Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Stockings vs. Pantyhose. The war of the ages.

I received an e-mail the other day that supposedly was a test to determine whether or not I’m older than dirt. One of the questions it asked was, “Are you old enough to remember when your mother used to wear two separate nylon stockings?”

Heck, never mind my mother. I used to wear two separate nylon stockings myself. That, I suspected, made me even older than “older than dirt.”

My years in high school were extremely painful, thanks to those nylon stockings. Back then, there were only three ways of holding them up. There was the girdle, which took two hours to squeeze into each morning, and that was only if you greased your hips with butter first

Then there was the garter belt, but back then it wasn’t the lacy little thing that’s so popular nowadays. No, these garter belts were made of plain white turbo-elastic about four inches wide. Four long elastic bands with metal hooks on the ends dangled from the belt.

Believe me, those metal hooks were no fun to sit on during six hours of classes. And not a day passed when one of the hooks didn’t manage to twist sideways and dig into my thighs. There was no discreet way to adjust them, because reaching up under my skirt in the middle of class just might have attracted a bit of attention, so more often than not, I sat and suffered in silence. I think I still have hook scars on the backs of my legs.

The third way to hold up the stockings was to buy the brand that had built-in elastic around the tops. These stayed up pretty well when you first put them on in the morning, but as the day progressed they would start to relax, stretch out and slide down. As a result, a lot of girls in my freshman class walked around looking as if they had saggy knees and wrinkly ankles.

I guess in an era when my school’s dress code enforced the “skirts must be long enough to touch the floor when you are kneeling” rule, not a whole lot of our stockings showed anyway, so it really didn’t matter how ugly they were. But little did we know that the worst thing that could ever happen to the girdle and garter-belt generation was about to occur…the invention of the mini skirt.

The tops of the stockings back then always were a few shades darker than the rest of the stocking, and combined with the metal hooks holding them up, they looked anything but fashionable hanging out from underneath those short skirts. Even worse was the white long-legged girdle showing at least two inches from beneath the skirt. From a distance, we looked as if we had bandages wrapped around our thighs.

I can remember the first time I wore a mini-skirt and tried to climb into my father’s car. I’m pretty sure that most of my neighbors immediately were stricken blind by the sight.

Fortunately, manufacturers realized that something had to be done about the ugly stocking situation, especially since the mini-skirt fad really was catching on. The solution was a product called pantyhose.

I’ll never forget the first day I heard about pantyhose. I was working at Leavitt’s Department Store in Manchester at the time and the clerk in the lingerie department was very excited. “They’re like ballet tights!” she said, holding up a package of pantyhose. “Only they’re sheer, like nylons! No more hooks!”

I was intrigued, even though at $4.98 they were a pretty big extravagance for someone who was making only $1.50 an hour. But to save myself from further girdle humiliation in my mini-skirts, I doled out my hard-earned money for some of the new-fangled stockings.

And I put a huge run in them just trying to tug them up over my hips.

I wasn’t a big fan of pantyhose at first. The crotch on them never seemed to pull up high enough to be comfortable on me, and I also never knew whether to wear them over or under my underwear. Wearing nylon pantyhose over nylon underwear didn’t work because it made them as slippery as ice. And wearing them underneath my underwear didn’t work either, not with the crotch hanging down to my knees.

Then one day as I was walking through the main aisle at Leavitt’s, one of the employees, an older man who usually worked in the men’s department, was standing in the lingerie department and pointing to a display on the counter.

“Look, Sally!” he shouted. “They must have made these especially for you!”

I moved to take a closer look. The label on the package said, “Fat Fannie Pantyhose.” At that moment, I wanted to wrap them around the guy’s neck and strangle him with them.

Even if those pantyhose had been a perfect fit, I wouldn’t have bought them, just because of their name. And as it turned out, I don’t think many women did buy them, probably for the same reason, because the product wasn’t around for very long.

Since then, I have bought and worn all sorts of pantyhose – fishnet, patterned, textured, opaque, sheer to the waist, control top, support, silky and energizing.

And I still haven’t found a pair that fits me right.

I’m thinking that maybe Fat Fannie should start making them again.