The History of Seamless Tights

The difference between ordinary tights and seamless tights is the way they have been constructed. Regular tights are two legs sewn together to create a brief with a seam down the centre at the brief, sometimes with a separate gusset inserted. In contrast, seamless tights are knitted as one piece. This creates a smooth appearance that allows you to wear tight-fitted clothing without hemlines or shadows coming through and offers an extra comfortable wearing experience.

To understand the development of this hosiery innovation, we need to look back at the history and development of tights – from the medieval ages to the modern hosiery styles we see today.

Tights and stockings have been dated as far back as the 9th Century. Traditionally worn by men, legs were covered with bandages of material, often held in place with strands of gut. In the 15th Century, in an early example of the one piece style of tights we see today, woven stockings were joined together with a cod-piece - a pouch attached to men’s close-fitting hose to cover the genitals.

It wasn’t until the 16th Century that hand-knitted stockings from Spain came to England and by the 18th Century it was women who took over the stocking-wearing trend, as men began to move onto wearing trousers.

You may be familiar with retro style seamed stockings. The seam of back seam stockings is now usually purely a design element however in early stockings the back seam was a genuine seam due to the fact that individual stockings were knitted as one flat piece of material that was then stitched together down the back to create the tube that sits around the leg.

It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century; with the development of a circular knitting machine, that the first seamless stockings were created, meaning that the knitted tubes of fabric could be constructed without the need of a seam. Although, during this time seamless stockings were still in the experimental stages, which meant they would sag at the knee and ankles due to circular machines not being able to add or drop stitches. It was not until after the Second World War; in the 1950s, that the new revolution of seamless stockings spread rapidly across the USA and Europe.

Circular Knitting Machine

With the two continents, both powerhouses of industry, getting in on the hosiery game innovation allowed for the first circular machines to be continually improved. During this revolutionary time for hosiery, the American company DuPont invented the synthetic fibre called nylon. When hosiery manufacturers got hold of this fabric, they were able to sew the nylon into a tube and add heat to form it into any shape. This material and technique allow the garment to retain its original sizing, even after going through numerous stretchings and washings. This is how the fitting and style of tights we know today came about.

Dupont Nylon Invention Ad

In 1954 Austrian Luxury hosiery brand Wolford created their first pair of seamless stockings, which began their tradition of pursuing the utmost comfort and finest quality of hosiery. 40 years later Wolford created the revolutionary, completely seamless tights, the Fatal Tights, putting Wolford on the map for becoming one of the most innovative hosiery companies in the world. This created a breakthrough in hosiery, which then opened the way for many more brands, including Cecilia de Rafael, Charnos, Trasparenze and more, to create their own seam free tights due to the improvements of the circular machine and evolved fabrics and materials.

Wolford Fatal 15 Seamless Tights
Wolford Fatal 15 Seamless Tights (Barely Black)

In conclusion, seamless tights have been able to break the mould on how tights should be designed and have paved the way for new hosiery innovations.

  

References:
http://www.fulgar.com/eng/insights/tights-in-history
http://www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Pantyhose.html
https://www.tightsfashion.co.uk/html/seamless_tights.html
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion-the-history-of-hosiery-life-before-lycra-1177530.html