Time to Graduate from Retail Pantyhose!
Posted on 24 October 2018
By Elegant Up Contributor Gretchen
Do you remember your first pair of sheer pantyhose? Odds are, if you live in the USA and started wearing pantyhose in the last 20 years, your first pair came from some corner pharmacy, or maybe even the local grocery store, like mine did. Maybe your mom bought them for you for a wedding, church, or some other occasion. Perhaps you never wore them until you needed them for an interview, and then you took the plunge and bought the first pair yourself. You may have begun a job in a bank or law office, or as a flight attendant, waitress, or some other role where hosiery was required as part of the dress code. Whatever the reason, you probably started with a basic pair from the corner store.
The most prevalent brand of sheers was L’eggs (though gone was the cool plastic egg packaging from the’70s and ‘80s that you could use for Easter baskets, bummer). L’eggs “Sheer Energy” seemed geared toward working women, and tended to offer the basic sheers in maybe nude and black. For a slightly more special occasion, you could pay a little more for the “Sheer Elegance” line, and you might find an off-black or taupe shade in the larger stores. L’eggs primary competitor was Hanes, and another was No Nonsense, which to me sounds like a brand name for tools or mosquito repellent, but whatever. Some marketing person in the ’70 came up with that, likely a guy, and by now he’s retired so we’ll cut him some slack. Most pharmacies or food stores would also have generic or private label pantyhose, which was really low-end. Big box stores would have similar selections. Sizes, colors, and features were usually limited by shelf space, so the selection was pretty weak. You might find some sort of knee high, and maybe, just maybe, a thigh high, but that's it.
Does this sound familiar? Pantyhose is pantyhose, right? You wear them because it’s expected for the event, interview, or job, so you deal with it, hope you don’t get a run, and that they last for more than one wearing. If you do get a run, you usually find out at the most inopportune time, so you go with what you know. Back to Walgreens or CVS! And you know what? Basic L’eggs are not awful…they are a decent mix of price, appearance, and they are definitely durable, so meh…that’s what you fail back on.
At some point you are a little older, and in a higher end job making a little more money, so you decide to upgrade your wardrobe, to include lingerie. Or, it’s a very special occasion, and perhaps you are trying to turn on the sex appeal. Now you are off to the mall, department store, or Victoria’s Secret! You hit Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Belk (or whatever your regional equivalent is in the USA) and wow…much nicer pantyhose choices than in the drug or grocery store. There you see Hanes Silk Reflections, Hue, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Berkshire and the mythical torture device called Spanx! You find more sizes and colors, too! That’s more like it…you think you have arrived in the pantyhose promised land! But what about the sexy stuff? For that, you head over to VS and they have stockings with garters, thigh highs with pretty lace bands, and voila, you are all set. Budget permitting, that’s where you go for hose from then on, because a girl has standards, right? No more drugstore hose for me! Once in a while, though, when you are in a pinch and get a run before lunch, you pop into the corner drugstore for a pair of L’eggs…but you won’t admit to it! You believe you are now a hosiery connoisseur, and the mall is where it’s at!
But are you really? Maybe by now you have noticed you get what you pay for—better pantyhose feel nicer on your legs. They may or may not be more durable, because let’s face it, your basic L’eggs are pretty tough, but the department store brands are way more comfortable, and they look better too, so the durability trade-off is worth it. You experiment a bit between the brands. Maybe you mix it up with some store brands from White House | Black Market, Ann Taylor, Limited, or whatever. At this point you are not afraid to spend $8, $10, or even $20 on a pair of pantyhose. In the really high end Dillard’s downtown, you have even seen Wolfords, but who in their right mind would spend $50 on a pair of pantyhose? You make a mental note to put that on your Christmas list, though, amirite? ;) Anyway, the nicer stuff feels really soft, and smooth, and doesn’t bunch up behind the knees or around the ankles. The waistbands feel better and don’t roll down, and they just look better. By now, you are hose happy; why look further?
The reality is that the USA was and is a bit of a pantyhose desert. It wasn't always that way. In the ‘70s and ’80s there were dozens of American brands; I recall shopping with my mom and the pantyhose section in the department store was gigantic! There was always an enormous L'eggs "tree" in every supermarket--it's true! http://historysdumpster.
Then came Duchess Kate, Beyoncé and Ariana Grande, and with them, the great American pantyhose resurgence. Suddenly, it was no longer a fashion faux pax to wear them. Women remembered that there was some aesthetic benefit from covering pale, veiny legs with scars or shaving nicks, not to mention a bit of thermal protection in cold weather, albeit scant. Demand grew again, but remaining US manufacturers were slow to respond. Most had the same old 3 or 4 brands and limited styles that survived from decades prior. Some did launch new products, for example Donna Karan, with “The Nudes” or the awful Spanx, but in general, the American pantyhose desert remained, and still does. We just don’t have many choices available in retail stores.
What many American women don’t realize is that, outside of this country, sheer hosiery never went out of style. In Europe, Asia, and Latin America, everyday women wear pantyhose…well, every day! It’s totally normal and routine there. European manufacturers continued to innovate with materials and styles, because there was continued demand, and with continued innovation came greater choices and comfort for those who wear them regularly. And greater availability! On every European city street you will find retail shops that sell nothing but hosiery, and the wide selection boggles the mind!
Once you try a pair of quality European hosiery, like Levante, Oroblu, Cecilia de Rafael, Cervin, Charnos, Pretty Polly, Falke, or many others, you will understand what you have been missing. And these are not $50 or $60 per pair, like those Wolfords you were hoping to get for Christmas! They are anywhere from $7 to $25, the same as a quality American brand. What makes them so special? The materials and construction. Have you ever worn a cheap pair of hose that feel like sandpaper when you cross and uncross your legs? Don’t you hate that? Try some fine European hosiery and your legs will glide against each other. Be careful; you may find yourself crossing and uncrossing them unconsciously, or caressing your own legs, which could be perceived as flirtatious! Many of the brands are super soft, so unlike when you want to rip off your “torture device” hose as soon as you are home, you will find yourself lounging or even sleeping in them. Most have a very elastic material that virtually eliminates bunching, or that floppy, stretched-out feeling. You will find that wearing hose can be a sensuous and enjoyable experience!
With so many styles and colors, you will expand your wardrobe options. A patterned pair can add interest to a conservative outfit, and a fine fishnet can look classy, not trashy, when properly styled.
You won’t find these brands in retail stores in America. Time to work that passport, right? Shopping in Milan sounds awesome! As fun as that would be, it’s not necessary—thanks to several specialty online stores who import these brands directly from manufacturers, you can get them all in the USA. These are reputable web retailers with huge selections. They have so much more than regular pantyhose, too. You will find every variety of thigh highs (hold-ups in the UK), stockings that require garters, seamed hose, fishnets, and even sexy styles like Miss O, which I will not describe here--you will just have to check them out yourself! If you are a larger gal, like me, you will also find a much broader size range online.
It’s time you graduate from department store, American retail pantyhose. Go do your web research, buy some quality brands from specialty websites, and report back to me! Share your experiences here on Elegant Up, IMO the best online source for hosiery. BTW, my favorite so far is the Levante Class, only $12.--and the "Visone" color is a perfect, neutral nude, with just a hint of gloss. They look and feel wonderful: https://www.instagram.com/p/