The technical definition of denier is how much 9,000m of a particular yarn weighs in grams. But in practical terms, it describes how sheer or opaque the hosiery is. Heavier yarns are thicker, and so create a denser knit.
Hosiery made from a low-denier yarn (30 or below) will be lightweight and sheer. Below 10 denier is ultra-sheer and very delicate. A denier over 50 is likely going to appear opaque, and 80+ denier hosiery will be very warm and ideal for winter. Between 30 and 50 denier, most hosiery has a semi-sheer appearance.
A gusset is a diamond-shaped piece of fabric sewn into the crotch area of some hosiery, to allow for better freedom of movement and improved comfort. They’re usually made from a breathable fiber such as cotton. However, some gussets are made from the same material at the rest of the hosiery.
Not all hosiery has a gusset, and some have an ‘open gusset’ which is essentially a hole that makes them crotchless.
Rather than being categorised by clothing sizes (6, 8, 10…), hosiery is usually sized by a letter (S, M, L…) or number (1, 2, 3…) which corresponds to a height and weight range.
This is because the multi-directional stretch of most hosiery means that the fit is very flexible, but the more the fabric is stretched horizontally the less it will stretch vertically, and vice versa. If you are between sizes, it is generally advisable to choose the larger one.
Sizing varies between hosiery brands. On our product pages, you will find a link to the relevant size chart just below the product title.
Ideally, hosiery should be washed by hand, especially sheer styles which are more delicate. If you do use a washing machine however, put the hosiery inside a mesh wash bag and select the delicates setting.
To hand wash, first remove any jewellery and check that your nails all feel smooth. Fill a sink or tub with lukewarm water and add a mild detergent. Submerge the hosiery and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Rub the silicone strips inside hold-ups well with soapy water, to revive their ‘stick’. Then rinse everything with clean water.
Never use hot water or a tumble dryer for hosiery. The heat will break down the elastic fibers that make your hosiery fit well, quickly leading to legwear that wrinkles and won’t stay up. Instead, gently squeeze the water out, then hang or lay flat on a clothes rack to dry.
You are most likely to snag your hosiery when you’re putting it on or taking it off. For that reason, we recommend using a pair of hosiery gloves (available in our Accessories section) which protect your hosiery from nails, rings and rough skin on your hands.
Take care when handling hosiery to wash it or put it away. Don’t store hosiery loose in a drawer (and never tie stockings together in a knot!). Either reuse the packaging it came in, or use a soft case or bag.
Denier matters too. A more opaque (higher denier) product will be harder to snag or tear. However, due to advances in fabric technology, it’s now possible to find sheer hosiery that is relatively run-resistant!
Stockings and hold-ups (also known as thigh highs or stay-ups) both end at mid-thigh height. However, only hold-ups stay there on their own, thanks to strips of silicone inside the tops which gently grip the skin. Stockings will require a garter belt to keep them up, or another lingerie garment that has garter straps.
Hold-ups and thigh highs are actually just different names for the same thing. They also sometimes get called stay-ups, because they stay up by themselves. They have strips of silicone inside the tops which gently grip the skin to keep them in place.
Stockings also end at mid-thigh height, but will require a garter belt or other lingerie garment with garter straps to hold them up. Otherwise, stockings will just fall down.
Pantyhose and tights are a single-piece garment that covers your full leg, starting at the toe and ending at the hips or waist. The difference is that pantyhose are sheer, and tights are thicker.
In the UK however, the term ‘pantyhose’ doesn’t exist. Instead, the two styles are simply referred to as sheer tights and opaque tights.
Support pantyhose are made with a gradient knit so that they fit tighter around the ankle and calf than higher up the leg. This compression helps to push blood back to the heart, boosting circulation so that you feel more energetic.
Support pantyhose can help to alleviate tired, aching leg muscles, especially in situations where you are on your feet all day long. They can also ease swollen feet and ankles. Support pantyhose are less constrictive than compression hosiery however, a style that’s worn for medical reasons such as preventing deep-vein thrombosis.
Microfiber hosiery is extremely soft to the touch, which makes it an ideal choice when you most care about comfort. It’s also highly durable.
Microfiber is a man-made fiber that is incredibly fine – thinner than a strand of silk, and much thinner than a human hair. It can be made from nylon, but it usually made from polyester. These starting fibers get broken down into tiny threads, which are then used to make microfiber fabric.
Fully-fashioned stockings are the only seamed stockings to have a functional, rather than decorative, seam. They are first knitted flat, then sewn together up the back. You can recognise them from the finishing loop that they have at the top of the seam, a circular opening which allows the seamstress to withdraw the needle. If they don’t have this feature, they’re not authentic fully-fashioneds.
Fully-fashioned stockings are 100% nylon, which means they’re non-stretch. They’re still made today on the very same Reading machines that were used in the 40s and 50s – only a few of which still remain in the world!
RHT stands for ‘reinforced heel and toe’. As the name suggests, these stockings have a denser knit at the heel and toe. These two pressure points are where hosiery tends to wear thin the soonest, so RHT stockings are designed for increased durability where it matters most.
However, some people also like to wear RHT stockings simply for aesthetic reasons. The darker toe and heel sections, sometimes done in a contrasting colour, can look quite chic.
Stretch and non-stretch stockings may look quite similar online, but they fit and feel very different! The majority of stockings nowadays are stretchy, thanks to added elastane. They’ll fit closely against the skin, and the flexibility of the fabric makes them both comfy and less prone to tearing.
Non-stretch stockings are usually 100% nylon, but can be 100% silk. In the past, all sheer stockings were non-stretch, which makes them popular with people today who like vintage fashion.
They tend to come in a much wider range of sizes, because it’s important that they are as close to the actual size of your legs as possible. If they’re too big, they can wrinkle at the knee and ankle. Still, many people love non-stretch stockings because of how silky-smooth they feel.
For everyday wear, most people choose the convenience of stretch stockings. They are more durable if you’ll be wearing them frequently. But if you want to treat yourself to something special, pure-nylon stockings have a certain kind of elegance that’s quite appealing!
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