Monday, 17 May 2021

The joy of sox, or hosiery tips and treats 5: practical advice

 I'm continuing this overview of hosiery with some practical advice. I have hundreds of pairs of tights/pantyhose and stockings/hold-ups. Some are for special occasions but most are just for everyday wear (today at home, for instance, I'm wearing a standard pair of semi-opaque black pantyhose with a long navy-blue skirt). But whatever you're buying and storing, you need to use a little care.


As in part 2, I'm using US "pantyhose" to describe British "tights" so there's no way of confusing them with other kinds of tights, such as  men's running tights. By useful coincidence there's an article by Celeste on Stana's Femulate blog today that gives the differences between American and British English in this area: Speaking English


How thick do you want your tights? Those gossamer-thin glossies may look great but there's a blizzard outside; those thick black opaques may hide your leg hair but it's a hot day. Warmth is one of the key factors (which is why I'm wearing semi-opaques today; it's not really spring yet) bu the balance between weather and looks is a tricky one.

July 2011. Light sheer pantyhose, for when it's summer dress time but not quite warm enough for bare legs


The simplest guide to thickness is the denier rating. Denier is pronounced den-yer (not deny-er, someone who denies) but should really be dur-nyay as it comes from the old French coin and measure of weight, the denier, itself deriving from the ancient Roman coin, the denarius. Weights and measures often used to correspond to money (like the pound). To be precise, one denier is the weight of a thread of silk 9000 metres long, which is about 1 metric gram. 

You can't get one denier stockings; the lightest I have is 5 denier. Artificial silks like nylon aren't going to be the same weight as natural silk and so the ratings tend to vary between fabrics, between manufacturers, and also depend on the weave. Hosiery is not hugely expensive so it's worth experimenting just to see which brand and style suit you best.

Sheer and opaque

The denier rating gives you a rough guide to how thick your hosiery is going to be. Of course, sometimes hosiery is described as having "X-denier appearance", which means the yarns have a weight that doesn't correspond to the appearance, which would normally be associated with a different denier rating. I find these descriptions fairly inaccurate.

"30 denier appearance". Actually, they look more like 20 denier, but have a high satin gloss and are in some ways unclassifiable. This Italian-Style Silky Gloss range from Marks & Spencer was gorgeous and is wonderful to wear but is now discontinued because satin gloss was a short-lived fashion.


A simpler guide is this:

- up to 10 denier: ultra-sheer

- 10 - 30 denier: sheer

- 30 - 40 denier: semi-opaque

- 40 - 70 denier: opaque

- over 70 denier: thick opaque 

I personally prefer to think in terms of what's actually on sale, i.e. 5, 7 or 8 denier as gossamer (for summer), 10 or 15 as sheer, 20 as satin, 30 and 40 as semi-opaque, 50 as mid-opaque, 60+ as opaque.

20 denier, rarely seen on the street. I think this represents the cusp between sheer and opaque. These are ideal for giving you smooth contoured legs while still being light and seethrough. Much favoured by drag queens and dancers, people know you're wearing them even if they're in natural shades.


Natural fibres

Denier is a best guide to artificial silk fibres. Cotton and wool hosiery is rarely classified in this way, but you'd only usually select these for cold winter days anyway. A lot of TGirls turn their noses up at woolly pantyhose but if you dress every day as I do then a soft wool pair are warm and comfortable, a hug for your legs.

Lovely soft merino wool pantyhose for winter. Items like this cost £/$/€10-15 but are durable and worth it.

Wool overknee socks are worth investing in, too. They can look cute and usually stay up on their own reasonably well.

Matt, shine or gloss?

It should seem simple but manufacturers have created a minefield. The subject is less critical now as glossy hosiery is not so prevalent as it was 10-25 years ago (indeed, hosiery is not so prevalent generally at present as women have opted firmly for trousers and leggings). 

Few items of modern hosiery are without sheen as they almost all contain elastane (Lycra) which is shiny by nature. Original nylon was shiny, too, and most other artificial fibres are as well. However, what's descibed as sheen, shine, high shine, gloss or high gloss seems to vary completely between manufacturers and ranges. I have hosiery that's called "gloss" on the packet that's actually quite dull, and supposedly plain hosiery that's positively reflective! My best advice, as above, is to buy a variety of items from different manufacturers and see what you like best. You get used to a particular manufacturer's quirks in the end.

Sizing and fit

Bearing in mind what I have previously said when talking about stockings (especially fully-fashioned) and about suspender belts (here) the differences in leg and hip shape between those who developed a more masculine shape after puberty and those who went more feminine means trans people need to take care with sizing hosiery. Know your overall height, waist and hip measurements (and preferably get someone else to measure these). The size charts on the backs of packets of pantyhose can be confusing and often refer to hips, which will be more rounded than yours might be, even more so when considered in ratio to height. I'm very unlucky when having to present as male in that I'm short, but this comes into its own when female because being petite with rounder hips keeps me well within the hosiery size ranges. It's not so easy if you are very tall or have a wide waist. There are specialist manufacturers for taller or curvier women that can be considered if sizing is a problem, and some manufacturers of men's or unisex pantyhose. I'll be writing about brands in my next post, with links.

Another thing to bear in mind is that most manufacturers have a standard size chart, but it doesn't always apply to every range they do. Check carefully that what you normally get in, say, "medium" is the same for this new range of theirs you've just spotted, in case you need to buy in "large" instead.

Women from the English-speaking world tend to be taller than average so manufacturers from USA, Britain, Germany, etc. tend to offer larger sizes than manufacturers from the Mediterranean or the Far East. Size charts from Italy, France and Japan can be more complicated and focus on smaller women. So be warned if you go for a beautiful looking continental pair that they will be smaller than you are used to and may feel tighter too (they tend to like a bit of compression).

As a general rule, if on the cusp between sizes or if unsure, go for the larger size. The worst is you get wrinkles, whereas a pair that's too small may not be wearable at all.

Care and maintenance

A lot of hosiery costs little and who cares if it gets wrecked after the first use? Well, that applies to cheap pairs, certainly, but not all hosiery is cheap. I personally prefer not to waste and will look after even low-cost pairs until they get a hole or ladder.

When washing, you are often told to wash by hand. This is fine if you have the time and are very careful (watch those hangnails!). But a washing machine on a gentle polyester setting works fine provided you put your hosiery in a net wash bag. 

Some of my net bags for washing small items. The left-hand one with turquoise zipper is best as the zipper can be parked behind a loop of cloth (far left) to stop accidental opening during washing. These are good not just for hosiery but panties and bras too (though hook the back straps together before putting bras in).


Some people say you should wash your pantyhose and stockings before wearing them for the first time, stating this helps preserve them longer. I've never felt this to be true so unless you don't like the smell of brand new hosiery or might react to products used in manufacturing that are still on them, I can't see the point of washing them to start with. But I'm happy to hear of evidence to support this durability theory.

Don't just stuff a drawer with your hosiery. Apart from not finding anything properly, this gives the yarn ample chance to snag against other pairs or the drawer itself, and to get in a tangle. You can get hosiery compartmentalisers for drawers or just on their own with little compartments for each pair, but this still leaves the possibility of snagging as it just takes one slightly loose thread to catch onto another and pull a hole in the pair. Balling each item up still leads to the same problem. I always keep the original packaging and, once washed and dried, each pair goes back in its pack. Wind the pair over the inner tongue, put in the polythene cover and its cardboard cover in or over that (depending on the design). You then know exactly what's what and the chance of damage is minimal. They also pack flat again, just like in the shop. This is how I have managed to keep pairs of favourites (like the delicate M&S silky gloss ones above) in pristine condition for even 20+ years. Multipacks will have the items pressing on one another, but by definition they are cheap and so it's not so tragic if they get snagged in the box. 

As you can see with all the photos of my collection, everything gets repackaged in its original wrappings. Time consuming but worth it if you're serious about having nice legs. This delicate pair was bought around about 2008. Not worn often but is still pristine.


There used to be a theory that freezing your hosiery made it last longer. I am all for science so for some while I would put selected pairs in the freezer. As far as I could tell, the only effect was to give you cold damp stockings!

Hosiery gloves

If you are pulling on hosiery that's 20 denier or under, it's a good idea to use hosiery gloves. You don't need to buy officially designated hosiery gloves, just a pair of cotton or silk (not latex) gloves will do to help you get those delicate fabrics over your legs without making holes either through overstretching or through rough nails snagging the fabric. Even the tiniest imperfection in your nails can cause a snag, hole or ladder. Make sure you're nails are perfect, girls! And expensive sheer hosiery is often the most fragile.

Leg preparation

I appreciate that the large majority of MtF trans people / TGirls / crossdressers, whatever term you prefer here, do not or cannot shave their legs. Aesthetically, this is not so good with sheer tights but, more to the point, hair causes problems with hold-ups adhering. The day you first wear your hosiery with shaved, epilated or waxed legs is the day you exchange cotton for silk - the feeling of your hosiery on hair-free legs for the first time is a revelation and a joy. You'll never want hair again!

So, if you are able, do invest in a good razor (you needn't go for the kind marketed to women which may be pretty but cost anything up to twice the price of men's razors and possibly not be so durable). Male-pattern leg-hair is tougher and thicker than female-pattern hair so a strong razor is needed. Do yourself a favour and get a separate one to that used for your face.

You can get an epilator but this is a painful way to get rid of hair (toughness and thickness adding to the problem) - see my review of the Braun Silk-Epil 7 under the heading Ow! Eep! Ooh! Urk! for some thoughts and feelings! I don't use an epilator any more, it's a bit too grim an experience.

Hair removal creams are recommended by many. As with razors, I'd advise the male version (e.g. Veet for Men), unless gender dysphoria reacts against that notion. Check that your skin can tolerate the product before using it. (Incidentally, if you want to roar with laughter, read the lead Amazon review of Veet for Men).

The best, though costliest, hair removal treatment is waxing at a beauty salon, though you may be able to do this for yourself, although to do it properly you need a wax melter (looks like a fondue set), disposable spatulas and 'ripper' strips. Treat yourself and go to the spa or salon and relax, chatting to the friendly waxer. I love it. And it hurts less than other methods. Here's my post on an all-over wax I had locally: Hot wax)


My next post will end this series on my favourite topic of hosiery by talking a bit about cost and quality, and linking to some good retailers, manufacturers and hosiery reviewers.


Weight loss

 Totally unrelated (though it helps me reduce the appeal of tummy control tights), today I have reached my first weight loss milestone this year of 1 stone (6.3 kg). Progress is slow, but steady, and that's what counts.


A dip in the archives

 I was going to go into more trans history this week but my main post is long already so here, on the same theme of hosiery, is one of my favourite pictures, recently rediscovered and never posted before. A rare back view (my best side, some cheeky friends would say!), but it shows off my lovely sparkle seam pantyhose.

If you wear seams, girls, they must be on straight. They're arrow straight here, I'm proud to say!

This was taken in October 2010 just before going to Pink Punters LGBT nightclub.

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Oggi continuo la mia recensione di collant e calze con vari consigli su come scegliere il paio giusto e come mantenerli bene.

Speriamo che la legge Zan prosegua bene fino alla fine, e che questa maledetta situazione di pandemia finisca presto.

Sue x


  1. Congrats on the weight loss and thanks for the link to the Amazon review. Very funny! 😁

    I think the idea behind freezing clothes is to kill off the bacteria that cause odors. I seem to recall that being mentioned for expensive jeans.

    1. Thanks, hon, and also glad to hear you got a laugh!

      Personally, I have always found that washing myself and my clothes regularly was the best way to eliminate bacteria and odours! But hey, if dumping the contents of the wardrobe next to a packet of Cap'n Birdseye's finest produce works for you, then go for it!

      Sue x

    2. I did try freezing a t-shirt to see if it did work, but I was concerned it would come out solid, like a frozen kipper 😉 But, hopefully, not smelling of fish 😁

    3. During one cold winter in my student days we often left wet washing out on the line to see what would happen and whether the towels and shirts would snap if you bent them when frozen. They didn't, but I'm sure our experiments were an important contribution to scientific progress. I don't think we smelt any better for the freeze treatment, though. Sue x

  2. LOL on the freeze treatment!

    You are so right about the feeling of freshly-shaved legs in pantyhose, tights, or whatever you call them. Simply delicious!

    And you look fabulous in that first pic, hon!

    1. Thank you, sweetie.

      Yes, there's nothing like smooth legs in hose! The first time it's like "WOW! that feels so amazing!"

      Sue x