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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stockings on the brink of extinction?



A rather depressing article, in that august journal London Lite, today says that sales of stockings have halved since 2003 and are now being outsold by tights at a ratio of forty to one.

"Experts" say that the fashion for footless tights is putting paid to them. Well, Agent Triple P has never heard such nonsense. Footless tights have been fashionable for approximately three months; since women with average legs realised that miniskirts were making a comeback (a comeback largely shattered by the dismal weather, sad to say) and opaque tights hid a multitude of indifferent legs. No, the decline is more likely to be down to the increased wearing of trousers. It's only this year that dresses and skirts have made a comeback following three or four years of hipster trousers.





Shorter skirts are obviously going to preclude stockings unless you are one of the more obvious ladies of the night or an American girl singer (or are a German supermodel posing for Helmut Newton, as above).






The whole point about stockings is that they haven't been everyday wear for women in Britain for years anyway; they are occasion wear for the evening or recreational purposes. The same cannot be said in Europe and in my limited experience of French Women (and my far greater experience of Italian women) I would say that they will be fighting a strong rearguard action in Europe for many years (unlike the French and Italian armies).



Agent Triple P remembers a discussion with JE from my previous employer's Paris office where she scandalised some of the more traditional women in the department by saying that she couldn't wear tights because her husband would not put up with it. Quite right. Stockings only girls are rarer in Britain, although HMS's librarian was one such.





Partly, this is a fashion cycle thing as in the late eighties stockings made a welcome return after decades in the wilderness.


There are all sorts of theories as to why men prefer women in stockings rather than tights (or indeed with bare legs); one peculiar article we read suggested that it was because it reminded men of their mothers (!). A rather odd assertion that depended entirely on the man being of such an age that all women of his mother's age, when he was younger, would have worn stockings because there was no alternative (tights were introduced in the sixties).
Agent Triple P's theories are rather less Freudian, however:

Firstly, stockings work like a frame which concentrates attention on both the legs and the female nether regions; i.e. both primary and secondary erogenous zones.. Tights, by contrast conceal and dilute the visual effect.


Part of the appeal is also that of contrast, both visual (which is why photographers like black stockings) and tactile. Slipping one's hand up a girl's leg and finding warm bare flesh after a length of silky nylon is much nicer than nylon all the way.

There is also the delicate question of access. If one is in a situation where one's hand has crept up a girl's skirts then exploring what is there is much easier if she is wearing stockings as tights act like an impenatrable barrier.

From a woman's point of view here is little point in wearing expensive, attractive knickers if you are going to put tights over them. There is always the vexed question, too, of what do you put on first, tights or knickers ? If your tights are too small or fall down some girls use their knickers to hold them up wheras the usual way is to put knickers on first (which helps avoid the dreaded VPL - visible panty line !).


Partial nudity is always more exciting than total nudity and if the only garments being worn are stockings then nothing is really being concealed anyway; i.e. you get the best of both worlds. This dressed/undressed theory may also explain why so few of the girls in magazines are ever depicted completely nude and why photgraphers often set off stockings with other accessories such as lace gloves (and, indeed, why lingerie manufacturers make lace gloves to match their stockings).




Stockings come in different grades of fineness measured in denier. (From denarius, the Roman coin, which was originally a unit of weight for a set length of silk). Normal tights or stockings are 20-30 denier (i.e. the length of silk would weigh the same as 20 denarii coins, for example). Fine ones are 10 and the very finest are 5. 5 denier stockings are for special occasions only and are so sheer that, ideally, they should be put on using gloves because rough skin or a finger nail can ladder them; they look sensational, however. Nowadays the use of lycra means that stockings can be described as ten denier appearance (i.e. they look very sheer) but are actually more robust. Another triumph of technology.

Silk stockings look and feel fabulous but as silk is not as elastic as nylon or lycra they tend to give characteristic wrinkles around the ankles. They are also very fragile and have to be hand washed but many girls love wearing them occasionally. They also make good presents; better than lingerie where you have to worry about sizes and styles. Other than by feel you can tell them because the toes are stitched in a particular way, unlike synthetics, and the reinforced tops have one band of quite thick material, rather than the more normal two bands. In the past Agent Triple P's friend KRA had a fine collection of these.

So, Agent Triple P is not worried by this doomsaying. The right sort of girl will continue to wear stockings for the right sort of occasion.




Oh and our favourites, for young ladies, are black hold-ups, particularly the lace-top ones as worn by S-A of cherished memory!

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