Confusion, lack of conviction spur bare legs look


I don’t think there’s quite as much negative press about wearing pantyhose today as there was during the past decade.  Oh, it’s still out there, yes, but it seems as if pantyhose are finding their legs again in ever-increasing numbers.

Still, there will always be the “fashion expert” haters out there haterizing on pantyhose.  And there’ll always be some women who refuse to wear for their own personal or political reasons.  But what I see happening today is more and more women who just aren’t sure whether they should wear or not.  Their dilemma: They think they don’t know what the “rules” are anymore.

It amazes me how, seemingly, the majority of women in this country are deciding what to wear or not wear based on what some individual or groups of perceived “fashion experts” preach.  Are pantyhose out?  Are they in?  It’s amazing how frequently these questions are popping up everywhere you look in magazine articles, on television talk shows, online.

What amazes me is women’s inability or unwillingness to make their own decisions.  I’m OK with human beings wanting to be “in fashion.”  Let’s see, it was bellbottoms in the 1970s, big hair in the 80s, a little of everything in the 90s, and bare legs in the 2000s.  There were narrow lapels, wide lapels.  “Dogs and cats living together.”

Fashion changes with the times.  But through the decades, fashion choices never were about being unprofessional in the workplace, disrespectful at formal venues, or displaying a lack of good taste simply out and about.  Except in the case of going bare-legged during the 2000s.

And this is where it should come down to the individual making her own decision about what is right versus wrong; what is “in” or “out” versus what is appropriate for the venue and occasion.

Doing the right thing

Not sure where actress Salma Hayek is actually headed in this photo, but this is a perfect example of how a woman should dress for a funeral.
Not sure where actress Salma Hayek is actually headed in this photo, but this is a perfect example of how a woman should dress for a funeral.

A case in point: Last week, a reader of this blog, Dr. Ray of San Antonio, Texas, wrote this email to me:

“About a year ago, my wife and I  went to a funeral of a close friend of mine for many years. Almost all of the women friends and family wore black dresses, black stockings and black high-heeled shoes.  Why does it take a sad event before women want to look attractive?”

My response to Dr. Ray:  At least, those women had the good sense and good taste to dress appropriately for that occasion.

But Dr. Ray’s larger point is that it took a funeral to get the women in his circle to wear hosiery.  To me, that means they know better.  They accept that an event as formal as a funeral warrants the wearing of hosiery, but why then do they go bare-legged at every other opportunity?

I think the answer is because they can. They can because the bare legs culture exists, so the excuse is out there.

Dr. Ray wrote to me again last night, saying that a similar situation presented itself this past Sunday, when he and his family attended a wedding.  He said his wife dressed elegantly, including wearing pantyhose, while his 17-year-old daughter did not.  That’s likely because the bare legs camp has had some success in convincing today’s younger generation that pantyhose are something only older women wear.

Of course, we know that is not true, as we are seeing more and more young entertainers wearing pantyhose today.  I believe the positive example being set by the likes of Selina Gomez, Katy Perry, Beyonce’ Knowles, Rihanna, Blake Lively, Miranda Cosgrove and Zooey Deschanel to name a few, will begin to influence more young women.

Young female characters on the teen drama series, "Gossip Girl," demonstrate class and elegance in the outfits they wear, including sheer pantyhose, as bridesmaids during a scene from the show.
Young female characters on the teen drama series, “Gossip Girl,” demonstrate class and elegance in the outfits they wear, including sheer pantyhose, as bridesmaids during a scene from the show.

And, thankfully, there are a few good television shows today that feature young women who frequently wear pantyhose.  One such show is the teen drama series, “Gossip Girl,” starring Blake Lively, who appears to be a devoted pantyhose wearer on the set and in real life.

I’ve never watched an episode of “Gossip Girl,” but lately I’ve been seeing many pics of Blake Lively on Internet sites devoted to celebrities in pantyhose.  She appears to be a very professional and classy actress, and she looks fabulous in pantyhose.

Perhaps, shows like this one will someday help to mold a generation of younger women, such as Dr. Ray’s daughter, who will have a positive view about wearing pantyhose.

For now, it’s easy to see how the competing negative and positive press about wearing pantyhose causes confusion among many women today.

No deal, divas

Another longtime reader of this blog, MJ Gruskin, last week, sent me the link to a story published in the online edition of the Tampa Bay Times newspaper:

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/divas/content/reader-question-did-pantyhose-make-comeback

Six writers (all women) apparently form a column, “Deal Divas,” in which they comment about all things fashion today.

In this case, a young woman wrote to the “Divas” about a wedding she attended, at which every woman but her wore hosiery.  The lady is confused as to how this happened, as she had thought that pantyhose were dead and gone.

Here’s the woman’s letter:

I recently went to a wedding in Hunters Green in early November. Very upscale, posh and elegant. I haven’t had many opportunities to dress to the nines so to speak in a few years. So I went all out, new dress, handbag and shoes sans hose of any kind. The bridesmaids age range was 26 to 40 and they wore hose, as well as the bride. All the female guests were wearing sheer hose in colors from nudes to tans and blacks, and many with some pretty killer sandals, too. The women were in their 20s to older than 50.  There were even a couple of women wearing them with pants. I was at a table with four other couples, all women I work with (we work with the bride).

None of us are older than 32. I never saw a single one of them in hose before, and I’ve known them for a few years. I was the only woman that wasn’t wearing any.

I have to admit I felt nearly naked and almost embarrassed. I had a fleeting thought to have my boyfriend drive me to the nearest Walgreens or CVS and buy a pair to put on. I thought hose were long gone.

Am I wrong? So what is a girl to do? Are hose coming back or have they been back and I deleted the memo?

The reply by “Deal Divas” was written by only one of the columnists, Katie Sanders, but who knows whether the other five put their stamp of approval on it?  In some places, Sanders personalizes the response with “I,” and in other places, she uses “we.”

Carole Middleton, mother of Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, not surprisingly knows what to wear to a wedding.
Carole Middleton, mother of Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, not surprisingly knows what to wear to a wedding.

In part, Sanders wrote:

“It depends on whom you ask. Since you asked us, we think it’s reasonable to assure you that you weren’t dressed down for your friend’s wedding.

“It seems odd that all of your young friends wore pantyhose. I haven’t done that as a bridesmaid or a wedding guest, and neither have my friends. We left it behind with our flouncy church gowns, you know?”

Blind leading the blind

Everyone at the wedding had the good sense and good taste to wear hosiery to a formal event, but the “Divas” say that the one woman who didn’t wear hose was not “dressed down.”  That’s the official statement of the “Divas?”  Wow.  It gets worse.  You should read the piece.

It certainly seems to prove my point: Today, women seem to want to do, not necessarily what is right, but what some “fashion experts” tell them is “now.”  And in this case, a woman who thought no one else would wear hose, so didn’t herself, finds that everyone else did, leaving her feeling out of place and slightly embarrassed.  Thus, she questions her belief that pantyhose are “out,” only to be told by the “experts” that it was odd that all those other women would do the unthinkable and wear hose (to a wedding no less), and that the hoseless woman did the right thing.

In fairness, the “Divas” reply does acknowledge (begrudgingly) that the wearing or not wearing of pantyhose is a personal issue.  Also, the reply admits that an earlier attack they made on Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s devotion to wearing sheer nude pantyhose was met with objections from many of their readers.  So, at the very least, the “Divas” do the proper journalism thing by telling both sides of the story, and leaving the matter up to the reader.

Heck, even a mail-order-bride in a box from Hungaria comes wearing pantyhose.
Heck, even a mail-order-bride in a box from Hungaria comes wearing pantyhose.

Still, it’s a shame that so many unprofessional and not-too-classy women who put themselves in the position of being “fashion experts,” use their forum to try to influence everyday women of society to view a fashion accessory as elegant and decidedly feminine as pantyhose as something to be disdained and avoided, simply because they have a personal dislike of it.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking:  Isn’t that pretty much what I’m doing?  Sure, but at least I’m using my blog to extol the virtues of pantyhose in dressing for professionalism at the office, class and elegance at the formal venue, and beauty and femininity in general, simply because I have a personal love for it.

In other words: Idiot, classless, “fashion expert” – bad guy; wise, classy me – good guy.

Makeover madness

Also, last week (wow, all these things happened last week), another longtime reader of this blog, Brian W., wrote a comment and attached this link:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/9453642/Trinny-and-Susannah-We-dont-look-at-women-as-pieces-of-meat.html

Kate Middleton doesn't need a "fashion expert's" advice about how to dress, always displaying class, elegance and good taste during public appearances.
Kate Middleton doesn’t need a “fashion expert’s” advice about how to dress, always displaying class, elegance and good taste during public appearances.

If the “Deal Divas” are bad, these women are horrible.  They’re Britain’s makeover queens, Susannah Constantine and Trinny Woodall, of the original “What Not to Wear” television show, which aired on British TV for five years beginning in 2001.

During a recent interview conducted by Celia Walden of The   Telegraph (a UK-based online newspaper), the pair offered – among other annoyances – their fashion advice for Kate Middleton:  

   Constantine: “She should wear her hair up more. When she wore that sheer green Jenny Packham dress and her hair up, it was simple but stunning.”

   Woodall:  “Oh, and the flesh-coloured tights have got to go. You can wear flesh-coloured fishnets, but that’s it.”

Unbelievable.  Of the 28 readers comments to this piece, only 25 show up at the end of the piece.

I didn’t see a comment from Brian W., but I am sure he wrote a good one.

Perhaps, my feelings can best be described by the first comment from someone who calls himself or herself “the_sentinel.”

It reads:

“Shame they can’t get a makeover themselves. What utter shite.”

Exactly.

Beauty no accident

ActSensuous has been a proud sponsor of the Mrs. America State beauty pageant organizations for the past few years.

Last year, Kristie Bear, one of our customers, won the Mrs. Idaho-America pageant, and posed in her swimsuit wearing her sash, crown and Act II Suntan pantyhose.  I was very proud.  Kristie is pictured in the News section of the ActSensuous website.

Photo by J.Wolfe Productions, Boise, ID
Chanthy Birch prepares for the judges interview during the Mrs. Idaho-America beauty pageant Oct. 13 at Kuna High School auditorium in Kuna, ID. Chanty is wearing Act II Nude.

Two months ago, Chanthy Birch, also an ActSensuous customer, competed in this year’s Mrs. Idaho-America pageant.  While she didn’t win it, she did take the honor in the Best Evening Gown category.  Chanthy wore Act II Nude and Act III Suntan throughout the pageant.

“I have to tell you it was pretty funny,” Chanthy said.  “During full dress rehearsals, I wore your pantyhose and a couple of the ladies came up to me afterward and asked me if I was plannning on wearing them during competition. I told them yes, and they said they didn’t understand what I was trying to hide.  I simply replied: I’m not hiding anything, I’m accentuating what I have.

“They, of course, thought I was completely insane! Ha ha.

“A couple of the ladies told me they didn’t even realize I was wearing pantyhose because they looked so natural and perfect for my skintone.”

Chanthy, wearing Act III Suntan, looks stunning during the swimsuit competition of the Mrs. Idaho-America beauty pageant.
Chanthy, wearing Act III Suntan, looks stunning during the swimsuit competition of the Mrs. Idaho-America beauty pageant.

Chanthy made a point I’ve been trying to get women to understand forever: Wearing pantyhose isn’t an issue of “have to.”  Rather, it’s a case of “want to.”  Pantyhose are designed to enhance the natural beauty of a woman’s legs.

Funny that men all across the world understand this, while so many women don’t.  Men say that pantyhose are like makeup for the legs.  Do women have to wear makeup?  No.  But does makeup enhance their natural beauty?  Uh, that would be a big yes.

I might never understand why so many women try so hard to villify something as soft, delicate and decidedly feminine as pantyhose.  It’s much easier for me to just appreciate and honor the special women who truly “get it,” and go the extra mile to complete their look; to enhance their natural beauty.

Thank you, Chanthy, for sharing your experience and some pictures of you in ActSensuous.

Note: Photos by J. Wolfe Productions, Boise, ID

Also, I want to thank Dr. Ray, MJ Gruskin and Brian W. for their comments and emails, which led to my writing this post.

A Grizzly goes to London


Robin Maryland, president, ActSensuous

Readers of this blog have come to know and appreciate my column, Credit ‘wear’ Credit is Due, in which I heap loads of praise on some worthy celebrities for their devotion to wearing pantyhose.

And we’ve had some great ones, haven’t we?  Ann Curry, Fran Drescher, The T-Mobile Girl (Carly Foulkes), Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Middleton, and Carrie Ann Inaba (for doing a complete 180 and finally wearing pantyhose on every episode of the game show “1 vs. 100,” which she hosted recently.)

Minus that headline, I’ve also glorified some other devoted pantyhose wearers, such as Anne Hathaway, Julianna Margulies, Milla Jovovich, Meredith Vieira, Katy Perry, Parker Posey, Linda Fiorentino, Kim Basinger, Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock.  And there are many, many more who deserve such recognition.

Then, a couple of months ago, I introduced a whole different column.  This one shines the spotlight on those celebs who completely miss the boat, just don’t get it, lack the finest sense of true femininity, and always miss opportunites to show some real professionalism, elegance or class.

So, for only the second time, I am handing out the coveted (NOT) ActSensuous Grizzly Award.

And this time, the hardware goes to one Stacy London.

Fashion consultant Stacy London always wears beautiful dresses and high heels, but unfortunately, she's a devoted and vocal follower of the "bear" legs culture.

That’s right, the co-host of  TV’s “What Not to Wear,” a reality makeover show, in which London and her wonder boy sidekick, Clinton Kelly, use their superior brains and good taste (yes, I’m being sarcastic here) to completely trash the wardrobe of their guests and reinvent them in their own fashionwise images.

And, as many normal people have written in comments to online postings by or about these two “fashion experts,” they often do it in a completely arrogant and insulting manner.

A perfect "Beauty and the Beast" scenario as the professional and classy Meredith Vieira, left, who always wears pantyhose, interviews fashion expert Stacy London, who never wears pantyhose. Does London not see how much better Vieira's legs look than hers?

As readers of this blog know, I despise so-called “fashion experts” who make universal rules and tell everyone what they can and cannot wear, as if their likes or dislikes about fashion trends are somehow more appropriate and obviously more sound than what anyone else on the planet thinks.  It’s “fashion experts” like these two who’ve come up with the “rule” that one can never wear pantyhose with open-toe high heel dress shoes a rule that, incidentally, is almost never followed by anyone with half a brain, and one that is standing up less and less to scrutiny everywhere.

So Stacy London, possibly the queen of all “fashion experts,” gets the second Grizzly Award (after Sarah Jessica Parker for obvious reasons)?  But it’s not just because she’s a “fashion expert.”  Rather, it’s because she’s on record as stating that she likes bare legs for all seasons.  That, and she’s using her credentials and influence to further her own agenda — a personal dislike and distaste for pantyhose as a fashion accessory.

Here’s are a couple of excerpts from a 2008 segment of TODAY.com where London is a style contributor, answering readers’ questions about fashion:

Q: I was watching “What Not to Wear” when you appeared horrified by the idea of wearing hose. I know it’s not really the style now to wear nylons, but I have terrible spider veins on my white legs. What do I do now that skirts are knee-length and those veins are so obvious? Any advice?

A: First of all, the only hose I really hate are the semi-sheer ones in suntan or black. They look dated and remind me of a time when women would walk to work in their suits, those hose, white sweat socks and white leather aerobic sneakers. Blech. Might as well throw in a whole can of hairspray, too. Too ’80s!  Stay away from anything that has a mid-range denier number that indicates the sheerness of the hose (10 is very sheer, 30 is semi-sheer and 50 is opaque).

I recommend a good self-tanner for the pale-leg situation, but also realize that won’t help with spider veins. Look for opaque tights and try them in a subtle color, like a burgundy or deep purple, when wearing a neutral-color knee-length skirt or suit. They will hide your legs and add a visual punch to your outfits!

Q: You indicated that pantyhose were no longer proper attire. You stated that in summer, go with bare legs and in winter, wear tights.  I enjoy wearing pantyhose and want to know if I am old-fashioned if I wear them?

A:  I did not mean to indicate in my last segment that pantyhose are no longer appropriate attire. My feeling is that those that are considered day sheer or mid-denier don’t look modern, but a bit dated.  The denier number on hose shows you how sheer the stocking will be. The lower the number, the more sheer they are.

For example, a denier of 10 will be supersheer. These are great for evening, especially with a little shine or a back seam, as they look natural and simply enhance the legs for evening. A denier of 30, is what I have most trouble with; it’s neither here nor there. It’s not sheer. It’s not opaque. You know? It’s like a relationship: Either you’re in or you’re out. This wishy-washy sheerness dates an outfit to the ’70s or ’80s, when this style was most popular. But when you get to a denier of 50 or above, and the stocking is clearly opaque, I think this becomes a more modern and relevant look. A shiny tight like this can be used for day or evening.

OK, first, the country’s leading fashion expert comes out and blatantly tells women to go with bare legs in the summer?  She also tells women to use self-tanner for pale legs?  Seriously?  Second, she recommends opague tights in a subtle color, “like burgundy or deep purple?”  (Those colors are subtle?)

Stacy London actually wore this outfit during the Keep A Child Alive's 5th annual Black Ball Nov. 13, 2008 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, NY.

Hey, look, I respect others’ opinions, and the fact that London is considered a fashion expert, if that’s her best advice about leg coverings, then too bad for her and anyone who listens to her.  While I completely disagree with London about everything she says about pantyhose, I’ve got no problem with her actually saying it.  She’s entitled to say what she wants.  Where I have a problem with her is on her point about denier ratings.

She specifically says that it’s pantyhose with a denier rating of 30 that she finds objectionable.  She even cautions “If they come in an egg, you don’t want to wear them,” referring to the L’Eggs brand (owned by Hanes) of the 1970s and 80s.   But she’s wrong.  L’Eggs and their competitors (the most widely-known one being No Nonsense) made their pantyhose in a 20 denier rating.

As she said, denier rating determines how sheer the nylon fabric is.  The lower the number, the more sheer the pantyhose.  When I created ActSensuous in 2001, I looked into the 10 denier rating she referred to, and yes, they are super sheer, but the fabric is coarse and not very natural looking.  They are not soft or silky at all, and while there may be a market for them, it’s not a very big one.  You almost never see anyone wearing pantyhose like these.  And, yes, denier ratings as high as 50 are available, but they are tights that are thick and, in my view, not suitable in some venues, such as a formal dinner engagement, nor for proper business attire.

No, my problem with London’s remarks are about the pantyhose of the 1970s and 80s being so awful.  I loved pantyhose in the 70s and 80s, and I’ve never known of a 30 denier rating.   But what do I know?  The pantyhose of those decades were made almost entirely of 100 percent nylon fabric in a 20 denier, which is exactly why I made ActSensuous in a 20 denier.  I think those are precisely the kind of pantyhose that true pantyhose lovers love.  Those are the style, the look and the feel that we all miss.  Maybe London meant to say a 20 denier rating is what is so awful.

By the way, ActSensuous has hundreds and hundreds of customers from all over the world, literally from Atlanta to Bangkok, from California to Denmark, from New York to New Zealand.  We’re big in England, France and Australia.  We have customers from China, Korea and Japan.  I don’t think there is a country in which we don’t have customers.  And they all tell us ActSensuous are the softest, sheerest and sexiest pantyhose they’ve worn.  But, really, what do we all know?  We’re not “fashion experts” like Stacy London and Boy Wonder.

In doing the research for this post, I ran across this forum on the Internet:

http://askville.amazon.com/honest-opinion-Stacy-London-Clinton-Kelly-Wear-show/DiscussionBoard.do?requestId=8011723&page=1

To the question:  “What’s your honest opinion of Stacy London and Clinton Kelly of What Not to Wear?  Do you like this Show …?,  most answers were negative, but even some of the supportive ones came out against their obvious negative slant against pantyhose.

I particularly love this response:

LindsaySheers said:

… Why is (Clinton Kelly) telling me what all men find sexually alluring on women?

A lot of gay men know a lot about fashion, but to get such advice on that subject, I would like a 2nd & 3rd & straight opinion.

… These two complete followers of Brittany and Sarah Jessica Parker have agreed that they do not like pantyhose, (fine), however, they dictate to their audience and columns that, “No one likes them.” “Everyone looks bad in them.” Etc…

I think my legs are my best feature and every boyfriend I have ever had have all confessed to me, after that shyness period passed, that they were all ‘ga ga’ for me (girls in general) when wearing sheer silky pantyhose (hence my nickname, given to me by my current boyfriend sitting kind of to the side here & still a little shy) and tights, but mostly the sheer nude/tan/beige hues.

Lastly, the show was/is not only incorrect on so many levels, but caters to and from their mindset only. Falling into this show would have you most likely ending up as a follower. Be a trendsetter, not a follower. Be stylish. Be sexy. Be yourself. Not what they insist on.

Let me tell you something: this LindsaySheers gets it.  Good for her.

If ever a case could be made for wearing pantyhose, click on the image to see the expanded version. Stacy London looks very lovely in this photo, but wait until you get to see a closeup of those legs.

You know, I want to like Stacy London.

She’s a beautiful and charismatic woman, she’s very intelligent, and she has accomplished great things in her life.

Before co-hosting “What Not to Wear,” she started her career as an editor at Vogue magazine, then, became a stylist for celebrities and designers, then, a fashion contributor on many Today show formats.

She is or has been a spokeswoman for several brands, including Revlon, Pantene, Woolite and Dr. Scholl’s® For Her Comfort Insoles.

Along with Kelly, she’s written a book, “Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That’s Right for Your Body.” 

I actually felt a little bad when I named Sarah Jessica Parker the first recipient of the ActSensuous Grizzly Awards because, when researching her for the piece, I actually found several pictures of her wearing pantyhose.   That’s right, the one celeb universally “credited” with creating the bare legs culture with her “Sex and the City” TV series and movies, actually wears pantyhose fairly regularly.   It was more symbolic that SJP had to get the first Grizzly Award.

But I don’t have any reluctance about bestowing upon Stacy London the second Grizzly Award.  I can’t find a single photo of her wearing pantyhose.  Granted, some of the pics of her on the Internet are of low resolution and too small a file to really be able to tell if she’s wearing or not.  But based on everything London says and stands for, I am pretty sure she is not wearing pantyhose in any of the pics on the Internet.  Certainly, she comes across as if she hates pantyhose, thinks they are old-fashioned and irrelevant today.

The dynamic duo, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London of TV's "What Not to Wear."

I liked “What Not to Wear” when it debuted in 2002.

I watched quite a few episodes and I remember longing to see London wearing pantyhose with those beautiful dresses and high heels she always wore.  But it never happened.

I thought that was such a missed opportunity on her part — a chance for her to show professionalism, class and elegance in the role she held.  But, to her, it wasn’t a missed opportunity at all.

This lady just doesn’t believe in pantyhose … period.

Like LindsaySheers, I too was upset and offended when I saw a video of London and Boy Wonder “explaining how to wear pantyhose,” especially when they admitted the video was made only because they were getting so many inquiries from consumers about why they never talked about pantyhose.   Then, when they said that nobody looks good in suntan pantyhose and no one should ever wear them, I realized that there is probably no one more deserving of the second ActSensuous Grizzly Award than Stacy London.

Here’s that video:

http://tlc.discovery.com/videos/what-not-to-wear-how-to-wear-pantyhose.html

So, what do you think?   Could there be a more worthy recipient of the ActSensuous Grizzly Awards than Stacy London?