Pantyhose have come a long way since their invention in the late 1930s when they revolutionized women‘s fashion. Originally made from silk or rayon, modern pantyhose are crafted from high-tech synthetics that boast exceptional durability and comfort when properly fitted.
With so many options on the market, how do you determine what constitutes the "best" pantyhose for your needs and preferences? This definitive guide covers everything you need to know, from insightful brand breakdowns to handy care instructions. Read on for tips and tricks to finding your perfect pair!
A Brief History of Pantyhose
While rudimentary leg stockings have existed for centuries, pantyhose as we know them today emerged in the late 1930s as women began seeking more practical alternatives to girdles and stockings.
The first manufactured pantyhose hit the mass market in 1959 after the invention of spandex increased stretch and strength. By the mid-1960s, they‘d become a wardrobe staple. Over time, pantyhose evolved from basic nude staples to include an array of deniers, colors, patterns and materials.
Major innovations that have improved comfort and durability include:
- Stretchier fabrics – Spandex blends, microfibers and elasticized waistbands and toe seams
- Non-binding waistbands – For flexing and bending without pinching
- Reinforced toes – Reduces friction tears
- Control top – Option for light compression and smoothing
While pantyhose sales have declined somewhat in recent decades with changing dress norms, they remain popular as an elegant finishing touch for formal attire and cold weather layering.
How to Choose the Best Pantyhose
With so many brands and styles available, it helps to know what features to compare when selecting pantyhose. Here are some key considerations:
Today‘s hosiery contains varying amounts of nylon, spandex, silk and cotton. Each fabric has pros and cons:
- Nylon – Most popular option; provides strength, stretch, breathability, moisture-wicking and affordability
- Spandex – Adds support and shape retention when blended with nylon (5-10% spandex is common)
- Silk – More expensive but exceptionally soft with a luxurious sheen
- Cotton – Provides breathability, though lacks stretch and is prone to sagging
For all-season versatility, a nylon-spandex blend is your best bet. For added winter warmth, look for soft merino wool blends.
Denier refers to the thickness of individual fiber strands, which determines sheerness:
- 10 denier – Nearly invisible ultra-sheer
- 20 denier – Sheer with a hint of color
- 40 denier – Light, semi-sheer
- 50-80 denier – Medium opacity
- 100+ denier – Opaque styles
Sheer pantyhose work well for formal events, revealing a polished leg line beneath skirts. Opaque tights keep legs warmer and can be worn as leggings with tunics or dresses.
To determine your hosiery size, measure your height and weight against a brand‘s specific sizing chart. For the best fit:
- Select control top styles one size down from your non-control size
- Choose tall or queen sizes if you are 5‘9 or taller
- Opt for petite if under 5‘4"
As a rule of thumb, hosiery should stretch to fit smoothly without pinching at the waist, knees or toes.
Control top pantyhose feature concentrated stretch-resistant fabric over the midsection to streamline silhouettes. Benefits include:
- Smoothes bumps and bulges
- Flattens the tummy area
- Gentle waist compression
- Lifts the rear
- Slims thighs and hips
Control top pantyhose should fit snugly but not painfully tight. Look for those offering lightweight, non-binding compression that moves with your body.
Reviews of the Best Pantyhose Brands
Now that you know how to select the optimal pair, here‘s an overview of 12 top-rated pantyhose brands spanning all budgets.
Best For: Luxury special occasion wear
Favored by fashionistas since the 1950s for impeccably crafted hosiery, Austrian brand Wolford uses premium fabrics sourced from Italy and Switzerland. Expect exceptional sheerness, consistently smooth stitching and reinforced toes in every pair.
Standout features include comfortable wide stretch waistbands, cotton gussets that prevent riding up and chic patterns from polka dots to argyle. Costwise, Wolford is comparable to Agent Provocateur. While expensive as everyday wear, they make fabulous heirloom pieces.
Best For: Durability and sustainability
Sheertex pantyhose feels like silk but boast exceptional snag-resistance made possible by their proprietary Sheertex polymer knitting. The Canadian brand reinforces pressure points and utilizes premium microfibers for unparalleled longevity.
Equally impressive is Sheertex’s ethical, eco-friendly commitment. Their tights generate 80% less waste than traditional hosiery during production. Recycled water bottles even get transformed into label trim!
With inclusive sizing up to 4X, Sheertex‘s Missy, Classic and Smooth offerings provide a modern take on timeless sheer glamour.
Best For: Light control shapewear
The original slimming shapewear brand, Spanx , also offers a popular line of control top opaques and sheers. Figure-enhancing features include:
- Streamlined fit to smooth lines
- Flattering rear lift
- Non-binding waistband
- Cotton gussets to prevent riding up
- Available in neutral, black, and bold patterns
From office-appropriate sheers to date night opaques, Spanx pantyhosemove with you while gently hugging contours. Expect elevated everyday wearability compared to traditional hosiery.
Best For: Everyday wear
Favored by celebrities and professionals alike for their seamless construction, Commando hosiery feels invisible under clothing. Options range from traditional sheers to fashion-forward fishnets and whimsical patterns.
Key benefits include:
- Dig-free waistbands that won‘t pinch
- Reinforced toe seams
- Non-binding leg bands
- Strategic control top panels
- Breathable cotton gussets
Commando also offers athletic lines featuring moisture-wicking microfibers to prevent sweaty legs during workouts and all-day wear.
Best For: Performance, comfort
Bootights modernizes traditional hosiery by incorporating padded feet and breathable arch support reminiscent of socks. This eliminates discomfort from shoes rubbing bare tights.
Beyond the reinforced foot bed, Bootights utilizes premium textiles and dyes for an exceptionally durable, sleek silhouette. The comfort waistband also resists pinching and rolling.
Bootights run affordably priced compared to other trouser socks and tight hybrids. The simple design works well for daily commuting or strategic knee-high layering.
Best For: Full-figured shapewear
Celebrity designer Kim Kardashian‘s label Skims offers pantyhose with focused tummy compression complemented by a wider waistband that feels gentle rather than squeezing. Particularly suited for curvier figures, the smoothing line also lifts rears for an hourglass profile.
With extended sizing up to 5X, Skims clients appreciate the durable, double-lined opaque construction that allows wearing thinner dresses without showing every lump and bump. For elegantly framed curves, Skims is accessible luxury.
Best For: Basics, bright colors
Offering back-to-basics hosiery essentials, Stems focuses on well-made foundational sheers in shades like Suntan, Black, and Silver Shimmer. Expect a reinforced toe seam and a wide, dig-free waistband. Choose from traditional sheer styles or bolder denseFishnet patterns.
While lacking the luxe details of premium brands, Stems quality outperforms generic drugstore lines. The easy pull-on style works for daily dressing or layering under form-fitting outfits.
8. Sara Blakely/Spanx
Best For: Affordable plus size shapewear
Sara Blakely offers similar light control pantyhose to Spanx at lower price points. The styles utilize comfortable stretch fabrics that enhance curves without uncomfortably binding plus size figures. Nice touches like cotton gussets minimize riding up.
In addition to classic sheers, Sara Blakely also offers shaping opaque tights. The comfort stretch construction slims evenly from hips to toes, creating a gorgeous leg line for cocktail attire.
Reviewers praise the craftsmanship and comfort at accessible price points between $16-$36 per pair. The shapewear effect proves subtler than more compressive slimming lines.
9. L‘eggs Sheer Energy
Best For: Affordability, everyday sheers
A drugstore staple, L‘eggs Sheer Energy line offers reliable quality starting around $6 per pair. Made of sandalwood-infused stretch nylon, the waistband, legs and toe feel soft against the skin. The Light control top provides subtle smoothing.
While L‘eggs lacks the luxe details and compression strength of premium brands, the sheers transition seamlessly from workweek to weekends. The neutral shades also suit most complexions and outfits.
Consider L‘eggs when stocking up on multiples or trying out hosiery for the first time. Just size down for optimal stretch and shaping.
10. Hanes Silk Reflections
Best For: Budget everyday sheers
At just $5-8 per pair, Hanes Silk Reflections hosiery wears surprisingly well for the price. The ultra-sheer appearance comes from quality construction and durable fibers rather than being see-through or insubstantial.
The comfort waistband stays in place without squeezing and the reinforced toe resists friction. For affordable spares to keep in a desk or purse, Hanes sheers work reliably. They also serve well as trouser socks layered under boots.
11. Jockey Elance
Best For: Performance, moisture management
Ideal for athletes, expectant moms and medical professionals, Jockey Elance hosiery utilizes high-tech moisture-wicking fabrics to prevent sweatiness and odor. The lightweight microfibers feel exceptionally soft and breathable.
With strategic control top focusing on the rear and thighs, Elance also slims pooches and smoothes muffin tops under scrubs or activewear. The reinforced toe keeps fixtures durable even when damp.
Reviewers praise Elance hosiery for keeping legs dry without overheating. For moisture control, they outperform most regular pantyhose.
Best for: Sensitive skin
German brand Falke utilizes seamless technology to create irritation-free hosiery with precision fit. The dermatologically tested fabrics contain no dyes or bleaches that may trigger allergies or rashes.
From sheers with light control to opaque leggings, Falke offers classically stylish neutrals for sensitive skin. The silky soft, quality construction also feels gentle on those recovering post-surgery or during pregnancy.
While expensive, Falke‘s skin-safe fabrics and custom European craftsmanship make them a worthy stretch-budget investment for contact dermatitis sufferers.
Department Store vs Specialty Hosiery
When seeking budget multi-packs, department store pantyhose under $10 deliver adequate quality from brands like L’eggs and Hanes. Just note the lightweight fabrics snag more easily.
For elevated construction and performance fabric blends, expect to invest $15+ per pair for specialty brands like Spanx, Commando and Wolford. Details like stretch microfibers and reinforced toes enhance longevity and comfort.
Review sizing charts closely, as less forgiving waistbands on shapewear lines mean sizing down for optimal stretch. For best results, hand wash and air dry high quality hosiery after each wear. With proper care, specialty pantyhose should deliver years of wear rather than months.
Caring for Your Pantyhose
To extend the lifespan of fine hosiery:
- Always wash hands thoroughly with soap before wear to avoid transfer residue discoloring fabrics
- Wash by hand using gentle cleansers, never harsh detergents
- Rinse thoroughly in cool water
- Roll in a towel to absorb excess moisture, never wring or twist
- Lay flat or hang to dry, keeping away from direct heat sources
- Store flat in a dark, cool place like a drawer to prevent yellowing
Getting the Perfect Fit
Finding the right pantyhose size transforms comfort and appearance. Follow these handy tips:
- Accurately measure your height and weight and cross-reference the brand‘s size chart
- Select control top pantyhose in one size smaller than non-control for optimal compression
- Consider petite lines if under 5’4’’ and tall/queen sizes when over 5’9”
- To put on, gently bunch and slide over toes without snagging, then smoothly unroll upwards
- Ensure the waist fits snugly but not painfully; excess bagginess compromises shaping
Properly fitted, the best pantyhose should feel like a second skin!
Flatter Your Frame With the Right Denier
Sheer, demi-sheer or opaque – which denier flatters you best? Consider these guidelines:
- Petite figures – Sheer and lightweight 10-20 denier styles create a leg-lengthening effect
- Athletic builds – Medium 30-50 denier offers nice sheerness without revealing every ripple
- Hourglass curves – Heavier 90 denier opaque tights balance and streamline curvy shapes
- amplus sizes – Opaque shaping styles create smooth, confidence-boosting proportion
Finding your perfect denier prevents visible panty lines while showcasing your gorgeous gams!
Pantyhose Seasonal Style Tips
The right hosiery transforms outfits year-round. Follow these season-specific suggestions:
Spring & Summer
- Sheer Nude – Polished professionalism under skirts
- Patterned – Whimsical sheers add flair under dresses
- Light Control Top – Streamlines spring suits and sundresses
Fall & Winter
- Opaque Colored Tights – Add pops of color for warmth
- Fleece-Lined – Cozy cable knits join dresses and skirts
- Layered Under Trousers – Extra insulation when outdoors
Smooth Sailing With Pantyhose: Final Thoughts
Hopefully this thorough guide covered everything you need to know to find your perfect pair!
The key is identifying priority features like control top shaping or reinforced toes and then selecting brands excelling in that specialty. Quality conscientious brands like Sheertex and Wolford justify higher prices via exceptional construction that enhances comfort and longevity.
Once you find your ideal fabric blend and sizing, it’s just a matter of experimenting with seasonal styling as sheer tights and opaque leggings expand outfit options. With the best pantyhose on hand, you’ll exude polished confidence!