Sep 3, 2009

Petra’s Pantyhose Parade – The Year of Living Hosiery: Part 1

In December of last year, realizing that I needed regular features to return to in order to build useful, regular blogging habits, I started a still enduring Thursday feature, Petra’s Pantyhose Parade. I was not sure at the time what I knew, but was very sure what I liked and had forever.

Hosiery. Tights. Pantyhose. The sheer stuff dear friends.

Putting names aside for a moment, I am not hung up on the term pantyhose. For me it is too utilitarian a word. It does not capture the imagination in the same way that the garment captured mine, ensnared me really in my very young, very impressionable days. What an impression, One with me still, and I suspect, forever. Clearly, a name for this regular blog post was required. I settled on Pantyhose mostly because of the alliterative possibilities presented with Petra parading about. Thusly, was Petra’s Pantyhose Parade conceived.

I suspected that this was a deep realm, a cool fashion well that would never run dry. I saw in my minds thigh a sheer and endless river of nylon and lycra. I felt as though I could cool my toes in this glittering ocean ceaselessly. I believed, moreover, that if I took my time and made good notes, I could genuinely develop a shapely body of work, free of blemish, that might help us all make better, smarter and more fashion forward choices for our legs. Beautifying the world, one happy gam at a time. I have not been disappointed. I have now tested and opined upon 20 pairs, and the horizon gets further away each week. I do not lack for choice. Yumm.

I do lament however that fewer and fewer genetic women share this passion with cross dressers. Pantyhose seem to be thought by many to be a chore, only borderline comfy, and not in most circumstances absolutely required to complete an outfit. When given the option for bare legging it, many, too many do. Hosiery sales have been in decline for years, and outlooks don’t predict a rebound. That leaves less to admire for all of us, and the loss of a truly feminine touch in the everyday world.

From many comments on these posts, and correspondence with friends of this blog, I have learned that my passion, while pretty vivid, is not unusual. For many of us, this frail, powerful amalgam of inner and outerwear, this quietly private choice, this sometimes brazenly displayed enticement was at the very start and remains at the very heart of our sometimes difficult but always electrifying journey. This gossamer thread has the strength of Spiderman’s web and is perhaps stickier

So 20 reviews thus far. 20 is a good number: fingers and toes. Its time to pause and reflect before I lose count. General observations today.

Control Tops dominate the shelves, and as a result, the rankings. I sense that they dominate the shelves because clingy, body conscious fashions demand slimming effects, and if you look around, so do many too well fed, too poorly exercised bodies. Beyond that, I tested a good number of control tops because they do have a beneficial effect for cross dressers who, like me, pad up to achieve more attractive curves. Control tops help smooth it all out.

Wine and Pantyhose have much in common. I keep an army of <$10.00 wines on hand at home, and many of them I proudly present to friends. It is a relief that we live in a world where one can get comfortably tight with a $8.00 bottle, while comfortably clad in $8.00 tights. When you go south of $5.00 though, something happens to both. They are still mostly well made, employing state of the art technology and best production best practices, but they lack something. They lack finish. The finish element is to me, more than a certain je ne sais quoi, this quality is the very raison d’être of pantyhose. Be value minded therefore, but do not cheap out dear friend.

We are worth a little indulgence every now and then. There are special outfits, and nights when a spoil is good for the soul. At the very top end, the luxury vendors really are a treat. The highest scoring panty hose (Wolford Luxe 9) garnered an unassailable 47.4 out of an available 50 Petra Points. They felt and looked so good I could barely think. A $30.00 splash out is not a whim for me, but then neither is a $100.00 massage. The massage makes me feel better but doesn’t make me look better. The Wolfords do both and will last longer.

A Girl on a budget can look terrific. Our Gold Medal performer is in fact a $7.50 entry from Hanes (
Silky Sheer Control Top) that can be found even more frugally if purchased online in bulk. They scored 31 points out of an available 50. The L’eggs line at $5.00 even shows terrific value in a line of very comfortable, evening appropriate, dress sheers. If you are hard on your hosiery, getting a run does not have to mean a run on your bank.

Durability is not pretty. Run resistant weaves help contain minor snags and help hosiery last longer. These weaves typically though add heat, coarsen finishes and leave the fine but apparent tell-tale horizontal lines across the thighs. So, for the price of a little longer wear, you give up much of the magic. For some, not a bad bargain, but not, for me, a good one. I rather take the approach that if you are mindful of how you are dressed, alert to your surroundings, and graceful in your movements, ladylike in a word, then you will not need the durability that run resistance provides.

Love them, and they will love you back. Runs are ultimately inevitable and costly. If you get fewer of them, your price per wear drops each time out. I have laddered precisely 1 pair of pantyhose this calendar year (the fishnets that got freakishly caught up on my purse). Do these things please: Keep your nails filed, pay attention to the size charts (and go up a size if you are borderline), and use a pair of standard issue rubber gloves to smooth up and really fit your hose perfectly after you have both feet in. Your legs are worth the care.

The chart shown here is a top to bottom ranking of all tested pantyhose with pricing taken out of the final score (click to enlarge). Raw scores out of an available 50, 1-10 in 5 categories. At the top are favorites, and what I would wear always if money was no object. Next week, I will re-order them with price in the equation, and line them up with the “bang for the buck” values highlighted. In next weeks recap post I will additionally provide a little color commentary on the good, the bad, and the saggy of some of the more memorable experiences.

2 quick footnotes.

1.The first two photos are courtesy of a stylish friend, CC over at Couture Carrie. 3rd photo from Worlford.
2. I am drafting today’s post in a Starbucks, and I just spotted a completely healthy, beautifully shaped woman in her 20s with a smartly tailored black cotton, belted shirt dress, wearing a very nice pair of nude sheers. It is presently 80F in Atlanta. This gorgeous girl could have made a different choice, been more comfortable and saved a few minutes earlier today by going bare. Bless her soul, she did not, and the world is prettier as a result. A nice glimmer of hope for us all.

Happy dressing and everything else ...

1 comment:

Couture Carrie said...

Gorgeous post and pics, darling!
Thanks for the shout-out!
Hope you have a fabulously fashioniable weekend, too (I am staying here in CT but planning to get some sun and have a picnic on Sunday!).


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