Stocking exchange: Are bare legs OK for the office?

July 04, 1996|By Elinor Brecher | Elinor Brecher,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

One of the burning fashion issues of the season -- as in burning up -- is: Should I wear pantyhose?

For some women, that makes about as much sense as asking: Should I swathe my legs in Saran Wrap and do aerobics in a sauna?

"Not only do I not wear them, I do not own any," says Rebekah Poston, an attorney at the Miami firm Steel, Hector & Davis. "They're restrictive and uncomfortable. I believe they restrict blood flow to the brain."

Yet, some women would no more show up for work barelegged than bare-breasted.

And others have no choice. All 120 women who work at the Miami office of the statewide law firm of Holland & Knight, for instance, are required to wear pantyhose to work, except on the twice-monthly "casual days."

"We went round and round about it," says senior partner Mel McGuire. "We had to write a specific policy: Women wear pantyhose, and men have to wear socks."

This was thanks largely to the wishes of managing partner Bill McBride, who is "very conservative when it comes to dress," according to Claudia Spagnola, business manager of the firm's Miami office. "He felt that in summer, [employees] were getting too casual in dress overall." Pantyhose "are part of a professional image," says Spagnola.

Christine Kurtz-White, director of the Women's Business Development Center at Florida International University, agrees. She teaches courses in business etiquette and grooming, and has heard from the business community "that you can't ever get away with not wearing them."

If you must wear pantyhose in the summertime, at least there are now some lightweight and supersheer styles that aim to minimize the plastic-wrap sensation:

The L'eggswear Summer Collection, for instance, is a new line from L'eggs that, the company claims, "actually makes consumers feel drier and therefore cooler in the summer." They come in four styles from $2.79 to $5.09.

Hanes offers "Summer Sheer" hose in three sizes: A-B, C-D and (( E-F, in control top, sheer-to-waist and thigh high, all sandalfoot. They're filmy, 100 percent nylon and priced from $4 to $4.50. (Beware of 100 percent nylon, though. If the hose are even a little too long, they'll bag at the ankle and the knee. Even if they fit perfectly, they'll tend to bag slightly with wear. A touch of Lycra solves the problem.)

Calvin Klein's CK super and "chiffon" sheers are barely there, but at a much heftier price: $9 to $14, as are the Donna Karan "Nudes," $12.50.

But do you really have to wear them?

All that Broward County Attorney John Copelan asks of his lawyers is that they be court-appearance-ready on short notice, even on "business casual" Fridays. But he doesn't "focus on specific items of clothing," such as pantyhose. "We don't have a clothes police."

Ann Machado, president and chief executive of Creative Staffing, an employment agency with offices in South Florida, urges her staffers to always look professional -- which means pantyhose most of the time. But Machado admits she's become more inclined to be lenient with women who are tan and well-groomed.

"I've got one gal who works like a dog, spends weekends on the beach and hates pantyhose. I've told her that if I can't tell, she can suit herself."

The real problem, says Machado, is not that women won't wear pantyhose, it's that they don't wear underwear.

"Yes! I've heard from clients who have had girls fall down or cross their legs at the wrong moment. This is why your mommy tells you to wear clean underwear. Just wear some underwear!"

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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