Pantyhose combine the concept of underpants, or panties, with stockings, or hose.
Most of these one-piece undergarments are made from nylon, which is why they are also sometimes called nylons. Hosiery made with spandex added to the nylon creates a stronger stretchy material that is more resistant to rips. The many different types of nylons include sheer, opaque, reinforced, toeless, and control top styles.
Sheer pantyhose don't have extra layers of fabric at the toes or crotch.
Instead, these one-piece undergarments are completely transparent. Their filmy, delicate texture can look more elegant than opaque tights, making them a good choice to wear under cocktail dresses. Since the toe areas have only a small seam that isn't that noticeable, they can be worn with open-toe shoes.
Opaque styles are thicker than the all-sheer types, and extra thick designs are known as tights. Tights keep the legs warm; they're popularly worn under fall and winter wool skirts. Opaque hosiery and tights are available in many more color options than sheer styles. Thinner styles are mostly sold in skin tone shades from black to white, while thicker tights are also made in fun patterns and textures as well as bright colors.
Reinforced one-piece hosiery undergarments have extra fabric at the toes and/or crotch. Cotton-lined crotches add more of the comfort associated with cotton panties. Some styles are lined with an extra layer of nylon where the two leg sections join to keep that area of the garment from tearing easily. Reinforced toe styles are best worn with closed-toe shoes, since the extra layer of fabric creates a darker area on the toe than the rest of the hose.
Toeless, as well as sheer, pantyhose are designed for wear with open-toe footwear. In toeless nylon styles, the fabric ends just above the toes. If sandal straps cover the band where the nylons end, the look can be flawless. A loop of nylon that fits around each big toe helps keep the hose in place.
Control top styles have a light, girdle-like panty that helps keep the tummy in; this type of hosiery smooths stomach bulges to create a neater line under clothing. Some kinds offer more support than others. If the hose is too tight, it may show through to the outer clothing as an unattractive line called a "pantyline." There are control top hosiery styles designed to eliminate this problem.