and I'll be replacing them in a few days anyway. That's the most comfy, actually, but not advisable all the time for the reason sondrialiac said.
posted by gemmy at 2:01 PM on February 3, 2008

Best answer: I loathe nylons/pantyhose, but I can deal with thick tights on occasion. Hue makes some good ones, and in cool colors and patterns, too, if you're into that.
posted by medeine at 2:37 PM on February 3, 2008

Best answer: My office forbids bare legs at any time, so I'm familiar with the wide world of stockingly things. Trial-and-error (and Internet research, and asking women you know) to find a comfortable brand of hose is worth it. For example, some are less elastic, some are more scratchy, etc. Today, I typically wear Hanes Silk Reflections or the Nordstrom brand; both are soft and stretchy (but both do rip kind of easily). I've heard that Jockey hose are good, too.

Echoing what others have said, try out opaque tights. They're almost always softer and less restrictive than hose, and usually don't rip as easily. I've had good experiences with Target's Merona brand tights, although IIRC my most comfortable ones were a size bigger than what I would normally buy.

I haven't found wool socks that don't make my skin itch, but you may be less sensitive. Bamboo is supposed to wick away moisture; I have a few pairs of bamboo socks, but they're a bit slippery against the inside of my shoe. You might also try socks made of modal, although they may slip down as the day goes by.

For the ankle boots, socks that are taller than the boot are a must. For knee, high boots, if not wearing tights or hose, I like socks that stop about an inch below the top of the boot.

Oh, and I must plug Sock Dreams for a wide selection with detailed reviews.
posted by korres at 2:40 PM on February 3, 2008

I'm another fan of opaque tights. I buy them in all colors and both in nylon and in cotton. One great thing about opaque tights is that they last a LOT longer than pantyhose. Seconding buying them larger than you think you might need them; opaque tights, especially cotton, don't always stretch and give like hose.

It really is tough to go barefoot in pumps. I can't, and most women I know can't. You need exceptionally tough feet, and really good-quality shoes, to even attempt it. However, no matter what you wear on your feet, a little LUSH "T for Toes" powder sprinkled in your shoes works wonders to keep them dry and fresh.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:35 PM on February 3, 2008

I do tights in the cool weather, bare legs when warm enough. Open shoes with the bare legs. Pantyhose are an unfortunate necessity for many. If I am at a dressy thing, I will wear stockings, with a garter, I truly think pantyhose are a blight on womens' fashion.

If I am wearing pumps with pants, I will wear mostly cotton sock, the ones that are fairly thin with some stretchiness. Boots, I just wear the same type of socks.
posted by kellyblah at 5:08 PM on February 3, 2008

Best answer: What do you hate about pantyhose? I love them, and I can't live without them. But, I used to hate them because it was always terribly obvious I was wearing them, because the color and the weight of most pantyhose looks freakishly unnatural. But then, I found the perfect pantyhose, and they aren't even expensive!

You must look for "L'eggs Silken Mist Luxury Collection Perfectly Sheer" pantyhose! I swear to you, people can't even tell I am wearing them. They look so natural. I know I sound like I work for them or something, but I don't, I promise. Other versions of the L'eggs Silken Mist are not comparable to these ones, so you must make sure you get the right ones. These ones come in a flat, rectangle box, and are usually hanging near the other pantyhose that are displayed in the boxes/eggs on a shelf. The box is purple, and it has a picture of lady's legs and she has one leg bent up and she's touching her ankle. And remember, they will be hanging and in a flat box--very important! And, it seems that I can only ever find them at Walgreen's, never Rite-Aid or CVS.

Sorry. I am so excited about these pantyhose. They truly have saved my work wardrobe because prior to finding them, I wouldn't have been caught dead in hose, as I thought they were for old ladies. And, I think they are perfectly comfortable, and they hold my tummy in!

But, they do seem to run a bit big. I buy the size "B," but according to the chart on the package, I should be buying a "Q."
posted by foxinthesnow at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2008 [5 favorites]

I also don't like nylons and only wear them when I absolutely have to, but I like thin dress socks. Sometimes even good-quality thin cotton socks work well. As for the dress socks, I usually buy them in three-packs (either a beige, brown, and black, or all black with three different patterns, or... you get the idea). They come in different fabric blends and are sturdier than nylons. And they're less hateful.
posted by bassjump at 5:40 PM on February 3, 2008

With boots, you might just try taking your cotton trouser sock, and then just folding the extra fabric back over the top of the boot (think cuffed elastic sock). The elastic that would otherwise be constricting then gets put to good use...as far as the heels go, I've had similar problems, and for whatever reason, I now prefer going with a nicer pair of fishnet socks that I usually pick up at a shoe store. You might also want to try working moleskin into the mix for the blisters.
posted by acorn1515 at 7:57 PM on February 3, 2008

In Texas, it has become very uncommon to see women wearing hose or nylons unless it is for a job interview or a very formal work environment. I hate to wear them because they make my shoes slip off. I will wear trouser socks with dress shoes or tights with my boots if it is very cold but only then. I usually wear thin dress socks inside boots to keep them from rubbing. Most dress shoes I wear without hose or socks.
posted by tamitang at 8:02 PM on February 3, 2008

From a purely fashion point of view: stylish women these days do not wear nude stockings with skirts, unless they work for a law office or investment bank where, as mentioned above, bare legs are not allowed. When wearing a skirt in cold weather, opt for black hosiery or opaque tights, whether you're wearing pumps or boots. I usually wear a pair of thin socks inside my boots as well, for extra warmth and to keep my boots from being too loose.

Women of style also say no to the dreaded knee-high hosiery, as well as the low-cut "footies," which invariably end up peeking out of your shoes and looking absurd. If you want to wear hose/tights under your pants with your pumps or boots, get the full pair with a light control top and you'll avoid visible panty lines as well.

With your boots: try out some thin cotton socks like these (I buy most of mine at Target). Thicker than trouser socks, thinner than plain ol' cotton socks, and they come in a variety of cute colors and patterns. And for knee-high boots: wear tights underneath to prevent chafing on your legs.
posted by junkbox at 8:22 PM on February 3, 2008

bleh I hate pantyhose too. I Nth opaque tights. They're quite fashionable lately so you should be able to find a variety of colors and thicknesses to suit you. In the beginning I recommend a pair of black, brown, and dark grey and one of them with a fine rib texture to break it up. If you live in a cold area look into cashmere blends, yum!
posted by like_neon at 1:29 AM on February 4, 2008

Response by poster: I've marked a few best answers based on what I'm specifically going to try - tights and wool socks - but there were so many great answers. Thank you!

From a purely fashion point of view: stylish women these days do not wear nude stockings with skirts, unless they work for a law office or investment bank where, as mentioned above, bare legs are not allowed. When wearing a skirt in cold weather, opt for black hosiery or opaque tights, whether you're wearing pumps or boots.

Junkbox, tell me more. So if you want a bare leg look, you just go barefoot? An example of where I would wear nylons is: I'm wearing a black shirt and a black and white skirt - so black tights or even sheer black stockings would just be too much black. What then? White tights seem really horrendous to me - I'm short and look young and I feel like I'd look like a gradeschooler.
posted by peep at 8:26 AM on February 4, 2008

Not to speak for junkbox, but as someone who completely agrees with what she posted:

Yes, if you want a bare leg look and you want to be stylish, you go bare legged. And again, if you want to be stylish, white tights are TEH EVIL. With the outfit you describe, if the black tights are really too much, then yes, go bare. If you really want to wear the skirt and the black tights, then you could always switch up the top -- try some color instead of black.

Not that I'm any kind of fashion maven, mind you. I just don't do nude hose because there is no. such. thing. as a natural looking color, and I finally got tired of either looking like I spent too much time in a tanning bed, or had just emerged from 6 weeks in solitary. I don't do footies because they peek out, or come off my heel, or both. (So to answer the original question, I'm barefoot and barelegged, unless it's cold enough for my Hue tights. And my shoes tend to be in the $50-$150 range, so you don't have to be wearing crazy expensive designer shoes to comfortably rock bare feet.)
posted by somanyamys at 9:06 AM on February 4, 2008

You must look for "L'eggs Silken Mist Luxury Collection Perfectly Sheer" pantyhose! I swear to you, people can't even tell I am wearing them.

I'm not getting why you would wear pantyhose if people can't tell you are wearing it. I thought a major reason to wear it was due to bare legs not being allowed, or at least frowned upon. If this pantyhose makes your legs appear bare to others, wouldn't think that you indeed have bare legs and are not following the standards of the workplace?
posted by yohko at 9:32 AM on February 4, 2008

Response by poster: I'm not getting why you would wear pantyhose if people can't tell you are wearing it.

This was one of my main points: because it's very uncomfortable to wear dress shoes otherwise.

I just don't do nude hose because there is no. such. thing. as a natural looking color

Oh! So when you say "nude" do guys mean, like, SUNTAN color? Because I usually wear the sheer kind that are basically CLEAR, so when you wear them, it's just the color of your leg, but it sort of smooths out the look of your skin tone, reflects a bit of light, etc.

I actually don't mind the look of pantyhose, I just find them constricting on top, whether they're control top or not. I'm surprised to hear that they are so unstylish. I never thought about it. The only time I really notice another woman's nylons is if she's wearing them with open toe shoes - UGH!
posted by peep at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2008

people still wear pantyhose?? personally i think they are outdated and will age you 10 years.

i rock bare feet in pumps of all sorts (with pants, or skirts, or dresses) when in meetings or walking around the office. but i have my own office so i take my shoes off when i'm at my desk (which is most of the day) and no one can see me, so my feet don't get sweaty or swollen or uncomfortable. maybe i just have a high tolerance for sacrificing comfort for style. you could also try wearing flats, which might be easier to go sockless in if you can't take your shoes off all day.

i leave my work shoes at work, and bring athletic shoes and sport socks with me to work since i walk to work and then walk to the gym after work.

for bare legs you can also try "airbush legs," which is basically a spray on pigment that covers any blemishes the way hoisery would. i think it's sold at most drug stores, and works like a charm.

seconding trouser socks, tights, and leggings for knee high boots. though usually i just wear sport socks and wear my boots over my pants.
posted by flaneuse at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh! So when you say "nude" do guys mean, like, SUNTAN color? Because I usually wear the sheer kind that are basically CLEAR, so when you wear them, it's just the color of your leg, but it sort of smooths out the look of your skin tone, reflects a bit of light, etc.

Not necessarily. I think when people in this thread are talking about nude hose they mean skin-colored (whatever color your skin may be). What I meant was that I'm a fair-skinned chick with just the tiniest, tiniest hint of a tan, and in the spectrum of nude hose, some are too dark, and some make me look like I'm auditioning for the Addams Family. I have found no in-between. Then again, I haven't worked in one of those super-conservative THOU SHALT WEAR NYLONS workplaces in 3-4 years, so perhaps supersheers have progressed since then. I have no reason to venture back in, because bare legs work just fine for me (and for once in my life, my personal preference happens to coincide with the stylish thing to do).
posted by somanyamys at 10:55 AM on February 4, 2008

Bare legs and bare feet, yes. Leather shoes will make your feet sweat less than any kind of fake plastic-y stuff, but investing in some good odor-absorbing insoles is a must.
posted by junkbox at 4:38 PM on February 4, 2008

Yohko- Yeah, I have had my boss say, "No bare legs at work!" when I was wearing my wonder-hose, but I just say, "I am wearing hose!" and avoid getting in trouble. I don't know why workplaces have the no bare leg rule when the point of pantyhose is to make the legs look bare and pantyhose are allowed. It does seem odd. But I follow the rules. I wonder if they think bare legs are too sexy or if they think bare legs just look sloppy?

And anyway, to answer the question "why not just go bare?"--well, it is freezing here, so the pantyhose help keep my legs warm, also, my legs are so freakishly pale that you can see my veins right through my skin, so the pantyhose help conceal that some, also, without hose, my calves have a certain jiggle that I am not proud to display, and finally, I can get away with shaving my legs only every five days or so and no one notices.
posted by foxinthesnow at 6:13 PM on February 4, 2008

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