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Essential hosiery glossary

(Copyright Tights And More/Pure Fiction Media Ltd)

Ankle highs
Hosiery that covers the foot but only extends up the leg as far as the ankle. Short socks, basically.

Bikini
Term relating to a design of the body section of tights which is shaped to follow the brief line and give a more flattering appearance.

Boarding
Process applied to hosiery to improve final presentation. It's usually carried out after dyeing when damp hosiery is pulled over metal forms (originally made of wood) and subjected to pressure and steam. The temperature achieved (typically 124 degrees centigrade) is sufficient to affect the thermoplastic nature of the yarn used and "set" the shape of the form into the garment. Traditionally most companies use a shaped foot and leg profile former, although some automated machines have straight legs (without a foot shape).

Comfort top
When applied to a knee high this is a form of elasticated top, designed to spread the elastic over a deeper portion of the leg and avoid discomfort and excessive "marking" of the leg.

Compression factor
The number which indicates the compression effect of support hosiery, specifically indicating the comprehensive strength at the ankle. It is actually a value in millimetres of mercury (the blood pressure unit) measured on a HATRA pressure tester as defined in the procedure BS6612. The higher the number, the higher the compression and the greater the effect.

Control top
Tights produced with a body section containing sufficient Lycra to provide comprehensive figure shaping in the waist, bottom or thigh area - or any combination of the three. The body section is often opaque in appearance.

Cotton gusset
Material sometimes used in the gusset of tights to provide enhanced freshness and hygiene. Although often called "cotton", the fabric invariably has a cotton face on a nylon ground. Hence the cotton surface is in contact with the body, while the nylon takes up the dye to provide a uniform external appearance.

Cuban heel
Type of heel on a fully fashioned stocking whereby the reinforced part is squared off above the back of the ankle, rather than tapering to a point.

Denier
This is one of the most important terms, but quite easy to understand. It's a guide to whether the hosiery is sheer (see through) or opaque (not see through). Low deniers are sheer. High deniers are opaque. Technically it's defined as the weight in grams of 9000 meters of yarn. We classify anything less than 10 denier as ultra sheer. Ultra sheer hosiery looks great and is perfect for warmer weather, but you may need to take care as the fibres will be quite delicate. Standard sheer hosiery tends to be in the 10-20 denier range. This is by far the biggest sector of the market, with the largest selection of products. For daily wear, 15 denier is a popular compromise between appearance and strength. Higher deniers tend to be semi-opaque (around 30 denier) or fully opaque (45-50 and above) although there's significant debate about where one classification finishes and the next starts.

Denier appearance
Just to confuse things, certain yarns and some knit constructions produce hosiery which does not correlate with the true denier of the yarn. For example if the yarn is comparatively heavy, it can technically be a higher denier, but give the appearance of a lower denier when worn. In this case manufacturers will sometimes use the term "denier appearance" to indicate how it looks on the leg, rather than the less relevant, though technically more accurate true denier figure. We use the "denier appearance" figure in product descriptions when relevant as it's the most useful guide to the look and feel. The rating, however, is the manufacturer's subjective assessment.

Finishing loop
The distinctive hole in the welt of a fully fashioned stocking. It's needed to allow the needle sewing the seam to be withdrawn.

Fishnet
An open net structure produced on specialist "weft" knitting machines.

French heel
See Point heel.

Fully fashioned
This refers to stockings that are knitted flat on vintage machinery, and then sewn up the back with a genuine seam and finishing loop. Genuine fully fashioned stockings are now very rare but much sought after. They're still made by Gio, Cervin, Eleganti and Gerbe, with non-stretch 100% nylon yarns on the original machinery from the 1950s.

Garter belt
See suspender belt.

Girdle
Foundation wear garment that gives shape to the waist and bottom while at the same time holding up stockings. Genuine classic girdles are still made today by Rago and Stockings and Romance.

Graduated compression
A prime requirement for correctly made support (or compression) hosiery is that the level of compression varies along the length of the leg. The maximum value is at the ankle with a progressive reduction through calf to thigh. This is of medical importance in promoting blood flow back to the heart.

Gusset
Piece of fabric sewn into the body section of the tights to improve the levels of fit, comfort and durability.

Hold-ups
Term given by Pretty Polly to self supporting stockings. Never registered, it is now regarded as the generic name for stockings that stay up without the use of a suspender belt, usually with the help of silicone bands which help them stay in place on your thighs.

Hosiery
Defined as "knitted covering for the feet and legs". A general term covering tights, stockings, socks etc.

Hosiery gloves
Thin (often cotton) gloves which can be worn while putting on sheer hosiery to help reduce the risk of snags from rough skin on the hands.

Knee highs
Also known as pop socks. Hosiery which comes up to the knee.

Ladder
A failure in the knitted fabric construction. A broken yarn or mis-formed stitch causes the loop to collapse into straight lengths of yarn running in a vertical line up and or down the garment.

Lycra
Lycra is Du Pont's registered trade mark for elastane fibre. It is a man-made fibre that can be produced in a range of deniers and different types. The chief characteristic of Lycra is its ability to stretch (up to five times its original length) and recover totally. By controlling the tension of the Lycra in knitting, the strength of its elasticity can be controlled. Lycra can be used in its bare form (i.e. no covering). This is the most economical, but is not suited to all applications. Alternatively, Lycra can be "single covered" or "double covered". Covering increases the thickness and changes the handle characteristics of the yarn. It also adds to the yarn's durability and costs. It is also possible to mix Nylon and Lycra together by air jet, as an alternative to covering. These are known as air intermingled yarns and are widely used in support stockings and tights. Lycra 3D is the result of new technology which transforms the way hosiery looks and behaves. With Lycra 3D, Lycra is knitted into every course giving a supremely smooth and comfortable fabric with stretch in all directions and a second skin fit. Wearers will experience the exceptional comfort of Lycra 3D hosiery and the clear, even colour coverage of the legwear. The unique softness and silkiness is apparent the moment the product is taken out of the pack.

Microfibre
A yarn made up from large numbers of fine filaments to produce exceptionally soft characteristics.

Micromesh
A type of knit construction incorporating tuck stitches usually in a diagonal configuration to give improved durability characteristics.

Nylon
Nylon is a polyamide yarn. It is a man-made fibre, made from basic ingredients originating from the petrochemical industry. Nylon is naturally bright but can also be de-lustred to give a duller appearance. It can also be produced in differing cross-sections which give different handles and appearances.

Opaque
Garment made from higher denier yarns (typically 40 denier and above) to give opacity.

Pantyhose
Rather over-literal term for tights, as used in the USA and certain other countries. Mind you, Americans call curtains drapes.

Point heel
Also known as a French heel, it's the type of heel on a fully fashioned stocking whereby the reinforced part tapers off to a point, helping to accentuate the length and shape of the leg.

Polyamide
The chemical name given to a class of man-made fibres. An alternative generic name for nylon. Polyamide is sometimes used instead of the word nylon in fibre content declarations.

Pop socks
See Knee highs.

Reciprocated (heel)
Applied to the system for knitting a pouch or shaped heel on a circular knitting machine. Whilst knitting the heel the normal rotary motion of the machine converts to a forwards, backwards repetitive motion - hence the name. A common feature of sock machines, the reciprocated heel on fine hosiery is now fairly rare. Modern yarns will accommodate the shape of the foot so the expensive and complex process was abandoned by all but a few manufacturers. Reciprocated heels are also referred to as reinforced heels, so you'll see them on RHT ranges from the likes of Cervin, Gio, Dore Dore, Eleganti, Clio and more.

Reinforced heel and toe

Generally stockings that have a reinforced (reciprocated) heel and toe. Classic RHTs are generally made from 100% non-stretch nylon, and along with fully fashioned stockings, are the most reminiscent of the golden era of the 1950s. Note - RHT stockings do not have a seam. RHT hold-ups and tights are also available, but the generic term RHT generally applies to stockings.

RHT

See Reinforced Heel and Toe

Run resist
Hosiery fabric incorporating a multiplicity of tuck stitches. The tuck stitches impact constrictions in the loop structure and damage to the fabric does not normally result in laddering. This construction uses more yarn, give a less sheer appearance and a relatively harsh handle.

Sandal toe

Sheer, invisible toe - ideal for wearing with strappy sandals or open toe shoes.

Semi opaque

A description given to hosiery styles which have evolved into position between sheer and opaque styles, typically from 25-35 denier.

Shadow toe
A description given to a type of reinforcement to the fabric at the toe. It offers a less severe difference in fabric density to the full reinforced toe, but still offers some durability in a high stress area.

Sheen
Surface appearance demonstrating a slight lustre. Usually the property of a component yarn within the knitted construction.

Sheer
A widely used, but undefined term, commonly used to describe hosiery which can be seen through - ie the opposite end of the denier spectrum to opaque. Low deniers are more sheer (ie finer and more see-through).

Silicone top
Modern hold-ups have an elastic band sewn to the top which has silicone on its inner surface. The stocking stays in position by a combination of elasticity (in the band) and the friction of the silicone against the skin. The performance of the silicone is ruined by contact with body lotion or talc which reduces the friction and allows the garment to fall down. Therefore, if you're wearing hold-ups, don't use moisturiser where the silicone needs to grip!

Stay-ups
Another term for hold-ups

Stockings
Thigh-length hosiery in which each leg is separate, thereby requiring a suspender belt or similar to hold in place. In some countries, the word stockings is used as a generic term for hosiery. This is very wrong. Do not encourage it!

Support

Hosiery designed to improve the condition of your legs by improving your circulation. The strength of the effect depends on the compression factor (see above).

Suspender belt
Belt which has straps to keep stockings in place. Common variants have four, six and eight straps, although it's possible to have up to 20, if you're mad. Known as a garter belt in the USA, but there again they call nappies diapers.

Thigh highs
Another phrase for hold-ups, popular in the USA.

Tights

One piece hosiery in which the two legs are joined at the top via a kind of built-in brief section. In the USA, tights are called pantyhose, while the term tights is reserved for something altogether more opaque.

Ultra sheer

Very fine hosiery, generally of less than 10 denier.

Voile
Word adopted by the knitting industry from the weaving industry. (See Torque)

Waist cincher
Somewhere between a girdle and very deep suspender belt with excellent waist-shaping properties. Occasionally wrongly referred to as a "clincher" but we know better!

Welt
As a term specific to stockings it describes the double thickness at the stocking top used to take the suspender button/clasp.

Yarn

The thread used to make hosiery. Most yarns are nylon, or a nylon/Lycra mix, but there are plenty of exceptions! See also Fibre content.