Hello RP ladies. Let me preface this by saying I am a delver by nature. Anything I am interested in I always want to know as much about said topic as feasibly possible, and I am a subscriber to the belief that knowledge is power. Anyway, let us begin.
"I've decided to only wear thigh-high stockings from now on because DH loves them. But I want the kind without elastic at the top and depend on the garter belt. I can't find them anywhere."
This quote was a comment I read in a thread on RPW that took place a while back, I was going to respond to this comment, but noticed the thread was archived so I was therefore unable to do so. Then I decided that it might be more helpful overall to make a general post going into detail on this information. I am a long time fan of pin-up style and retro/vintage lingerie fashions, and know a great deal of info on the matter. Most men, generally, love women in garter belts and stockings, there is just something about them that vastly captures and accentuates the inherent femininity in a woman, and I don't need to explain to anyone around here just how much of a turn on femininity is for a man.
First we will discuss terminology, so that we'll all be on the same page right away.
Stockings: Much used as a general term for hosiery worn individually on each leg, though sometimes used to specifically refer to traditional stockings that are required to be worn in unison with a garter belt.
Thigh highs/hold-ups/stay-ups: A type of stockings that can be worn or are meant to be worn without the assistance of a garter belt. Usually has a rubbery elastic band around the inside of the welt of the stocking, allowing it to adhere to your legs, preventing them from sliding down (with varying degrees of success depending on the woman).
Nylons: A somewhat old-school term, can be used as a synonym for stockings, and often refers to traditional stockings which require a garter belt and are often made out of 100% nylon.
Seamed stockings: Stockings which have a seam running up the back of your leg.
Fully fashioned stockings: These are the full official term for traditional stockings from the 1950's, which are still made today as they were in the 50's. All fully fashioned stockings are seamed (though not all seamed stockings are fully fashioned), require a garter belt, and always made of 100% nylon by their very nature. These are the most glamorous and luxurious of stockings, they are also overwhelmingly the best feeling stockings you can have on your legs. The defining characteristic of a fully fashioned stocking is the "keyhole", a circular area where the seam meets the welt of the stocking, which is a byproduct of the way they are manufactured and sewn together, only fully fashioned stockings will have this feature and they all possess it. Here is a handy diagram showing the features and terms of a fully fashioned stocking. All fully fashioned stockings have a distinctive heel type, usually one of four different styles, those being cuban, point, havana, and manhattan. Here is a picture showing the various heel styles. Cuban and point heels are the most readily found, followed by havana, with manhattan being the least common.
RHT stockings: RHT stands for "reinforced heel and toe". These stockings are usually made in a similar quality and material as fully fashioned stockings, and likewise require a garter belt, but are seamless, thus making them more inconspicuous and potentially more appropriate for work or anytime when you wish for people to simply assume you are wearing pantyhose.
Garter belt: A garment that sits around your midsection which has straps and clasps that fasten to stockings to keep them in place. Garter belts come in many different styles and fashions, with many women probably only being familiar with the Victoria's Secret style of garter belt such as this that is flimsy, has plastic clasps, and has only 4 straps. These garter belts are, frankly, inferior, and typically not meant to be worn for more than a short time in the bedroom, they will often not hold up well to prolonged wearing such as under your skirt for work or under your dress for an evening out on the town, this type is not recommended. A proper and recommended style of garter belt has at least 6 straps (which on a 6 strap works out to 3 per each leg), and has the all important metal clasps, which are vastly superior in keeping your stockings up and in place. Here is such an example. A proper garter belt will also naturally sit on your waist, not your hips as many of the flimsy modern style ones do. 6 or more straps (garter belts are available with up to 14 straps) is especially recommended for any form of seamed stockings, as the more straps you have the straighter your seams will naturally stay.
Suspender Belt: This is the term used in the UK and select other countries to refer to a garter belt, they are one and the same.
Girdle: A shapewear garment often worn with stockings, replaces the need for a garter belt. The name might be offputting or make you think of matronly grandmas, but this article of clothing can be very sexy in its own right with the added benefit of providing some shaping should the wearer so desire. They are basically old school spanx, and far sexier. Here and here are some examples that prove that.
Now we will discuss where to procure such items. Unfortunately most brick and mortar store retailers do not stock these items, and ones that do, such as Victoria's Secret, only have them in a surface level capacity and will typically be inferior in quality. To get proper garter belts and stockings one must usually go the online route. Fortunately there are many such retailers online, many of which are owned by women who have a sincere passion for vintage/retro lingerie. There are 3 companies I will provide links to, they are What Katie Did, Secrets in Lace, and StockingsHQ, though there are many more out there online, these are 3 of the best (note that while StockingsHQ is a UK site, they are generally good for prices and quick on shipping even to the US).
Note while some of the above sites have their own high quality stockings, there are also a few specifics brands to be on the lookout for, those being Gio, Eleganti, and Cervin, which are, in my opinion, the 3 best stockings manufacturers. All of those can be found on the StockingsHQ site.
StockingsHQ also has a very active forums section found here which is probably the premier forums regarding vintage lingerie and stockings on the internet. And it is actually a very classy place.
My suggestion for women wanting to get into this style of lingerie, start by getting a 6 strap garter belt (you can get one with more straps later if you feel so inclined and want to up the ante) and get a few pair of RHT or Fully Fashioned stockings and give it a go (I suggest getting at least a single pair of fully fashioned stockings, if for no other reason than to just try them out). Personally I greatly prefer the traditional solid top Fully Fashioned and RHT stockings as opposed to the more modern lace top ones (which are usually, but not always, stay up thigh highs), but as always everyone will have there own preferences. Try it out for a day at home or the office underneath your outfit or for a night on the town with your man, see how it goes. I bet many of those who are primarily pantyhose wearers will make the switch. ;)
Oh, and one last piece of advice, many women who aren't regular wearers of garter belts and stockings often automatically wear their panties underneath their garter belt because that is how they are always shown on the models. This is done primarily to show off the garter belt in ads or to look smoother in a photo shoot. For regular use in actual real life it is highly suggested to wear your panties over your garter belt, which makes going to the bathroom or bedroom activities with your man as simple as if you weren't wearing a garter belt at all. Put on your garter belt and clasp your stockings first, then slip on your panties after that.
I hope this information has proved helpful, and let me know if anyone has any follow up questions.