There’s nothing like the perfect pair of hosiery to give your outfit just the right accent for any occasion. However, a lot of women also talk about the discomfort of having such a skin-tight garment on their legs throughout the day. Some even decide to give up on stockings and go bare-legged so they don’t have to deal with the hassles of wearing these accessories.
If you’re one of these women, you might not realize that the discomfort is likely due to the choice of fabric, and that hosiery can feel good if they’re made out of the right materials. Still, who can blame you when information about your hosiery’s fabric blend is usually hidden away on a little tag in the fine print?
At the very least, you should know what your hosieries are made of and which materials to look out for if you want the most comfortable yet fashionable experience. Read on to learn more:
The very first synthetic fiber ever created, nylon has been used since the earliest conception and prototype of pantyhose. Indeed, it’s probably familiar to nearly anyone who knows anything about fashion. After all, it’s arguably the most common synthetic fabric used in a variety of clothing items apart from hosiery. Nevertheless, there are good reasons why nylon is still used for creating this type of undergarment.
Overall, it’s considered the most balanced of the fabrics. While it isn’t necessarily the best at any one thing compared to other options, it does excel when it comes to its most notable characteristics. Because nylon is elastic, it conforms well to the body to provide a snug fit. Not only is nylon stretchable, but it’s also got good resistance to wear and tear, resulting in hosiery that’s quite durable.
Additionally, since nylon is breathable and light, it also feels comfortable against the skin. This means that you won’t sweat too much under your hose no matter the weather. Even if you do end up sweating a bit on a particularly hot day, garments made of nylon won’t feel sticky against your skin.
If you’re in a rush or don’t want to think too much about your hosiery, nylon is a safe, all-around pick for most situations, especially since they’re used in many garments already. However, do know that this fabric can be a bit more rigid compared to other fabrics used these days. On the bright side, it at least comes in different textures and patterns, allowing for more freedom of expression with your outfits.
Spandex or Lycra
Spandex or Lycra was invented after nylon, and it’s considered by many to be an improvement upon its predecessor. It’s a lot smoother while also being more elastic, able to withstand stretching up to six times more than nylon. While these properties allow for a snugger fit, they also give you more freedom of movement and comfort.
In the past, spandex was used mostly for practical garments and performance outfits due to its elastic and durable characteristics. Nowadays, these properties have been carried over to hosiery by mixing Lycra fibers into the garment’s overall fabric to enhance comfort. This results in very snug, form-fitting hosiery that feels light and airy.
Nowadays, spandex can be found in most types of hosiery, and pairs made with this material usually feel more pleasant to wear than purely nylon pieces. The feel and the elegance of this type of hosiery are perfect for wearing under your dress or skirt for dinner, a date, or a great night out.
If there are synthetic fabrics, there are, of course, natural fabrics. The most common of these natural materials is cotton. Though it isn’t as elastic or resistant to wear and tear, it’s arguably the softest of all the materials used for pantyhose. It’s also of little surprise why this fabric has been used to make clothes for thousands of years, as cotton garments feel very pleasant, light, and comfy against the skin.
However, cotton doesn’t wick away sweat as synthetic fabrics do. Instead, cotton absorbs moisture from the skin and the outside of the fabric. Additionally, cotton isn’t quite as durable as synthetics, though this drawback is usually addressed when the fibers are treated with lisle or mercerized yarn. A plus for more vibrant dressers is that there tend to be more color options when it comes to cotton hosiery since this material retains dyes quite well.
In most cases, cotton is mainly used for creating leggings or tights rather than hosiery. Still, you shouldn’t discount the benefits that hosiery made with this fabric has to offer. It just means that you’ll probably want to wear these on more casual days.
Another natural fabric that you might be familiar with is wool which you see more often in winter pieces and thick coats. As a plant-based material, it shares many similar benefits to cotton but doubles down on some aspects. For example, it tends to be more absorbent than cotton. This property helps keep your skin dry, but that also comes at the cost of the hosiery being thicker.
Aside from particularly cold weather, the use cases for wool pantyhose are somewhat limited given that most hosieries already do enough to warm up the legs. This is doubled by wool hosiery’s reputation for having knitted textures. What we see instead are hosieries using wool as a base mixed with other fabric materials to apply that warmer feeling to thinner, cooler pantyhose.
Do note that your comfort with wool pantyhose hinges on your skin’s reaction to the material. If you have an existing allergy to wool or you generally find that this fabric feels itchy against your skin, you may want to steer clear of wool hosiery.
Before the invention of nylon, silk was the main base for pretty much all hosiery, and that’s for good reason. It’s arguably the most luxurious of the fabrics on this list for having the softest, smoothest texture. Silk also looks quite elegant and is easy to keep wrinkle-free. More than that, silk uniquely adjusts to your body temperature, meaning you can wear it in both cold and warm weather.
That’s why it’s often used for formal outfits such as suits, gowns, and high-end dresses as well as top-tier designer fashion pieces. The problem is that even if silk is a natural fiber, the process of producing it is difficult and costly. This makes silk hosiery far less common to find these days. If you do find any, they can be terribly expensive, especially when it comes to pieces that are made purely out of silk.
Generally, silk on its own lacks elasticity and durability. As such, it’s often combined with other materials to create a more practical fabric blend. However, anything with silk must only be dry-cleaned, which may be an inconvenience in the long run. If you’re going to go for silk hosiery, you have to consider if the comfort and luxury are worth the extra expense and extensive maintenance.
While it’s been mentioned plenty of times, each of these fabrics is not usually used on its own these days when making hosiery. Instead, different types of fabrics are combined to create specific fabric blends that are suitable for different kinds of outfits or situations. If you’ve been treating all your hosiery the same way, that’s probably why you find yourself getting sick of putting them on.
The next time you go shopping for pantyhose, make sure to check out the fabrics that were used to create them. Know what you’re buying them for and if you have any allergies to the materials listed on the hosiery’s tag. By doing your research and being more conscientious about your purchasing decisions, you’re sure to make your new pantyhose work for you and your outfits.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.