Tights and pantyhose

   Pantyhose are the legwear of true style and finesse. The very expression of femininity, tights have gone through a loss of popularity lately, at least in the US, where sales have supposedly dropped around 70% since the late 90s. Fortunately, even though those numbers are predicted to drop further, we're fairly certain nylons are here to stay. For one thing, in other parts of the world, the popularity of tights hasn't faded as much as in the US. New technologies introduced in the manufacturing process always have a direct and visible impact on the quality of nylons produced, as well as on the multitude of available styles.
Tights are basically constantly re-invented, getting ever sheerer and shinier and providing an endless canvas of creation for the minds of fashion designers world over. Pantyhose also act as compulsory business-wear for women in corporate circles everywhere.

   What exactly is the role of panty-hose though and how does this wonderful garment fulfill its mission? Before and above everything else, tights are designed to make the wearer's legs more attractive, slim and stylish. The fact that tights also keep legs and feet warm is secondary to that objective, but rather important nonetheless. Nylons tights are also supposed to reduce friction between the legs and thighs as well as between the foot and footwear, thus eliminating chaffing.
Through the shiny and perfect texture they to lend the legs of the wearer, panty hose cover up small imperfections such as varicose veins, blemishes, scars and just about everything else.

The name "pantyhose" was created through the joining of the words "panty" and "hosiery", as it obviously represents a merger of the two garments. In other parts of the world, pantyhose are also known as tights. In the US, the term "tights" often denotes non-transparent thicker legwear or leggings which are not footed.

Pantyhose are mostly made of nylon and lycra, the stretchy fiber invented by Du Pont. The nylon gives your sheer tights its sheen and texture, while lycra makes it extremely stretchy in all directions. Panty hose are usually made up of a waist-band, which is more elastic and much stronger than the other parts of the garment, a panty part (which is less sheer and offers more support than the legs) and the leg part (which may or may not come with reinforced toes and heel). Sheer to waist pantyhose (known as STW in specialty lingo) only have a T-band top, which means there is no visible panty part when they're worn under a leotard for instance. Tights over a certain size feature crotch panels made of either a thicker blend of the same material or cotton.

History of tights

pantyhose history    The main catalyst for the invention of the panty-hose was of course women's fashion. During the 1920's, skirts would get shorter and shorter, and traditional silk stockings would come under pressure to reach ever higher on wearer's legs in order to prevent the top band from hanging out from underneath the skirt. Theater production companies went as far as to sew actress' and dancers' stockings to their briefs in an effort to solve the problem. The need for a garment made of similar material as stockings, yet capable of covering the entire lower body became obvious. Nylon was invented by Du Pont in 1938 and it seemed like it was the perfect material for the new Panti-Legs or Panty-Hose. Still it wasn't until 1959 that pantyhose as we know them today entered production at the Glen Raven Knitting Mills in North Carolina. Allen Grant is the one credited with the invention of panty hose, although Ernst G. Rice had come up with a similar invention about the same time. Others, like actress Julie Newmar, contributed through later improvements.

Early tights were rather cumbersome: they weren't exactly stretchy, they sagged and they cost a lot. It wasn't until the 1960s that nylons became a mainstream fashion item. The addition of elastane made PH more comfortable and advances in knitting technology started to allow for various styles to be created.
Although the height of the tights fever seems to have declined since about 1995, nowadays panty hose are still popular as ever newer and hotter styles and models are churned out by factories at an unprecedented rate.

Hosiery and leggings pros and cons

pantyhose pro and cons    While waist-to-toe-nylons have many fans, there are plenty of naysayers too, and often, their arguments do indeed hold water. There are few things more annoying than getting a run in your fresh pair of nylon tights just before an important meeting, and tights do seem to get runs (ladders) extremely easily. Some women say they can't get more than 3 wears out of a pair before the ominous and utterly unsightly seam shows up on their nylons. We're saying that with proper care, one can get many more rounds of wearing out of a pair of nylons. All one needs to do is to wash the hose in lukewarm water right after removing it from the package. A bit of hand-moisturizer can be added to the water as well as to the "high-risk" areas of the panty hose, like the toes and the heels, as that's where 90% of the runs begin. Leggings on the other hand do not present such problems, as the nylon-lycra material they're made of is much less prone to runs than the sheer nylon of the pair of tights.

Some people just can't stand the feel of tights, they say it feels like a sausage casing. Obviously, such folks should not wear hose. The cost of tights is another reason why some people hate them, and at $5-$250 a pair, they do have a point too. The bottom line is though that if you have less than ideal legs, nylons are going to make them look acceptable. If your legs are average-looking, they'll look great in hose and if you have phenomenal legs, panty hose are going to make them out-of-this-world fine. Style and beauty comes at a cost, and if you buy the right size and know how to handle them, you panty-hose will last much longer than critics say they do and the wearing experience is going to be a much smoother one too.

Of course, there are health implications (both positive and negative) to wearing hosiery, but to get the rap on that, you'll have to explore this website deeper...

Hosiery technology and manufacturing

tights knitting machine For fans of nylon hosiery in general and tights in particular, it’s clear that the technology behind the manufacturing of these clothing items is nothing short of cutting-edge. Indeed, as far as fine-mechanics and chemistry is concerned, we are talking about cutting edge science in the hosiery industry, which over the last couple of decades, has grown to represent the perfect intertwining of technology and art. The leg has indeed become a sort of canvas on which seemingly endless designs are showcased, as hosiery manufacturers are constantly vying to out-perform, out-design and to generally just blow their competitors out of the water.
There are hosiery brands out there the creators of which seem enamored and somewhat even obsessed with intricate, sensual designs. If you take a look at our hosiery review section, you’ll see that we’ve reviewed quite a number of Trasparenze tights (because that’s the brand we’re talking about) as we are somewhat obsessed with design as well, and the way they do their art is one we can indeed fully appreciate.
For a layman, the technology behind intricate and appealing hosiery design such as the style pushed by Trasparenze is difficult if not downright impossible to understand. By pushing the limits design-wise, hosiery designers like Trasparenze have us believing that it is indeed only the imagination of the designer that cuts a limit to what can be achieved in leg-wear these days.
Taking a peek behind the scenes and gaining a basic understanding of the computer-assisted design and execution that goes into the finished product can be a truly sobering experience though. The manufacturing process is not only long and tedious, it is also extremely intricate, so much so that those who are looking to get into the hosiery industry are essentially required to take a number of specialized courses before they get to thoroughly understand the sort of resources and efforts that go into hosiery production.
The production process can be summed up as beginning with the knitting, which is followed by the dyeing procedure, finishing and then the quality-testing. This is obviously a very simplistic look at the grand scheme of things. Studying yarn – which is the building-block of hosiery – is the first step in understanding knitting for instance. The number of yarns used as well as the actual chemical makeup of the yarns has a defining impact on the weight, touch and feel of the resulting hosiery. The stitch-formation and the way ribbing is done is another major chapter. Understanding actual knitting machines to the point of being able to determine the number of needles needed for a specific type of sock or stocking and being able to determine what type of machine to use to begin with, is also part of the game.

The terminology used in the dyeing phase of production is another major hurdle for a layman, one that must be cleared before a full understanding of the production process is gained. Each and every one of the above touched-on processes comes with its own, specific quality-related issues, so the quality-testing phase is an all-encompassing one, revisiting all of the previous stages and drawing its conclusions from a mind-numbingly large number of variables.
Packaging cannot be neglected either, after all, in hosiery, packaging isn’t just a major part of the marketing effort, it often defines the very identity of the brand, conveying a message of quality to the buyer in addition to its marketing impact.
The environmental side of the coin is a major component of hosiery manufacturing too. Hosiery makers have to comply with a certain set of environmental rules, like clean water initiatives, which add yet another dimension to the way they perform their activity. Essentially, hosiery makers have to find solutions to fulfill all the environmental requirements without running up production costs. Of course, for companies located within strictly regulated jurisdictions, this represents an extra burden, but only in light of the fact that many of the hosiery makers operating in developing economies do not have such environmental laws to obey and norms to fulfill. Other than that, this burden is one well worth bearing. It is indeed quite surprising and alarming that one will find an abhorrent number of toxic and hazardous chemicals in hosiery produced outside the US or the EU.
The testing process for hosiery covers procedures like flammability testing, anti-microbial testing, the analysis of the fiber and thorough search for mechanical defects, compression testing, tests aimed at identifying formaldehyde (often used in hosiery to achieve brighter colors) and phenols and determining the pH of the resulting product. Lead is also actively searched for.
The bottom line: top-notch hosiery, and tights that we define as “high-end” in our review section are the results of an incredible and impressive overall manufacturing process, which leaves nothing to chance. Even basic knowledge of these procedures allows one to view a pair of well-fitting, superbly designed and extremely eye-catching nylons through entirely different eyes…