Open Toes and Hosiery – Should You or Shouldn’t You?



Peep Toe with patterned fishnet style hosiery

I received this request from one of my lovely readers:

Imogen, I’d appreciate your professional opinion and advice on the matter of whether it is okay to wear hosiery with shoes that have either an open toe (such as a strappy sandal or peep-toe pump) or an open back (such as a mule or a slingback pump). I have bunions on my feet, so I carefully select shoes that hide the bunions so they can’t be seen. However, because of the bunions, I have to wear a wider width shoe, which makes closed pumps impossible to wear due to the fact that they are too wide in the heel. For this reason, I wear slingback pumps. I’m pushing 50 and feel very strongly that hosiery should be worn with dressy and/or office attire. However, Clinton Kelly (of TLC’s “What Not to Wear”) says that if a shoe has no back, then hosiery should not be worn. I’d like for this issue to be settled once and for all, as other websites have stated that hosiery is perfectly fine for slingbacks. IMO, the problem is when someone wears hosiery that has reinforced toe seams (not sandalfoot hosiery) with shoes that are open in the front, so the seams show. I totally get this? I just don’t understand why a slingback pump that is either completely closed in front or that has a peep toe) cannot be worn with sandalfoot hosiery… assuming the proper color is worn, of course. Can you give me a definitive answer? Thanks! 

I so wish I could answer that with a definitive, works for all occasions answer, but alas, there is some leeway in this matter.

So I’ll answer firstly with my preferences:

You can get away with hosiery with peep toes, sling backs and sandals where there is no reinforced toe or heel, it’s not always the best look, but I don’t think it’s a complete fashion crime.  In fact, if you’re wearing a fishnet or fancy stocking, these can be a feature of your outfit.  In the photo above, this is the outfit I wore to our last AICI meeting, and I was not the only image consultant there with fishnet style tights and peep toe shoes on.

You can also now buy toeless tights which are great if you want to look more like you’re not wearing tights (and show off your pedicure) but still cover your leg and heels (which are less of a focus).  These are much better for a more open toe such as a sandal or very open peep toe (rather than the little ones like I’m wearing).

I tend to think it looks better with a sheer tight rather than an opaque, as the point of peep toes and shoes that show off the foot, is for us to see your toes, rather than the ends of obvious stockings.

If you want to wear opaque tights with open toe shoes, then keep the contrast low so that the tights at your heels or toes aren’t the feature of  your outfit.

Secondly, fashion comes into the equation.  There are fashion designers out there who put socks with sandals, opaque tights with open shoes, and even knee-high stockings (pop socks as they’re called in the UK) with short skirts (which I happen to think is one of the worst fashion crimes).  Now, if you’re a keen follower of fashion and have the confidence to sport these looks, well go ahead and do it, but if it makes you uncomfortable, don’t.

Fashion is about personal self expression, a reflection of who you are and who you want to be.  I don’t believe there are the same really hard and fast rules of 50 years ago, so whether you want to wear hosiery to the office or don’t, it’s pretty much up to you and the environment you work in and who you are as a person.  Yes, you often have to conform to the rules of the environment, but if those rules really aren’t you, then sometimes it’s time to find a new environment.

What do you think?  Is it a crime to wear hosiery with open toes and heels?


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

More from Imogen Lamport

Why Armholes Matter

  Effect of Armholes by imogenl featuring a grey long sleeve t...
Read More


  • Those are great stockings!

    I agree with you regarding patterned stockings or fishnets with a small peeptoe. Completely acceptable in my book. I'm not so keen on opaques with peep toes but think it's passable at this fashion moment.

    In terms of sheer stockings, I wouldn't judge if they were paired with a slingback, but wearing them with any hint of an open toe is a crime to me.

    • I agree to a point. I feel the pattern in the fishnet stocking should be very small and the peeptoe as well. Toe nail needs to be short and polished. If you have large toes and they show threw the fishnet.. I feel it can look a little ugly.
      I love the new look of today for the young (17 to 40, that’s if you look 30)with socks and peeptoe heels, but I really believe that there is a fine line. Scary if you cross it. 🙂

      Hi Imogem – I love all your articles. You really are a natural. I’m about to start posting blogs on my new website. I’m certainly no natural. English was always a struggle for me. Hope to see you at the AICI meeting in the future.

  • Crime. Any kind of open shoe can only be worn without hosiery. Hosiery is winter and open shoes are summer. There's no way to combine them successfully IMO (I regret to say that this applies even to you – although of course the choice is yours). If you have to wear hosiery, that means that you have to wear closed shoes – pumps, trotteur, boots, ankle boots, whatever.

    My book of Golden Fashion Rules that Must Not be Overstepped is extremely flimsy and thin – but I feel very strongly about this rule, somehow. Maybe because I feel that feet can easily become the Achilles heel of any look? Maybe because I come from Germany where men wear open sandals ONLY with tennis socks??

  • Personally I agree with rungholt, I am against this trend, always have been.
    To provide some perspective, I am also against sheer skin coloured stocking but I love opaques.

  • One concern of sheer hosiery, or combining any hosiery with an open shoe, is any declaration of a "dated" look.

    I have been wearing clothes since the 1980's when going it was a faux pas to go bare-legged with anything remotely dressy.

    Then it seemed to flip the other way. Wearing nude hosiery is now a faux pas, and flags a woman as stuck in the past. (It was the "classy" option back then!!)

    When I avoid hosiery with open toed shoes, it is a desire to seem current.
    This is, frankly, NOT my favorite way to make decisions about what to wear!
    Goodness, I do want to keep some sense of independence in my choices!

    At any rate, my personal opinion is that the patterned stockings and fishnets look nice with an open toe and sometimes it is just too cold to go barelegged. I need some options if I want to wear dresses, you know?

  • Unfortunately, I do not have a choice for work…we have an extremely strict dress code that requires hosiery at all times,even in the summer! And this is in Florida! I try to find the sheerest hose I can find with a sandalfoot so that there is no heel or toe shield. Unfortunately, fishnets are not allowed and in the heat, my legs swell. We are required to wear hosiery even with trousers, so I can't even cheat on that. So for me, it is not a fashion faux-pas. In my casual time, I would not dream of wearing hose with any tye of shoe, even in our short winter months.

  • For my part, I'm glad that now we have all these options. I think that the chosen outfits/occasions and our style should guide us. Not some rules. Sometimes in early Spring and late Fall, I think it's fun to wear opaque tights with slingback, open toes, even sandals 😉

  • I think no reinforcement at the toe/heel is crucial. In general open heel in a stocking seems fine to me, open toe in a stocking less so but if it's matching colors (shoe and stocking) it's OK. Seeing a colored pedicure through hosiery is yucky to me.

    Sorry to hear you've to endure such a dress code!

    – tall & slim anon

  • Great question! I don't think it's a fashion crime either – I think it can be done quite chicly as long as the legwear is not matronly or reinforced. I think it works best with colourful tights and chunky open shoes.

  • Thanks so much for answering my questions, Inmogen. You're so sweet to provide such a quick response.

    I like your idea about wearing fishnets with peep-toed shoes. I can see where that look would work with some of my outfits.

    I never wear hosiery with sandals, but didn't quite know what to do about peep-toe shoes, as they are not nearly as open as sandals. I plan to adhere to current fashion dictates and refrain from wearing hosiery with any type of open-toed shoe… except for fishnets the way you wear them. How chic! Luv the look.

    As for closed-toe slingbacks, unless someone convinces me otherwise, I see no reason why hosiery won't work. I'm talking very sheer hosiery, and for dressy looks. For certain occasions, I don't feel completely dessed without hosiery. If I could wear closed-in pumps, I would… but the bunion makes that impossible. Closed-toe slingbacks seem to be my only dressy option if I plan to wear hosiery. Mules probably should not be worn with hosiery, if for no other reason than that it's difficult to keep them from sliding off your feet if you wear hosiery with them.

    Thanks for straightening all this out. Clinton Kelly should have said, "Open or peep toe, no hose." It confused me when he said, "No heel, no hose."

  • You can always wear stockings with sandals, as long as the seam is hidden (pretty easy to do) as long as you are wearing sheer hose that match the shoes and outfit. I say "match". I can't believe how the Fashionistas have led us to somehow think that a bare leg "always" looks "better" than one wearing hose, and that open-toe=no-hose. Those hose and pumps look great, though it is a criminal offense to some. As long as you are wearing the right hose for the right occasion, then you are dressed correctly. You are not dressed in one article of clothing, you are dressed in an outfit; it is the whole "you". Hose are no less important than any other article of clothing and are so frequently an afterthought to most. A properly matched hose-to-leg beats out just about any bare leg. Even the best of legs will look better.
    Like we all have perfect legs and perfect toes…
    I have maybe one or two outfits that I would consider going bare-legged, and that is only because my natural leg tone just "goes" with the outfit as a whole. I do not tan myself, nor want to smear chemicals all over my legs. I have worn hose that were so sheer that you would have to stare pretty close at my toes to tell that I was wearing hose. I saw a guy fall over at a wedding once; I think he was trying to tell (yes, they do look at your toes).
    I can tell you that my legs sure look better, and I turn more heads with my [far from perfect] legs than the [much-better] bare legs that rarely "match" the outfit. And I am not that old (35) and don't consider myself dated.
    You will always look more professional (in business of any kind), and you will always look more "finished".
    I would say to start trying different brands and different shades until you find the ones that just "fit" you. You will know it when you see it. I would start with Haynes (e.g. the Silk Reflections) as a good starting point. Once you find the brands and shades that are just "you" then stick with them as fashion basics.
    -A 🙂

  • Wow! I grew up in the 1960’s with definite views, Southern roots; but a world where culture was changing very fast! Sometimes it is hard to go against those rules that were somehow planted into your mind. From the past, I would say “hose=yes”,” peep-toes=no hose”, “bare-legs= never with dresses”! But I like being a little independent still at age 61, so I say, if when you are all dressed you still feel confident and know you can pull it off, in the 2000’s go ahead unless it is extremely immodest. Have fun, know your best colors, and then add a complimentary color for pizazz!

  • I’m looking for an open toe open heal, cuff kind of sock to wear with a new pair of sandals that happen to rub my poor little toes raw, I need a flesh color so as to not be seen through the small holes in the design of the sandal.
    has anyone heard of such a thing or seen them? I know my Daughtor had something like this a while ago, she just can’t remember where she got them.

  • I’m going to a wedding soon and I’m wearing a simple pink sleeveless V top dress with a silver broach to the right side under the breast and in thinking a silver peep toe pump a little higher than the one u were wearing bt I just don’t know if ordinary stockings or a fishnet stockins would go with it. PLEASE HELP!!!!!

  • I am the mother of the groom at a late June wedding where we are told it is not “fancy.” 350 people, and the bride is wearing a short dress, no veil. I am wearing a navy dress just below the knee with a string of rhinestones around the neck of the dress. I am planning silver shoes with rhinestone, am 58 years old, overweight and definitely do not feel I look good bare legged. Do you have a recommendation for nylons? I assume sheer stockings, but color??? Thanks for your help.

  • I think its worthwhile to think firstly about the reason for fashion rules in general and secondly the reason that this particular fashion rule came into being. Fashion rules are primarily there as an easy guideline to keep us from making fashion faux pas (ie. putting things together in a way that never looks good). When the rule about stockings was decided on most, if not all, stockings and pantihose had reinforced toes, so it was a bit like showing your underwear or vpls (visible panty lines), and it looked ugly. As technology improved and it became possible to make stocking fabrics strong enough that a reinforced toe was unnecessary that rule, in my opinion, became obsolete in its most uncompromising form. If your stockings are sheer, nude and have no visible seam at the toe (any seam can be hidden beneath the toes) then what is the reason for the rule against wearing them with a small peep-toe or a sling-back shoe? Particularly in the case of wearing a sheer, nude stocking with a closed toe sling-back shoe; it wouldn’t look much different than a bare leg, to anybody standing at a normal distance from you. In the case of a peep-toe shoe, I don’t like the look of bright nail polish through stockings, but bare nails or a nude colour with a small peep-toe (ie. where you just see the tip of the big toe or at the most, two toes) should look fine. When it comes to breaking fashion rules, my recommendation would be to do it thoughtfully and carefully and let your mirror be your guide, keeping in mind the reasons for the particular rule.

    I won’t comment on anything other than nude stockings with regard to this rule because I do think that going further than that takes real fashion know-how and intimate knowledge and understanding of current trends and how to adapt them, which I don’t claim to have! I’ll leave that to Imogen :-). My speciality is commonsense (or I like to think so, anyway!)

  • Very interesting! A lot of feelings on this one. Anonymous gave an excellent and very thorough reply as did many other people.

    The considerations here for me, including the “fashion rules”, are also physical and age-related ones. I am 71 but I enjoy fashion and like to be up-to-date but certainly not a slave to fashion. Where it comes to shoes, legs and hose there are physical considerations to take into consideration also. At 71, my legs, while thin, but are definitely not my best feature! I have some varicose veins and other ski blemishes, not bad, and I do not tan my legs or want to put chemicals on them. My legs definitely look better with hose than without.

    In addition, I, like some others here, have bunions and live in Hawaii which means that most of the shoes that I can stand to wear are open toed and sling backs. I have gotten some open toed hose – not easy to find in the stores and have ordered on-line. But I have a real hard time finding shoes that I can go completely bare-footed with. They rub my bunions and also my hammer toes! I would loved hearing solutions from other women with bunions! I would love to find a pair of low closed toed/heeled shoes I could wear with comfort but haven’t found them yet!

    I would love to hear any other solutions for shoes for women with bunions.


    • Ah, bunions are tricky as they make finding shoes difficult. The softer the materials of the shoes the better, and not having any straps or edges that go across your bunions makes the shoes more comfortable – it’s always a matter of trying on for your foot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *