Pantyhose (also known as tights) are sheer close fitting coverings of the body from the waist to the feet, most frequently worn by women. Like stockings they are usually made of nylon. The one-piece pantyhose garment appeared in the 1960s and provided a convenient alternative to stockings (nylons). The term 'pantyhose' originated in the United States, referring to the combination of 'panties' (an American term for women's underpants) with sheer nylon hosiery. In the United Kingdom, they are called tights, a term that refers to all such garments regardless of denier.
In the U.S., the term tights is used for non-sheer garments similar to pantyhose, such as those worn by girls, dancers and athletes. Pantyhose are worn for a number of reasons. Sheer pantyhose that match the skin color of the legs can enhance the appearance of legs, making them look smoother.
Darker pantyhose can enhance the legs by outlining the shape and by making the legs seem slimmer. Brown colored pantyhose give the illusion of tanned legs; an 'instant tan'. Pantyhose also has a practical use, as it can provide warmth in colder weather and let one appear "bare-legged" even in the winter.
Pantyhose that are knitted with lycra enhance blood circulation by applying even pressure on the legs throughout the day. Pantyhose are currently a standard sight in offices worldwide, where they have been accepted as part of a professional dress code for women. Though a barelegged trend is now popular amongst younger women, hosiery is still common in offices and places where formal dress is required. Schools with uniforms often require some sort of hosiery as a part of the uniform (usually pantyhose or tights). Most pantyhose are composed of nylon and a small amount of spandex, which provides the elasticity and form fitting that is characteristic of modern pantyhose.
Unfortunately, the nylon fabric is somewhat prone to tearing and it is common for very sheer hose to 'run' soon after snagging on something rough or sharp. Pantyhose worn for fashion have a standard construction. The top of the waist is a strong elastic.
The part covering the hips (panty area) is composed of a thicker material than the legs. The gusset or crotch is also a stronger material, sometimes made of cotton. The legs of the pantyhose are made of the thinnest material which has a consistent construction down to the toes, which may be reinforced to guard against wear.
However, a constant complaint of pantyhose is that they "run" or tear frequently, which ensures that wearers must constantly purchase new pairs. Pantyhose are available in a wide range of styles. The sheerness of the garment, expressed as a numerical 'denier'/'dtex', ranges from 3 (extremely rare, very thin, barely visible) to 20 (standard sheer) up to 30 (semi opaque).
Pantyhose are sold in a variety of colors and textures (patterns). In business wear, the texture is usually neutral and the most common shades are beige, gray, white, and blacks, while fashion styles popular among younger women include a wide range of colors and textures. Pantyhose are considered a part of the lingerie wardrobe, and thus a turn-on for many men when they see them on the wearer.
Styles which are shiny, silky, and sheer-to-waist are attractive to many men their alluring qualities even triggering pseudo-transvestic feelings about this most feminine item of women's clothing.
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