Body Type

How to Wear Dresses When You Have Unattractive Legs

How to Wear Dresses When You Have Unattractive Legs

Dear Deborah,

I am 5’4,” and I weigh 125 pounds. I wear about a size 6.  I am pretty satisfied with my body except that I have very, very unattractive legs. They have a few scars from childhood. I am slightly knock-kneed, they are not shapely at all, and they are pale. 

I’ve accepted this flawed part of my body, tried self-tanners, and done the best I can to focus on the good parts.   However, I do like to wear dresses and skirts when I am brave enough.  I struggle to wear dresses that do not accentuate my legs and find hoses that are not hot in the summer.


Do you have any suggestions on dress styles, hose, and even shoe combinations with the dresses and hose?  I’m sick of wearing pants all the time. Thank you, Cleo.

Hi Cleo,

You are probably much harder on yourself than anyone else would ever be, but I understand you feel self-conscious.

When you want to cover pale or scarred legs in summer, you are right – stockings can be hot. However, it is usually around the stomach and hips where stockings make you feel sweaty, so why not try some thigh highs? This way, you can still feel cool under your dress. Just make sure you match them as closely as possible to your skin color, so they look most natural and not like you have a fake suntan!

Other things you can do to take the focus off your legs:

  • Make sure your skirt covers your kneecaps if your knees are unattractive.
  • If you have knock knees, wear a skirt that is soft and floaty.
  • Wear ultra sheer nude hose with nude (flesh-toned) shoes to create a long, lean line and make your legs appear better. In winter, try wearing opaque black tights with black shoes or boots.
  • Avoid skirts with a lot of pattern and detail, especially skirts with detail at the hemline. Put the color, pattern, detail, or embellishment near your face to draw the eye up.
  • Wear medium to high heels to elongate your legs. A lower vamp also elongates your leg, as do pointy vs. round or square-toed shoes.
  • Avoid ankle straps that cut you off at the ankle and make your legs look shorter.
  • Midi skirts and maxi dresses also work really well.

Best of luck trying these things, and remember that no one will notice your legs if you put all the emphasis up top. Make sure your hair and makeup are always fresh and touched up, and SMILE.  Everyone will be looking at your pretty face and not your legs.

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38 thoughts on “How to Wear Dresses When You Have Unattractive Legs

  1. I am in my 70s and have always had long slim legs; however, due to heart med, I have veins at my ankles and lower legs. Beautiful suggestions if possible.

    1. Hi Chris, I wish I could magically help you with that, but the only thing I can offer is dressing solutions. Have you tried a maxi dress this summer? They’re an excellent alternative to pants when you want to cover your legs, and they can look nice. I saw a woman in the mall in a blue striped one with tassels the other day and thought she looked stylish. She had some nice jewelry, cute summer sandals, and a lovely bag. Accessories can dress up a casual look and make it seem polished. I’d try that. The other thing you could try is a pair of silky palazzo pants, but if you wear wide pants like these, ensure your top is fitted. The rule is broad at the bottom and served on top. Otherwise, you will look heavy and boxy. I hope that helps. I’m sure your veins aren’t as bad as you feel, and I wouldn’t be too self-conscious. Wear something pretty up top, like a top, and no one will look at your ankles. Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Hi,

    I wear pantyhose twelve a year. In cooler weather, I’ll wear a slightly heavier support hose in warmer times. I’ll wear my usual Hanes Alive support pantyhose.
    My legs look horrible without a hose. Beige tones seem to look the best on me.


  3. I used to like to dress up, but I don’t have to for work anymore & I’ve put on weight, so I don’t even know where to start. I’m 54 years old & am; a bit of an “old soul” as far as my taste, but I would like to appear that I’m aware that it’s 2016. Not comfortable w/o hose unless it’s boiling & I don’t do more than about a 1″ heel. I wI would like to find a couple of up-to-date dressier looks that I’m comfortable in. Ideas?

    1. Hi Jana, One of the best ways to approach looking modern but appropriate at work is to stick to quality classic pieces and add some trendy accessories. For example, a beautiful sheath dress with some chic pumps and a stylish bag. You could also wear classic black flat fronts pants and a pretty dark floral blouse (trending) With some trendy jewelry. So again, it is about basics in modern colors or with a modern detail like an asymmetrical neckline or popular print. Updating your accessories is the easiest way to look stylish in 2016 and beyond.

  4. Hi…I have unattractive legs and need help wearing a dress above the knee…I was embarrassed when I wore a skirt above the knee because of my ugly legs…HELP PLEASE

  5. First, to Karen,

    I agree; most thigh-high nylons can slip and be comfortable. I used to live in a scorching region, was pregnant, and am going through menopause. I found the thigh-high nylons from Victoia Secret to be the most comfortable.

    Second, each figure and leg shape is different. I looked on this site because I saw a professional photo of two famous women that probably have stylists. One had a lovely figure and calf and wore a mid-knee dress. She had a bulge on the inside of her knee. If she had just lengthened her skirt an inch, she would have put the proper emphasis on her legs and her height, which was smaller than average–better proportions.

    The second woman also had a nice figure. Her legs were muscular and almost straight, all the way to the ankle. She did the right thing by posing with one leg in front of the other, adding a curvier appearance. If she had worn a dress that was not skin tight and hit just above the smallest part of her leg, it would have shown her in a better light.

    Most of all, you have to be comfortable! Don’t look to hide a part of your body you’re uncomfortable with. Pick your best attribute and show that off! Same thing for makeup.

  6. Worst advice ever! Really? I see many of these comments for women not born with beautiful or standard-looking legs. If you have bad legs, and I do, it didn’t happen because of exercise or lack thereof. It’s hereditary!
    If you’re anything like me, you were RIDICULED in high school, if not previously, and can’t stand the thought of baring your legs. If not, different story. I have had ugly legs my entire life and have suffered the brunt of these sticks, poles, chicken sticks, turkey specials, or what have you. No offense, but body type is pretty much in the genes. It’s the dominant one that prevails. Unfortunately, I guess I have my dad’s legs which last. Learn how to DIVA without a skirt undercover. Black slacks rule.

    1. Talking about stick chicken legs, my god, I suffer so much! I’m forever hiding it because it’s so embarrassing…I also have my dad’s stick legs.

  7. Hi, please can you recommend some tights that cover thread veins? I’m so conscious of them and feel so uncomfortable in dresses that I’ve stopped wearing them because of my legs. I would appreciate your advice.
    Many Thanks
    Kind regards

  8. Hi
    I am a 63 years old Asian woman—fair skin, slim with a slightly big waistline. However, I hide it under loose tops. I spotted some simple, elegant semi-fit shift dresses. But they are short. With my height of 5’5,” the dress will make me look a little too young.
    Can I still wear these dresses over covered stockings or ankle-length leggings?

    1. Hi Jenny,
      I notice much cute shift dresses out there that are on the short side that would look great paired with ankle-length leggings. Since shift dresses are a bit loose and gently flow outwards, they work well as leggings. Wear them with flat boots or shoes, and you have a modern look. And yes, you could also wear dark, opaque stockings with your shift dress.

  9. Is it fashionable to wear sandal-toed sheer pantyhoses when wearing open-toed shoes and strappy sandals? It looks old to me, but I don’t want to wear bare legs in the wintertime.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Winter calls for closed-toe shoes with nylons or tights, depending on the weight of your dress. Heavier materials like knits look great with opaque tights.
      In summer you can wear strappy sandals, but you are right, you need to buy some self-tanner and wear them with bare legs.

  10. Dear Deborah:

    I have a condition in my legs where they are not attractive. Thank you so much for your advice. I usually wear pants or maxi dresses. When it gets warmer, I want to try midi skirts and dresses. I have a wedding coming up this summer, and I hope to be able to wear some clothing. I would like to also thank the other ladies in the comment section for their suggestions. I will try the self-tanner, leg makeup, lotion, + bronzer also. I feel emancipated!!!

  11. Hi

    I never know if a dress is too short. I am 41, and I think my figure is fantastic, I’m not bragging, but I have a model’s body; I am slim and tall. I love dresses, but sometimes a dress I love I think is possibly too short. What is the appropriate length? I dont want to look like my mother, lol.

    1. Hi Wendy,
      There’s no hard or fast rule. I’ve seen women 60+ with great legs in shorter shirts who look fab. Grazing the top of the knee is a great length. Suppose you have good legs, then a couple of inches shorter. If you want to go longer, you can too to the middle of the knee. Just stay away from minis which means mid-thigh.

  12. Hi, I’m a Filipina, 5 feet in height. I have a nice butt, but I dont have good legs, Especially on my popliteal area. I want to be fashionable despite not wearing a dress above the knee. Help, please. I wouldn’t say I like showing your legs at all.

  13. I’m 31 years old, and yes, the same problem; I have a lot of scars, and they are brown. I’m trying to get surgery, but it’s pretty scary. I’m so embarrassed every time I wear the dress. I can’t even wear clothing in daylight because I’m so ashamed about my legs. People look especially on a summer day, but I have gotten an idea of what to do since I read all these comments. Thanks.

  14. What about dressing for thick legs? Many women have legs that are the same size down to the ankle.

    1. Hi Wanda, I say you should stick to pants or try a maxi dress. I was recently out in Los Angeles, and they were all the rave! Maxi dresses keep you cool and look lovely with flat sandals. They are oh, so comfy and stylish!

  15. I, too, use and LOVE the Sally Hansen leg spray in the light to medium shade for my pale legs (I’m allergic to the ingredient in self-tanners).

  16. I have terrible legs. I am 5’4″ and thin except for my legs, which are heavy and not shapely. On top of that, I now have many small veins and purple bruises that never disappeared. Horrid. I used to be a runner, and my legs improved, but I had to stop a few years ago due to health issues. Dermablend works for me, but even if you use the setting powder, it still comes off on your clothes, like capris. And now my knees wrinkle also. Thanks all to my mother! It’s hard to find things now that cover my knees. There’s not a whole lot I can do anymore. I wear long skirts and dresses because I love wearing them and hope for the best. Leg makeup works with good coverage, but it takes a while, and you must be careful with what you are wearing. My husband thinks I am sexy and beautiful, so that’s all that matters. Right? :-)

    1. Hi Alene,
      You might be too hard on yourself, but I know it can be challenging to feel good about your legs when they have many veins. It sounds like you are doing your best to hide them. That your husband is your biggest fan and supporter of you says so much! You are one lucky lady!

  17. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Yesterday I tried your advice. I used some tanning spray and wore a soft, floaty skirt that hit just below my knee with cute flats – without a hose. The dress was pink, beige, and white with touches of black. Wow, I got compliment after compliment from men and women. Folks focused on how pretty the skirt was and how it fit me, not on my flaws; I felt so confident. Thank you!

  18. I have many wonderful traits from my mother, so I’m patient that I also have her legs :-). The only time dresses are more comfortable than pants is when it’s boiling. For me, that always means no hose at all. That’d be self-defeating otherwise. As to camouflage, self-tanner if you must, although that would not go with my face :-), don’t fret. Slightly longer dresses than would be precisely fashionable, and focus on your comfort, that’s all. I distract them with very loud prints; nobody gets the details lost in

  19. I add Kudos to Sally Hanson Airbrush legs. I use light to medium, and it is very natural looking. I used it for an early Autumn wedding where I wore a silk dress that did not rub off!

    I have featured an Interview on my site with Tina from The Enchanted Home…


    Art by Karena

  20. I LOVE Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs spray! I have a cupboard full; I can’t live without it in the summer. This product does exactly what it promises – it gives flawless, airbrushed legs! I have several different shades. The finish is smooth no,t at ALL orange, and very attractive. The key to getting a natural effect is BLENDING with a MOISTURIZER. I find it is a bit dry looking without adding my regular moisturizer, Nivea Co Q 10 Skin Firming Lotion. I spray a small amount onto a portion of my leg- spray LIGHTLY to avoid sprinkling the floor or wall- and quickly rub some lotion onto it. You have to blend blend blend! It dries very fast, so you must work quickly and continuously until it’s almost dry. I don’t have spider veins, but my skin is ashen, and this product makes my legs look FLAWLESS. Fantastic stuff; I’m hooked!

  21. Self tanners don’t give me enough coverage so I use leg makeup under sheer nylons. I currently use Dermablend Leg and Body Cover. First I make sure my legs are shaved and exfoliated, then I apply the Dermablend with a makeup sponge. After I’ve completed my hair and face makeup I dust my legs with a Dermablend powder which sets the makeup. If I am wearing pants I might not have to do this process but it’s required for a dress. Unfortunately I have the dummy whammy of spider veins and skin which bruises easily. In the beginning I had my spider veins erased with laser but the veins just came back and more of them. I still make an effort to look my best so the leg makeup is part of it.

  22. Thanks for the helpful article. Copied it for further reference. I agree with Felicia G as those thigh highs really don’t stay up well. I just still with the old panty hose. I remember garter belts so anything is an improvement including panty hose.

  23. I too have used the Sally Hansen spray leg cover. It works very well. I am very fair and nylons with open toe shoes drive me crazy so I have found mixing lotion(I use curel) and a body bronzer( i use Lorac) evens out the tone and gives some shimmer. My legs looked slimmer!

  24. Instead of stockings give leg makeup a try. The Sally Hansen spray brand in the light to medium tone gives beautiful coverage, does not smudge off on clothing or furniture and lasts all day. I have no connection or agreement with this company. Just enjoy using . There is also a medium to tan tone but it seems too dark and artificial.

  25. Regarding the thigh hi suggestion: I’ve yet to find any that don’t fall down. I’ve had some embarrassing situations trying to wear them.

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