What To Wear In The Summer If You Can’t Go Bare Legs?

Hate Showing Your Legs
Deborah BolandWhen I wrote about How to Wear Dresses when you have unattractive legs, a reader responded by asking, “What if you don’t like showing your legs at all? How do you cover up in summer?” I turned to my good friend, Image Consultant Sue Donnelly, to answer this in a guest post. Enjoy!

SUE: Yes, this is THE season when women of a certain age bury their heads in their hands and wail – ‘what do I do about my legs?’

Of course, if you have pins to die for, tanned, lean and going up to your armpits, you can move on. No need at all for you to be reading this article. If you are like the rest of us, the onset of summer is a nightmare.

Wondering what to wear in the summer if you can’t go bare legs? I have some tips.

1. The obvious – wear pants.  Not very original but totally do-able.  Linen pants are a great standby in hot weather, keeping you cool and chic at the same time.  Capri or ¾ length pants are really chic and show off a slim ankle without revealing the rest of the leg.  Wear with a cute kitten heel to lengthen the leg even more. A shorter length colored jean worn with ankle boots, so there is about an inch of flesh on show, is a fabulous way to be totally on trend if it’s not yet in the 90’s.

2. Try a midi or maxi dress. I’ve only just succumbed, and I’m already hooked. Midi length is fabulous for petites and for those of you who want to show off your amazing ankles. Wear with flat shoes, flip-flops or a small heel.  They never look quite right with a towering stiletto.

3. Thanks to Kate Middleton, we can now all wear ten denier flesh colored tights without feeling 103 years old.  Some even have the added advantage of control panels, so your tum, bum, thighs are streamlined too.  Choose toe-less if you want to wear sandals. You could even go the fishnet route, as they are cooler to wear in hot weather.

4. Sounds crazy I know but I started a new trend the other year by wearing black, patterned or colored tights with summer dresses and I’m talking 40 denier or higher.  It sounds bizarre but actually looks amazing with lighter colored shoes or sandals and is especially good if you are stuck in an air-conditioned room for any length of time. Hitch your hemline up a bit to make the most of well-shaped legs.  Just remember that you choose either a shorter hemline or a lower neckline. Never both. That’s just tarty

5. Like it – the tan, I mean.  If your legs are just pasty, then this is the way to go.  Alternatively, you could show off your beautiful, white skin as long as it’s like alabaster and not blue-veined cheese!

long jacket over leggings

6. Leggings.  These cover a multitude of sins.  Wear them under tunics and dresses as an alternative to tights.  Adjust the bottom hem, so they look good on your legs.  Some women look better with them worn nearer to the knee, others nearer the ankles.

7. Divert attention. The oldest trick in the book but it works.  Move the focus upwards by wearing a fabulous hat, bright lipstick, dramatic jewelry, a must-have scarf. Your legs won’t even be noticed!

Experiment and play.  Laugh if it all goes wrong – it’s not the end of the world. Pretend it‘s a new trend like I did, and then you get to set your own rules.

Like to learn more? Sue Donnelly www.suedonnelly.com  Style for your Soul, Spirit and Silhouette

P.S. Don’t like showing your arms either? Here is a great solution- pretty maxi dresses with long sleeves. 

*originally published in 2012 and recently updated.

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  1. Em Storey says:

    Thanks for advice!. I do love to wear tights because I have to wear a knee support at all times but I wasnt sure about wearing tights with summer skirts. I must try different denier values to be confident? Thank you.. ps I have skinny ankles! Mmm! What do you reckon?

  2. Marlene osmond says:

    Bare legs solution? I live in Florida, so believe me, tights and jeans are not an option – I’d melt!
    Try Sally Hansen leg spray…it works, doesn’t stain clothes and looks great.

    P.s. I’m 59 and quite pale with a few very blue spots from spider veins.

    • Hi Marlene,
      Yes Florida is another story! It’s unbearable down there is summer. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m going to try that leg spray. Cheers, Deborah

    • I also use leg make-up. I was cursed with Keratosis Pilaris (chicken skin). Sally Hansen’s is like airbrush and it helps a lot. Most of the time, though, a trusty maxi skirt, a tunic with leggings or light-weight wide legged pants work for me when it’s blazing hot out.

  3. I agree with everything except the part about “wearing toeless” when wearing tights or pantyhose. Footed hose serve a purpose.

  4. Betty Gourley says:

    I am 63 yrs old I need mother of the bride outfit I have saw a beautiful floor length v neck blushing pink dress im size 10. Would I be too old for it? I would love your opinion thank you the dress is chiffon.

    • Hi Betty,
      It sounds nice. Pink is always pretty for a wedding and in chiffon it would be nice and flowy. I’m wondering why you think you would be too old for it?

  5. Love that I found this article! I’ve been super stressed over whether or not I can wear asphalt opaque tights with a short black dress (sailor neckline) and strappy closed toe stilettos tomorrow night to a press event. It’s smack dab in the middle of July in Los Angeles. I’ll arrive at 7:30pm. What do you think????

    • Hi C,
      Your hosiery is going to depend on the dress. If it is light and airy, opaque tights will be too heavy, but you could go with an ultrasheer black hose. If your dress is a knit or some type of weightier fabric it could work. I was just in London and I saw a lot of women wearing black tights in the middle of summer with dresses, and the younger gals wore them with shorts, so it looks like a trend that may head here soon. Cheers, Deborah

  6. Deborah, I just bought a Fit4U Tikini dress #401201. It is part of their “Fit 4 UR Thighs” line. I don’t have thunder thighs, but at 60 years old, my butt is not voluptuous and round so the short dress style gives me just the cover I need to feel beautiful and not self-conscious of my ageing thighs and butt. I may submit a photo when I am out in it, but wanted to share it with you in case others might benefit.
    Check out a few styles on their website http://fit4uswim.com

  7. My legs look good in nude hose, but w/o the pantyhose, my cellulite is pretty bad. I would look ok in a swimsuit if I could wear hose, but I don’t want to look like an idiot. What do you think?

    • Hi Liz,
      Definitely no pantyhose with a swimsuit. Here’s what I’d suggest. Get yourself a huge scarf like cover-up and tie at your waist so it falls on an angle over your legs with a nice big slit up the side. Or, go for a long sheer caftan to wear on top of your swimsuit for when you want to walk around.
      Hope that helps! Cheers, Deborah

  8. Hi, I have just stumbled across this great website over the weekend. I have found this article at the perfect time too. As I am waiting on an operation to remove many varicose veins from my leg (many the result of of an accident 20 years ago) I am just 42 years old. I have been driving myself mad with what to wear. I like the idea of wearing jeans and then when I am wearing them wish I was in something smarter. What with the weather now turning to Spring here, hopefully getting warmer, I am struggling as the Surgeon has insisted I wear support tights constantly and these are proving to be quite uncomfortable under jeans and jeggings and I have been wondering whether I could make the tights part of my outfit and reading that tights are ok to have on show as such has opened a wardrobe of skirts and dresses to me. Do you think that 20-30 denier tights would be ok in either natural, blue or black with skirts and dresses etc. I am thinking with short boots at the moment and then maybe with brogues or ballet pumps later on. I haven’t been given a date for the operation yet but it is looking possibly about July time. Any advice or tips and suggestions would be so welcome. I am an hourglass with broader shoulders, 5ft 7 and a size 12-14 on top and 10-12 on the botton. Thank you!

  9. Michelle Dickens says:

    Are stockings/pantyhose back in vogue? I am very pale and do not like my bare legs. I will be attending a wedding in October and would prefer to wear a dress…. I do not want to be a fashion don’t!

  10. Gwen Johnigan says:

    Question: What should I wear while visiting New York City in June? I want to be cool and chic, but comfortable while walking.

    • Hi Gwen, Stay away from shorts, capris or long, hot blue jeans and try a pair of casual cropped pants that narrow at your ankles or even a cute sundress. Leggings and tunic would also work well. The main thing is you want to be comfortable so be sure to choose a good walking shoe. Have fun!

  11. Maxi skirts and cargo pants are my staples. Might try cotton leggings under denim skirt this summer. Long tshirts and tanks with leggings and sandals will be my go to uniform.

  12. Where does the writer live? I’m guessing not somewhere warm! Tights, leggings, pantyhose and boots? Making me sweat just thinking about that. And the pants suggestions are great for women who want to look shorter! (Not me.) I guess I’ll stick with letting my veiny legs show. When it’s hot or cold enough, vanity goes by the wayside.

  13. Kristi Montague says:

    I too struggle with the bare leg look. I have some cute sandals to wear with summer dresses, but I cannot wear hose with them. I look best with dresses just above my knees, but my legs are freckled, pale, and scarred. I tried tanners, but don’t have good luck. (scars don’t absorb the lotion)

  14. Karen, Indy says:

    Hi Deb, need your help! I have a BCBG long knit, crouched sweater that I wear over my Jeggins. You can see thru it so I added a white
    L/S Danskin! The Danskin make this beautiful
    Sweater Blah! I like to stand out in a crowd!
    Do you have any ideas? Thank You
    Karen W, Indy

    • Hi Karen, I like the idea that you have a monochromatic look (we are assuming that the sweater is white as well) Just add a pretty long colorful scarf or a colorful large handbag and you are good to go!

  15. valerie krueger says:

    Lady’s this is the BEST, hands down . I have many issues with being over 50 and wondering what to do with hair, makeup , dressing, tshirts and jeans is what I live in (should say, use to!) thanks to you ladys I have been brave and dressed up somewhat, still love the jeans. Keep up the good work. By the way trying to get the nerve up for a new hair style!!

  16. Jeannette Rossano says:

    I hate wearing sleeveless anything. I also do not wear bathing suits or shorts, but what do you wear when you live in Florida and you get hot, and every one else is hardly wearing anything.
    I am 5’7″ 124lbs, which means I should be able to wear almost anything, but my skin looks like I am melting,I am 63. My husband and I wil be traveling to Hawaii in Septmeber, I am already paniking about what I am going to wear. Thank you for your help.

    • Hi Jeannette,
      When you are going to be in a tropical location and don’t want to show your arms, find light weight gauze tops and pretty sarongs to wrap around your waist to keep you cool and covered. A large hat and pretty sandals will draw the attention from your arms to your face.
      However when you have to wear a bathing suite, just go for it! You are going to be more critical of yourself than anyone, so try not to worry and just enjoy your trip!!!

  17. Cathy pilutti says:

    I don’t think Kate Middleton wears nude pantyhose by choice! It seems ludicrous to me that people would copy her in what appears to me to be purely an act of submission to te royal family. The people I think we should be copying are the young girls ( like Kate) who decided to rebel against wearing the horrible nude hose. Now we are free to go hose free in summer, wear heels without our feet sliding around in our shoes, and to free ourselves from the ridiculous expense of hosiery designed to wear once only before being ruined with snags. Finally at age 60, I dared today to attend an afternoon event without feeling obligated to wear pantyhose – and I felt younger exercising that option.

  18. I was going to comment, that other ethnic groups do suffer from the “pale leg” syndrome LOL. Tanning salons and leg makeup are excellent ideas. I do plan on having my veins removed, but the thought that they may come back in multitudes is heartbreaking, so it ain’t so.

  19. Some great ideas for day to day, but I have sever lymphedema, basically the fluid doesn’t leave my legs, so no matter what they look awful! Need some ideas about what to wear to my daughter’s wedding next winter. I could go with a glitzy pants outfit but sometimes I think the pants just accentuate it. Any ideas? TY.

  20. Leslie Bonner says:

    What an interesting post. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to wear colored tights but I do enjoy wearing leggings. I have also used leg makeup to cover my imperfections. I’ve gone the laser route but they just come back but in multiples.


  21. My legs have been ugly for years before I reached 40. I was cursed with Keratosis Pilaris, a.k.a. “chicken skin” disease. It’s ugly and rashy and I typically have worn jeans or long dresses. I am happy to see leggings come back I do wear with a tunic. I just bought a few maxi dresses. Another option aside from tanning, is to wear leg make-up. Last year I mixed my foundation with a lotion and slathered it on my legs. They looked great and didn’t transfer onto anything.

  22. Yes to stockings in the higher denier! I wear 60 and 70 denier with seams and love it! They work with everything and add a vintage touch. Great post!

  23. Great post Sue~

    I must share with you that you don’t have to be over 40 to dislike your legs! I’ll forward this to my daughter who is in her 20’s and currently loving dresses and donning her black tights.

    She’ll appreciate the creativity and suggestions and maybe move into a brighter color for summer!