Ethical and sustainable tights, leggings, stockings and pantyhose
This post is about finding ethical and sustainable ways to warm and cover your legs. Whether you call these, sustainable tights, leggings, stockings, pantyhose, or something else, I am talking about these fitted coverings for your legs (and feet). The terminology for these popular garments can vary to greatly that it can be confusing to search for what you are looking for, especially when you come from a smaller nation such as Australia and New Zealand. Which term should I use? There can be miscommunication between two people if you hail from different English-speaking countries. So I have lumped all possible terms into this post, and hopefully everyone can find what they are looking for (even if I use the words differently to you!).
So why is it important to find sustainable options for tights, leggings, stocking and pantyhose? Well, once upon a time these were made from silk (and thus a very sustainable option) and wool, but the advent of cheap alternative nylon has enabled clothing manufacturers to sell a cheap discardable product. Those poor quality nylon stockings/panty-hose/leggings/tights cannot break down in nature. The environmental impacts of nylon are significant. So it is best to replace your nylons with sustainable alternatives like wool, organic cotton and recycled nylon.
Here are my recommendations for places to shop for your ethical and sustainable tights, leggings, stocking and pantyhose.
*denotes and affiliate link. I will receive a small commission if you choose to purchase via the link. This helps to support this blog. Only ethical and sustainable brands are included anywhere in this blog.
PACT Apparel* make ethical and sustainable organic cotton basics that are ethically manufactured (some are also Fair-trade certified and the brand is working to expand this certification to the rest of their sweatshop-free production). Their range includes tights*, leggings*, cropped leggings* and over the knee socks* in plain colours and limited edition patterns, along with a huge range of other basics, such as sock, underwear, camisoles and t-shirts.
They are US-based, with free US shipping for orders over $59. They also offer global shipping, making them a good sustainable option for your tights/leggings/stockings/socks needs.
Swedish Stockings make sustainable hosiery and is the best place to go for sheer pantyhose and patterned fishnet stockings. The founders mission is to bring back the luxury that used to be associated with high quality hosiery. They make knee high, control top and patterned hosiery that are ideal for the office environment or with your favourite party dress. The brand is a pioneer in using recycled nylon and sustainable processes, including the use of solar power and purification of industrial water so it is safely released into agricultural lands. The stockings are ethically produced in Italy.
Based in Sweden (well, obviously!) the brand offers worldwide delivery. With prices at around $20-$25 USD, they make sustainable hosiery an accessible option. If you wear these regularly, you also have the option of a subsciption- a recurring purchase at a frequency nominated by you (for example, every 6 months)- which is discounted by 15%.
If you do wear nylons frequently, I would recommend investigating how you can recycle them in your local community once they are worn out.
Icebreaker* are known for their range of ethically manufactured merino travel and active wear and basics. Merino wool is a high quality sustainable fiber that is breathable, can be cool in summer and warm in winter. Icebreaker use New Zealand merino wool, where mulesing is not used on sheep (it is primarily an Australian practice).
They make a range of leggings that are suitable for different activities, such as yoga, running, snow sports and travel. I like the Icebreaker range because many can double as activewear and leggings under dresses/skirts in winter. The products are of a very high quality. I own two pairs of Icebreaker winter thermals, and I have worn them as tights every winter for 5 years. Now both have ladders in the knees, but I can still use them as thermals (just not as visible tights under skirts). You will not achieve that sort of quality with organic cotton, which is why I prefer to invest in merino for my leggings needs.
They are based in New Zealand, use NZ wool and manufacture ethically in China. They have online stores in New Zealand. Australia, North America, UK and Europe, and the link will automatically direct you to your local store. With free shipping for orders over a certain value, they make it easy and convenient to shop.
Whilst People Tree* don’t stock a huge range for this type of garment, they are a good place to pick up a few of the basics along with some of your other sustainable fashion shopping. They stock fair-trade organic cotton black leggings*, fair-trade organic cotton yoga leggings* and fair-trade organic cotton cropped yoga leggings*.
Do you have any favourite brands that I have missed?
If you enjoyed this article, you will love my guide to sustainable fashion 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe. A 60 page guide and 21 page printable workbook packed with simple actionable advice and activities for living more sustainably without compromising on style.
If you want to confidently approach your wardrobe sustainably, untangle yourself from consumer culture, learn how to shop sustainably, how to assess a fashion label’s ethics and sustainability credentials, and much much more, 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe is the resource to help you do this.
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