Stockings are like tights, except they hang from a suspender belt, giving them a more classical look and feel. They come in many different colours and styles, and in a variety of weights, from sheer to opaque. Some buyers want to know what sheer and opaque actually mean and how to choose which to buy for what occasion.
Understanding Sheer and Opaque
Sheer stockings are see-through, or nearly so, in contrast with opaque stockings. What makes the difference is the thickness, or denier, of the yarn used to weave the stockings; the denier number is based on the weight of a standard length of yarn, so the lower the denier, the more sheer the stocking is. Stockings can fall anywhere along a continuum from almost invisible to nearly as thick as leggings, with designations like ultra-sheer to super thick.
Wearing sheer stockings is almost like not wearing any at all, except they come in multiple colours and provide some shaping and support. Since many women do not feel comfortable bearing their legs in public, especially in formal contexts, sheer is the next best thing. However, being nearly invisible is not always good. Some women feel uncomfortably exposed in sheer stockings and much prefer opaque coverage.
Keeping Warm and Staying Cool
Sheer stockings are cool in hot weather, sometimes even cooler than bare legs. They are also cool in cold weather, and that is not always a good thing. The more opaque a stocking, the warmer it is.
Since sheer stockings use such fine yarn, they rip and run very easily. There are ways to strengthen the fabric, such as by freezing it or soaking it in vinegar, but even so, a pair has to get very lucky in order to last even a few months. Stockings that are sheer all the way to the toes, without reinforcement, are even more fragile. Opaque stockings can still run, but they are much more durable. With care, they can sometimes last over a year.
Getting the Look
Generally, opaque stockings look better with shorter skirts, while sheer looks better with longer hemlines. That being said, fashion, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, so this is not a firm and immutable law. The other issue to consider is colour, since sheer stockings do not show their colour very well. If it is important to the outfit that a person's legs look black, red, or whatever else, then opaque is the way to go.