Fashion Friday: Fine-Mesh and Flesh-Tone Fishnets

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.

Fashion Friday: Fine-Mesh and Flesh-Tone Fishnets
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12 thoughts on “Fashion Friday: Fine-Mesh and Flesh-Tone Fishnets

  1. 1

    I’m sometimes a bit confused by USian leg-covering terminology. But I’m unsure as to why, having rejected panty-hose (tights?) you move straight to fishnets, without going via normal stockings (er, plain ones I mean).

    I hatehatehate tights (much too hot in the crotch department) but I’m a fan of stockings for formal things. (Most of the time I’m a sock girl though)

  2. 2

    Naath: I’m Canadian. For what it’s worth, I take “pantyhose” to mean thin, tranluscent nylon (or silk if you’re fancy) and “tights” to mean thicker, opaque nylon, or cotton, or poly, or wool. “Stockings” where I’m from mean very, very long socks that reach one’s mid-thigh and are usually held up with garters.

    I generally hate (HATE!) both tights and panyhose, unless I can find the elusive low-rise, because I’m short-waisted and waistbands on both tights and pantyhose generally come up to my boobs, and are extremely tight/control-top. This gives me a sausage-casing look and completely ruins the line under my dresses and shirts. Supremely irritating. A friend turned me on to stockings (or “thigh-highs”) with garters last fall, and needless to say I haven’t looked back. Like I said, though, there are tights in the world that are low-rise, and that don’t have super-tight waistbands or control tops. Hard to find, but worth the search. Greta: what are the waistbands like on fishnets? I’ve never tried them, but they sound like a good idea.

  3. 3

    My favorite — at least as long as I’m wearing a skirt that goes to mid-calf or longer — is to wear knee-high socks. They look like tights, and I’m the only one who has to know about the lace around the elastic at the top.

    This is partly because I like to go for complete stealth in my sexiness these days. I’m not showing off for anyone but myself or my boyfriend, and I’m aware that, professionally, it’s unwise for me to show any kind of sexuality if I don’t have to 🙁

  4. 4

    Personally, I’m a fan of *well-fitting* thigh highs. Cheap ones or ill-fitting ones can make you feel like your thigh is being constricted by a rubber tourniquet. But the first time I found comfortable thigh highs that fit, I was amazed at how I barely even noticed that I had them on. And you feel sort of self-aware and sexy at the same time.

    Pantyhose and tights are a no-go for me most of the time because I’m 6’2″. Finding tights where the crotch doesn’t actually hit somewhere mid-thigh on me is nearly impossible.

  5. 6

    Another thing in favour of fishnets: they last much better than 15 – 20 denier tights/pantyhose! I like brightly coloured fishnets myself, though I wore white ones for my wedding (white dress, blue shoes).

  6. 7

    Wow, Monika, a white dress with white fishnets and blue shoes sounds really stylish! I’m almost tempted to steal the idea if I ever get married.

  7. 8

    I love, love, love, thigh high hose with the elastic/sticky stuff on them. They are a life saver when you are too tall for “regular” sizes. And if you get a run, you can replace one and keep on. It’s a joy. And since I live in the sticky, humid southern part of the US, thigh highs are the only way to survive. 98 degrees and 80% humidity do not lend itself to wearing pantyhose!

    I have fishnets in thigh high as well. Love them! But I do use them for sexy purposes; they aren’t something that would have worked in my office.

  8. 9

    If you’re searching online, using the term ‘micro-nets’ or ‘micro fishnets’ will get you the type of hose you’re looking for. Italian manufacturers Oroblu are a reliable provider of top of the line micros. has a truly mind bogglingly extensive selection of fishnets in various colors and methods of deployment – over the knee, thigh his, stocking, traditional pantyhose/tight configuration. I much prefer OTK, thi-highs or stockings myself. These are all much more comfy than the traditional ‘pantyhose’ formation.

    Don’t forget the appeal of white fishnets, especially in summer. The innocence of white combined with the forthright sexiness of fishnet creates a delightful state of confusion in the observer. steph

  9. 10

    I quite like skin-tone fishnets, especially in the summer! And I second whoever mentioned that fishnets tend to outlast other forms of thin-and-sheer legwear.

  10. 11

    Ha! Pipe dream for me to ever take this advice. I’m female and stand at a glorious 6 ft. 2 inches. (Glorious for fun, not-so-glorious for fashion.) The only leg coverings they make for me are classified by one name: “Ripped”!

  11. 12

    Annie, I’m also 6’2″ (holla!) and while it is difficult to find hosiery, it’s not impossible. Often times if you buy the “queen” or plus-sized thigh highs the extra material will stretch up to cover your whole leg. I’ve had great success ordering from

    Or you can try specifically hunting down websites dedicated to drag queens and transvestites. They’ve done the homework for you and found online shops that cater to taller ladies.

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