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Sheer pantyhose

Pantyhose (also called tights) are sheer, close-fitting coverings of the body from the waist to the feet. Traditionally considered a woman's garment, pantyhose appeared in the 1960s and provided a convenient alternative to stockings. Like stockings, pantyhose are usually made of nylon. Pantyhose are designed to:
  • be fashionable
  • ease chafing between the foot and footwear
  • keep the legs and feet warm
  • hide physical imperfections such as blemishes, bruises, scars, hair, or varicose veins

Besides being worn as fashion, in Western society pantyhose is sometimes worn by women when formal dress is required. For example, the dress code of some companies and schools require pantyhose or fashion tights to be worn when skirts or shorts are worn or as part of a uniform.


Pantyhose occupy very little space when not worn.
The term 'pantyhose' originated in the United Statesmarker, referring to the combination of 'panties' (an American term for women's underpants) with sheer nylon hosiery, meaning they are meant to be worn without other undergarments. In the United Kingdommarker, they are called tights, a term that refers to all such garments regardless of whether they are sheer lingerie or sturdy outerwear. In the U.S., the term tights may refer to pantyhose made from thicker, often opaque, material or alternately to non-sheer garments typically made of a stretchy material like spandex which do not necessarily cover the feet and may be worn by either gender during athletic activity or as utility clothing. In the United Kingdom, they are called leggings.


In the 1920s, the fashionable hemline for women rose enough to show the legs, and sheer hosiery that covered the legs was only available as stockings. They were first made of silk or rayon (then known as "artificial silk"), and after 1940 with nylon. In the 1940s and 1950s, film and theater productions were having stockings sewn to the briefs of actresses and dancers. This has been stated by actress-dancer Ann Miller and seen in popular films such as Daddy Long Legs.

In 1953, Allen Gant Sr. of Glen Raven Knitting Mills developed a commercial equivalent named "Panti-Legs", but didn't bring it to market until 1959. During this time another North Carolinian, Ernest G. Rice, invented his own design (similar to what is used today) and in 1956 submitted a patent titled "Combination Stockings and Panty". The superior design was adopted by others, causing dispute in U.S. courts for many years before being upheld after Rice's own death.

Up till this time there was little reason for women to wear "panty hose". However, during the 1960s, improved manufacturing made them cheaper, spandex (or elastane) made them more comfortable, and the miniskirt made them a fashion necessity. In 1970, U.S. sales of pantyhose exceeded stockings for the first time, and has remained this way ever since.

The popularity of pantyhose grew into a wardrobe staple throughout the 1970s and '80s. It wasn't until 1995 that a steady decline began, leveling off in 2006 with U.S. sales less than half of what they had been. This decline has been attributed to bare-legged fashion and changes in workplace dress code.

While sales of traditional pantyhose styles remain low, alternative styles have seen growth. Fishnets, patterns and colors, opaque tights, low-rise, footless shapewear, and pantyhose for men have all seen increased popularity during this time. Companies such as Spanx have emerged as an example of success in this new era for pantyhose.


Pantyhose generally has a standard construction: the top of the waist is a strong elastic; the part covering the hips (panty area) is composed of a thicker material than the legs; the gusset or crotch is also a stronger material, sometimes made of cotton; while the legs of the pantyhose are made of the thinnest material which has a consistent construction down to the toes, which may be reinforced to guard against wear.

Most pantyhose are composed of nylon and a mixture of spandex, which provides the elasticity and form fitting that is characteristic of modern pantyhose. The nylon fabric is somewhat prone to tearing and it is common for very sheer hose to 'run' soon after snagging on something rough or sharp.

Variations in pantyhose construction exist, such as with fishnet pantyhose. They may also be composed of other materials such as cotton or wool.


Pantyhose are available in a wide range of popular styles. The sheerness of the garment, expressed as a numerical 'denier'/'dtex', ranges from 3 (extremely rare, very thin, barely visible) to 15 (standard sheer) up to 30 (semi opaque) until 100 (opaque). Examples of opaque tights showing mostly 40 denier opaque tights upwards.Control-top pantyhose, intended to create a slimmer form, has a reinforced panty. There may be visible panty lines when wearing high-cut skirts or shorts.

Sheer-to-waist pantyhose is sheer throughout, with the panty portion being the same thickness and color as the leg portion, and are designed for use with high-slit gowns, miniskirts, hot pants, or lingerie. Often sheer-to-waist pantyhose will be reinforced along and on either side of the seam in the middle of the panty.

Open-crotch pantyhose, sometimes known as crotchless pantyhose, does not have a gusset. Instead, an opening is in place for hygiene or pantyhose fetishism activities.

Some pantyhose have single- or double-panel gussets incorporated into them. In single there are two seams instead of the usual one, with a single one on the opposite side; with double panel gussets, there are two seams on either side.

Health benefits and risks

In cold weather, pantyhose can help keep the legs and feet warm. In low humidity conditions, they can help prevent the legs from becoming too dry. Support hosiery can help those who work on their feet by preventing/helping varicose veins and resolving pain in the back and legs by regulating blood circulation.

Pantyhose, especially when constructed of synthetic, non-absorbent materials such as nylon or when worn too tight, can be the proximate cause or a contributing factor in the development of yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and possibly bacterial vaginosis .

Men and pantyhose

While traditionally considered a woman's garment, pantyhose are occasionally worn by men for thermal protection and therapeutic relief. Race horse jockeys also wear pantyhose under their silks so that their jockey silks glide freely over the legs and waist when the jockey's body moves at a rapid pace . Some fishermen who surf fish from tropical beaches may also wear pantyhose to protect from jellyfish, whose stingers cannot penetrate the mesh . In the late 1990s several small manufacturers introduced pantyhose styles designed for men to cater to this niche market.

See also


  6. The Wall Street Journal: "Kingsize, Not Queen: Some Men Have Taken To Wearing Pantyhose --- Mainstay for Cross-Dressers Is Boon to Athletes and Guys On Their Feet All Day Long"

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