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Pantyhose: The Evolution of Legwear

CEO Tinh Phung
High-gloss, sheer-to-waist pantyhose Pantyhose, also known as sheer tights, have come a long way since their introduction in 1959. Originally designed as a convenient alternative to stockings and girdles, pantyhose quickly became a fashion staple...

Pantyhose High-gloss, sheer-to-waist pantyhose

Pantyhose, also known as sheer tights, have come a long way since their introduction in 1959. Originally designed as a convenient alternative to stockings and girdles, pantyhose quickly became a fashion staple for women. Today, they serve not only as a fashion statement but also offer various practical benefits.

A Blend of Fashion and Functionality

Pantyhose are typically made of nylon or a blend of fibers, offering a sleek and attractive appearance. They are designed to hide physical imperfections like blemishes, bruises, scars, leg hair, spider veins, or varicose veins. Additionally, they give the skin a tanner and less pale appearance. Pantyhose also reduce visible panty lines and ease chafing between feet and footwear or thighs.

In Western society, pantyhose are frequently worn as part of formal dress. They are often required by certain companies and schools when skirts or shorts are part of a uniform. Interestingly, pantyhose are not limited to women alone; men can also wear them under trousers, shorts, or skirts for work, formal events, or leisure.

Pantyhose Styles Pantyhose brief styles: control-top, sheer-to-waist, and simple-panty sections

A Tale of Terminology

The term "pantyhose" originated in the United States, combining the words "panties" and "hosiery." In British English, these garments are referred to as "sheer tights." The term "tights" alone encompasses all legwear, regardless of sheerness or durability.

In American English, "tights" typically refers to thicker pantyhose-like garments that are often opaque or slightly translucent. On the other hand, leggings can be worn as outerwear and can be footless, whereas tights are usually seamless and reach all the way to the toes.

The Historical Journey

The history of pantyhose is intertwined with the evolution of women's hemlines. Before the 1920s, women would cover their legs, including their ankles, while in public. The introduction of tights, especially for sports and entertainment, provided a more appropriate legwear option. As hemlines rose in the 1920s, stockings became popular to maintain coverage and warmth.

Pantyhose as we know them today emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Improved textile manufacturing processes made them more affordable, comfortable, and durable. The advent of the miniskirt in the 1960s further solidified pantyhose as a wardrobe staple. Sales of pantyhose surpassed stockings in the United States in 1970 and have remained popular ever since, although their popularity has somewhat declined in recent years.

Pantyhose in 1910 The Macarte Sisters wearing tights under their leotard-based costumes in 1910

A Closer Look at Composition

Pantyhose are typically constructed with a strong elastic waistband, a thicker material for the panty area, and a thin fabric for the legs. The most common materials used are nylon and spandex. The nylon fabric, while prone to tearing, provides the characteristic form-fitting quality of pantyhose.

Other variations of pantyhose include fishnet styles and those made from silk, cotton, cashmere, or wool.

Exploring Different Styles

Pantyhose come in a wide range of styles to suit various needs. The sheerness of the garment is measured in denier, with 3 denier being extremely thin and barely visible, and 250 denier being opaque. Control-top pantyhose feature a reinforced-panty section that helps create a slimmer figure. Sheer-to-waist pantyhose are sheer throughout and designed for use with high-slit gowns, miniskirts, or lingerie. Open toe and open-crotch pantyhose offer versatility for different types of footwear and unique preferences. Some pantyhose also incorporate single or double-panel gussets for added durability and comfort.

The Downsides and Environmental Impact

While pantyhose provide numerous benefits, there are some drawbacks to consider. Nylon, the primary material used, is not absorbent, allowing perspiration to linger on the skin and potentially cause odor. Additionally, pantyhose are not easily recyclable or biodegradable, which raises concerns about their impact on the environment.

Efforts are being made to address these concerns, with initiatives focused on recycling and repurposing old pantyhose into various products. Some brands also offer more durable options to minimize runs and increase longevity.

Breaking Gender Norms

Although traditionally seen as women's legwear, pantyhose have also gained popularity among men. Men wear pantyhose for thermal protection, therapeutic relief, or simply as a fashion statement. Professional jockeys, surf fishermen, and individuals who embrace unique style choices have all contributed to the rise of pantyhose in men's fashion.

Pantyhose Vending Machine Pantyhose vending machine at Town Hall railway station, Sydney, Australia

In Conclusion

Pantyhose have evolved significantly since their debut, offering both fashion and functionality. Despite some concerns and changing fashion trends , pantyhose continue to be a versatile and essential garment in many wardrobes. From sheer elegance to practicality, pantyhose have solidified their place in the world of legwear.