Let’s say you’re putting together a somewhat dressy look, with a skirt or a dress, and dressy shoes that aren’t boots.
Let’s say you want something covering your legs: either for the dressiness, or for a little bit of warmth. Let’s say that patterned black stockings, as awesome as they are, would be a bit much: a little too sexy for this particular event, or a little too complicated for this particular look.
And let’s say you hate, hate, HATE pantyhose.
I’m going to propose a fashion solution that Ingrid pointed out to me years ago: Fine-mesh or flesh-toned fishnets.
Regular fishnet stockings are pretty aggressively sexy. Black fishnets especially. If fashion is a language, black fishnet stockings pretty much say, “Hello, sailor!” (Which is fine in some circumstances, but not always the look you want to go for.) But fine-meshed black fishnets have a surprisingly elegant look. From a distance, they actually look a lot like regular black pantyhose. From somewhat closer, they look like regular black pantyhose… but with a mysterious bit of added depth and texture. It’s only up close that they reveal their true fishnet nature.
And let’s talk for a moment about that mysterious bit of added depth and texture. Fine-mesh black fishnets emphasize the contours and the curves of your legs… and they do it beautifully. Like regular fishnets, they stretch out to be slightly lighter where your legs curve out, snuggle in close to be slightly darker where your legs curve in. Much the way the light does. But they do it more subtly than regular fishnets, and without the whole “Hello, sailor!” subtext. It’s like you have a professional lighting expert following you around all night, making sure your legs look stunning.
With some subtle differences, the same is true for flesh-toned fishnets. From a distance, they look a lot like regular flesh-toned pantyhose. They don’t look like fishnets until you get up close.
Oh: for the purposes of this piece, I’m using “flesh-toned” to mean “fairly close to your own skin color.” The one caveat is that, if your skin is very dark, I’m not sure if black fishnets would read as “close to your own skin color.” In the semiotics of fashion, black fishnets do seem to have their own unique meaning. So if you’re dark-skinned and you want to go with the “flesh-toned” option, you might go with dark brown instead.
So what are those subtle differences? Well, flesh-toned fishnets don’t have to be fine-mesh to look elegant, and to avoid the “Hello, sailor!” effect. If they’re in your skin tone, regular mesh fishnets look very classy. And for obvious reasons, they look a lot more natural than fine-mesh black fishnets. (Unless, obviously, your skin is pretty dark. Although, again, see above about the semiotics of black fishnets.) They make your legs look like your legs… but smoothed out, and with a bit of depth and texture, and a bit of added visual interest.
So which should you pick? Fine-mesh black fishnets, or flesh-toned fishnets?
It depends on the outfit, and on the event, and on you.
In my opinion, black fishnets — even fine-mesh ones — are always going to be a little sexier than most other stocking options. Fine-meshed ones will be elegantly and subtly sexy instead of smack-you-in-the-face, “Hello, sailor!” sexy — but they’ll still carry a bit of that message. And that may or may not be the look you’re going for. If you want a lighter, more springy or summery look, flesh-toned will work better. If you want to look like you have bare legs, only not, you’ll obviously want to go with flesh-toned. (Also, if you’re wearing a black or dark dress and you want the contrast with your leg line, flesh-toned might work better.) If you want to go more snazzy, with just a touch of va-va-voom, fine-mesh black will work better. And if you want the stockings to be more the focus of attention, instead of being subtle to the point of almost disappearing, fine-mesh black will probably be the way to go.
I guess the most obvious rule of thumb would be: If it’s a situation/ outfit where you normally would wear flesh-toned pantyhose, go with the flesh-toned. If it’s a situation/ outfit where you normally would wear black pantyhose, go with the fine-mesh black.
And you can ditch the freaking pantyhose.*
* Actually… you may not be able to ditch the pantyhose entirely. Fine-mesh and flesh-toned fishnets probably wouldn’t be appropriate in most offices, or in other standard professional situations. It’s more of a party/ evening/ weekend/ non-office-professional look.