What is Control Top Pantyhose?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Control top pantyhose are a type of nylons developed in the mid 1960s that are meant to provide extra support to the buttocks and especially the tummy, making wearing additional support garments for this purpose unnecessary. They came into style at about the same time that women began to stop wearing girdles, which were considered heavy and restrictive. Many styles feature a cotton crotch, and can be worn without any type of panties.

Control top pantyhose contains extra fabric near the belly and hip area.
Control top pantyhose contains extra fabric near the belly and hip area.

The panty section of control top pantyhose may feature panels or extra elasticized reinforcement. Most commonly, the panty part is somewhat restrictive due to the addition of Lycra® or nylon. Lycra® provides a firmer hold than does nylon, so it can keep the tummy tucked in and the buttocks slightly lifted. However, control top pantyhose are not miracle workers — they give slight hold, but will not completely eliminate what women might consider figure flaws.

Control top pantyhose is typically meant to be worn without underwear.
Control top pantyhose is typically meant to be worn without underwear.

Some women also prefer control top pantyhose because they avoid one fashion faux pas, the visible panty line. Especially when nylons are worn under pants or tight skirts, a line across the outerwear showing the panties is a fashion no-no. These pantyhose make a good replacement since they don’t have a ridged panty line.

It’s always important to purchase pantyhose in your appropriate size. If you happen to be a plus size, this is no problem. Numerous plus size clothing manufacturers make larger size control top pantyhose which will still give you a more smooth finish. Also valuable is finding the appropriate length. Most nylons, whether they are control top or not, will fit a woman of about 5 foot 8 inches (68 inches or 1.72 m) at most.

If you are taller, the pantyhose may tend to slide downward and will not long provide the control you seek. To this end, you can also purchase tall sizes, more commonly available at department stores. You may have trouble finding tall or plus sizes at local grocery stores or drug stores.

Some women don’t like the extra reinforcement provided by control top pantyhose. You can certainly purchase nylons without a control top. On nylon packages these might be called “sheer to waist.” Usually control top pantyhose will specifically state they are control top.

In the 2000s, wearing nylons or stockings became somewhat unfashionable, and the barelegged style became more popular. Many women missed the control top more than for the rest of the leg coverage they provided. To this end, Spanx®, were developed. These are similar to control top pantyhose but end above the knee, and rise slightly above the waist. They are becoming greatly popular as an alternative to both girdles and pantyhose, providing lightweight, smooth support.

Control top pantyhose are often preferred by women who wish to cover up panty lines.
Control top pantyhose are often preferred by women who wish to cover up panty lines.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Control top pantyhose are favorite crossdress lingerie. I love that silky, sexy feeling with heels and a slip.


I'm a male who wears men's pantyhose, I also like the control top. I wear them during the fall to spring. I like knee-highs during the summertime.


Indeed I find control pantyhose a blessing. Spanx are good but I find them more restrictive than a proper fit of control hose. Stockings/nylons are making a comeback. I think it is good. The bare leg is fine in the summer but unprofessional in the office in my opinion. --Laura


Shortly after I was fitted in a girdle I asked the corsetiere who fit me if I should wear control top panty hose with the long legged high waisted boned and zippered panty girdle. She did recommend it because panty hose actually help the girdle give additional stomach and back support plus it helps smooth you out further from top to bottom.

She told me it is best to put on a girdle first then put on the panty hose - I was completely really amazed as to how great this combination is and I really do recommend it.


Suntan12-Women’s tights are comfortable in cold weather. I do not wear women’s hosiery in the summer because it is just too hot.

When I do buy control top hosiery, I usually buy Hanes. I have always bought this brand and I am very comfortable with this brand of women’s hosiery.

I tend to like the opaque control top tights instead of the sheer control top hosiery. They don’t run as much and I do like the richer color.


I love buying control top panty hose because of the extra support that you receive. These control top stockings are even better when you are wearing a close fitting dress in which you really need a smooth silhouette.

You also tend to feel slimmer which gives you some added confidence. Control top hosiery really replaced the girdle.

The only girdle I would wear is the Spanx brand. The Spanx line of girdles not only are extremely comfortable, but the support is unbeatable. They provide much higher support than anything I have seen on the market.

I first saw these mentioned on the Oprah Winfrey show and I had to try them. Target has a generic brand called Assets that does the same thing for a little less money. Assets are about $25 each, while Spanx are about $40 each.


I love the pantyhose that are footless, and with a little support is a great combination.

Particularly in summer when wearing sandals and pants, the pantyhose give a nice line and leave the toes and feet open. A great invention.

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