Hosiery: The word hosiery is really the name given to a class of tight-fitting garments worn on the legs and/or feet. And hosiery, for the most part is of a knit construction. So, socks, pantyhose, fishnet stockings, nylons, leggings, tights and stockings all fall under the category of hosiery. It used to be that hosiery was a kind of secret accessory to be worn without necessarily being seen. However, with the popularity of leggings in the 1990's most hosiery like tights, panty hose and stockings now fit very closely and thus can stand alone as an outer garment to be seen.
Pantyhose or Panty hose:
The term pantyhose was first coined in the United States around 1959 when Glen Raven Mills introduced a seam-free stocking made from circular knitting machines. Before then, women wore nylon stockings. So, the word pantyhose comes from combining the words panties - the American term for women's underpants - with hosiery. No longer did women need to wear garter belts, panties and garters with their stockings. Pantyhose took 3 garments and turned them into one.
The sheerness of the knit fabric has a lot to do with the naming of the pantyhose or stocking style in hosiery. The sheerness is measured by the number of denier - the lower the denier, the sheerer the hosiery. Any panty hose below 15 denier, for example, is extremely sheer and delicate. 15 denier is your standard sheer pantyhose thickness. 20 to 30 denier is semi opaqe and frequently referred to as sheer tights. 70 denier makes very opaque tights. Falke pantyhose has a full range of denier weights. Fishnet stockings do not have denier weights.
Pantyhose come in a wide range of popular styles. Women wanting a slimmer form will purchase Control Top pantyhose which have a reinforced panty that is like shapewear and holds in your tummy. Sheer to Waist pantyhose are just that - sheer from the waist down to your toes. This panty hose hosiery style is great when you're wearing a very short skirt, side slit gown, lingerie, or open-toe shoes, and do not want any reinforcement line showing. Of course, the downside is that Sheer to Waist pantyhose are fragile and can quickly run if not treated carefully. Support hose are of a heavier denier and really give control to the entire leg. Support pantyhose are very popular with women who stand on their feet all day. The all-leg support hose really keeps legs from becoming tired at the end of the day. Back seam pantyhose have a seam up the back on what is usually a sheer stocking. This is considered very sexy pantyhose. Music leg makes stockings with a back seam. There is also a panty hose with a lacy panty area and or a lacy waistband. Finally, footless pantyhose have been made popular by Spanx. Footless panty hose give you the warmth and support of regular hosiery, but with the foot removed so that you can wear sandals or shoes under pants without looking like you have any hosiery on. Spanx footless pantyhose and Spanx footless body shaping pantyhose have been big sellers since Oprah announced that she wears them.
Stockings & Thigh Highs:
First, let's have a quick history lesson on silk stockings and nylon stockings. Though the first use of silk stockings dates back to the 16th century, their mass appeal began in the 1920's. It was believed that silk stockings gave the middle-class woman a sense of royal luxury. And why wouldn't they considering Queen Elizabeth wore them. A curious dichotomy with silk stockings is that they were also considered a very sexual accessory. Made only in the color of flesh, they were combined with short dresses and garter belts to give men a peek at a woman's legs. Wearing silk stockings enhanced a woman's legs by shaping them and deminimizing any skin flaws. Thus silk stockings to this day are considered rather erotic.
Nylon stockings or nylons, as they were soon called, eventually replaced silk stockings in the 1940's. Nylon was an exciting and new fiber to hit the market. Nylon had the look of silk, but was much stronger. So, nylon stockings, or nylons as they became known as, could be made more quickly and distributed to the masses at a more reasonable price. Now remember, we are talking about silk and nylon stockings - not pantyhose. Stockings only cover about two-thirds of a woman's leg, from the feet to mid-thigh. The stockings were then fastened with garters to a garter belt or girdle. Fishnet stockings also made their debut at this time.
So then, what are thigh highs? Thigh highs are stockings that can stay up on their own without the use of garters. Designed with beautiful lace along the top containing a touch of spandex, this hosiery style is both beautiful and functional. In many ways thigh high socks are preferable to pantyhose:
- Aesthetically, they expose the thigh for a sexy look.
- Thigh highs don't need to be pulled down when visiting the ladies room.
- Men find them quite erotic because they don't need to be removed.
- There is no need for a garter belt or garters.
- Because they do not contain a crotch, there is better air circulation.
- Wearing thigh highs makes going to the ladies room much faster.
Tights: Tights are a heavy denier pantyhose style. Any pantyhose with a 40 denier weight or higher is considered to be a pair of tights. Their history is actually quite long, dating back several centuries when tights were worn by men during the Renaissance era. Male fashion back then enjoyed displaying their well turned legs. In fact,King Hnry VIII was know to pad his calf area under his tights to give a more athletic silhouette.
Today, tights are very popular when teamed with a short skirt. Tights come in every imaginable color and pattern. Tights also serve a very useful purpose in keeping the wearers legs warm. And, footless tights known as leggings are another very popular silhouette.
Anyone who has worn pantyhose or nylons knows about runs. Called laddering in the United Kingdom, almost every woman has ruined a pair of stockings just trying to put them on. Once pantyhose are in place, the fear moves to catching your nylons on a piece or furniture or while getting out of her car. Once a run begins, it can be contained with the use of clear nail polish placed along the top of the run. Of course, once this happens, the pantyhose tend to wind up in the waste basket at the end of the day.
Most hosiery is made with nylon that is not absorbent. Thus perspiration from the feet, around the crotch area, and along the legs can be very uncomfortable and unhealthy. This one issue is the primary reason hosiery sales and pantyhose purchases have decreased over the years. Women wanted to be liberated from the bondage of nylons.
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