When the leaves start falling, a woman’s thoughts turn to … pantyhose? Well, for some of us. It’s true.
I belong to a dying breed of never-go-bare-legged women. Rare among womankind today, I wear pantyhose. Not just with formal night attire, but during the day too. Even in the summer. Even in the East when summertime humidity is swoon-worthy!
Now there are women who wear opaque tights when the outside temperature dips and wintery winds howl, but that’s not the legwear I’m talking about. There are also women who wear fishnet and other fashion-fad leg gear, but that’s not the hose in question.
What I’m referring to is the sheer, easy-to-run-and-ruin flesh-colored kind that has adorned my pasty white limbs since I aged out of knee-high socks. (Ah, knee highs and the carefree days of shaving legs just in that narrow strip of leg between where the socks ended and the skirt began!)
To Wear is Not to Like
I cannot say I “like” pantyhose, that I consider them sexy or particularly comfortable. But they do the job – giving my pale legs a slight patina of color and smoothness, a tad of firmness, a bit of tummy tuck-it-tude-ness and tuchas control. And lately, adding to the appeal, they cover that bane of middle-aged dames and gams – vicious varicose veins.
Yet, what I consider sartorial salvation, fashion mavens and Millennials consider passé. More than passé. A symbol of women’s submission to men … and worse than that … their mothers’ fashion dictates!
History books fail, no doubt, to record a specific date marking the decline and near demise of pantyhose as an element of mandatory female attire. But I’m sure it was around the time that we gals traded in our shoulder-padded power skirt suits for our equally shoulder-padded pantsuits.
State Department Pantyhose-less Scandal
For me, that moment came in the mid-1980s when I was an unwitting and unwilling participant in the great pantyhose-less scandal that rocked the U.S. State Department! I, among others, was posing for a group picture with our boss, on the august Seventh Floor. A female colleague stepped into the picture, sans hose … in open-toed sandals no less! The photographer, himself pin-stripe suited, paused, aghast, as he noted her exposed toes. He shot her a disapproving glance before ultimately – and undiplomatically – sighing and snapping the picture. The halls of power – and governmental decorum – had been rocked.
Hose History, Just So’s You’s Knows!
Before the 1920s, dresses were long, and proper ladies’ legs were covered all the way to their ankles. Then, hemlines – and eyebrows – began to rise. Stockings, first of silk or rayon, became the fashion, providing coverage and warmth.
During the 1940s and 1950s, stockings of nylon invented by DuPont were sewn into the panties of actresses and dancers, but it wasn’t until 1959 that a version of those “Panti-Legs” was available for consumers.
By the 1960s, pantyhose had become more comfortable, less expensive, and (arguably) more durable. In came the miniskirt and pantyhose sales took off, becoming a wardrobe “must have” that lasted for decades.
But, from the 90s through the mid-2000s, pantyhose went into disfavor with U.S. sales less than half of what they had once been. Gen X-ers and grown-up Baby Boomers rebelled against the de rigueur rigor of wearing pantyhose, while Millennials saw them as something akin to such horrors as girdles, garter belts, and bound feet.
Not My Father’s Pantyhose!
Of course, there was a time when hose was a guy thing. In medieval Europe, men of wealth wore velvet hose, often adorning each leg in a different color velvet.
Jumping ahead centuries, one wintery day in the early 1960s, my mother presented my shivering father with a pair of men’s pantyhose. Hawked by N.Y. Jets Quarterback Joe Namath, my mother thought they were perfect for my dad, who was in the midst of his annual shiver season installing Christmas lights along Park Avenue in N.Y.C., the wintery offset to his thriving summer air conditioning business.
Joe Namath may have scored lots of touchdowns on the field, but none that day in our apartment. My father refused even to try the pantyhose on, saying he preferred frozen toes (and other bodily parts) than to don the unmanly tights!
Saved by a Princess
These days on the Red Carpet, you never see pantyhose on the shimmering, spray suntanned lithe legs of the ladies of film, television, and music.
Indeed, pantyhose seemed doomed to go the way of the dodo, the landline telephone, and 8-track cassettes, but for the intervention of a princess.
When the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, a Millennial, came on the scene, her shapely gams adorned in hose, her appearance generated a royal bump in pantyhose sales.
(Ironically if I had the gams of her Royal Leginess, I might skip the pantyhose or as they might say across the pond, “eschew” dem hose!)
And pantyhose is clearly an issue of import for the Brits. When new princess Meghan Markle shimmied into a pair, it made the news!
Still Mandatory for Some
And while deeply Millennials cherish comfort, in some workplaces including the healthcare field and financial services, pantyhose is likely to remain part of the dress code for a while. Also, flight attendants will likely continue wearing compression hose, as a safety element to prevent deep vein thrombosis on long-haul flights.
Still in Favor for a Select XXX Audience
Plus, there is a group of folks who find great delight in pantyhose – fetishists. Go online (if you care and dare) and you’ll encounter a lively cult of pantyhose fans who enjoy videos with titles like “Sexy Girls in Pantyhose!”
Long Live Princess Kate … and Pantyhose
So, even though much of the fashion world decrees pantyhose dated and dowdy, I shout, “Long live pantyhose and Princess Kate. Long may she continue her regal role as upholder of the durability, nobility, and fashion-ability of pantyhose!” You may call me old-fashioned, but it’s better than exposing my pale and purple-veined middle-aged legs to public display and disdain. Trust me! Some things are better left unseen!