I just found a great article on corsetiere.net about why women should wear stockings instead of pantyhose. It's even written by a man - and the reason he thinks we girls should strut around in these things is far from sexist! The article might be a bit long. But I mean, it's Sunday today! What better things do you have to do than sit down and learn a few things about stockings?!
Pantyhose: A Relic of the 20th Century
It might have been predicted in the thirties, after the introduction of lastex and nylon, that there would be no large-scale reversion by undie-wearers to the fabrics they replaced. But, in the forties, that is what happened, due to war-time production restrictions.
Similarly, it has recently been predicted that “there is no reason to … think that younger women would ever, to any great extent, turn back to girdling and corseting.” (See “Marianne’s Story,” last paragraph.) That surely is consensus opinion. But, as in the thirties, there is a dark cloud on the horizon that could lead to production restrictions: long-term, severe energy shortages. Such restrictions could include the prohibition of nylon-profligate pantyhose. If stockings then became the only form of “nylons” allowed, some mild form of girdling would return, such as control briefs worn with tabs for (detachable) garter straps.
Severe energy shortages are predicted in the recent book, The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler. (See:www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/7203633 for an online condensation.)The author envisages not only grave social and political stresses, but even sporadic semi-anarchy. Probably he’s overly alarmed. But if such scenarios are even a longshot, governments would seek to forestall them by prohibiting or severely “sin-taxing” non-essential uses of energy sources. And, in conjunction with such a recognition of the severity of the energy crisis, there would be a general mind-shift against ALL “wasteful” items, not just petroleum derivatives, for two reasons: their guilty association with spendthrift attitudes, and their tendency to create more physical “waste” (garbage).
Disposable “convenience” plastic items like throw-away razors and CD “jewel cases” are examples. Throw-away razors would be replaced by the style of razor that preceded them: ones whose handle is permanent, and whose blade assembly alone is replaced. Pantyhose (aka “tights” in UK) are another example of a plastic item that wastes material for the sake of convenience: their wearer consumes five times more nylon per year than she would if wearing stockings—and the total amount thus wasted nationally and worldwide is enormous (as described below). This item would therefore be on regulators’ hit list.
Even prior to such officially sanctioned crusades, ecology-conscious individuals and groups might turn against pantyhose, so a substantial voluntary reversion to stockings isn’t unthinkable. Stockings would require some form of gartering—which would be giggled at by the general. In order to take the words out of their mouths, ecology could crown Lola-Lola as its official poster-girl. In the same antic spirit, early adopters could reply, to those who accused them of being throwbacks, “It’s hip to be square.”
Profligacy: Wearing pantyhose consumes five times more nylon, and produces five times more garbage (by weight) than wearing thigh-highs or regular stockings. Here’s how the numbers work out. A pair of stockings weighs .3 ounce; an average pair of pantyhose weighs four times as much, or 1.2 oz. (This is because the torso portion of pantyhose is double-thickness, and because half (?) the pantyhose sold are control-top types that are even thicker.) Also, a pair of pantyhose is discarded, on average, 25% sooner than a pair of stockings, because it is “done for” when the first leg gets a run. (I.e., with stockings the wearer just replaces the bad leg and goes on wearing the good one.) So a woman who wears a dozen pairs of pantyhose per year would need only 9 pairs of stockings to replace them. Putting this factor together with the greater weight of pantyhose, the bottom line is that a pantyhose-wearer consumes five times more nylon per year.
How much is that in terms of ounces? According to the book, The Average American, the average career woman buys 22 pairs of pantyhose per year; the average college woman buys 9. Let’s assume the average housewife also buys 9, and thus that the average woman (including all three categories) buys 15 pairs. 15 pairs of pantyhose weigh 18 ounces; their replacement, 11.25 pairs of stockings, weigh 3.375 oz.; the difference is 14.625 ounces per year. (The high-consumption career woman uses roughly 1.5 pounds more per year.) Over the course of a 60-year hose-wearing lifetime (from ages 18 to 78), the difference is thus 877.5 ozs., or roughly 55 pounds. That’s non-biodegradable, non-recyclable waste—and it’s totally unnecessary waste.
The above is slightly offset by the stocking-wearer’s need to consume a garter belt; but that weighs only two oz. and lasts about two or three (?) years, so it creates little waste. (And a new-design garter belt with a replaceable elastic back strap could be made that would last two or three times longer.) A girdle, let’s say, weighs 5 oz. and lasts 1.5 years; thus 10 oz. would be wasted over three years, which is less than one-quarter the weight it would save in pantyhose nylon (44 oz.). And, since 1/3 (?) of women already wear control briefs, which are in essence legless light- to medium-control girdles, a mass switch-over to stockings wouldn’t imply proportionate additional Lycra consumption.
Now let’s scale the figures up to the national level. According to the Hosiery Assn., roughly 340 million pairs of pantyhose were sold in the U.S. in 2001. Assuming about 3/4 of their weight would be saved (after deducting for extra undies) if stockings were worn instead, about 15 million pounds of nylon is wasted thereby. If we were in WW2, the government would prohibit pantyhose for this staggering wastefulness. Well, in a way were are in a struggle—an ecological struggle. We want to reduce needless consumption and garbage production. Pantyhose are a “modern convenience” that costs more than they’re worth.
(Incidentally, about 52 million pairs of stockings were sold, about 90% (I’d guess) of them “thigh-highs”—or “holds-ups” as they’re called in the UK. Also, about 193 million pairs of “knee-highs” (“pop-socks” in the UK) were sold.)
Penalization: The government could discourage consumption of pantyhose (and disposable razors, etc.) by sin-taxing them at $1 or $2 per pair, which would make stockings and thigh-highs more attractive economically. (At present, absurdly, stockings actually cost slightly more than pantyhose, even though they contain much less material and take less time to make. This is because they are low-volume items.)
Taxation of plastics has already begun, as described in Future Perfect (from the Institute for Social Inventions, London, 2002), pp. 165-66, in an item titled “A plastax on single-use shopping bags to reduce usage and waste.” It stated: “Ireland has introduced a tax of nine pence on single-use plastic shopping bags, payable by the shopper not the shop.... The Irish government expects to raise 100 million pounds annually from the tax.... To say that plastic bags are a problem is an understatement... The other two options are incineration (which is unpopular and polluting) and recycling (but only .5 percent of plastic bags are recycled at present). It could be the only way to have a larger effect, hitting the consumer where it hurts most: in the wallet, not the conscience.”
Pantyhose were available in the early 60s, and even in the 50s (for dancers and models), but cost three times as much as stockings. Result: virtually no one bought them. It wasn't until 1968, that fateful year, that their price became competitive and pantyhose “caught on.” This process might work in reverse. I.e., if pantyhose were 50% or 100% more expensive, stockings & hold-ups might “catch on” again.
Persuasion: There could be publicity about pantyhose’s wastefulness, which could be spread in both the mass media and in magazines and web sites sensitive to ecological concerns. (E.g., readers might re-post this article, or portions of it—permission is hereby granted.) In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (and corresponding agencies outside the U.S.) could issue white papers deploring the wastefulness of pantyhose and urging consumers to avoid them.
Second, arguments could be made that go beyond the ecological and counteract pantyhose’s image of convenience and liberation. For example: “There’s no doubt that stockings plus garter belt take a little longer to put on and take off, but the amount of time is small—say twenty seconds per day. That’s not asking much to benefit the environment.”
“These full briefs are reminiscent of panties from the 60’s and 50’s. But they have some Lycra in them, and hug the body nicely. With the attached garters, you have no choice but to wear nylons with this garment. Introduce your wife or loved one to the girdle in this manner. Once she becomes comfortable in this, maybe she will be more receptive to firmer control garments. Maybe not. But it’s worth a try, right? I sell these black Vassarette briefs at a very reasonable price.”
Over-reaction?: Pointing out pantyhose’s negative points wouldn’t cause a general over-reaction against wearing “nylons” at all, because there would be only 20% more material saved by going bare-legged. What would more likely happen is what happened when ecologists condemned certain other wasteful practices, such as buying a Christmas tree every year, or wrapping presents in paper that was immediately discarded. Those who were sensitive to such arguments didn’t abandon trees and wrapping paper entirely, but switched to reusable replacements. An analogy: if the gov't were to sin-tax disposable razors, most men would switch to cartridge-razors. Few would be so swept-up in an anti-plastic mania that they'd start growing beards, especially if there were a good rationale for the tax.
Symbolism, Conformity, and Independence: Many women have an “eek!” feeling about wearing garters, but they should get over it. (Or wear thigh-highs, which—though less reliable—don’t require them.) I.e., garter-wearing is something women may associate with the 50’s, and thus with repression. But a truly independent woman doesn’t let herself be manipulated by images, but instead looks to the underlying reality. (If she relies on images and associations, she’d let Virginia Slims ads persuade her that cigarette-smoking is “liberated.”) Just because garters have an image of being an item of (needless) feminine frippery doesn’t mean that they actually are. (Some men wear garters to hold up their socks (or leggings if they play hockey)—they aren’t image-oriented; they focus on practicality.) It’s really pantyhose that is needless, and it’s really garters that are libratory, because:
They reduce the amount of “stuff” (nylon) a wearer must buy.
They can be more comfortable in the matter of temperature control. I.e., in summer a garter belt can be worn (one less layer of fabric above mid-thigh); in winter a long-leg panty-girdle (a thicker layer of fabric above mid-thigh).
They’re more likely to fit better. It’s impossible for some women to find a brand of pantyhose that fit well. That’s because there are so many more “fit points” with pantyhose than with stockings. If pantyhose fit well in one place, they often fit badly in another.
Stockings don’t trap heat and moisture, encouraging disease and odor. (It was in the late 60s that vaginal deodorants caught on, in step with the use of pantyhose.)
I used another “eek!” word: girdle. But what’s worse about it than the spandex bike shorts or compression shorts that many women wear? Except for the garters, they’re the same item. The most vehement opponents of girdles are women who’ve never worn one, all the while encased in jeans much tighter and more confining than any girdle. The objection to girdles is 90% symbolic. (And feminist Beatrice Faust, in a 1981 book, mentioned that wearing a girdle actually gave her a charge. See http://www.girdlezone.org/bfaust.htm. She also wrote, “Are women such sheep that we must follow fashion leaders? Are we so gutless or stupid that we cannot make independent choices?”)
There’s nothing brave or independent about mindlessly following the crowd and wearing pantyhose. Courage and freedom would be demonstrated by departing from the norm. I hope that once a few trend-setters blaze a trail, it will become a point of pride for women to “think different.”
“Link-Ups,” “Hook-Ons,” etc.: For us fans of non-vanilla undies, there is only one potential negative in this dream-scenario (aside from worldwide economic collapse): A little-known method of garterless stocking-support exists, and most women would probably prefer it if they had to wear stockings again. An initial version was put on the market in about 1970 by one of the major hosiery suppliers. (I used to have their promotional material, but I’ve misplaced it, so I can’t give the name of the company or its brand.) The stockings came with two small hooks (like the type seen on the shoulder straps of bras). They in turn connected to a girdle’s garter tabs, leaving only a small gap between the top of the stocking and the girdle’s hem. This product failed to catch on because:
The placement of tabs varied from girdle to girdle, so that one or other of the attachment points was often mis-aligned.
Proper stocking length was critical—there was no ability to roll over the welt of a stocking or adjust the length of a garter, and stockings of that era lacked the elasticity needed to compensate for inexact length.
Subsequently, in the late 90s I think, there was another hook-attachment design called Scantihose that was unsuccessful; its stockings attached to a belt with a strap, which wasn’t too sleek. Now, however, improved variations have been introduced, under various brand names. In the UK, there’s Pretty Polly’s Link-Ups (Googling will find links to ads, etc. User feedback on the StockingsHQ site was mixed. One user claimed attachment was less secure than a garter and the link was flimsy. But a better hook and loop design could fix that.) In Australia there’s a similar and more recent item, Ambra Hook-Ons. (For details see http://www.calectasia.com/Hosiery/Hook-Ons.htm.)
Because they employ elasticized stockings (probably more elasticized than the ordinary pair) exact length isn’t critical, and they can use only one attachment point (on Ambra’s Hook-Ons it’s midway between the front and side of the leg), avoiding alignment problems, and making attachment faster than gartering. (They’re sold with pair of elasticized panties with a loop in the correct position. It would be easy for manufacturers of control briefs to add a loop in that location—or for women to sew one onto their existing garments themselves.) If these products can be debugged, women are likely to prefer them, because they are less visible. I.e., they have:
No garter bump;
Only a ½ inch welt;
A high attachment point (so they can’t be seen under miniskirts—except very rarely);
Minuteness, making them less noticeable if accidentally exposed (they’re only 10% the size of a garter);
Discreetness (no gleaming complex “hardware,” no Can-Can overtones), making them less “ignominious” if accidentally exposed. That kills 90% of their appeal to us fetishists—but women would no doubt mostly shout, “That’s not a bug, that’s a feature!”
Oh well, such items have at least one attractive attribute: wearers strike the charming and seductive poses of yore when doffing & donning their hosiery. They no longer awkwardly wiggle into their nylons (as with pantyhose), a procedure that has all the suave elegance of a footlocker tumbling down a flight of stairs.
PS: Why should today’s New Women worry about discreetness anyway? Isn’t that merely a Laudably Ladylike virtue? Wouldn’t it be more commendable to Let It All Hang Out? Why forgo the chance, by stylishly strumming their garter straps, to mimic and/or mock the gallus-snapping patriarchs of old? Theysurely had no bashfulness about their visible suspenders.
PPS: Just kidding—I think. Seriously speaking, women could easily avoid garter-display by wearing culotte-style (divided) skirts and/or pettipants (long-leg loose-around-the-leg panties that function like half-slips). They could continue to sit and recline in today’s liberated manner—i.e., without always being careful not to let their skirts ride up.