Monday, July 23, 2007

What Are You Wearing Under There?

“Well, these thighs haven't gone out of the house without Lycra on them since I was 14.”
“You were brought up right.”
[Steel Magnolias, conversation between Truvy and Clairee].

Stockings, Tights, and Hose. Oh my. Watching British sitcoms is probably one of my less heinous vices, since it seems to prod me to look at the differences between British and American words for the same items. Today it was "tights" versus "stockings" versus "hose" - whatever you call them, they have a certain ... reputation.

A group of us were talking about our office's dress code relaxing to allow "no stockings" on casual Fridays during the summer, and I mentioned that I couldn't get used to the no-hose look because I always wore pantyhose, even under slacks. (At which one of the women in the group muttered something about that being too hot and too expensive, and we all changed the subject).

"Well-dressed" has different implications, depending on where you live and what resources are available to you. My grandmother would not go out of the house – even to the grocery store – unless she was wearing a clean dress or skirt and blouse and “stockings.” Grandma didn’t like “pantyhose.” She also never wore “tights” – at least, not as a grown-up. She was of the old school, where ladies wore girdles with garter straps and a single stocking attached to each side.

On one hand, that seems a pretty economical idea: if you get a run, you don't have to throw out the whole pair, because chances are, you have another singleton in the drawer. On the other hand, those things were not what you'd call.....comfortable.

My mother also used to wear the girdle/garter straps/hose combo, untill Leggs came out with the pantyhose-in-the-plastic-egg. She was a nurse back in the 60s and 70s, and early in her career, she wore the white dress with the starched cap, and white hose with white “nurses’ shoes.” [Each style cap meant a different school or hospital – I could never keep straight how they knew which was which.]

As a result of the elaborate (and particularly uncomfortable) uniform, getting dressed was a ritual. I remember thinking that the “getting dressed” process was very important and somewhat glamorous - although my mother stopped wearing makeup at some point, and the jumping and pulling to get the very tight and constricting girdle on was kind of like the animal dance sequence from Fantasia.

The thing was, there was a certain pride and self-respect about the process that got lost as my generation got older. I don’t know whether it was that standards in general relaxed to the point where just the fact that you left the house with undergarments on was a major accomplishment, or if it was just that getting older meant having the ability to just say "no" to anything uncomfortable or constricting.

I still think that leaving the house with undergarments on is a major accomplishment. Making sure they don't show under your clothes still seems beyond the reach of some..... But, the death and burial of the girdle/garter straps/hose combo was a major fashion accomplishment in some ways. I wonder if there will ever come a time when women can get their legs waxed, fake-tanned, and firmed/smoothed for less than the average annual pantyhose allowance?


Oh. By the way. This is all because I did not feel like working on a brief. That is due today.


Susie said...

Brief, briefs . . . I see the connection :)
I have similar memories of my Mom getting dressed, and of examining the fascinating garments in her dresser. I remember when Underalls came out, so that panty lines couldn't be seen under your slacks. Took another twenty or so years before thongs became recognized as a better idea for solving that problem. I think there was something mysterious and sexy about all the belts, hooks, etc. I think men thought so, too. But what do I know? Maybe there's a poll somewhere on such things.

Lynn said...

I hate panyhose. Now that I live in Florida, I just can't wear them in all this heat. If I need to to be appropriately dressed, I will either wear a long skirt and still not wear them or I will wear them as a last resort and take them off ASAP!! Awful, hot, itchy things. Ugh.

lawyerchik said...

I know - they're terrible! I hate-hate-hate pantyhose, even though I don't feel like I should leave the house without them if I'm going to work or to church.

My dream would be to have skin tones that don't glow in the dark so that I could wear no hose at all. If I had to wear anything, go to the garters/stockings combo, but most grocery or drug stores don't carry stockings that are long enough. I can order them through Victoria's Secret and a couple of other places, but I haven't.

Fall is coming, though, and maybe with the cooler weather, running will be less problematic and I will actually do it so that the sight of my bare, white, cellulite-y legs won't send people scrambling for eye protection....

Lynn said...

Glow in the dark! Ha! I, too, am ultra-white. I can't get a tan. I have finally given up. You can call me Casper if you like. :-)

lawyerchik said...

Lynn: :)!!