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Some people watch the Super Bowl because of football. Other people watch it so they can tweet about the once-good-but-increasingly-bad commercials. Others still watch it solely for the halftime show, an event that in recent years has gifted us with Left Shark and Beyoncé rightfully overshadowing Chris Martin.
This year at Super Bowl LI, Lady Gaga will make her second straight appearance at the big game. Apparently, she may or may not sing on the roof. Because she’s Lady Gaga, whatever she wears will be a topic of discussion. Last year, she leaned into the patriotic aesthetic to sing the national anthem, wearing a sparkly red blazer, red eyeshadow, and a blue manicure. This year, her outfit will likely include a certain pink cowboy hat.
Speculation aside, the real Most Valuable Accessory of the halftime show will be the tights — specifically, fishnets. Why? We’ll get to that. We’ll also get to how many pairs of them it would take to produce an event of this caliber. (Hint: It’s a lot.)
Years ago, Beyoncé perplexed a lot of non-dancers when she admitted to wearing four pairs of tights during performances. Yep, four pairs. “You have to keep it all supported,” she told the audience at The View while patting her thighs.
On the surface, that makes a lot of sense. More pairs of tights equals more support, and any human (even one as seemingly perfect as Beyoncé) would naturally want to maximize support while dancing in front of giant crowds and hi-def cameras. But that still begs the question: Why fishnets? Why not just regular tights? Wouldn’t more surface area provide more control?
Apparently, that’s not the case. Ashley Everett, Beyoncé’s dance captain, explains: “In live performances, we pretty much always wear tights. We usually wear nude fishnets — Capezio,” she says. She adds that compared to standard-issue tights, “fishnets blend a little bit better and look a little more natural. Your skin still comes through enough to make it look like you could be bare-legged, but you’re not.” Most important, she adds that “they’re still tough enough and tight enough to contain and suck it all in.”
Unlike Beyoncé, Everett isn’t committed to wearing multiple pairs. While she’ll occasionally wear some 1980s-inspired shiny skin-colored tights underneath her fishnets to get an extra glow, it’s “usually just one pair.”
For dancer and choreographer Christina Grady — who’s toured and performed with Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga and has her own educational dance intensive called What It Takes — the double pair of fishnets is kind of non-negotiable.
“I’m with Queen B on this one,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s because of the way the fishnets are designed, but it feels like they suck you in more. Instead of one giant piece of stretchy material, you have all these tiny connecting zigzags that are pulling in different directions, creating a more flattering visual.”
Grady recalls shooting a video for Keri Hilson in the desert where the dancers were supposed to nix the tights and instead wear body oil for “that wet leg” look. She said to the directors, “Well, you can do all that — and then I’m gonna put the fishnets on, okay?”
Costume designer Soyon An, who’s worked with Britney Spears and Katy Perry, says the first priority is making the performers feel comfortable. Most of them want some kind of coverage, so fishnets are a good compromise if there’s a concern that regular tights might be too noticeable and distracting.
“The crisscross of the fishnets helps blend into the skin because there’s no sheen,” explains An. “It looks natural. From where you’re sitting in the audience, you’re never going to know that a performer is wearing fishnets. It just blends in with the skin tone.”
It’s true, skin-toned fishnets do blend in quite well — unless, of course, your skin tone happens to not be one of the three colors (or four, depending on the style) that Capezio makes them in. Costume designers like An and Marni Senofonte, who designed the Formation tour looks, have to individually dye the stockings to match the dancers’ different skin tones. (An personally likes to use Rit Dye.)
While Capezio could stand to do better in its range of skin tone offerings, An swears by the superior construction. “There isn’t any other company out there that makes fishnets like Capezio,” she says. Unlike regular tights that run when your fingernail happens to graze them, the fishnets are a lot more durable.
“Capezio fishnets are like the Spanx of fishnets. You really feel them on your legs, kind of pulling everything in,” An says. Compared to other brands, Capezio’s tights are “like bed sheets with 1,000 thread count versus ones with 100.”
Aesthetics aside, tights are also just practical additions to a costume. Grady recalls a particularly frigid Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade performance with Keri Hilson: “They give us our outfits, these cute little white coats — not exactly warm — a little white skirt, and a white tank top underneath. And that’s it. And I’m like, ‘We’re gonna be on the float for five hours.’”
After an emergency run through Macy’s, “we ended up doing the super glossy tights, then two pairs of nude fishnets, and some sparkly tights on top. And it was freezing that day,” says Grady. “The tights saved us because our legs were totally exposed.”
Another extremely underrated benefit of tights? Wedgie prevention. Tights and fishnets don’t just suck everything in; they also keep fabric in place. “I always prefer to wear tights, because you never know. If you have on a little leotard or a bikini-type bottom, it’s just safer,” says Everett.
Being on stage, even for those that do it for a living, is a vulnerable experience. When thousands (or in the case of the Super Bowl, millions) of eyes are watching your every move — and you’re moving, like, a lot — tights can provide a feeling of security that allows performers to focus on what really matters: performing. “I feel naked without them on stage,” says Grady. “But the second I’m done performing, the tights are coming off.”
So there you have it: Fishnets, regardless of how many pairs it takes, help performers feel as flawless as possible. Even Beyoncé.