They may have revolutionized women's fashion, but do nylons really need to stick around for another 75 years? DW's Kate Müser cleans out her closet.
The first pair of commercially produced nylons was sold on May 15, 1940. I was born in 1980.
That makes me too young to appreciate the revolutionary role that pantyhose played for the women of the post-war generation in both Europe and the US. They democratized women's legs, enabling the (seemingly never ending) shortening of skirts. They also required certain hygiene practices that, like hem length, also began with the calf and extended further up the body with each passing decade.
On the other hand, I was also born too early to truly appreciate the more recent pairing of nylon stockings with white high-top sneakers and denim shorts that conserve fabric more ambitiously than any skirt ever has.
Short-lived rite of passage
Early on, as a girl in the 1980s, panty hose were an unattainable rite of passage worn only by older girls mature enough to shave their legs. But the fascination quickly dwindled once I acquired my first pair. As a dedicated piano student in my youth and young adulthood, I gave numerous recitals. That meant not only dozens of gowns cinched up with a bow in the back, but also the obligatory pair of stockings.
One of many reasons a man would never wear stockings (besides, of course, the aforementioned hygienic prerequisite) is their complete incompatibility with sweat. Have you ever experienced stage fright before a piano recital at the peak of adolescence? I grew up in California, I must add, where jackets, let alone leg coverings, are only necessary a few months of the year.
Even worse than their lack of ventilation is the way the pantyhose manages to give even the most slender woman a belly. What do women hate the most? Feeling fat. The easiest way to avoid that dreaded feeling (whether or not it is founded on reality) is to simply do away with those horrible waist bands attached to the very accessory that vows sex appeal but forms an unsightly crease in even the slightest hip padding.
Free your legs and your guilt trip: Wear leggings instead.
Thanks nylons, but here's the door
In their early days in the 1940s, nylon stockings were praised for not running as easily as their silk predecessors. That may have been true. But their supposed durability just doesn't keep up with klutzes like me. Most rips occurred while putting them on.
I was taught from the beginning that clear nail polish wasn't only made for finger nails, though I always suspected that the sticky dried substance would cause skin cancer later in life. That's why the only time I ever spent more than $5 on a pair of nylons was for my wedding. That was also the only time I ever packed a spare pair, which - it was a lucky day, indeed - I never had to pull out. (Admittedly, there may have been a correlation between price and durability.)
While I'm grateful for the ways nylons may have opened doors for my gender, why did it have to be sweaty, scratchy nylons?
Click on the gallery above for five other female fashion fails that wouldn't be missed if they caught up with the corset for an extended getaway.