A Peek in Pantyhose History

A surprising piece of pantyhose trivia is how this sheer piece of clothing was actually introduced commercially by a man, an Allen Gant Sr. of Glen Raven Mills. Not intended to question anyone’s (any man or woman’s) ability to innovate and create, but it is odd that someone of the male species could come up with a piece of clothing that is generally for women only. Pantyhose are the sheer hosiery meant to cover the legs and give them a smoother appearance.

Pantyhose history actually started in the 1920s, when hemlines of skirts and dresses began to rise. The need to cover the legs, albeit only subtly, arose. Stockings were the only garments available for use at that time. These stockings were made of either silk, rayon, or, since 1939, nylon.

In the 1940s, Ann Miller, an actress-dancer continually bothered by stockings that get torn easily during dance numbers and filming, devised a makeshift pantyhose – the prototype of modern day’s pantyhose. Miller would have her briefs sewn with a pair of hosiery. This way, the hosiery was held up securely, and didn’t snag easily despite her moving around so much. Later on, stocking with crotches and waistbands were manufactured solely for her.

When pantyhose was introduced in 1959 by Gant Sr., this was actually in the form of seam-free stockings. It was in 1965 when seam-free pantyhose (the way we know it now) was introduced. This promptly happened in the time when miniskirts were gaining immense popularity. It was not possible to wear stockings with miniskirts since their tops showed. Hence, pantyhose was the undergarment of choice for many women. It was also during this period when spandex or elastane was introduced as a material blend for pantyhose.

However, as in all fashion accessories, the use and popularity of pantyhose declined in the 90s. By this time, they were only worn in formal or corporate occasions, as was required by existing dress etiquette. This decade was marked by a trend towards comfort and “naturalness.” Pantyhose, as it were, seemed like inconvenient and delicate accessories.

But then again, as the fashion cycle went, there was a recent resurgence of pantyhose popularity. This piece of hosiery first regained ground in runways. Thicker, dark colored varieties made the fashion pages and put pantyhose back in the vocabularies of fashion stylists and, of course, shoppers. One has to admit, pantyhose are very appealing pieces of hosiery – it’s attractive and can highlight a woman’s great legs.

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