published Monday, August 8th, 2011

Trend-setter Kate Middleton sparks surge in sales of women’s hosiery

Like it or not, sheer hosiery is making a comeback.

Thanks to the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, the colorless legwear is skyrocketing in popularity.

According to Angela Hawkins, general manager of hosiery brands for Hanes and L’eggs at Hanebrands Inc., sales of sheer hosiery in the United Kingdom have increased 85 percent in the last year. Hawkins predicts the trend will echo in the United States.

“We frequently see trends emanating from Europe and this should be no different,” she said in a news release. “We’ll see where the royal road takes us.”

Dillard’s accessory department sales manager Ricky Hutcheson said that though he hasn’t seen an increase yet in hosiery sales at the Hamilton Place store, it’s just a matter of time.

“I’m confident that when you’ve got a trend as big as that in Europe, you’re going to have it here, as well,” he said. “Sales are probably up in Los Angeles and I’m looking for it to happen here, too. I’m excited.”

Sheer hosiery sales have gone up slightly at Frankie & Julian’s, a clothing boutique on Frazier Avenue, said owner Suzanne West.

“I suspect we won’t see a real spike until it cools off around here,” she said, noting that she wears sheer legwear. “Many of my customers prefer sheer because it helps cover flaws on their legs, and they’re not as thick as tights, and therefore not as hot to wear.

“I do think for very dressy occasions, sheer hose with a shimmer are great.”

Last week, Vanity Fair magazine’s Amy Fine Collins announced that Middleton topped the magazine’s 72nd annual Best Dressed List.

“Kate has brought back items we never thought we’d see again in fashion, including hats and nude stockings,” Collins said on the Today Show.

Just five years ago, Hanesbrands reported hosiery sales in America had dropped 68 percent since 1995. At the time, Hanesbrand spokesperson Romaine Sargent said part of the reason for the decline was the casual-workplace trend.

“I thought I was so grown up when I was deemed old enough to wear stockings,” said former Chattanoogan Gloria Miller, who now lives in California. “I never wear them in summer, unless to a funeral, and I wear tights in the winter. Hosiery can be an expensive choice.”

According to Hanes legwear head designer Cathleen Moxham, sheer hosiery is more durable today. Earlier this year, Hanes Hosiery launched Silk Reflections Ultra Sheer which incorporates a run-resistant technology while providing a sleek, bare look.

Regardless, some women say they’ll never go back to wearing hose.

Pat Stewart of Chattanooga said that though she once wore sheer hose, she “never will again — and whatever that makes me, I’m fine with it.”

Berry Glover Shults of Signal Mountain agreed.

“I don’t care how ugly my legs may become, when I am 90 I will never wear hose again,” she said.

Angie Daley, placement director at Chattanooga State, favors the trend.

“[I’m] old fashioned and don’t feel right with my bare legs showing, particularly while mine are not tanned,” she said. “I tell my female students who are looking for jobs to always wear stockings on a job interview.”

Realtor Denise Leach of Chattanooga said she won’t hesitate to wear sheer hosiery.

“I would wear sheer hose, but would be most likely in cooler weather,” she said. “They do make 55-year-old legs look better.”

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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