do I have to wear pantyhose to an interview?

by Ask a Manager on September 7, 2010

A reader writes:

Perhaps my question is a bit trite, but do I have to wear pantyhose to an interview? I hate pantyhose. So much so that I haven’t owned or worn any in at least 10 years. I usually just wear slacks to an interview, but I bought this killer new suit, and it has a skirt, so the issue has come up again in my life.

In general, no. But there are some industries — fewer and fewer of them — where women are still expected to wear pantyhose.  Are you interviewing in a particularly conservative industry? If not, bare legs are fine these days. Go with a closed shoe though.

If you’re not sure if the office is particularly conservative or not, you could play it safe and err on the side of pantyhose. (Or you could decide that if they have a problem with you not being squeezed into waist-to-toe nylon, it’s not the culture for you anyway.)

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{ 57 comments }

Sara September 7, 2010 at 3:19 am

Great advice and such a great question! While "pantyhose" might be outdated for our current year, "tights" are not. I'd add to any job seekers to consider that any "service industry" jobs, you may want to consider opaque tights, such as Hotels, restaurants, airlines etc. And I'd recommend this even for mid-management or higher, not just front-line.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 3:21 am

If the company culture is business casual, would it look odd wearing a skirt in the first place?

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 3:45 am

If you're never going to wear pantyhose again, then don't wear them to the interview. Truth in advertising and all that. Maybe they only want people who wear pantyhose. Better they find out you're not one of those people before you get the job.

And what the heck is your problem with wearing pantyhose anyway? They're not that bad. To listen to you, anyone would think it's some kind of medieval torture device.

Karen September 7, 2010 at 4:00 am

Pardon my rant, but…

I consider myself a pretty conservative dresser, and I HATE pantyhose.

It's an arbitrary piece of clothing…it's sheer and tight, and certainly doesn't mask the appearance of a woman's leg (which is apparently alluring to the point of distracting an office, even with a modest skirt). Requiring modest dress, appropriate undergarments, etc. makes sense, but pantyhose is about as sensible as having ladies wear gloves (hands…too sexy!).

Nonetheless, I've always worn pantyhose with skirt suits on interviews just to be safe, but AAM has a great point…if that's the culture, it's a place you may want to avoid.

Binky45 September 7, 2010 at 4:18 am

Skipping the pantyhose at the office looks terrible ladies. It's such a raw, boring look. Boo!!!

Pantyhose please come back with the cooler waether.

Kimberlee Stiens September 7, 2010 at 4:19 am

Op here. Thanks! I especially like the answers that say I don't have to wear pantyhose.

It's not that I necessarily think they're evil. In fact, as long as men are required to have their legs covered in the office (not being allowed to wear shorts, say, and not having the option of a skirt in a conservative workplace), it makes sense that if a woman is wearing a skirt, that she still be required to have her legs "covered." I just find them uncomfortable, and whether they are pantyhose or tights, I destroy them on their first trip out. Every time. So I'll go with not wearing them, because if they are a culture that requires them, it would be too expensive anyway. :)

Thanks guys!

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 4:20 am

I'm pretty sure that no one in Gen X (mine) or Gen Y wears pantyhose ever. To most of us, it looks dated.

melanemac September 7, 2010 at 6:40 am

When moving to Florida a few years ago, I interviewed for an HR position. During the interview with the first person (there were many that day), they proceeded to tell me how excited they were that they had been able to implement some policy changes. 1. Women could now wear slacks without pantyhose and 2. They could now drink water at their desks. And they were very proud of themselves for these changes! I would have been scared to see their "rule" book!

Mike September 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Well no one expects me or the other guys to be wearing the stuff so why should the rest of the office have to?

Are there still places that balk at the thought of women choosing to wearing pants as well?

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I never gave this any thought because I automatically wear them when I go on interviews, especially when I wear my skirt suit. They are rather uncomfortable in the summer and hot weather.

Anyway, you can always take note of the office culture when you are on an interview. You can see what how the others are dressed. If the other women wear them, then you might have to as well; but it can also be the opposite. But I wouldn't chose a company just over the pantyhose policy in the office.

As far as having problems with them every time you go out, then you have to figure out where you are going wrong. Did you know that if you get a run in them, you can use clear nail polish on the tear to prevent it from spreading?

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I am a pro-pantyhose woman. I am a Gen X-er and I think pantyhose give a more polished, professional look. Bare legs just don't look right to me. Like someone else said, it's as if the woman forgot to put them on or had some sort of laundry crisis.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I would not wear pantyhose just because it is definitely out of fashion these days. The suit itself should already display your conservative side.

KellyK September 7, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I work in a business casual-ish environment and I see a lot of bare legs. It may be partly a regional thing. I interviewed for my current position in a suit with a skirt, and I didn't wear pantyhose.

Tights might be more comfortable than pantyhose, especially since they seem to come in a wider range of sizes and be made of material that won't rip out if you look at it funny.

FrauTech September 7, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I'd err on the side of wearing them. I'm a Gen Xer and always wore pantyhose to interviews. Even with slacks I wear socks or knee-highs. Just as I don't want to see some guy's foot I certainly won't expose the office to my bare feet or bare legs. Yes many women can pull it off and it's fine. So if you have nice, smooth tan legs and no one will even notice and your skirt goes to mid-calf, (and probably if you are on the west coast) you can get away with it. Those of us who are pale and could draw maps with our veins probably should stick with tights or pantyhose though, at least for the interview.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Frau tech, I agree completely! No one wants to see the spider veins.

fposte September 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Karen, nearly *all* cultural standards are essentially arbitrary. That's not enough to get people off the hook for following them :-).

I don't actually care that much about panty hose itself either way, but if applicants decide to jettison practices and manners just because they're arbitrary, they're going to have a lot of difficulty finding a job.

Terry September 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I don't believe this. What does the interview take, an hour or two? There's about a 90% chance the office will be air conditioned and comfortable. Is it really that much of a burden to you? Maybe you need to get a job slinging drinks at a poolside bar so you can wear shorts, a tank top and flip flops, unless you "hate" them, too. You're going for an executive position and you can't endure a tiny bit of discomfort to try to make a good impression? You want to set yourself apart from other candidates, so take the time and make the effort to present yourself as ideally as possible. Wear a neutral shade of hose or black, depending on your outfit. That's a business look. If you get the job, you can adjust to what seems to be the standard of the office. Show some class, not some bug bites and razor burn.

Ask a Manager September 7, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Terry, the question isn't "can I get out of wearing something that's a generally accepted part of business dress?" Rather, she's asking, "IS pantyhose still a generally expected part of business dress?"

While clearly some people still feel it is, many people don't. The cultural norms on this are changing / have changed.

Here's an interesting piece from the Wall St. Journal on the issue:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121262443191346927.html?mod=rss_Weekend_and_Leisure_Main_Page

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 8:36 pm

The Wall Street argument is bogus, it's just another woman looking for something to complain about.

It's very simple if your in a conservative field and don't wear pantyhose your not getting hired. The fact women are whining and would jeopardize a job over having to wear for a few hours is insane. Look the part for the job you want, it's very simple. Bare legs might work on reality TV but it doesn't in the real business world.

Terry is a 1000% percent right, a woman with bare legs at an interview is like a guy wearing a hanes t-shirt with his suit or not wearing socks.

Sara – pantyhose is out but tights are not, um wrong I don't think so.

Kara September 7, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Sara is exactly right on tights being in but hose being out. Look in any fashion magazine.

And I hardly think the Wall Street Journal is "another woman looking for something to complain about." Way to give yourself away as clueless there.

Ask a Manager September 7, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Apparently there are some pantyhose fetishists out there who found this post on Twitter and are very, very pro-pantyhose, if you get my drift. (And in case you don't, I'm talking fetish. Now get it?)

Read with that in mind. (I am NOT saying that everyone in favor of pantyhose here falls in that category — they most definitely do not and you can be pro-pantyhose without being driven by a personal fetish — but I'm getting tweets and emails from the fetish crowd so be aware.)

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Kara – this isn't Ugly Betty, it's called the professional business world. Law, Finance, Accounting, Sales…I work in one of those fields and I hire people do you?

You want to move up you dress the part and sorry to burst your bubble the people who don't look the part don't move up. Impression is half the battle at a company, and mini skirts, bare legs, sleeveless shirts, open shoes are not cutting it.

Pantyhose are a MUST at those interviews, not tights, tights are for ballet dancers.

Kara September 7, 2010 at 8:47 pm

This might depend on what area of the country you live in. Where I live, most women under 40 just don't wear hose and it's considered completely professional not to.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Kara – some if it can depend on where you live, and some of it can depend on your field..If you want to be in denail it's fine but it's very simple. (And I have had plenty of conversations with people to know this inside of companies including women)

NOBODY will be offended or feel you are underdressed wearing hose, there are MANY hiring managers/HR reps who will be offended if you don't. In the past I worked at a multinational public company who had a committee to award a 10m contract. We saw 3 presentations, one was a group of women who showed up underdressed (bare legs and all) and they did not get 1 vote out of a group of 20 (both men and women) because their impression was terrible and then their presentation was worse. It's the same with an interview, it's your BEST foot forward, if you cut corners odds are you will do the same at a job.

BTW the Wall Street woman (you quote as proof it's not needed) thinks it's ok for a hiring manager to look inside your car to determine how organized you are..Evidentially THAT's normal business practice in her world.

Kara September 7, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Anonymous, I don't know why you think you're the final, end-all and be-all word on this. There are plenty of other people here who also do hiring and who have also had conversations about this and have reached different conclusions. Maybe lose the anger and hostility?

As AAM said, if you're not sure, err on the side of pantyhose. But there are loads of companies where it's not needed. Sorry that that offends you but plenty of other readers know that's true. You're going a little over board here and it's not really a topic that should produce that kind of anger.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I hire all the time and I work in NYC. We don't expect pantyhose. It's ok if you wear it but we're not going to penalize you if you don't. None of us wear it!

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Not angry, I just think it's terrible advice. It's your life, you and anyone else can do what they want.

This is going to be my last post and I'm sorry to burst your bubble but I have been involved in a lot of hirings at several companies. This advice would have cost her readers jobs at major well known companies I have worked at. And all in the last 5-10 years. Not the brightest thing to do in this economy. There are more qualified candidates than ever before it just give a hiring manager another reason to choose someone else. For a male I would tell them not to even wear anything other than a white shirt and non-loud tie, go conservative as possible. You don't know who your going to interview with. It's always better to overdress than underdress. If you don't think so, your not living in reality.

Sure if your interviewing with another woman who goes bare legged (such as this NYC woman who I am sure penalizes men if they don't wear a tie)she isn't going to care, but you don't know that till it's too late. In the end you don't HAVE to wear anything to an interview, but if your goal is to get a high paying job you need to dress to the highest standards possible.

Kara September 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm

In 10 years, people will laugh that this debate even took place. Pantyhose have already gone the way of the slip. Younger women don't wear them. Accept that times are changing.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm

You know what bothers me the most about this debate? The anonymous commenter with the superiority complex insisting pantyhose are required but has misused your vs you're like 900 times.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Sounds like he won the argument. It convinced me. If the 2 best arguments are "times are changing" and he misused a word. I'd rather wear hose for a few hours and get a job.

Jamie September 7, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I love these changing times! I am a gen-xer and my mother would have died before allowing any of us to leave the house in a skirt/dress without hose, it just wasn't done.

However, for me they are so ridiculously uncomfortable I wouldn't be able to get through an interview wearing them; much like shoes that are two sizes too small – can think of nothing else but getting it over with and changing clothes.

But my own weird sensory integration issues aside, I would make the call based on your legs and the length of the skirt. As long as your legs aren't obviously flawed (bruises, razor burn, etc.) most people probably wouldn't even notice, especially if you have a little color.

Anyone looking close enough at your legs to try to distinguish between nude hose and a decent tan should get back to the business of interviewing you.

Ursula September 7, 2010 at 11:12 pm

I'm surprised that no one has brought up Michelle Obama. I recall seeing her on a show (during the campaign, I think) stating that she absolutely hates hose. I remember the inauguration coverage, with her walking down the street with her bare legs, thinking that she must be freezing.
I, for one, can't imagine going to an interview in a skirt and not wearing hose or tights. I don't like them, but I would feel weird.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Jamie – I wear hose and tights, either you are wearing the wrong ones or you are very dramatic! As for Michele Obama she is the wife of the most liberal president ever. I really couldn't care less what she thinks but most importantly this thread is about interviewing. Articles like this give women a bad name. Men have it much worse. I am thankful I don't have to wear a suit and tie in the summer. My office has air conditioning so hose doesn't bother me all that much. I think hose or tights just look better and definitely more professional.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 12:36 am

"the wife of the most liberal president ever"

First, this isn't even true, by any reliable historian's measure. Learn some history. (But I think AAM would probably thank you to keep political discussions off her blog.)

Second, even if it were, it's irrelevant to this discussion because the first couple represents the mores of our time, given that he was elected by a majority of our fairly conservative country.

And Michelle Obama has been widely hailed for her fashionable but not extreme style by people in all corners of the political spectrum. She's not some fashion outlier.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 12:48 am

You brought her up and she has nothing to do with interview attire.

Ask a Manager September 8, 2010 at 12:58 am

I believe Anonymous brought Michelle Obama up as an example of changing cultural standards on this.

I need to ask that the hostile tone stops. I've never done this before but I'm very close to closing comments on this post because of the sustained nasty tone from some of the pro-pantyhouse faction. Dissent is welcomed; nastiness is not. And political nastiness really is not. I'm just not interested in providing a forum for that kind of thing, so please take it elsewhere.

(And this is hardly a topic that should be provoking this kind of tone!)

Ursula September 8, 2010 at 1:22 am

Yes, AAM, that is exactly why I brought Michelle Obama up. Her husband's policies have nothing to do with it.
I find it interesting that this subject gets people so very riled up; it really is a matter of personal preference, not unlike choosing to wear a pants rather than a skirt suit to interviews.
As a previous poster said, times are changing, and I will probably be horrified by what my 10 year old daughter wears to some of her job interviews in the future.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 1:56 am

The last time I wore pantyhose in a workplace was the day a manager told me I had to wear them because "some customers think women's legs are dirty". I told her to stick her Bible where the sun don't shine!

The tradition for a woman covering her skin is rooted in religion and no matter how commonplace those beliefs became over the years, such beliefs have no business in the workplace.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 3:03 am

AAM is right that this has gotten way out there in the realm of "I'm right and you're wrong." Does it really have to be petty enough to say that someone is wrong based on their grammar? And the politics too…I've read something that was erroneous, but I'm keeping quiet because it's not the time or place.

I'm reading through the comments, and I've noticed that many of you seem to come from different places which would mean that office cultures are different. Maybe person A comes from an office (or offices) that are really strict on dress codes, even in the interview whereas person B comes from an office where it wouldn't matter as long as you do look professional with a suit. In essence, you can't compare apples to oranges.

As I have written earlier, perhaps it might be better to wear the pantyhose at the interview, and you can observe the dress code from there. Perhaps then you can be underdress if you get the job.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 4:36 am

Ehh… I prefer to wear pantyhose because I feel underdressed if I don't. I don't judge other women if they choose not to wear pantyhose. It's a personal preference. Also, my legs look yucky. If I don't feel like wearing hose, I wear pants.

The problem comes in, as usual, when you're interviewing, because you want to "be your best you", and you don't want to let some arbitrary, unimportant thing ruin your chances in case you get an interviewer who puts too much stock in something minor. Too much rides on a coin toss.

Given that, I think that wearing pantyhose is the safer way to go for an interview. If you get an interviewer who doesn't mind bare legs, I think that person would be less likely to judge you for wearing hose. If you get an interviewer who thinks bare legs are unprofessional, then you've just handicapped yourself for your interview. It's the classic "better overdressed than underdressed" dilemma, just nestled in a more controversial topic than usual.

TheLabRat September 8, 2010 at 5:01 am

I hate pantyhose but don't mind tights: go figure. My point is that if the OP feels like this particular interview may be inappropriate for bare legs, tights might be a better way to go than hose. They lack that "totally synthetic" feeling that gets on my nerves. Of course it depends on what about hose it is that bothers you. If it's just the binding nature of the garment, then tights won't feel much better I'm afraid.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 5:09 am

This is nuts. Michelle Obama can get away with not wearing panty hose because she has beautiful mahogany skin. But if she were like me with skin so white you could see the veins through it- well, it might be a different story.

I'm not sure I'd risk a job on all of this. Required? Probably not. But it is possible that you could knock a few points off of your scoring potential, depending on the individual. Is is worth it?

Mully September 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

Am I the only one hoping against hope that the question asker is a guy?

Mully September 8, 2010 at 10:28 am

Gutted – I've just seen that the asker has posted confirming her female-ness.

Is it bad that my first thought was that it would be *awesome* for it to be a guy?

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Just to spite some of the people who've chimed in here, I think I'm going to explicitly ban pantyhose in any workplace I manage. If you can't love razor-burned, bug-bitten, spider-veined, real human being legs for what they are, you can't work for me. :D

(Don't worry, I won't hold it against you if you wear pantyhose to the interview.)

KellyK September 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Jamie – I wear hose and tights, either you are wearing the wrong ones or you are very dramatic!

Or she has sensory integration issues. Like she said.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm

It's clear you are only welcome here if your liberal and like Michelle Obama. The dissent here is accurate, many people view bare legs as inappropriate for interview attire, more than any of the anti-hose people want to admit. For many interviewers it's about professionalism, judgment and putting your best foot forward. Any "expert" would advise people to overdress vs underdress as several people have mentioned in this thread. That's the best advice that can be given regardless if AAM is anti-hose.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm

The "health risks" and "criticisms" section of the wikipedia article on pantyhose are interesting -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantyhose#Health_benefits_and_risks

Ask a Manager September 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Yes, Anonymous, that's right, you're only welcome here "if you're liberal and like Michelle Obama." Really?

Even though I've never mentioned her on this blog before and didn't bring her up here? Even though I myself am a libertarian?

And with that, I'm closing comments on this post because my head will explode if I have to spend another minute thinking about pantyhose or mediating comments on it from people who for some reason are enraged by other people's choices of leg-wear.

(Although I do, admittedly, love Michelle Obama and think it is awesome for the country that the Obamas are in the White House, totally aside from policy differences I have with the president. So there.)

Debbie in Southern California June 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm

I work for the sixth largest law firm in the State of California at their Orange County branch. Although this county is Republican, most firm members are democrats, but I don’t think that political persuasion has much to do with dress code in the field of law. We only hire attorneys that attended top tier law schools, and they always come to interviews appropriately dressed. When potential new employees come for interviews, they are notified ahead of time that we are a “business-casual” office and that they should feel free to dress the same way the rest of the office does. Might I suggest that a telephone call to the company where you will be interviewing could save you a lot of stress wondering what to wear. You can confirm your interview time, any special parking arrangements, etc., and then casually ask about any specific dress code. If you aren’t comfortable asking the person you will be interviewing with about the dress code, you can ask the receptionist. Mostly likely, he or she will be able to tell you what kind of dress is expected for your interview. FYI, our females employees haven’t worn panty hose in years, and that includes both attorneys and staff members. Another option for those women who don’t have the best legs would be to use a self-tanning lotion or a skin-darkening moisturizer to improve the appearance of their bare legs. If your skirt is a reasonable length and you dress appropriately, no one will be looking at your legs during the interview. If you are still agonizing about this issue the morning of your interview, it might be best to wear hose so that you won’t become even more stressed at the interview. By the time you are seated in front of the interviewer, your mind should be on your qualifications and making a good verbal impression, not on what you are wearing.

Ryan August 27, 2011 at 8:57 am

That is the problem now, women are more worried about being so called “Comfortable” instead of PROFESSIONAL. It is total laziness!!!

Fran July 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Wear a pantsuit or slacks if any doubt. If you have to go skirt… you really should not introduce any doubt of being lower class or lower intelligence unless you know the company well enough to do it. You want to be at your top notch best assuming you are talking about going for a top notch job.

caroline August 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

It might be fine for Michelle Obama to hate panthose, but for many women tights or pantyhose are part of the uniform or work culture. Personally I get tired of the” I hate tights brigade”. Men have to conform to dress codes yet females seem to feel it is ok to inflict bare feet, toes and ugly bare legs, skimmy tops on whoever they please.Tights make a woman look feminine and respectable.

Ryan August 27, 2011 at 8:55 am

You are absolutely right. Hose make the leg look more flattering.

Ryan August 27, 2011 at 8:53 am

It is classless and trashy looking for a woman not to wear hose when she is required to look professional or dressy. It would be equivalent to a man wearing a suit with white socks.

Stacey London August 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Working women at major companies haven’t worn pantyhose in years. USA Today recently published an article stating that the further west you go in the US, the more casual the work environment becomes. If this is true, (and I think it is) then pantyhose are a definite no-no in California where I live. I don’t know where you live, Ryan, but your advice is extremely outdated and could quite possibly be detrimental to a modern business woman trying to obtain employment. If a female worker is not fond of the appearance of her legs in skirts, then dress slacks are an appropriate alternative to wear at work, whether for a job or during an interview.

juniper October 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I am allergic to spandex, thus panty hose leave me in great pain. I used to wear pants only to interviews. Turns out, skirts are the in fashion for law firms in norcal. Luckily, turns out hose are out of fashion, also! My interviewer for my big firm offer was wearing a skirt no hose! I love it here.

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