I’d like to rehabilitate the stocking from its slightly grubby nudge-nudge wink-wink, something-that-you’d-wear-only-in-the-bedroom-or-in-a-burlesque-dancing-act image.
I first came across stockings at the age of about 11 when being taken to see Gounod’s Faust at the Lewisham Concert Halls. I thought I was dead grown-up when I found some in my mother’s hosiery bag but it didn’t occur to me that they had to be held up somehow.Physics was not my strong point at school and we didn’t do underwear talk at home. I was that girl in class whose socks always fell down, so you can imagine how I spent most of that theatre visit. My hosts were kind and tactful enough not to pass any comment on my ignorance and I am grateful to them forever.
That experience traumatised me so much that I eschewed stockings for decades until admittedly I came across them when ordering underwear. (Regular readers of this blog will know that underwear is a vexed and specialist subject for me and it’s difficult to find my size at M&S, not that I’d want to buy my intimates there.)
There is an awful lot of PVC, lace, sniggering flim flam and impracticality around suspender belt-stocking combos in lingerie shops but nowhere is it the law that stockings must be worn with a basque, a thong and 6 inch heels. It’s just as well: what they don’t make clear in the catalogues is that it is physically impossible for a non-contortionist woman to surprise her partner by popping out of bathroom (or cake) wearing a basque unless she has help to fasten those dozens of hooks and eyes at the back. Goodness me, it’s bad enough putting on a bra for some of us, and I’d say not many of us have access to a personal dresser or willing maid who can help lay the erotic groundwork. So generally it will be the very same partner getting you into the basque as presently gets you out of it. Which will tend to undermine the spontaneity and just seems like an exhausting and waste of effort, I’d say.
But no. I’m a fan of stockings. They let air circulate around your downstairs, which can only be healthier than tights that create their own ecosystem after a few hours of wear in our centrally-heated environments. Yes, even cashmere ones do this. And tights only ever sit properly until the first time you visit the lavatory whereupon they’re always uncomfortable or falling down, with their gusset around your knees.
Stockings are so much more efficient and economical than tights. When you inevitably get a ladder in them because some tall, besuited moron with a Blackberry has brushed against you with his roughly snagged wheelie suitcase, you just exchange one stocking leg, not a whole pair of tights. Voilà!
If the thought of wearing all that extra infrastructure around your middle is offputting, opt for a simple but sturdy suspender belt. They don’t all need to be all lace or boning. It’s best to opt for 6 metal straps for easy of use, security and sturdiness, although I came across a, frankly excessive, 14 strap model the other day. I don’t think that design was for those of us in a hurry to dress.
In these more autumnal times, I have fallen in love with woollen stockings. The ones I have are from Levante but I expect there are other makes. They are soft and cosy and warm and ever so slightly cheeky. Which is nice. Up with stockings!