Pantyhose At Work: A Woman's Bondage Or Her Best behaviour?

Pantyhouse

Photo: Wikime

My professional image PowerPoint presentation is finished. I’ve shown slides of women in blue suits, beige blazers, polo shirts, and sloping curves of cleavage on display. I’ve explained the difference between men’s single-breasted and double-breasted jackets and (attempted to) justify whether men should wear wingtips, cap-toe oxfords, loafers, or some other shoe type on the job.But now comes the time I most relish: Audience Q & A.

And here we go, the question that is always asked, no matter what:

“Do I have to wear pantyhose?”

Most women view pantyhose as constrictive instruments of torture. They’re friends with nylon fibres on the job as long as said fibres create computer carrying bags. But when nylon binds the belly, nylon is kicked to the curb with a resounding thud.

Meanwhile, other women don’t feel completely attired until pantyhose (control top, no less) completely cover their bottom half. What’s the right choice?

I’ve concluded there’s no magical answer. One size does not fit all. Pantyhose are a contextual issue. However, here are some factors that may help guide your decision:

DRESS CODE OR LACK THEREOF: I’m surprised many companies don’t have official dress codes with clear guidelines. I’ve worked with offices that prefer female employees to wear hose, but offer no clear mandate. The end result? Some women wear, and other women wear anything but. While some dress codes demand strict parameters, others need flexibility. I once taught in a school where pantyhose were required during the cooler months. But during the more relaxed summer quarter, we could switch to sandals sans hose. While a compromise of this sort may not be for everyone, it worked here, which was the whole point.

AESTHETIC OF FEET & LEGS: I’m being honest when I discuss this segment, so please decode with that in mind. Some legs just look best when covered with pantyhose, tights, socks, pants, or a long skirt. Leg stubble, calloused foot skin, and a chipped pedicure don’t convey polish. Some people, such as myself, are naturally pale-skinned. My uncovered legs look shockingly white when contrasted against a strong-coloured skirt or dress. Some may shrug, and conclude it’s no big deal. But to the extent that my glaringly white legs are a distraction, it’s then a work-related issue. Women in workshops will often say their bare legs look perfectly acceptable.  Do your colleagues, clients, and boss agree?  An important question.

OCCUPATION: I’m a college professor and a definite job perk is relaxed attire. As long as I’m wearing a top and a bottom, I’m good to go. If the university president requests my presence in his office, however, I’m reaching for my Hanes. Traditional fields (banking, law, finance) have an expectation of formality and pantyhose help achieve that purpose. But women working on a construction site don’t need hose; they need steel-tipped work boots. Creative fields might even encourage hose in bright colours and textured patterns, where the legs and feet then become works of art.

Other variables exist, of course, but these three factors should be considered before shoes are even placed on one’s feet. “Women want…three-dollar pantyhose that won’t run,” comedienne Phyllis Diller once joked. I sense women would also like a once-and-for-all answer on the pantyhose debate, but while that declarative conclusion may occur in the future, at the moment, it’s anyone’s guess.

Follow my image/etiquette tips (http://twitter.com/#!/ImageProfessor ) to become the leader who knows, not the follower who’s guessing.

© 2011 LisaMarie Luccioni/The Image Professor, All Rights Reserved

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