The Care and Feeding of Tights

Reader S wonders about tights…

I seem to be having a spell of terrible luck with tights this year – I wear a pair two or three times and then find a hole or a run. I’m willing to pay more for tights that last longer, but I’m afraid I’ll just continue to have the same bad luck with a higher pricetag unless I get some guidance. Suggestions?

I think proper tight care could be part of your problem, but it may also be which tights you’re buying.  As those of you who follow my Twitter feed know, I attended a press event earlier this week where Jenny Altman, the style adviser to Bare Necessities, sang the praises of Commando tights as being the only truly opaque, non-digging tights, as well as the praises of Wolford tights.  Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Spanx tights, as I mentioned earlier — they’re pricey but worth it! (Pictured: Commando 70 Denier Matte Tights Panty Hose, available at Bare Necessities for $34.)

That said — I’ve still had $8 tights that have lasted me years, so let’s investigate further…

1) Watch your nails — both on your hands and your feet!  Even though it’s the winter, your toenails should not be jagged or sharp — at the very least, take a file to them and smooth them out.  Similarly, if you have long fingernails, you may want to be very careful when you put your tights on and take them off — tights are more durable than pantyhose, but some of our pantyhose recommendations might be helpful here, as well.

2) Wash your tights carefully. I’ll be honest: I don’t quite have the energy to launder anything by hand, but if I did, tights would definitely be on the list — they’re one  of the easiest items to hand-launder! That said, I usually save my tights for washing with my delicates — with Woolite, on the delicate cycle.  Keep them away from bras (I put all of my bras in a lingerie bag) as well as anything else with hooks — if you’re not sure what might be in there, put your *tights* in the lingerie bag.

3) Airdry. Please, please, airdry.

4) Store them carefully. I like to use a hanging hosiery organizer, but there are also drawer organizers and more.

Readers, how do you take care of your tights?  Which brands do you swear by?


  1. I would also add to watch the insides of your shoes and boots for snaggy bits. I couldn’t figure out why I kept shredding the heels of my hose for so long until I started to feel a picky sensation in my feet. Take a peek inside and holy crap, exposed nails/staples. Ow! Insole time.

  2. I missed out on the intense comments yesterday….what a day on corporette! Very thought provoking.

    On the subject of tights, I bought some Wolford tights while in Europe and am very impressed. I wore some new boots that rubbed all day and it would have slashed any other tights. Now they just have a fuzzy spot, but aren’t unwearable.

    I also found that the rough wood on the bottom of my desk was attacking my tights/hose (I’m the lone nude hose fan it appears — but I swear by Donna Karan talls, sold at SYMS). I covered the rough bits in scotch tape and it’s done wonders. Keep an eye out for similar office boobytraps.

    • surrounded by lawyers :

      Nude hose warrior by your side! (I have the best luck with Calvin Klein, and I get them cheap at Filene’s Basement.) I know people hate them, but I really do think if you have the right shade they look good.

    • Experiences differ I guess – I got only one wearing out of an expensive pair of Wolfords after i tapped the back of my hand (together with engagement ring) on my thigh, causing an instant rip.

      • Another Anon :

        Same here. DKNY are my new favorites. Highly recommended.

        Sounds snobby but cheap tights are, IMHO, a major fashion faux pas. They just ruin an outfit.

    • Fellow fan of Donna Karan nude hose :) Hi! I get them at Century 21 in NYC, around $8 a pair.

    • Another vote for Donna Karan tights. They’re not very expensive, I don’t take great care of them, and they last for YEARS. I even have some extremely ugly acid green ones from…the late 90s?…that are still in perfect shape.

  3. I am also a fan of Spanx tights. I have the Spanx “tight end” tights and have worn them many, many times. I hand wash them with Hosiery Mate, which is available from online sellers and may be carried at JC Penney.

    • Me too! I’m even more careless than you — I put them in a lingerie bag and toss them in the gentle wash cycle, and then air dry. Then again, I live in SoCal where I rarely wear tights, so I think that helps them last longer.

  4. I had terrible luck with tights and hose until I went up one size. It seems to have made a big difference, especially with the holes and runs I used to get in the toe area.

    • Anonymous :

      Same. I’m tall (5’8″) and buy a large just to (1) avoid the toe holes and (2) also avoid the accidental thumb through while trying to get the crotch in a place reasonably close to my crotch.

      Go up a size, they dont fall down unless maybe you weigh 80lbs soaking wet.

  5. I swear by Spanx tights, though I wore an Assets pair yesterday (sold at Target, but produced by Spanx) that I was pleased with.

    I agree with the tips above, and would like to add something to part 1 – years and years ago, my mom told me to lotion my hands prior to putting on hose or tights, and she is so right about that – it really helps against the hose/tights catching on snags – even if you have nails that are not jagged or sharp, dry hands or a harder cuticle may snag the hose/tights.

  6. Threadjack: anyone recently buy a sweater dress they like? I’m looking for something work appropriate (business casual), long-or-3/4-length-sleeves and not too form-fitted (I’m in the beginning of my second trimester so want a regular size (not maternity) but plan on sizing up from XS to S anyway) and something that’s wool, cashmere or a nice blend (not too much acrylic). On sale/good price always a plus! Thanks for any leads.

    • I got a dress from Land’s End’s Canvas Line that I really like. I used a coupon code for 40% off, there are many online if you look.

      It’ s def. loose-ish (almost empire waist, though not quite) & very nice quality. Neckline is very flattering. I ordeded the navy.

      • Got the same dress in grey, and it. is. awesome. and it fits your criteria – 3/4 sleeves, not form-fitting. It even has pleats in the front, which might accomodate a growing bump. However, if you’re interested, I would be wary of sizing up – I’m usually an XS, too, but bought the XXS (which sounds ridiculous, I know) after reading some reviews, and the smaller size fits perfectly. The XS would have been huge.

        Good luck!

        • Um. I love this dress. Thanks for posting it and the review! I am going to have to order it now. Shoot ;)

    • Anonymous :

      I have this one and I love it:

    • I have this cowl neck sweater dress from Ann Taylor and I LOVE it.

      Its comfy and stylish.

    • I love this belted, funnel neck sweater dress from Talbots. Good weight, skims the body, and has the 3/4 length sleeves you were looking for. Also on sale right now for less than $80!

  7. The only time I can successfully hand launder tights/knee socks is if I do it right when I come home. Go to bathroom, wash my hands, and at the same time quickly handwash whatever. I find it much easier this way. Letting a pile build up is awful, and ensures that everything is going out with the reg. laundry.

    Otherwise, agree with all the above. On the expensive vs less so debate: I find I am much more careful with expensive tights than with the $6 ones I bought at Nordstrom Rack, so that may have something to do with how long something lasts. In general, I have had good luck with DKNY & Betsy Johnson; also Hue. I buy them at discount stores like Filene’s, TJ Maxx, or Nordstrom Rack.

  8. My Wolfords have lasted me 100+ wears. Can’t recommend them enough. Buy the Wolford “velvet” tights.

  9. I buy tights at Filene’s Basement or TJ Maxx or any of those types of discount stores. And agree, while they last me 2-3 wears, it’s a a half price discount so I don’t feel quiet so bad. I’m going to try the trick of going up a size as well.

    As far as brands, I purchase Hue tights.

  10. Even with handwashing, sheer hose just don’t last for me. Pantyhose and knee-highs I’ve given up on and just buy from OneHanesPlace. Cheaper and I don’t feel bad if I toss them after 2 or 3 wheres.

    Opaque tights I don’t have problems with and I’m not terribly careful with them. I throw them into the washing machine with other cold water/delicate cycle clothes. And maybe I’ll put them into one of those mesh bags. Or maybe not, if I’m feeling lazy

  11. On a recommendation from this site, I bought Hue tights and they are working out very well. I toss them in the washer and dryer and have had no snags yet.

    • I LOVE Hue. It was probably me who posted the recommendation. I would do PR for Hue for free. Not only are their tights, pantyhose and socks all fantastic, but I once bought a defective pair of sock liners, emailed their customer service because I couldn’t take it back to the store (had bought it while out of state), and they told me to send it back and they sent me back a refund ASAP. Fabulous.

  12. I also like Hue, they’re readily available here in the Upper Midwest (Wolford and Spanx not so much), and I have had my relatively cheap ($10) Hue tights last years and years. I just pop all hosiery in a big mesh laundry bag with the rest of my “cold” dark color wash and then hang to air dry. Simple and done.

    BTW, I couldn’t keep up with the threadjack yesterday, when all I wanted to do was comment on the great Anthropologie sweater jacket. I ordered it from one of the stores, and since they didn’t have my size online I got free shipping (it took some calling but got a size M coming my way from Seattle).

  13. I just got some spanx tight-end tights with free shipping and LOVE them. Have worn them about 4x so far and they are great, nice and thick, good control top etc. I wash them with the rest of my clothes and then hang to dry.

  14. I have Hue and DKNY tights that I abuse and I haven’t had much problem with at all. I don’t seem to have the snagging problems that I do with hose.

    I have six pairs of black tights from Old Navy that I bought on clearance for 99 cents a pair eight years ago. I finally pitched them this year because the color had faded. None of them snagged and I didn’t give them any special treatment at all.

  15. Associette :

    “your toenails should not be jagged or sharp”

    1) Gross!
    2) Do people really need to be told this?!?! (And if some big-law gal replies back with…”oh I just don’t have the time!” B.S. take care of yourself people).

    • Anonymous :

      Angry, judgmental much?

    • Actually, I’m training for a marathon, and with the hours and miles I spend running, I often have a rough edge on one or another of my toe nails, and it will often be a day or so before I notice it if it’s a small snag. I suppose it’s a matter of priorities.

    • haha this is the most randomly angry post. Its others peoples toes its ok! don’t lose sleep over people not having their toes manicured if its winter.

      Speaking of gross I had no idea that people’s nails were different thickness til I was in college i think. I just ripped my toe nails instead of cutting cuz they are pretty thin. Very yucky thinking back on that. Also now I’m thinking about how much I would like a pedicure.

    • Anonymous :

      Seriously? What do you care about other people’s toenails? Especially in the winter when you don’t have to see them in open-toed shoes? As kit mentions, it is quite common for runners to not have perfect toenails, and frankly, I would much rather be able to run a marathon than to spend a ton of time obsessing about having picture-perfect toenails. (Good luck with your training, kit!)

  16. Does anyone have recommendations for brands/lines of tights that aren’t too clingy/control-top-ish at the top? I normally would want that but now that I’m pregnant (beginning of 2nd trimester) I don’t think that will work for me. After the pregnancy is a different story! Alternatively, any recommendations for maternity hoisery?

    • Preggo Angie :

      Oooh… I got a pair of awesome maternity tights, but the brand escapes me. Didn’t get it at the mall, at a small independent store. I’ll see if I can get the name brand and post it later tonight.

    • Anonymous :

      Assets, The Target version of Spanx, has great maternity tights. I also got some from Pea in the Pod that were very nice, but more expensive. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I found myself wanting to wear the maternity tights under all my pants because they were so nice and supportive without being constricting! (Congrats, btw)

    • Oh I had the same question! I’ve been squeezing into my regular tights but wearing them below my bump, but with my tummy’s growth spurt in the last 2 weeks, they suddenly became super-constricting.
      I’d like maternity tights for warmth, but ideally want something not-so-tight over the bump (not Spanx or control top etc, less elastic is good). Should I just buy a larger size of regular tights, or is there a better way? Thanks!

    • When I was pregnant I wore Berkshire brand maternity tights, ondered online. Because when I am as a far along as approximately one minute pregnant, anything tight around my waist drives me completely insane. I feel your pain!

  17. Does anyone have any recommendations for tall tights (over 6’1?). I’m growing…again…I’ve had mostly good luck with opaque tights/spanx where the upper end of the range is 6′, but I’m looking for some more patterned tights and all of the really cool pairs I see stop at 5’11. I’m tired of the unladylike tights-hike that I have to do to make the patterned ones stay up.

    • You could cut off the top and wear a garter belt. This sounds weird, but my short friend actually does this to save money – she buys long socks and has them stay up with it. Apparently it works.

    • Donna Karan is a good tall option.

  18. AttiredAttorney :

    Forget vanity and buy tights and hose a size larger than the size chart suggests. If they’re high quality, they won’t sag, but they’ll have significantly more give before tearing or running.

    • This doesn’t really work for me.
      It’s not about the sagging, but the result is either (a) they come up too high or (b) there is extra “bunching” in the knee/ankle area. It’s just the natural result of what happens when something is too long/big on you.
      I agree that tights that barely fit are more likely to rip, but then the advice should really be, “don’t be right in between sizes!” — and that’s a harder one to follow :) [spoken by someone who is currently in between sizes & really needs to just decide to either lose or gain 5 lbs already!]

      • There are brands (like my beloved Hue) that come in 5 sizes instead of the standard 3 – so switching brands might help with the between-sizes problem?

    • Agree and, also, I love your handle! Today I am just a tired attorney.

    • I buy small or s/m tights — different brands, including Hue, DKNY and Betsy Johnson — and they usually sag on my legs. Around ankles, mostly. I am 5’4 so not super short. Normal weight too. Maybe I should be hunting for XS? I don’t think of my body as XS, though.

  19. I usually avoid this store at all costs, but Express has surprisingly durable tights for a very good price. I get the body sculpting ones, and they look great!

  20. I love DKNY tights. I’ve had several pairs of black opaque DKNYs for years.

    • I see you also asked how people care for tights. My husband does all the laundry – bless him! – and he washes tights with the weekly black/darks knit load (no zippers, no buttons in this load) in a lingerie bag. Tights and hose are always air dried. For storage, my hose and tights have their own small drawer so that nothing snags them. I store them rolled up.

      I almost never get runs in the toes of stockings, only where the edge of my shoes or boots rub. I agree with a prior poster that it pays to check the snaggy bits inside shoes, and near the top of the zipper on boots in particular. You can snip these rough threads off with little scissors and it makes a huge difference in how long tights last.

  21. Anonymous :

    I’ll echo the love for DKNY tights. My black pair has lasted forever and they’re quite comfortable.

    I also got a gray pair from Old Navy that seems surprisingly durable.

    • that was me. I should also add that I only buy tights at discount stores like marshall’s or tj maxx. I actually had a pair from duane reade that lasted a while. I just don’t want to pay more than $10 in case they don’t last.

    • Another Anon :

      Old Navy used to be so great. Miss those days…

  22. I have some BR tights from high school that I’m still wearing (not to age myself, but this is 15 years later).

  23. I’d like to hear thoughts on what color tights are okay for the office. Can I wear burgundy-colored tights?

    • Yes. Assuming it coordinates with the rest of your outfit. I regularly wear navy and brown tights (with patterns!) to work.

  24. My tights last forever! DKNY and Hue particularly, but many from Marshall’s. They are a great investment. This morning I realized that navy tights about 10 years old had bit the dust and I was so pissed. My only pair of navy. So I wore Hanes silken navy – not too bad but not tights.

  25. I’m a HUE girl too, but I never buy the ones that come in s/m and m/l. Only the numerical sized tights (3) are long enough for my 5’9″ body. That way I’m not tugging them up every second or taking those gigantic steps when no one is looking to hike them up a bit. If I can avoid that, they seems to last for at least 2 seasons.

  26. I’ve never really had a problem with runs in my tights–mine regularly last years. I keep my (finger and toe)nails tidy, and I wash them in my lingerie bag, with my bras, and air dry them. To store, I double them over, tie in a knot, and then put them in a plastic storage box (I have one small box dedicated to tights/hose and one to regular socks). Nothing in there to snag on.

    I get my tights/hose from anywhere, but usually Target or Macy’s (on sale). Some of the best I’ve had I’ve labelled “mystery hose” because I don’t know where they’re from or when I got them. I have a suspicion that I picked them up at a Kmart in 2006.

  27. I agree that the gentle and tender handling of any hosiery is really important, but I also swear by the Nordstrom brand tights. They are so comfortable, I actually forget I am wearing them! High quality and a great price at $10.00 a pair. Two years ago I started wearing them, and recommending them to clients [ I am a professional stylist ] and this year I will include them in the January edition of Nancy Pipal’s Style File under ‘The Best of 2010’. I would also recommend the fabulous leggings I bought at Nordstrom’s just this year. Zella is the brand and they are, hands down, the best I have ever come across! [And I have been wearing tights for many, many years.] These black leggings stay black and stay in shape…no bagging anywhere! After multiple washings they look like brand new. They have substance without bulk and they line dry quickly. price is around $50.00 and worth every penny!

  28. Assets – The generic Spanx tights from Target that are made by the Spanx people. They are $14-$16 per pair compared to the $26 – but they are sturdy and wear well. I bought brown ones last year, and wore them about once/week through the whole winter. I have been wearing them again this year, and just went and bought some black as well.

    Last year I also bought some generic black sweater tights from Kmart that are holding up like brand new, but they have that knitted look, instead of the smooth look. Probably why they have lasted so long.

    And lastly, Chadwicks. I love their tights – they last forever! I have a pair of grey ones that are a few years old, and also look new!

    Maybe I just take good care of my tights, but I don’t think so. I put them in a lingerie bag and launder them with the rest of my washable clothes.

  29. charlotte :

    Black Opaques !! 70 Denier..90 Denier..140 Denier..and even 200 Denier..also i own 1 pair or 200 Denier opaque Tights in “Electric Blue”…dozens of Black opaque Tights..all good quality ones..but my mother in law steels a pair every now and again and cuts them up for her garden rose plants/plant ties etc etc..oh and they make good cleaning/dusting rags !! so she tells me.

  30. I got my boyfriend to wear them under slacks on cold days, he is impressed and broad minded

  31. P Diane Schneider :

    I found that I had trouble when traveling by airplane. The airlines install their nice leather seat covers with velcro strips just under the front of the seat. They usually do not have the velcro completely covered. The velcro grabs the back of tights or pantihose and ruins them. My solution was to place a blanket over the seat before sitting back when airlines provided blankets. Later I would simply travel in pants. This is likely more of a problem for short people like me than tall people whose knees are far enough out that they do not touch the front of the seat. Another alternative might be to spread out one’s coat over the seat before sitting down.

  32. Hose wearing man here, even out with shorts for about 8 years. A few tips I live by that have served me well as I rarely get snags/runs (jinx!) etc. While I don’t have womens finger nails to deal with, I pay attention to my toe nails big time. I always wash new pairs before the first wearing in a lingerie bag (no bras to worry about) in cold water. Instead of air drying by hanging them all over the place, take a bath towel and lay the nylons flat on it, then roll the towel up and put it on a sweater drying rack. You could just lay the towel anywhere but it might take longer for the hose to dry.

    Hopefully I’m not repeating all this, but maybe hearing it from a guy might add something to the discussion. I’m also a big fan of women in hose, so if I can help in any way I’m more than happy to lend my support (pun intended.)

  33. Hi, EricD14, I am also a hose wearing man so appreciated your comments. I wear then under slacks for work and with shorts other times. I wear L’eggs Sheer Energy Q Nude and they last a long time providing you are very gentle putting them on, I got some cotton gloves (white ones like you might wear with a tuxedo), they help stop any snags when putting them on. I wash with the regular laundry (avoiding wife’s bras with those hooks), a dry in the tumble dryer, each pair last me about 2 weeks, wearing every day. I also store them in a separate drawer away from anything that might snag them. They make my legs feel great and supported and help with circulation and varicose veins, I wear then out with shorts as you said and at first got a few looks, but no-one seems to both now and my wife approves.

  34. One of the best take away from this post for me is put your *tights* in the lingerie bag.. That really inspire confidence for me to get going. Thanks!