Dare we utter the word? Perhaps in a stage whisper:
We know. You thought pantyhose had been relegated to the Smithsonian after Vogue editor Anna Wintour famously tossed hers in 1997. Or perhaps the final run came when “Sex and the City” icon Carrie Bradshaw reinforced the forward trend with her stilettos and bare gams. Needless to say, sheer pantyhose have been off the accessory list for about two decades now. But for several years, there has been talk of a comeback.
Blame it on Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton or the retro fever inspired by “Mad Men”; the pantyhose of the ’60s have landed in fashionable Retroland right there with the au courant resurrection of ’70s style.
But there may be a more influential catalyst in their re-emergence; many baby boomer women are now seniors who welcome the idea of concealing any flaws that might keep their legs from looking youthful.
But this time around, nude hose are an option, not an edict.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the sale of nude hosiery is slowly creeping up. They were spotted in some of the European ready-to-wear shows, and Diane Von Furstenberg paired them with the latest update of her ’70s wrap dress in her recent collection. Rihanna wears them, and so does Lady Gaga.
For years now, spray tans, self-tanning creams, leg makeup and Dermablend have taken over the superpowers of nylon and elastine to make magic on legs. Sheer stockings have been relegated to the matronwear category.
“I associate pantyhose with old-lady style,” said Carla Adams, former marketing manager for The Shops at Canal Place. “I think of them as an effort to try to hide, correct or fix something.”
Adams, who has been in fashion and retail marketing for 25 years, says it may be the number of stocking-free years that have passed that makes nude hose off-putting to her.
Although she prefers the look and feel of bare legs and has no plans to return to pantyhose, Adams concedes that “they (sheer stockings) do add a finished look.”
Although women rely on their tights and textured leggings in the winter, the topic of nude hose as an accessory in the summer is met with such adjectives “stifling” and “uncomfortable.”
“Women here aren’t embracing the trend,” said Erica Geldersma, manager of Mimi, an Uptown boutique with high-end designer clothing and wedding gowns. “They did wear sheer black hose in the fall and winter.”
For those who wore flesh-tone pantyhose the first time around, the issue of dumping the legwear was more of a social statement than a fashion statement.
“Getting rid of pantyhose was a step ahead for women, I think. They were mandatory at many workplaces. I remember when my mom could not wear pants to work and was required to wear pantyhose. They just have an all-around bad connotation,” said Mollie Talley Williamson, a yoga instructor and manager of Angelique, an upscale clothing boutique catering to trend-conscious women, who was required to wear them in the late ’80s when she worked at Guy Laroche.
But for the post-pantyhose generation of young women, accepting nude hose as retro-chic draws mixed reactions.
When Charlotte Drennan, 24, was asked about the return of pantyhose, her first reaction was to laugh.
“I haven’t heard that word in years. My mom doesn’t even wear them,” she said.
But, alas, Drennan had a confession to make. Yes, she has worn pantyhose, although there were no eyewitnesses.
“I wore them for Mardi Gras balls and when I was queen of the Krewe of Mystery. But no one knew because I was wearing a ballgown,” she said.
Just as there is palace protocol for the Duchess of Cambridge, there is protocol for Mardi Gras royalty. But outside majestic settings, Drennan embraces the bare leg.
Ali Rosale, on the other hand, sees pantyhose as an accessory that can add mystery and elegance.
The 32-year-old media specialist and Pilates instructor thinks her generation and those younger just might be missing out on a feminine tool.
When in Paris a few years ago, Rosale purchased a pair of Wolford’s Dotty stockings, a favorite in the expensive hosiery line. Rosale is also a fan of seamed stockings.
“There is an air of femininity and elegance (in pantyhose) that elongates a woman’s leg. I can’t think of any look more attractive than a little black dress, sheer stockings, awesome heels, a killer necklace and red lips,” said Rosale, who also sees sheer leg coverings as the perfect compliment to pencil skirts. “Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn would be appalled if they saw women today.”
Rosalie credits burlesque queen and glam icon Dita Von Teese with keeping alluring fashion accessories alive. In addition to stockings and garters, pantyhose are part of Von Teese’s fashion wardrobe.
Nude pantyhose have come a long way, baby.
Now there are multiple choices in hues (a dozen, to be exact, in Donna Karan’s The Nudes hosiery line) to match one’s own skintone, as well as more high-tech fabrications creating a new level of sheer.
But even the new, improved versions have preconceived notions to overcome.
Whether a woman’s reaction to nude pantyhose is “ew” or “ahhh,” there is a force much stronger than fashion to consider in New Orleans.
“New Orleans summer,” said Geldersma.
“The humidity in New Orleans will be an issue with most women, no matter how good those hose may make your legs look,” said Williamson.