Category Archives: Aging

Why I still wear pantyhose (oh, the horror!)

If there is one fashion rule that has me utterly perplexed it is the current opinion of popular stylists that wearing pantyhose is a big no-no. 

Uh, oh. 

I recently gave advice on wearing pantyhose to a friend of mine that obviously dates me. Big time. 

Sue, who lives in Las Vegas and is my age, emailed me the other day with this Fashion Question: 

“I have an evening wedding to go to in Massachusetts in October. Question is: what do you wear on your legs? I haven’t worn “stockings” in years, tights seem too heavy, boots don’t seem dressy enough?” 

Here was my answer:

 “I’d wear stockings, unless of course the shoes are open toe. But then again, I probably wouldn’t wear an open toe in October because then I wouldn’t know what to do about the stockings.  Jobst ultrasheer 20-30 pantyhose

“The only time I WOULDN’T wear stockings to a formal occasion is if it were a warm weather affair or if I was wearing a floor length dress with open toes. Now, having said that, you will most likely see young girls wearing dresses with open toes and NO stockings. It could be the dead of winter and I’ve seen girls go bare legged. 

“So, clearly the rules have changed dramatically on the stockings thing and if you chose not to wear stockings it would be perfectly acceptable, of course. Still, I prefer to wear stockings in the cooler months for more sensible reasons: 1. I don’t like the way my legs look without them when I’m wearing a cocktail dress and 2. because it’s probably not warm enough to go outside without something on my legs. 

“When I do wear stockings, they are most often nude. I rarely do shades anymore, not even black with a black cocktail dress. So something that looks bare, but you still have something on your legs to get a smoother look is what I’d recommend.” 

But after giving Sue what I thought was sound advice about this pantyhose conundrum, I happened upon a couple of fashion how-to books that mentioned several times that wearing pantyhose is dreadfully out of date. Wearing them makes you look “like an old lady.” Bare legs give us “over 40” that “young and hip” look. Oh, really? 

Obviously, they’ve never seen my bare legs. 

Fashion guru (and a designer for a line of Target brand fashions) Isaac Mizrahi in his book “How to Find Your Style” says he is adamant about NO PANTYHOSE (especially nude) EVER! While admittedly my confidence in giving sound pantyhose advice started to wan, I thought, OK, one man’s opinion. 

But then I read “How Not to Look Old” by Charla Krupp. Here’s what she says about wearing pantyhose: 

“My biggest legwear challenge is what to do when it’s freezing out and I’m all dressed up. I do try to go bare legged for evening whenever possible, but when heading out the door in subfreezing temperatures, bare legs simply won’t work. And since the only thing worse than wearing the wrong stockings is revealing frozen, goose-bumpy legs, it’s important to find a chic solution.   If you’re wearing a light-colored dress, try nude fishnet stocking (instead of nude sheer stockings). With a black dress, you can get away with very sheer black stocking or black fishnets. And if you dare, at least when wearing a short skirt or dress for evening, consider Isaac Mizrahi’s option: opaque black tights with peep-to pumps.” 

So, I’m thinking this woman is as confused about formal leg wear in the winter as anybody. But NO NUDE and wear FISHNETS OR TIGHTS?? They’re kidding, right? I get that hair that doesn’t move and “mom jeans” and ill-fitting bras make you look old. But nude pantyhose? I’m stumped. 

Although I’m sure this says VOLUMES about how shallow I am, the idea of pantyhose dating me without understanding why was driving me insane. And so my OCD kicked in. I went into my drawer and pulled out a pair of nude stockings and a pair of black tights. (Sorry, I don’t own, will NEVER own, a pair of fishnets) and tried them on with a couple of cocktail dresses. One dress was solid black, the other a black print, and one a light bronze with colored embroidery. First, the nude. The only way you could tell if I had on nude stockings was 1. by looking really close, and 2. that my legs looked smoother. Second, the black tights. 1. I looked like an Italian widow, and 2. my ankles looked thick with the pretty, sexy, pumps.   

Isaac and Charla you are nuts. Further, you’re not taking into consideration what standing on a pair of legs for 40 or 50 years and having babies does to our legs. And this other idea of leg spray? I don’t think so. For the life of me, I cannot see the problem with nude stockings in the colder months. Especially, since most of us are whiter than white in the fall and winter. If I went bare legged to a formal affair, I would look dreadful. So, I’ve decided that this is fashion advice I will not pay attention to. 

But it STILL begs the question: Why do nude pantyhose make you look “old?” If someone out there has a compelling argument, please let me know.  None of us wants Sue to show up at this wedding looking fashionably old, least of all Sue. 

So, in the meantime, I’ve altered my advice a bit. If you’re over 40 and you’ve got GREAT legs, go for it. Go bare legged. But if not, for goodness sake wear pantyhose.

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My Mother’s Shoes

 

My mother was raised in a fashion era when handbags matched shoes and shoes matched outfits and outfits were haute couture.  The third eldest of eight children, my mother grew up poor in a house where food, not fashion, was the priority. She was not considered beautiful then. She was too tall, too big, too strong.

In the short time my mother was on her own before marrying my father, her fashion sense bust loose and her love of shoes emerged.

My mother at a wedding in April. She still has fabulous taste in shoes.

My mother at a wedding in April. She still has fabulous taste in shoes.

One minute there was an overweight gawky child with second hand clothes. The next, there was a stunningly beautiful woman with a made-to-fit outfit and dynamite shoes. I look back on photos of her then and she was the perfect mix of elegance, class and sex appeal.

 

The irony, of course, is that my mother never considered herself sexy. She was a wife and a mother and had a full-time job.   

But, oh, her shoes, they transformed her.

My mother had a ritual when dressing up to go out for a special occasion. I would bask in each step of the process: The bath. The powder under the breasts. The Tigress fragrance. The good bra and girdle, the good stockings, the fitted dress, the pearls. The red lipstick.

The shoes.

Black patent leather stiletto pumps with heels so sharp and lethal she should have had a license to wear them. They screamed sexy.

I would lie on her bed and watch as she pulled the shoebox off the shelf and fold aside the tissue paper to reveal its secret.  When she slipped on those shoes, it was the climax, the finale. My admiration and envy were the standing ovation.

On Saturday, my mother turns 80, which got me thinking about her when she was young and I was little and played with her shoes. She suffers from arthritis and has difficulty walking, now. She hasn’t put on a pair of stiletto pumps in 20, maybe 30 years. Still, she never fails to admire a well-designed, well made pump. I watch her as she walks by the shoes in the department store.  She’ll pick up a shoe, comment on the color or the quality of the leather and might say, “Now, I like that kind of heel.” Now, her shoes have soft, flat soles and are, for the most part, utilitarian. But every once in a while she’ll squeeze her swollen feet into a pair of classic black pumps with a more modest heel, but still, I sense a little bit of sexiness about to burst out. And I wonder if she longs for the days when shoes matched outfits and outfits were haute couture. I know I do.

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