Reader Request: Tights That Don’t Pinch

Tights are a necessary evil, but they can be so pinchy! This post offers suggestions for brands and styles that are comfy in the waistband.

Commando brand tights via Nordstrom

Reader H e-mailed me this request:

I’m writing to you today because I am FED UP with a fashion problem that has been plaguing me for years: tights. Pantyhose are The Devil, but I love skirts and I love wearing them in the winter, so tights are a necessity. I know that you’ve already covered your own struggles with the dreaded segmented worm syndrome, and the ways you’ve worked around it, but I still haven’t found a solution that works for me.

I’m 5’6″ and don’t have much waist definition. I usually take a 12 in pants and almost always opt for low rise styles since it’s easier to fit my hips than my [non]waist. I’m also extremely sensitive about anything being too tight around my mid-section. I have never found a pair of “regular” tights that don’t cut me in half. Painfully. I have on multiple occasions, examined size charts for specific brands/styles and bought one pair in the size that I “should” wear according to my height and weight, and one pair in the size recommended for a woman of the same height who is 50 to 100 pounds heavier than I am. I swear to God that the waistband is always exactly the same! Even across brands! It’s so baffling; why does every pair of tights in the world have that same evil strangulation waist? I’ve been 35 pounds thinner than I am now and even then I couldn’t find tights that didn’t make me insane.

Here are some solutions I have tried:

  1. Size up by at least 50 pounds (height held constant) – Waistband doesn’t get any bigger
  2. Go to plus size retailers and buy from the lower end of their size range – Same damn waistband!
  3. Try to buy “low rise” tights – Very hard to find. The last ones I did made me a segmented worm at my waist instead of my hips; it was a muffintop of epic proportions!
  4. Go to fancy department stores and ask the hosiery ladies if the know any brands with generous waists – They don’t. Also they apparently think I am crazy.
  5. Try thigh highs (with and without garter belt) – Realize that they are useless outside of bedroom dress-up.
  6. Cut slits in waistband – Spend all day trying to keep tights up.
  7. Try to buy high waist tights that aren’t control top [I hate control top and shape wear on principle] – Can’t seem to find any.
  8. Buy high waist tights that are control top but size up so that I’m not being strangled. This has been the closest to successful but still kind of sucks. I bought a pair by Assets and a pair by Hanes (both from Target). They were so much better than being strangled in the waist, but I basically had to get naked every time I needed to pee. (I was wearing a form-fitting dress and had to tuck the tights into my bra to keep them up.) In my two tests, the cheap Hanes were actually a lot better than the Assets.

I would greatly appreciate any advice that you can give. There must be someone out there who sizes tights according to waist measurement, right? I can’t be completely crazy in thinking that that would be a good idea, can I?

H tried just about every trick in my arsenal and a few I hadn’t thought of! For many of you, trying one or two of her eight techniques might alleviate pinching, bunching, and Segmented Worm Syndrome. But here are a few other possible suggestions:

  • Commando brand tights: Expensive, but designed to not-dig. These feature a tall, flat raw-cut waistband that is mean to sit above your natural waist. I’ve got a pair and love them. Though the waist will occasionally roll a bit, it’s far comfier than most elasticized bands.
  • Tall tights: This could totally backfire since they’ve got additional leg length, but they’ll also have a higher rise minus the shapewear aspect.
  • Maternity tights: Could also be disastrous as there might be bagging around your midsection, but they probably won’t be as constricting as standard tights
  • Express tights: These are a longtime fave of mine. They’re still a little squeezy, but NOTHING like most brands.

As you’ve probably gleaned, I’ve only sampled two of these four myself so I can’t guarantee results. But even if I had tried all four, it’d be relatively meaningless since all bodies and comfort levels are different. So consider these possible solutions, and do a bit of experimenting on your own!

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Originally posted 2013-02-15 06:08:49.

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63 Responses to “Reader Request: Tights That Don’t Pinch”

  1. LK

    I just switched to leggings because the waistbands are more forgiving. A lot of leggings look exactly like tights on, they just don’t have the feet. I even have a pair that have that sheer look tights can get. But the waistbands hit lower and aren’t made of that awful material. Find the soft cotton stretch. Usually really comfortable. I got most of mine at Forever21, H&M, and Kohls.

    • daisy

      I was going to suggest exactly this! If you’re wearing boots, you can probably go with leggings instead of tights, and they are made quite differently, but somehow look the same.

  2. Vive

    I don’t have solutions, but want to send out some love for the question. I love skirts and dresses and wear them constantly in the warm weather. But once it gets cold, I back off because I hate tights. After abdominal surgery several years ago, I’m just not comfortable with anything binding my waist. Some tights are better than others, but I’ve not discovered any rhyme or reason to it and am wary of spending a lot of money testing out options, especially after a similarly disappointing experience trying to get help at a department store. I, too, welcome any and all suggestions. Thanks, H, for posting the question and Sal for taking it on.

  3. Andrea

    I also hate tight-top tights, and even though I have a smallish waist compared to my hips and thighs, I still have this problem! Or should say, had this problem until I tried Commando tights. So I heartily second that recommendation. But the tights I wear the most are actually Falke opaque wool tights … because if I wear tights at all, it’s for warmth. Otherwise I still prefer to go bare-legged.

    The wool Falkes have a nice wide waistband that does not bind but I don’t know if their other styles are the same. Also, they are breath-takingly expensive. However, my pair is holding up well.

  4. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    This is such a style pet peeve of mine – although I haven’t tried all of H’s ideas yet : > I’m pretty thin, buy my tights up one size, and they still squeeze the stuffing out of me. I find slicing into the waistband helps (they don’t fall down) but looks kind of ratty. Will try Express, thanks!

  5. Helen Strother

    I bought a few tights this year that are the most comfortable I have ever known. The brand is Me Moi and I got them at DSW, also available online if you do a google search. They have lots of non control top but i think what is most important is that they have a wide waistband. I have a desk job and have previously felt bisected if I wore tights to work. I have been wearing skirts and dresses much more often since purchasing these tights. Good luck!!

  6. Bree Bronson

    Oh, I love this topic because I’ve been struggling with the same issue forever. I have long legs and I’ve came to realize that I have to go up several sizes to get enough leg length. And still the waistband makes me look horrible. No matter what kind of tights I choose. I will definitely try these tricks, thank you!

    One size fits all is the biggest joke what comes to tights if you ask me. 😉

  7. Jenn

    I am plus-sized and my favorite tights ever were from the maternity store that I used to work at years ago. They were a great thickness, lasted years with no snags, and fit so comfortably. So I think it’s definitely worth trying! I actually need to go try to get me some new ones. 🙂 (Also, don’t feel too weird about going into the maternity store if you aren’t pregnant. The sales associates all wear the clothes too & they aren’t supposed to ask you “when are you due” or anything like that.)
    Other than that, I agree that leggings are much more comfortable if you have boots. That’s pretty much all I wear now.

  8. Ros

    Ugh, fitting tights is such a PAIN.

    If you’re going for a more casual looks, leggings under a shorter dress can work in a pinch.

    Otherwise, I swear by Lands End tights (bought big: I usually wear size 16 in pants, and I’ll wear 2X for their tights), but they go up enough to not pinch in the waist, they fit well, they don’t squeeze, and I’ve had the same 3 pairs for the last 2 years and not a single one has gotten a hole in it.

  9. ClaraT

    Oh, I’m just laughing (in a sympathetic way) reading this post. Oy, the dreaded cut-you-in-half waistband. Just awful. I have one (1!) pair of black tights that is comfy, so boring I know, and of course I immediately cut out the tag and now dread the day they rip…I am putting a trip to Express on my list as this is just ridiculous.

  10. déjà pseu

    I’d also recommend DKNY tights. I’m with your reader and can’t STAND a digging waistband. Like to the Commando’s, they don’t have a band at the waist and I find them supremely comfortable.

    • Virginia

      Agree on the DKNY tights. Wear well and are comfortable around the waist.

    • Alison

      Another DKNY fan, they make tights that are opaque, not shiny, not restricting, and durable to last more than one season (even if you husband accidentally puts them in the dryer!).

  11. Tragic Sandwich

    This winter I started wearing tights regularly (my plan was to buy black riding boots, but I haven’t found any that are made of leather, have a wide calf, and are in my price range). I wear them with Mary Jane-style flats, so leggings don’t work for me. But I have been happy with Spanx tights.

    • Katie

      Try actual field boots (or dress boots if you don’t want the laces) with a zip and elastic gusset. They aren’t designed for walking so you will need to take extra care of them (highly recommend the pony club leather cleaning method) and need a cheap insert but a peer has the same problem and she bought a pair of Devon Aires (the same brand I rode in when I was a cheap teenager, and rough on my boots) and seems very happy.

    • cecelia

      Fitzwell boots. They’re on sale alot and are awesome- I bought two pairs!

  12. Devon

    I have a couple of solutions that have worked for me.

    One is to use thigh-highs with “sock glue” – a water soluble tacky glue in a roll-on applicator that you apply to your thighs and then press the tops of your stockings to. It comes out in the wash, comes off your skin with a wet washcloth, and it’s latex-free. It has given me so much more confidence when wearing socks or stockings that are thigh-high. (I get it at Sock Dreams online, under “accessories”)

    The other is to wear a pair of snug panties over my pantyhose/tights, which allows you to snip that waistband and not have them fall down. The panties can even be hipsters – they just need to be snug enough on your hips and bottom that they won’t be pulled down by the tights.

    I hope one or both of these ideas might be helpful.

    • Beth C.

      I was just coming here to add the underwear over waistband-removed tights thing. A friend of mine does that and I thought she was crazy until I tred it. It totally works.

  13. Kim

    I buy Hue tights in a larger size, then wear a pair of tight fitting shorts over them. The shorts keep the tights from rolling down but do add a little bit of bulk. I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now and it works pretty well for me. Good luck!

  14. Viktoria

    I have, once or twice, cut slits in waistbands and then pinned it to my camisole or bra with safetypins. I once even used suspenders to hold them up, which totally worked, but then I wasn´t wearing anything snug. Tight anything gives me hives, so this is a constant struggle. I so sympathize.

  15. Roberta

    I constantly recommend DKNY Comfort Waist tights as the only brand that live up to their name. (You will see my name in reviews everywhere too.) Not that expensive at $15, and they last forever. Amazon, Bare Necessities and Herroom carry them, also Nordstrom.

  16. mary

    sort of ridiculously expensive, but Wofford really is worth every cent . Very soft, very sturdy, beautiful on the leg—and for me, very comfy (and I have a sofy, rather squishy belly—just bein’ honest!!)

  17. Winding Ways

    I just found Foot Traffic, available on the Sock Dreams site. They are very warm and cozy and comfortable and they stay up!

  18. Xtine Hutch

    This is a FANTASTIC question! I have wondered about this for years and agree that it’s so hit or miss to find that just right pair. I remember buying pantyhose years ago that had a very soft, stretchy, wide waistband and wondered why all of them weren’t made that way. Hmm… maybe this is my new business opportunity!

  19. Sabrina

    I had this problem until I got a few pairs of We Love Colors tights. The waistband never is too tight – and I’m a gal whose middle is bigger than the rest of her.

  20. Lara

    I agree with Jenn completely – maternity tights are amazing. They don’t pouch, but you can pull tem up way higher (right up to your bra line) so they make a long smooth snugly line. They are pricey but wash very well. I bought one cream and one black with my first baby 7 years ago and they are both still going strong.

  21. sarahC

    oh wow, I really hate tights. I would recommend giving thigh-highs another shot. The only thigh-highs that work for me are American Apparel – they are long enough to go all the way up my thigh (I’m 5’8″) and they stay up.

    I’ve tried others (Sock dreams, Smart Wool) and they usually don’t go very high, don’t stay up or are not stretchy enough/too small in the thigh.

    I switched to thigh-highs from tights 3 or 4 winters ago and American Apparel is the way to go.

    I do occasionally still wear tights if a dress or skirt is short enough to make me feel insecure about it. The ones I have like best are made of a looser-feeling knit and have 2 seams up the butt. The brand is Hue and I get a size large. But I still hate the way the waistband feels.

  22. malevolent andrea

    I don’t have this problem personally, so my suggestion might be off the wall but…

    I had a hysterectomy this past fall and in the immediate post-op period when anything rubbing on my belly was annoying and uncomfortable, I was wearing long-ish soft cotton camis and tucking them in to whatever I wore on the bottom. Even the softest stretchiest yoga pants were immeasurably improved by having the cami in between them and my abdomen. So maybe try tucking something into the tights so they’re not actually touching your waist and belly?

  23. Eliza

    The only brand of tights I’ve found to be consistently comfortable is Wolfords. For a cheaper option, I’ve had some luck with Givenchy tights from Marshalls, but it’s sometimes hit-or-miss.
    I’ve found that a lot of fishnet/lace style stockings are a lot more stretchy and comfortable than the solid tights. Sometimes I layer lace tights on top of extra large opaque tights. The solid tights make my legs cold-weather appropriate, while the lacy ones hold everything up.

    • cecelia

      I have some of Wolford’s crochet tights, that I bought as a size 4 that I can still wear as a size 14! Expensive but really well made stuff.

  24. Litenarata

    “Try thigh highs (with and without garter belt) – Realize that they are useless outside of bedroom dress-up.”

    I’m curious to know why she felt they were useless, especially with a garter belt.

    • Mia

      Me too–I have several pairs of thigh-highs that I love, and they stay up tolerably well even without sock glue or a garter belt. But I went specifically looking for thigh-highs from Sock Dreams that have larger thigh circumferences (based on a list I found on LiveJournal), so maybe she could use another look-around?

    • Passerina

      I agree. I love thigh-highs. Pretty much any thigh highs with silicone strips inside (hold-ups) work just fine on me. I tend to buy one size up so that they will go all the way to the very top of my legs. This has 3 benefits: (1) they stay up better as they sit above the widest part of my thigh, (2) I don’t have to worry about the tops getting flashed when I bend over, and (3) no chub rub!

    • Passerina

      I also love garter belts (my bf think they are super-sexy). You need a REAL garter belt, though. I have this one and I find it to be extremely comfortable. The top of the garter belt sits at my natural waist and doesn’t pinch, and the smooth satin part keeps panty-lines from showing. One tip: don’t put the back clasps directly on the back of the stockings; attach them to the stockings at the outside of your thighs … you don’t want to sit directly on metal clasps! I find this to be the MOST comfortable way to wear stockings!

      • Thursday

        I was also curious about why H found garter belt + stockings useless. I have found tights that work for my wide hips, tiny waist, plus size tall figure (Cette Dublin), but pantyhose remain the work of the devil. A great garter belt with stockings can be very comfy and stable. My favourite is the 8-strap Van Doren from Kiss Me Deadly, but What Katie Did’s styles also work.

  25. Mary

    I am a plus size girl, so my options are more limited. The only success I’ve found at comfortable tights is with We Love Colors. They’re not control top and they feel almost as comfortable as leggings. Good luck!

  26. liz

    oof. tights. i have somewhere around ~20 pairs and half i dont remember if they feel ok until i squirm my way into them. then, commence segmented worm/suffocating/control-top hell. i really like target’s $5 tights. they arent super binding, come in a ton of colors, and granted, dont last forever, but at that price point and comfort level, its definitely worth it. plus their fits are pretty true-to-size

  27. cecelia

    Try dance tights. I particularly like these by Sansha- they are super super stretchy and very comfy.
    but they have regular footed ones as well- the convertible foot is nice because you can wear them as regular tights or roll up the ankle for footless tights (useful in dance.)
    There are many many brands of dance tights. Look for tights with a self waistband rather than a sewn-on one- it usually says so in the item description.
    There are also body tights, which have straps that come up over your shoulders. I’m not a fan because of the bathroom issue, but there is guaranteed no muffin top.

    Also, there are thigh highs and then there are thigh highs. The fishnet ones from We Love Colors are very comfy- they stay up without silicone or garter belt needed.

  28. Kelly

    I think I may have a solution?

    Bear with me, but … if the waist band really is the problem, why not try a dance unitard? Seriously. Like so:

    This is all assuming you have an average length torso (or are able to track down a tall-size suit, if not) but it could solve your problem while also providing a bit of warmth in the winter. Bonus: No need for a camisole. With a bit of searching, you’ll probably be able to find them in a whole range of options: sheer, opaque, tank top and longsleeve versions.

    I’ve danced for a few years and love them. That + a sweater are my favorite winter pajamas.

    Good luck!

    • Viktoria

      I had one of these 25 years ago, when I danced. But going to the bathroom was a hassle. I had to take of ALL my clothes just to take a leak. That´s not working for me, at least.

  29. Heather

    Another recommendation for maternity tights. I still have two pairs in rotation from when I was pregnant with my son 7 years ago. Very stretchy and I haven’t had any problems with them bagging around the middle.

  30. Tara

    I have found Falke tights to be the best for not digging in or rolling down. Love them.

  31. Rachel

    I agree that DKNYbis super comfy but I’m a fan on several styles that are “seamless” with a “no roll” waistband. I particularly like smart wool lefties and tights. Which are super warm and toucan soak them in cold water and stretch and pin (block) the waist portion and let them dry. It reforms the upper part for comfort and make them larger. I also come ones wear any variety of “high waist” tight because then they are smallest and toughest where I am – at the waist and they are doing what hate which is rolling down and pinching my lower belly which I admit is quite jiggly due to my love of beer;)

  32. Piper Alexander

    I used to have this problem, so I have several suggestions. First, I love American Apparel opaque tights. I find they are the most comfortable. Second, try dance tights. They make low-rise tights and some brands have a more comfortable waistband. Third, always size up. I size up one or even two sizes. I recently bought a pair of dance tights, I think they were 3 sizes bigger and I love them! And fourth, as terrible as this suggestion is, most of the reason I got over this problem came from just wearing tights more and getting used to them. I used to hate control tops, but now I wear them a majority of the time because I just got used to how they feel. (“Reader H” – if you want brands of dance tights, you can e-mail me.)

  33. cecelia

    I wrote a long post that didn’t appear here, so the short version is: Try dance tights. I particularly like Sansha, but any with a self, not sewn-on waistband is good.

  34. Stefanie

    This must be an American Problem as I don´t think I have ever had this problem here in Europe/Germany and also have never heard of other people complaining. And after two kids my tummy is rather flabby. This is probably the reason why Falke is a good choice.

  35. Halo

    I wear Spanx high-waisted tights because I can’t bear anything squeezing me in the middle. They are tight, so you might not like that, but there is a crotch gusset for restroom convenience, which works well for me. The We Love Colors tights are definitely not squeezy, but I find them too stretchy and they bag a bit in the knees for me. Dance tights, mentioned above, are also a good option, if you have access to them easily and can find them in the colors you want.

  36. katrina

    I have to agree with the express suggestion. I have MANY pairs of tights, and the one pair I picked up at Express are by far the most comfortable tights I own. And my collection is currently at about 30 pairs.

  37. Keilexandra

    Background info: I think I am built very similarly to Reader H! Although I’m 5’2″ and a size 2, I also have non-existent waist definition and have long suffered from tights being too tight at the waist.

    I’ve found that sizing up at least one size, which for me means buying a M/L or Tall size, is helpful in regular tights. But the best solution is high-waisted “waistband-free” tights–I am on a quest to slowly replace my core tights collection with Commando tights, because they really are the best I’ve found (not perfect, but MUCH better) in terms of waist comfort. The waist does roll but doesn’t dig; do NOT size up as you might in other tights. Anthropologie’s house brand of “Opaque Tights” is also waistband-free but not as high-waisted, which I’ve found is crucial for those of us whose waist definition is basically the bottom of the ribcage.

    FYI, you can buy Commando tights at Nordstrom–my basic black pair was even on sale during the July Anniversary Sale–and they will happily take them back as a return if you’re dissatisfied after wearing them. (I haven’t personally returned tights to Nordstrom because I ADORE my Commandos, but I have sheepishly returned a worn-once bra that scratched as the day wore on, and the salesperson didn’t blink an eye at my unasked-for explanation.)

    And I agree with Sally about trying out fleece-lined tights and leggings, which tend to have large relaxed waist measurements.

  38. charlmarjo

    I thought I was the only one with this problem! I stopped wearing pantyhose because of the squeezing. Thanks for all of your recommendations!

  39. Megan Mae

    I buy non-nylon donminate brands. Foot Traffic (cotton blend, like leggings with feet), MP (wool), or Hue (cotton). Infinitely less squashy than regular ole tights. They also have the added benefit of not running or getting traditional holes. As for lighter weight, I always size up. I’m on the smallest end of the range, but nearly always buy M/L tights. It keeps patterns from stretching, keeps the crotch in the right place, and keeps squeezy tummy stuff at bay.

    Or I just sub in some skinny jeans under a dress if I can swing it.

  40. Daisy

    Wolford-they are expensive, but I bought one navy and one gray back in September and they are still going strong being worn several times a week. I wash in a mesh bag in the machine and drip dry. They are comfortable all day. The DKNYs are also pretty comfortable, but don’t hold up as well (but they are half the price).

  41. Autumn

    Just wanted to add to the chorus of getting a real garter belt, one that is designed to actually be functional, not sexy. The ones with just one garter on the front and back of each leg are indeed useless, but there are good, functional garter belts that have more garters that make wearing thigh-highs workable.

  42. Liz

    I don’t know the person who wrote i, but it could have been me! thank you for asking and for all the responses

  43. Christina

    I found these truly wonderful ‘body touch’ tights in France, and you can get them online. They are the first tights I’ve ever found that don’t dig. The waistband feels just like that of a pair of leggings (you can kind of see it in the picture): (there’s also a thicker version Was so happy to find them because I find the waistbands of ordinary tights so uncomfortable. Can’t believe this still hasn’t been sorted out and tights that pinch haven’t been outlawed! What are we doing wearing clothes that hurt our bellies??!

  44. Stacy

    I did not read all the comments so I apologize if I am repeating a suggestion. I have found that some sweater-knit tights have the sweater pattern knit all the way up to the waistband (with no control top) and that the style stretches out easily after an hour or so of wear. I have a pair from Forever 21 and another from H&M, and they are easily the least constricting tights I’ve ever owned. They’re bulky, but oh so comfortable. Hope this helps!

  45. esme noir

    so glad to hear others have this problem! i am phobic about anything tight, especially around the waist, even though i am relatively small and thin. recently purchased a completely unwearable pair of expensive tights meant to fit all sizes (brand is GE, EG, or something like that—waist pinched like crazy. i thought of snipping the waistband, but……will look for dkny and commando–thanks! have the same trouble with pants, but there are more options available. with jeans i often go up a size or 2 and belt (unless the belt bothers me!).

  46. Leigh

    My body is short, but my legs are long. Most stockings come up to my bra line! I try to only buy stockings marked “hipster” but they are hard to find. I’ve been wearing Leona Edmiston Luxury Opaque Pins for years, they just come to my waist and don’t strangle it!. Unfortunately I got a pair last year which came up to my ribs and strangled me. The new pair I put on today come up to my ribs, and the legs are so long I have knee and ankle wrinkles….. Yet another pair of expensive stockings I am only going to wear once.