The Etiquette of Bare Legs & Arms in the Workplace

michelleobamasleevelessWhen I speak to a group of women on appropriate dress for the workplace, the first question is invariably: How do you feel about pantyhose? I remember someone telling me that Katie Couric wore no pantyhose on “The Today Show,” so why should any of the rest of us wear it?


I’ll tell you why. Hosiery is like makeup. If you are very young, you can get away with not wearing it. Your skin is fresh, clear, and smooth, and you probably look just as good when you’re “all natural.”


Hosiery is similar. If you are young, you can get away without wearing pantyhose because you probably do not have varicose veins or age spots, and you probably have time to shave your legs daily and keep up with a fresh pedicure. However, as we get older, we get busier with children, work, and all the other things in life. Our bodies change, and over time our once-smooth and sexy legs become riddled with spidery veins, scars, age spots, wrinkles, sun damage, and more. Who wants to show all that to the world?


If your legs and feet are not perfectly groomed and attractive-looking, forgo the bare legs and strappy sandals, and wear pants or skirts with pantyhose. Tasteful closed-toe shoes are also imperative if you’ve gone too long without a pedicure.


For example, I was in the elevator one day and noticed a woman who was well-coiffed, well-dressed, and elegantly put together. Then I looked at her feet. She was wearing no hose, and had on opened-toe sandals, but she obviously had not had a pedicure in months. It was very distracting and a little gross. Just remember, the devil is in the details!


Recently, another question I often receive after a workshop to women is: How do you feel about bare arms at the office? Again, if you are young, or work out and have firm arms, you can get away with it as long as the garment you are wearing covers your shoulders. Some companies—including many schools—prohibit sleeveless garments, so you should always check corporate dress policy.


Invariably, I get someone in the back who says, “Well, our First Lady, Michelle Obama, is often seen wearing sleeveless dresses.” To which I say, if you have Mrs. Obama’s well-toned arms, go ahead and go sleeveless. If you make $15 million a year, as Katie Couric does, go ahead and go bare-legged.  You probably have enough money to have someone wax your legs, paint your toenails, and take care of your varicose veins!


If that’s not the case, play it safe and cover up.


  1. I think sleeveless, as long as one shaves arm pits and had good skin smoothness and firmness, and most of us dont do any arm exercise beyond usual one does in work and home and with pets, and children. I think that is fine to wear sleeveless at work unless of course one is going to have arm pits over a customer or patients body. I believe in shoulders covered but what is the deal on bare arms.
    I wear nylons at work and can see it as barrier between enviornment and self. Tho I hear in Florida they dont need nylons and they are hot in summer. we are not air conditioned.; My mother was allowed to leave the nylons off as a sec for Georgia Pacific and used leg makeup.

    No one I know has ever had a pedicare and we all wear open toed heels or shoes in hot weather. This is not New York City,

    I think we look good and you are prudish

    • Dear Sally,
      Thank you for your comment. There is nothing wrong with going sleeveless as long as your arms are not flabby. In a professional environment, however, I recommend that you wear a jacket or at least a third piece. It gives you more credibility and you are perceived as being “armed for business”. You never want a piece of your attire to be distracting in a business environment. Outside of work, in the summer, you can go sleeveless all you want. And no, I’m not prudish, far from it. I just like to be taken seriously!

  2. If you want to go bare legged. Go for it. Be militantly anti-stockings. It’s your prerogative, in most cases. However, let’s be clear, you will not be noticed if a woman dressed up in a professional outfit, with stockinged legs, and proper shoes, walks into the room. You’ll look half dressed. Your legs will look awful. It is a rare woman’s leg that looks great bare and a rare woman’s foot that you want to see their toes peeking out of their shoes.

    If you complain about pantyhose’s fit, then you aren’t buying your true size. You aren’t buying quality. Try and their many lines of European hosiery. My wife buys Wolfords, and though the price is initially high, the long term costs are lower than buying Hanes Silk Reflections, which look great, but may run before you get them on. She’s had some Wolford’s last over months. They feel very silky, too.

    Leg tanners don’t make your legs look smooth and satiny. They don’t hide blemishes and a mottle appearance. I’ve seen the studio shots of Katie Couric’s legs. Her legs look awful. If anybody ever needed hosiery, it’s her.
    Woman wearing satiny, sheer, quality hosiery are always noticed. Very sexy. Cheap hosiery is not flattering at all. Neither are cheap suits and ties.

    So… anti-pantyhose militants, enjoy yourselves, but your legs will look very unflattering. Yes, even with open toed shoes. Especially with open toed shoes! Assuming you are among the few who have attractive feet to begin with.

Leave a Reply