Inexpensive vs. Pricey: ‘GMA’ Tries Women’s Tights. Which One Fares Best?

PHOTO: GMA compares brand name tights to drugstore tights.Julian Hibbard/Getty Images
GMA compares brand name tights to drugstore tights.

Tights are not just for little girls anymore and pantyhose aren’t only being worn by your grandma. Hosiery is back!

Lori Bergamotto, style director at Good Housekeeping magazine, explained that from Taylor Swift to Zooey Deschanel, fashionable hipsters are pulling on tights to complement flouncy skirts or wear with boots for stylish comfort.

“There was a generational divide when it came to pantyhose, but in the last few years we’ve really been seeing a resurgence,” Bergamotto said.

And with designers getting in on the game, tights can cost as much as $40, $50, even $65! Puzzled by this price range, “Good Morning America” sought out the textile scientists at the Good Housekeeping Institute, who tested 27 pairs of tights ranging in price from $6 to $45.

Lexie Sachs, textiles product analyst stretched, rubbed and scratched her way to an interesting result.

“We found that if you were to spend a lot of money on tights it didn’t mean you were going to get the top tight out there,” she said.

Sachs reported that of the four categories of top performers, prices ranged from $6 to $28. Sachs explains that there was no clear trend that expensive tights were more durable than their less-expensive competitors. The one thing Sachs saw that did make a difference was the quantity of nylon in the best performers was generally greater than in other pairs. She said that if you are comparing two pairs, choose the pair with the higher nylon count.

Further, Sachs says all tights have seen improved performance.

“Tights have definitely come a long way over the years. There have been innovations with the whole manufacturing process and how they’re put together,” she said.

But her experiment was done in the lab, so I'm curious how two of the Good Housekeeping top performers -- a $44 pair and a $12 pair -- would fare in a cavalcade of extreme hosiery events.

I start out at the Ironworks Climbing Gym in Berkeley, California. I don the expensive pair of tights and climb a 50-foot wall of holds and ledges to the top. (A note if you watch the video: to make it more identifiable which pair of tights was which, I wore expensive black tights and inexpensive grey tights. We asked the experts at Good Housekeeping if color had any bearing on durability and they said it did not). I don’t wear climbing shoes in an attempt to see how much strength the tights have in the toes. I do this twice in each pair. Despite the scratching against the rough wall, toes gripping small holds and the harness I belay down in stretching the legs (and me) considerably, both pairs come out without a run or a rip.

Next I pick up my kids from school and we head to the playground. Our favorite playground has a rubbery molded surface made from ground up tires that has a rough surface that’s great for gripping little feet and I suspect great at snagging fabrics.

A quick log-roll along the surface and a bear crawl race on my knees puts four tiny holes in the expensive tights. I call them holes because I could see clear through to my skin.

The inexpensive tights (put through the logroll and bearwalk torture) net two snags, the fabric is pulled but I can’t see my skin. I asked my 7-year-old twins (aspiring textile scientists) which pair of tights fared better and they both agree the inexpensive tights took the torture better.

Finally we head to the Dublin, California, Rockin’ Jump trampoline arena, site of many birthday parties and many split pant seams.

The kids and I hit the trampolines with a bouncy fervor and pretty soon I’m reliving the glory years with flips, cheerleading toe touches in the air and seat drops. Amazingly, I have retained a decent amount of flexibility and so have the tights; no seam blow-outs or rips.

The real hosiery horror comes when all three of us land in the foam pit. It’s like swimming in quicksand to get out of the foam block sea. I put both pairs -- expensive and inexpensive -- through roughly the same abuse, but the inexpensive pair (which was showing a bit more durability than the expensive pair up until the foam pit) experiences a blowout: the dreaded toe poke-through.

Final tally, the $44 tights have four holes in the knees and the $12 pair has a toe poke-out and two snags. While I am in tatters, both pairs of tights held up pretty well. I really don’t see a significant difference in anything but their price. As I limp away from this hosiery hazing, I never would have guessed any tights would have stood up so well to this type of abuse, so hooray for innovation in women’s legwear all across the price spectrum.

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