Is the Pantyhose-as-Pants Look a Real Thing?

I thought pantyhose were dead, but now it seems as if they are being treated as the equivalent of actual pants.Are we really supposed to believe the pantyhose-instead-of-pants look I see on social media is going to be a trend? And I thought leggings were bad. — Susan, Vancouver, B.C.

It’s true: Pantyhose (one of the most unappealing names for a garment ever invented) have been on the rise for a few seasons now, after disappearing almost entirely from many wardrobes as women not in the British royal family were freed from some of the more egregious dress code strictures of the past century.

Invented in 1959 by Allen Gant Sr., who called them “panti-legs,” pantyhose may have revolutionized foundation garments by doing away with the girdle, garter belt and stockings, but by the millennium, being able to just say no to pulling on a pair of flesh-sucking sheer tights, and then worrying about unsightly snags and runs, was a sign of liberation. The fashion world became so attached to the End of Pantyhose that editors famously went to shows in February with bare legs and high heels, snow be damned.

Then, in September 2022, Matthieu Blazy of Bottega Veneta sent a navy crew neck down his runway paired with only dark hose and heels. Just a few months later, Miuccia Prada largely tossed pants and skirts out the window in her Miu Miu show, subversively matching her librarian cardigans and beatnik polo necks with sheer hose and coordinating undies. A vibe was born. Or reborn.

Of course, Mrs. Prada did not invent the no-pants look — that was popularized by Edie Sedgwick back when she was Andy Warhol’s It girl, prancing around the Factory in black tights and a boat-neck tee (In 1965, Life magazine crowned her “the girl with the black tights.”) That may have been the reference when Emma Corrin (an It person of the moment) closed the Miu Miu fall show in a camel turtleneck, gold sparkly bikini bottoms and sheer brown hose.

Little wonder that earlier this month the audience at the spring 2024 Miu Miu show was chockablock with pants-less influencers, all vying for the title of It girl. Or that thus far the style has been picked up by such figures as Kendall Jenner, who modeled the Bottega look IRL, and Rihanna, who went pantsless at ASAP Rocky’s birthday dinner, wearing only a ruffled chiffon top, bomber jacket and glossy tights.

That said, Rihanna is Rihanna, and most people who live in the real world will never willingly forgo their pants in favor of mere tights or pantyhose. But given that extreme runway fashion has a way of trickling down and becoming digestible for everyday, and given the talent Miuccia Prada has for making today what everyone wears tomorrow, odds are that the no-pants-but-pantyhose look may lead, ultimately, to a pantyhose renaissance.

Indeed, during the last round of fall 2023 shows, Virginie Viard was pairing white lace tights with almost every look on her Chanel runway. And Boss, Dolce & Gabbana, LaQuan Smith and Saint Laurent all featured sheer black pantyhose with pencil skirts and cocktail frocks.

All of which is good news for those who appreciate the smoothing, buffing effect that sheer pantyhose has on legs, not to mention the bit of added warmth when the temperature falls. Personally, though, I think they would be more popular if someone came up with a better name.

Your Style Questions, Answered

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.

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