Winter is here, but thankfully we have global warming. Recently, New York hit almost 60 balmy degrees. With the capricious weather as a backdrop, a reader cornered me with this question: Is it okay to pair her favorite open-toe suede shoes with opaque tights for those warmish winter days?
I know this might seem like a frivolous issue, but I can assure you that Careerist readers do not take fashion quandaries lightly.
So let's give this question the seriousness it deserves. Let's start with the golden rule about open toe shoes: Thou must never wear them with sheer or flesh-colored hose. And don't even think about pairing them with sandal-foot nylons (the ones without reinforced toes)! That look is strictly for grandmothers or those who hail from the provinces.
That said, what about opaque tights and open-toe shoes? I often see that combo these days, and I think it can look adorable. But can you do that in a corporate setting?
I asked a half-dozen of my fashionista lawyer friends, and the responses came quickly.
"No, no, no!" says a lawyer in Los Angeles about the pairing. "It is déclassé to wear nylons with open-toe shoes."
"It's one step removed from the Queen Mother—like wearing hose with orthopedic sandals," says another L.A. based lawyer.
But those on the East Coast aren't so opposed to the look—so long as the toe peekage is restrained. "A summer sandal with a very open toe would not be appropriate," says a Big Law associate in New York. "But if it's a 'fall' shoe with a small open toe, showing no more than two toes, then I think it's fine."
Some don't mind the idea of sporting colored tights—even in bright hues of blue, red or purple—but not with open toe shoes. Others are horrified about wearing tights other than black, gray or navy, but think that dark tights with dark open-toe shoes are fine.
Like true lawyers, several mention that it's simply "illogical" to wear any sort of hosiery with toe-revealing footwear. "Isn't the whole point of open toes to show your toes?" asks a Fortune 500 counsel. "If it's cold enough to wear tights then you shouldn't be exposing your toes!" adds another New York lawyer.
All these rules seem a bit rigid to me. As I said, I think the pairing can look quite fetching—provided you have the legs to carry it off. I tend to agree with Kat Griffin over at Corporette who says it "depends on the shoe and the woman." Griffin says she remembers an Armani ad from a few years back that "featured blood red tights with blood red peep toes and blood red suits." She adds, "for the right woman it could work in a professional setting."
For most of us mortals, however, Griffin is cautious: "I would not advise attempting this unless you have a specific high-fashion look you're imitating because there's a fairly large margin for error."
Large margin for error just for wearing tights with open-toe shoes? Oh, can't you go on a little fashion limb?
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Photo: Margarita M, A Doll Without Style blog.