Sunday, October 6, 2019

Pantyhose Ups and Downs

Pantyhose, from the miniskirt to the boardroom and now banished to the back of lady’s lingerie drawers.

By Paula Gaikowski, Contributing Editor

I have always been captivated with and loved pantyhose. I hesitated writing this article for fear it would pigeonhole me as being somewhat obsessed in a seedy way. I’ll emphasize that is not the case. It is more that I identify my femininity with this classic sense of style and formality.

Stockings and tights were the first clothes that I was drawn to. They hung from the shower curtain, the girls in my class wore them and television advertisements teased “sheer indulgence.” I remember a No-Nonsense radio ad with a background chorus that sang, “We make you feel more female.”

As I evolved over the years, pantyhose have always been a part of my wardrobe. A close shave and a pair of Hanes Silk Reflection hose will literally transform half my body into a more feminine form. Nowadays, at least once a week when getting dressed for work, I’ll put on my bra, panties and pantyhose sit there for a minute and reflect on the up coming day and take them off before putting on my male work clothes. Nothing sensual or erotic, just a moment of peace.

Pantyhose sales have been in steady decline since the mid 1990’s. What the heck happened? There appears to be a multitude of reasons. As baby boomers entered the workforce, the hippies and counter culture entities shed their blue jeans and peasant skirts for suits, wingtips, pumps and pantyhose. The dress code of business was defined by the current generation in power at the time. Remember the movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffith. (I wanted to be just like her!)

Then there was a changing of the guard in the mid-90’s Women became managers and gained control over dress codes and fashion choices in business. Female executives began to realize that there was no compelling reason why she or her colleagues had to spend $50 to $100 a month on pantyhose or wear them when it was hot and humid. Sales began a steady decline through the early 2000’s with the financial industry and white shoe law firms being the last holdouts. Today, the only place we see pantyhose daily is on flight attendants and the staff of southern Republican senators.

All is not lost mind you. I travel to the UK several times a year and can tell you unmistakably when women wear a dress, they will wear hose and most often it is black. Perhaps it’s the cool and rainy climate, but the selection of black tights in Marks and Spencer is huge. I can say the same is true in Poland, The Netherlands, Hungary, China and Australia. Argentina and Chile get an honorable mention.

Prior to the advent of pantyhose, stockings were held up by a garter belt or a girdle with built-in garter clips. An essential part of every woman’s wardrobe, stockings provided the perfect vehicle for DuPont, the company responsible for the invention of nylon. Nylon stockings made their grand debut in a splashy display at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. By the time stockings were released for sale to the public on May 15, 1940, demand was so high that women flocked to stores by the thousands. Four million pairs sold out in four days.

Pantyhose went on sale in 1959, the year I was born! A coincidence? I think not. Not surprisingly they were invented by a man, Allen Gant in 1953. At the time, Gant ran the Glen Raven Knitting Mill of North Carolina, which was founded by his father John Gant in 1902. Gant was inspired to invent the garment by his pregnant wife, Ethel, who complained about wearing garter belts especially while she was pregnant. It might be worthy to note that Ethel did construct a prototype panty with hose sewn in.

Pantyhose slowly became popular, however, older women were hesitant to give up their stockings and like many trends in the last century, the baby boomers latched onto pantyhose when the miniskirt became popular. Gartered stockings did not work well with miniskirts. Stockings quickly took a back seat and pantyhose became the standard for women. When it was time for them to go to work, the baby boomers brought them into the office and social events.

During their peak of popularity, the selection of pantyhose was overwhelming. They came in all types of colors, deniers of sheerness, textures, support, lite support, control top and sandal foot. There were television, radio, newspaper and magazines ads.

The sheerness of pantyhose is measured in denier. Denier translates to  “French coin of small value.” One very small thread of silk was worth one denier. This evolved into the standard for measuring the thickness of fiber and thread in the modern textile industry. Super sheer stockings might be 10 or 15 denier, while opaque tights might be 40-60 denier. I’ll note here that in the US, we refer to the more sheer denier as pantyhose and the heavier denier as tights. In the UK, tights are used to describe all pantyhose.

To quote Hosiery Association President Sally Kay, “Sales of the traditional waist high garment will not return to those which the industry experienced in the 1970’s through the late 1990’s.”

Oh, Sally, say it ain’t so!

Fear not my Femulate readers, pantyhose are far from gone. In fact, they are enjoying a small bit of a popularity among younger women. Sheer hosiery had $482 million in sales in the one-year period ending May 2018 and 27% of those sales were to millennials, which is an increase of 9%.

The other 91% were probably me and Stana!

Source: Nine West
Wearing Nine West heels

1983 Closet Ball
Femulating at the 1983 Closet Ball


  1. It is true that hosiery sales, especially that of sheer pantyhose, have slightly increased due to the use by Duchess Kate. But as another member of the CD/TG community has said, "They can have my pantyhose when they pry them off my cold, dead body."

  2. Born in 1958, I, too, grew up with hose being a required article of clothing. To this day, I have ventured out in a skirt WITHOUT hose only once. ONCE. And that was at the insistance of my gf with whom I was headed out one late afternoon in the summer of 2018. Yes, it was a HOT summer afternoon, so I didn't complain too much (at first) but I literally felt naked! I now spend my summer outings dressed in L'eggs Day Sheer Summer Weight Pantyhose.

    1. Your reminiscence of L'eggs Pantyhose remind me of my youthful years of labor at the 'Big M Mart' grocery, where the L'eggs were stocked by HOT, flirty babes....
      One day, at the grocery, a young lad, maybe age 5, in front of MOM and DAD, picked up one of the L'eggs egg shaped packages from the checkout display and placed the pointed end on his lips, and proceeded to rub the egg across his lips.....
      "Look DAD!, It's just like MOMMY'S LIPSTICK!"
      I felt shocked, flushed and taken back, but you could just see the blood drain from dads face as he stared at his son, mouth agape......

  3. As a Brit, when the temperature drops to more civilized single digits, it's leggings, jeans, or thick tights that are the go to choices. Plus, black opaques, so slimming ;-)

    1. I assume you mean degrees Celsius. Single digits in degrees Fahrenheit, which is still used in the US, is mighty chilly, well below freezing.

    2. Yes we are virtually all metric now apart from road distances which are still in miles/yards.

  4. Love my pantyhose but then I am a cross dresser.

  5. Sally StoneOctober 06, 2019

    Paula, great article. I usually wear pantyhose, because, I love the way they make my legs look and feel, and they quite simply, makeup for the legs.

  6. I only recently 'converted' to panty hose in spite of the 'high nineties' temps. I used to go with 'thigh high' hose.
    I found an 'off brand' of control top pantyhose (and these hose have 'just enough' of that delicious, curvaceous, 'sheen') at a small retail discounter for under $2.00/pair. Because of the expected short service life of these products, it is best to 'go cheap' and buy many....
    Yet, my second pair of of these discount pantyhose have survived an unbelievable 8 trips through four weekends out into the real world.....
    And YES, my legs do look 'killer'.
    There are issues with 'modification' of the panty portion of the hose, in order to accommodate ones own plumbing BEFORE venturing out into the world.

  7. Two good things about pantyhose are :-
    They keep your legs warm
    They hide any minor imperfections, showing your leg sat their best

  8. I love my pantyhose, wear them every day. I get my pantyhose from Silies online they have a great choice.

    1. I used to be an avid Silkies customer - love the hose, but the prices got out of hand.

  9. I am doing my part to protect the industry by purchasing four or five pair of pantyhose last year. I too, have a preference. I like the type that are similar to garter suspenders and hose. The are not as confining around the waist as standard hose and with my ample figure, they are a bit more comfortable.


  10. Since living full time for the past year or so, I can tell you pantyhose are a pain in the denier. I will wear tights in the colder months. Otherwise, not so much. Great article P. Keep it up!

  11. Ah, such great memories of pantyhose commercials in the 70’s and 80’s. For me it started with the L’eggs memory yarn and the ad with the mom , appropriately dressed in a frock, heels and hose, accompanying her daughter to the zoo. The girl chides her mother that her cheap pantyhose makes mom’s legs look like the elephant’s saggy wrinkled legs. Then there was the Hane’s ads, each an intriguing European adventure. Each chorus of the jingle ended with “Gentlemen prefer Hanes” and the bridge of “Hanes will make you smooth and silky shapely sexy!” L’eggs had their spokeswoman Juliet Prowse dancing and feeling free in smooth hose and a full skirted white dress. But my favorite was in the late 80’s. It had two working women giving testimonials about how L’eggs Sheer Energy Pantyhose had changed their lives. One woman sums up by saying “I like to look pretty, I like to feel feminine, and L’eggs Sheer Energy Pantyhose helps me do it!” Well, if it can help her, why not me, I thought!

  12. Paula
    Great article. I wear my pantyhose just about daily and have been doing so for decades. Back in the days of wearing a suit on a daily basis I found that I would wear out the crotch of the pants rather quickly. The cost of a new wool suit was rather steep. Once I started wearing pantyhose under my suits I never had the crotch wear out again. As much as I have spend on hose over they years I still think I am financially ahead of the game on worn out pants.
    Like some others I get my hose from Silkies. I am a satisfied customer.

  13. I was born a year after nylon stockings hit the market. I graduated from high school the year pantyhose were introduced. I had worn hose, but I couldn't find pantyhose that fit a tall person like myself. That came later.

    My dressing was infrequent for many years and I took the edge off my desire to dress by going to drag shows On occasion there would be the rare treat of one of the ladies doing a strip act. And here's where old-fashioned hose with garter belts come into play. Wonderful as I think pantyhose are, they'll never be sexy as regular hose -- and especially the ones with dark seams in back! My current favorite Burlesque artist, Betty O'Hellno, has recently left Baltimore to give it a go in New York City, the epicenter of the Burlesque revival. You can find some of her videos on YouTube. Love those sexy stockings!

    But for my dressing I prefer pantyhose. I love the way the nylon makes my legs look and the snugness of the top. As I've gotten older, medical issues have caused me to alter things in my life, including what I wear. A major foot problem took me out of my heels and into flats, with only wedges and pumps with short, substantial heels giving me some lift. As far as I was concerned, that was tragic! A second problem has caused me to have to deal with significant edema and I must wear compression hose for the rest of my life. There are plenty of options available to me, and I choose to use nylons. Often I wear knee-highs, some toeless for wearing sandals. But the ones available don't usually accommodate legs that are both long and have a large circumference. Thigh-highs solve that problem, but eventually the glue I need to use to hold them up starts irritating my skin. That leaves compression pantyhose, and this lady couldn't be happier about that!They're tight, which mitigates the swelling and very snug at the top, which solves my "front presentation" issues. They may take a little longer to get on and off, but they feel so good and help me look more feminine in dresses and skirts.

    As I've dealt with this problem for quite a few years now, I can occasionally get away with milder compression on a weekly basis. I've found L'Eggs Sheer Energy Support quite good and Active Support are even better. But I'm big and tall, so I need size Q+, as Q hose aren't quite tall enough. I buy them in quantity from the website. I've also tried Just My Size Support, which have milder support than L'Eggs support but work for an evening out after wearing higher compression during the day. I buy them in bulk from I think you can get there from the site, as well.

    I have loved the feel of pantyhose on my body since the first time I slid those beauties up my legs and around my waist. Understand that I don't like the reason I have to wear compression hose, but what I've loved about pantyhose from the start goes double for the feeling of snugness when I'm wearing compression hose. I think I look better in my compression hose, and my legs have let me know how much they appreciate the compression when the hose comes off at night. My legs don't feel tired at all. My medical condition has enhanced my love of pantyhose, so for me, something bad has given me the surprise of something good!

    PS> For any of you ladies who need or could use compression hose, I get good pricing at

    1. I do not yet have the medical need to wear compression hose but I truly love the feeling of snug fitting pantyhose. My preference is for hose that is between 15-25% spandex with the remainder nylon.
      Over the past year or so I have been regularly wearing my hose under my shorts when out and about in guy mode. Because, from time to time one will see guys out wearing compression hose if anyone were to say something I could simply say they were recommended by my doctor. So far no one has ever said anything about me being a large guy wearing pantyhose under his shorts and I cannot even recall any 'long' looks. My wife has been with me out to dinner or to a show on several occasions. I just try to make these outings to places where we will not be likely to encounter any good friends.

    2. Pat,

      You might like wearing the 8-15 compression hose. I need 15-20 but on occasion I can get away with the lighter compression. They take longer to get on and off, but they work well on my edema and the snugness in the panty section is like a dream to me. The lighter compression hose are almost as pleasing to wear.

      I have some casual knee highs, but more and more I'm wearing the "regular" nylon blend for all occasions. So far only one person has noticed and the edema issue shuts that down.

  14. I prefer thigh-highs because they are one less item I have to deal with when I need to use the ladies’ room. I do wear pantyhose if my dress, skirt, romper, shorts, etc. are so leg-baring that the tops of my thigh-highs would be visible.

    1. What a coincidence! I too prefer thigh highs over pantyhose, in fact they're my first experience with hosiery when I was little!😉

  15. Who could ever forget those L'eggs commercials with Joe Namath. "If L'eggs can make my legs look this good..." The first time I saw that, I laughed till I couldn't. Of course, I already knew what they did for my legs. Still love pantyhose.

    1. Anyone (besides myself) recall THE NATIONAL LAMPOON'S advertisement parody of L'eggs as P'eggs the pantyhose for those women who are amputees? "Whether you have 'one' or 'none' P'eggs remain sheer...
      National Lampoon 'Stupid Issue' March 1974