Teasing Temptations of
I have to admit that I love the sexiness of stockings and the titivation of wearing tights and am in fact partial to hosiery of all types – to the point of having drawers bursting and indeed overflowing with an assortment large enough to be worthy of a small department store!
(The variety of tights and stockings currently available is endless!)
I do, I must say, try to keep all this finery in some kind of order, but I have to admit that silk, lace, nylon, fishnets and sheers, not to mention the odd suspender all topple out the minute I open a drawer – such chaos, for I have yet to find both the time and means to keep all these delightful 'leg coverings' under control and in some way organised! (Like most things in my life – things tend to get rather chaotic!)
What ladies is the appeal of these illustrious leggings and why do we wear them?
(Cervin – a fabulous French brand – with sumptuous lace stockings)
Teamed with my secret love of history and my desire to find out where things come from and why they are like they are, I stumbled upon a little history book entitled 'A Glimpse of Stocking' whilst rummaging through an old bookshop in Whitstable, Kent recently. I thought this little gem of a book may give me an insight into this elusive question as to why we love to have our legs encased in fabric!
(Yvonne Deutch – published 2002)
What did I learn?
Well, would you believe it, it was men who first showed off their glorious legs in tights – granted, they were knitted out of wool and were rather heavy going, but during the sixteenth century the very 'Daring Dandies' of the time flaunted their legs in hand knitted and highly patterned tights. Most extravagant!
It was not until hundreds of years later, in fact the 1920s that we women followed suit. As a result of the First World War, hemlines started to rise and horrors of horrors – women’s feet and ankles were visible to the world for the first time. (Well, in public anyway!) Suddenly flesh was on display and it needed to be covered with something pretty and feminine. Silk stockings were a must, for the hand knitted cotton and woollen items previously worn by most women were far too unsightly for words!
(Vintage stockings – courtesy of 'A Glimpse of Stocking')
The fabulous flappers of the 1920s were daring and showed off more leg than was ever considered previously acceptable. With outrageous behaviour legs were visible up to the knee, and good heavens – the thighs were even sometimes glimpsed as ladies got into and out of the newly available motorcar……Oooops.
Silk stockings were all the rage – the ‘must have’ item in any modern woman’s wardrobe. Beautiful and shiny, they made legs look elegant, smooth and inviting to touch. Disaster struck, however, in the form of the New York stock market crash of 1929. Silk became affordable only to the very rich…. But not to be completely outdone by such a downturn in events, a new product called ‘rayon’ became available and a cheaper alternative to silk stockings was made available to the general public. (Rayon, a cellulose fibre, was invented in France around 1884.)
(1920s – Age of the Flapper – Picture courtesy of 'A Glimpse of Stocking" )
Rayon was fine, but busily toiling away in a laboratory in the United States were a group of scientists experimenting with various elements to replicate the sheerness and desirability of silk. What do you know? In 1937 with a mixture of coal-tar, air and water these very clever fellows invented a tough, hard wearing, flexible fibre we all know so well these days – Nylon! The Du Pont company put a patent on the product and were on their way to huge success.
Now, ladies, I don’t think these men were secreted away for years with the mere goal of encasing women’s legs in a fine gossamer thread… but that is in fact what they did, for just a few years later, ‘Nylons’ hit the stores in the U.S.A and within four days of the stockings becoming available, the four million pairs that had been manufactured were sold out. Women basically went nuts over them!
The Second World War hit and once again the must have item was in short supply. Silk and Nylon production was only to be used for making parachutes, bags for explosives and military products, so only the very rich, or the very devious could get their hands on a pair of silk or nylon stockings….
( Oroblu -An Italian Brand and one of my favourites – the texture is divine and feels wonderful against the skin.)
So what next?
Well, we women are never short of imagination and creativity. Not to be outdone by such shortages, women started to bronze their legs with make-up to keep up the enticing glamour of silky legs and with eyebrow pencils or mascara painted 'faux' seams up the back of the legs. Women who couldn’t afford make-up used coffee or gravy colouring! (I can just imagine my dogs wanting to lick it off.)
(Bronzing on the legs)
(Make -up used to draw lines down the back of legs to take the place of a silk seam! – photos courtesy of 'A Glimpse of Stocking")
And what has happened to stockings since the war?
The women's revolution of the late 1960s brought about huge changes in how we dress and what we wear. All things restrictive like corsets and for some women even bras, were thrown away or indeed burnt!! Strides were taken in all areas of underwear, including what adorned our legs.
(Tights on sale in John Lewis – Oxford Street.)
Many exciting inventions were made, including machines that were capable of weaving stretchy ‘tights’ or as the Americans call them – ‘pantyhose’ for the stockings were made attached to the panties – to eliminate the need for the suspenders – a major freedom for women everywhere who hated the rigmarole and complexity of clips and clasps and keeping stockings up and out of sight.
Mini skirts were in fashion, legs were well and truly on show and tights became the biggest leg accessory ever. Coloured tights became the rage as manufacturers became more and more adventerous with texture and colour and the trend has been popular ever since.
( Fabulous purple tights from Trasparenze)
Tights, Nylons and Hosiery continued to be popular until the mid 1990s when bare legs became fashionable for the first time ever. The industry plummeted and has never gone back to the heights of production of the 70s and 80s. And yet, there are more amazing designs, patterns and incredible options around now, than there has ever been before.
So what is in vogue for 'Leg Wear' 2011?
Well, I have it on good authority that sheer, flesh coloured tights of a very light denier are making a come back. (Preferably more matt than high gloss – and to be worn with the very on trend 'nude' shoe.)
Coloured tights are always in and look fabulous with short skirts and dresses and worn with long boots.
Outrageously patterned tights are still about and look fabulous if you have the ability to pull all the patterns together in a workable look.
Tights with fake suspenders and patterned knickers are really hitting the shops this winter and can look super sexy…..
And apparently sales of traditional suspenders and stockings are greater than they have ever been since post war times. This means there are a lot of women out there indulging in sensuous, seductive leg wear. And I for one am guilty of this secret passion – for I love old retro, 1950s style lingerie and stockings – it is all so very feminine, pretty and is loads of fun to wear!
(No – not my legs sadly! – but another great pair of stockings from Oroblu)
Whilst writing this blog I have been singing along to Peggy Lee, a funky jazz singer born in the 1920s, who encapsulated the mood of femininity, but at the same time enjoyed being a feisty, fun loving woman.
Looking up 'You Tube' for her fabulous song – “I am a woman” I found this very saucy, and somewhat naughty clip of this wonderful song – click on the link below to see it.
The saucy, naughty version – with lots of examples of stockings!!
A rather hilarious and more sedate version with Peggy Lee and Petula Clark…..
Whatever your preference for hosiery ladies, look out for some new trendy tights this winter!
(My favourite place for buying stockings and tights is www.stockingsdirect.com
They have a fabulous range!)