December 3, 2007
Pantyhose? No, seriously — pantyhose?
Here’s the lede from a November 25th L.A. Times article:
Bare legs beware. Pantyhose are showing up on runways and simultaneously making an ironic statement about modesty and style.
I’m not much of a follower of fashion, but I certainly know that the things that appear on haute couteur runways often bear more resemblance to art, in the sense that they’re an attempt to make a statement (or provoke thought and/or emotion) through creative means, than to the clothing the average person wears on a day-to-day basis. Still — pantyhose? Really? Sure enough, the picture that accompanies the article shows a runway model with her sweater tucked into the waistband of a pair of nude pantyhose. Of course, I can see how that look makes a statement about modesty: it’s a fairly tame outfit overall, without much exposed skin, and yet an undergarment is clearly visible.
However, the second half of the article branches into a discussion of women who wear and people who advocate wearing hose in an unironic way. It’s still a requirement in a number of (predominantly corporate) workplaces, including the White House:
The mother-in-law [who complained that her son’s new wife went bare-legged on her wedding day] might find solace in the fact that her views are supported by the president of the United States. One of his first actions upon taking office was to reinstate the White House dress code requiring, among other things, that women wear stockings in the West Wing. Exhibit A, Condoleezza Rice, the fashionable secretary of state.
Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. As a member of Generation X or Y (depending on who’s measuring), I reached adulthood with the understanding that pantyhose were de rigeur on special occasions (though still negotiable if wearing pants on those occasions), but not necessary the rest of the time. Now that I’m older, rounder (such that the power of the Control Top is not enough to make me look like I have a flat stomach, at least not like I had when I was 18), and — let’s face it — more strident in my feminism, I’ve pretty much put pantyhose behind me. I might wear funky tights when it’s cold, or thigh-highs for a special occasion, and I spent a good chunk of time over the weekend drooling over the offerings at Sock Dreams, but the idea of being required to wear them to work, day in and day out, makes me shudder. I think part of that is because the impetus for advocating the wearing of stockings is a desire to return to a time when women knew their place:
Katie Couric has been one of the most stalwart and high-profile bare-leggers, bringing her tanned gams into living rooms every day with the TV news. But the sight of bare legs is so repulsive to some that a forum has emerged on Stockingshq.com, a website for stockings fans, dedicated to persuading the chipper news anchor to wear pantyhose. Fundraisers, bribes and beatings are a few of the strategies discussed. One man lamented that he’d been forced to switch to Fox, where the legs are rarely naked.
About 70% of the impassioned commenters on Stockingshq.com are male, according to site founder David Bradwell. Their push for hose is about making “ladies” look sexy.
So. Very. Creepy.
In general, though, I’ll be interested to see whether this really does become a trend, and pantyhose really are coming back. It’s not going to change my habits, but I think it makes for interesting social commentary.