What is involved in making good quality hosiery?

Cecilia de Rafael - Miss 60

Each maker decides upon their own sizing charts, the number of different sizes they’ll offer and what proportions are covered by each.  The proportions are generally dictated by the target customer range, each of which has a certain profile average.  There will also be certain price brackets associated with the intended customer type, which influences the choice of materials and features put into the product line.  The result is hosiery that will work well for certain people but not others.  The ultimate goal is to produce hosiery that fits most at a higher than average price point, while still attracting a high percentage of customers.  Some do this well, while others cater to a more narrow customer niche. For instance, Wolford is a very well known top tier hosiery maker and larger or taller than average women are generally outside their supported sizes.

Hosiery tiers
Inexpensive or economy hosiery typically doesn’t last long or perform consistently.  Top tier hosiery will deliver high luxury and usually last long, for a much higher price.  Middle tier hosiery will fit somewhere in between, with some leaning more towards luxury or economy.  The best deal is to find a middle tier hosiery style that looks and feels more like a top tier brand, but without the high cost.  And the better economical deal is to find economy priced hosiery that looks and feels more like middle tier hosiery.  Occasionally, you may find a top tier brand on a good discount, and that’s also a worthwhile deal to look for.

The main considerations in making hosiery are the choice of materials, fiber weight, weave density, and degree of automation to manufacture.  Most middle to high tier hosiery requires some manual step in manufacturing and quality control.

Denier and Weave Density
There is also the factor of denier (fiber weight) versus weave density to consider.  Just because a pair of tights is 200 denier does not necessarily mean they will be more opaque than a pair of 80 denier tights.  Once above 50 denier fiber weight, the weave density starts to become more important for opacity.  The denser the weave, the better the material will feel and be more uniformly opaque in appearance.  The lighter denier fibers will align more closely when weaved together, which is why they tend to provide a more uniform appearance than heavier denier fibers.  The higher the fiber denier, the more difficult it is to create a tight weave.  And unfortunately, that means a higher cost for the materials, so a hosiery maker must decide on this for the intended price bracket of the style.

Maintaining Quality
Hosiery brands have designers and product managers working for them that come up with styles based on many of the factors I’ve outlined, plus others.  But eventually there are changes in staff that end up affecting what the brand creates.  Also, if a brand faces budgetary constraints, you can end up seeing hosiery produced that’s different from earlier production years and sometimes not as good.  For example, I’ve read reviews where Marks & Spencer opaque tights have dropped in quality, except for the “Autograph” style which is supposed to be as good as previous years.

What’s Your Experience?
Have you experienced a change in hosiery quality on the favorites you regularly buy, for the better or for worse?  If so, please feel free to post about it here.