Body Type

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

When 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?

What if you have big calves, chunky ankles, thunder thighs, veiny legs, splotchy legs, scars, or skinny legs? How do you cover up your legs in summer?”  Read on…


culottes set

culotte set | sandals |bag


1. Wear Palazzo Pants or Flowy Culottes

Loose, flowy Palazzo pants that skim the floor are a great solution.  They look chic and keep your legs cool in summer because they have a generous cut, flair from the waist, and are wide throughout the portion.

I love the new cropped ones that you might refer to as culottes. They often come now as part of a matched set.  My silky orange pants hit at the same point as a tea-length skirt and look very modern. If you don’t mind showing a bit of ankle, these are my first choice for covering your legs in summer!

Style Tip: Don’t let that cute crop top scare you. It’s cut so there is no space between the top and the pants, and it flares over your belly, giving the illusion of a smaller waist and flatter stomach.

white linen pants

white linen pants | striped shirt | tee | sandals | bag

2. Try Wide, Straight Leg Pants

If Palazzo pants feel too voluminous or dramatic for you, try a pair of regular, relaxed, Wide Leg Pants, which are straight cut from the thigh to the ankle. These come in various fabrics, with linen being one of the most popular since it breathes so well in summer.


taupe striped linen pants

striped linen pants | rust tee | snake print sandals | faux leather bag


Linen wide-leg pants are light, airy, and very comfy. It never hurts to have a white drawstring pair. I also have some cute taupe-striped ones I like to wear on vacation.


orange maxi dress

orange maxi | bag | sandals

3. Slip into a Maxi Dress

Maxi dresses reappear every summer because they are a causal, easy way to cover your legs and feel soft and comfy.  I like to play up the beachy vibe of summer maxis and wear mine with flat, metallic, or woven sandals.  Casual maxi never looks quite right with a towering stiletto.


crochet maxi

maxi | bag |sandals | earrings


One of the newer styles I have been wearing lately are crochet maxis. They have a half slip underneath creating a peek a boo effect. They look light and airy and a hint of leg can be seen underneath but not really. It’s a great way to camouflage legs without totally covering up.

Style Tip: A cute white or colored denim jacket layered over a summer maxi is a great way to cover arms or create more of a complete outfit.


Shirts for Leggings - Sleeveless Sleeveless Floral Shirtdress


4. Experiment with Summer Leggings

If you love leggings, you can wear them in summer too, but you’ll probably want to switch to the cotton type, which is lighter and more breathable.  Wear them under flowy tunics, big shirts, and soft summer t-shirt dresses as an alternative to tights.

You can go with 7/8 ankle length, which is a tad shorter than regular ankle length and more summery, or capris style—experiment and see which works best for you.

Style Tip- If you do go with capris leggings, make sure to exfoliate your legs. A slight shimmer of tan helps to reflect away from the leg’s look. I use Jeurgens, which gives my skin a light golden sunkissed look compared to a tan.


5. Wear Capris or Cropped Ankle Pants

Ankle pants that land just above the ankle bone are also a popular way to cover up in summer. Jean-style capris are classic, but the more athletic jogger style is popular too. If it’s just your thighs that you prefer to cover up, you always opt for capris. Capris are slightly more casual and tricker, especially if you are bottom-heavy.

Style Tip: Avoid capris that hit the widest part of your calf. Slightly above or below the calf is more flattering.

striped top white jeans

striped top | white jeans | white sandals |earrings | denim jacket


6. Pull on Light, White Jeans

Crisp, white jeans are always a classy way to cover your legs in summer because they look fresh and fabulous.  White is a beautiful backdrop for all colors and will make any color of top, pop!  White jeans are also more lightweight than regular jeans, and white doesn’t absorb heat like blue or black, so you don’t get hot.

Style: Some regular blue jeans come in lightweight denim for summer, so check around for those too.

blue caftan

Caftan | sandals | bag

7. Throw on a Kaftan

Here’s one you may not have thought of. If you are entertaining, lounging or going to a pool or patio party a breezy Kaftan can be the perfect thing to look sophisticated and glamorous.


8. Divert Attention Away from Your Legs

This is the oldest trick in the book, but it works.  Move the focus upwards, away from your legs, by wearing a fabulous hat, bright lipstick, dramatic jewelry, or an interesting neckline. Your legs won’t even be noticed!


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


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39 thoughts on “What To Wear In The Summer If You Can’t Go Bare Legs?

  1. Oh boy… not here if this will get answered in time, but Deborah, I love the first pic of the culotte set you modeled and want it for my trip next week to DC. Orange is my 3-yr-old Granddaughter’s favorite color, and I wonder if you sported the ‘orange’ or the ‘bright orange’? I’m leaning toward bright, but I can always buy both and return one (like I’ve never done that before…hah)!
    Looking forward to more of your posts!!!

    1. Hi Patty, Yes, this is a great outfit for a trip. I’m taking it with me when I leave at the end of the week. The outfit I am wearing is orange. The bright orange is a little more neon. I find orange is so cheery in summer, and it always makes me look a bit tanned even when I’m not, which is a bonus. Have fun!

  2. I wouldn’t say I like pantyhose. So I wear thigh-highs that come up to my legs and have narrow welts. They almost stay up, but not quite. So I also wear a four-strap garter belt with wide clasps and the rear straps well to the side. I remove the front straps. Then I fasten the side garters to my stockings by gathering the welts high in the clasps and attaching the clips to my socks.

  3. Tights or hoses look better, feel better, and treat your legs better. Legs stay moisturized for when you remove them, for instance, and aren’t as tired at the end of the day. In the summer in LA, I prefer nude fishnets, which get a lot of compliments. I think they’ll be more cooling than bare because when I move, the threading pattern creates a slight air movement on my legs to keep me calm. In cooler weather, nude, black, or colored tights are great. I also adore navy blue and chocolate brown. A friend wears burgundy a lot, and I need to find where she buys them because they are professional and cute at the same time. Since curing myself of the bare leg fever, I’ve also said goodbye to goosebumped legs in chilly offices and sticking to the backs of chairs. Not to mention that the baby-oiled empty leg look that celebs love wrecks havoc with cleaning clothes and furniture in real life. Hello hose, welcome back.

  4. I am attending daytime high school graduation in May in Orlando, FL. Is it okay to wear black dress shoes and hose in May? My outfit is a pink top with a black chiffon skirt.

  5. Thanks for the advice! I love to wear tights because I have to wear knee support at all times, but I wasn’t sure about wearing socks with summer skirts. Must I try different denier values to be confident? Thank you. Ps, I have skinny ankles! Mmm! What do you reckon?

  6. 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.

    1. I also use leg make-up. I was cursed with Keratosis Pilaris (chicken skin). Sally Hansen’s is like an 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.

  7. I love that I found this article! I’ve been stressed over whether to wear opaque asphalt tights with a short black dress (sailor neckline) and strappy closed-toe stilettos tomorrow night for a press event. It’s smack dab in the middle of July in Los Angeles. I’ll arrive at 7:30 pm. What do you think????

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

    1. Hi Liz,
      No pantyhose with a swimsuit. Here’s what I’d suggest. Get a massive scarf-like cover-up and tie it 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.
      I hope that helps! Cheers, Deborah

  9. Hi, I 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 an accident 20 years ago), I am 42 years old. I have been driving myself mad with what to wear. I like the idea of wearing jeans, and then I wish I was in something more intelligent when I am wearing them. With the weather now turning to Spring here, hopefully getting warmer, I am struggling as the Surgeon has insisted I wear support tights constantly. These are pretty uncomfortable under jeans and jeggings, and I have been wondering whether I could make the pantyhose part of my outfit. Reading that socks are ok to have on the show has opened a wardrobe of skirts and dresses for me. Do you think 20-30 denier tights would be ok in natural, blue or black with skirts and dresses, etc.? I am thinking of short boots at the moment and then maybe with brogues or ballet pumps later. I haven’t been given a date for the operation yet, but it is possibly about July. 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 button. Thank you!

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

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

    1. 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 a tunic would also work well. You want to be comfortable, so choose an excellent walking shoe. Have fun!

  12. Maxi skirts and cargo pants are my staples. I might try cotton leggings under a denim skirt this summer. Long shirts and tanks with leggings and sandals will be my go-to uniform.

  13. Where do you 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.

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

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

    1. Hi Karen, I like the idea that you have a monochromatic look (I am assuming the sweater is white too). Just add a pretty long colorful scarf or a sizeable colorful handbag, and you are good to go!

  16. 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, t-shirts, and jeans. This is what I live in (should say, used to!) Thanks to you, lady. I have been brave and dressed up somewhat, still love the jeans. Keep up the excellent work. By the way, trying to get the nerve up for a new hairstyle!!

  17. I hate wearing sleeveless anything. I also do not wear bathing suits or shorts, but what do you wear when you live in Florida, get hot, and everyone else hardly wears 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 will be traveling to Hawaii in September; I am already panicking about what I will wear. I appreciate your help.

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

    1. Don’t bother getting your veins removed…I did it on one leg to see, and my leg seems worse than the one I didn’t get done…such a huge disappointment :(

  20. 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!


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