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The GGW Weekly Scoop

Fishnet Hosiery: A Brief History

Fishnet Hosiery: A Brief History


Marilyn Monroe in seamed fishnet pantyhose 

Its no secret we here at GGW have an affinity for fishnet hosiery, well more so me, Velvet. The netted accessory that accentuates killer curves, and or the toned muscles of one’s body. The much needed accessory with the fine crisscross woven pattern that stretches with seamless ease over long legs, or the fuller figured thigh. Fishnets, have long held the captive attention of admirers alike, the world over.

Fishnets have long held the captive attention of admirers alike.

However, this much sought after accoutrément has a history that is just as equally elusive.

This Tailored Life researches that;

“The earliest mention of “fishnet clothing” actually goes back to one of Aesop’s Fables in the early 1900s, “The Peasant’s Wise Daughter”. In the story the king tells a peasant’s daughter that if she can solve his riddle, he will marry her. He challenges her to "Come to me not clothed, not naked, not riding..." and she solves the riddle by wrapping herself in a fisherman’s net. This idea has been a major factory in the appeal of fishnets. Philosopher Roland Barthes writes in his 1973 essay, The Pleasure of the Text, about the eroticism of the interplay of seen and unseen that fishnets embody. Not to mention the grid afforded by netted clothing like fishnets does a good job at emphasizing curves and musculature on one’s body.”

Origins dating back to the early 1900’s, are hotly contested. Fashion historian Valerie Steele writes in her essay “Holes in the Soul” for CR Fashion Book,

The term ‘fishnet,’ meaning a loosely woven fabric

“The term ‘fishnet,’ meaning a loosely woven fabric, was in use by the early 1880s, but The Oxford English Dictionary dates the use of ‘fishnet stockings’ to 1933.”

Whether it was the Moulin Rouge showgirls, or European “ladies of the night” its still not clear who and when fishnets were actually first adorned for public consumption. In images from that early time period, the photos display black stockings or the vertical stripes used to catch the eye, but no fishnets. It was assumed they were worn under long skirts for warmth in colder temperatures, as the netted weave, is widely known as a great form of warmth retention.

As hemlines retreated, revealing the once forbidden fruit, the leg, so to did the rise in popularity of the fishnet. Depending on the density of the knit, and under certain lighting, the leg appeared to be clad in solid a solid black stocking. However up close and under bright lights, the clear diamond pattern, and flesh, shone through to great intrigue.

Offering a great range of motion, they quickly became popular with showgirls and the flappers of the 20’s. A garment that offered the freedom to dance and perform, and, for attracting a certain of type of client, that still associated them with “loose” women.

They weren’t the end all, be all, as fishnets still needed to be attached to a garter belt. A design “flaw” that most opted to go without, preferring to let them bunch up around the ankles as they shimmied the night away. You see, Lycra had not yet been invented for use in hosiery (not until 1958), let alone in a “stay-up” band to keep it up on the thigh. This however, didn’t stop fishnets becoming the desired fashion accessory, popularized by the then, burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee during her performances.

The sexy stockings were firmly establishing their place in mainstream fashion. In the 1950s, centrefolds like Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe, emphasizing their curves and femininity. Also gaining approval in print and pin-up with the girls and admirers of the era.

Punks of the 70’s began ripping more holes

With the advent of the pantyhose in 1959 and the rise of the mini skirt in the 60’s the fashion conscious took to playing with the amount of leg shown with tighter knits and a multitude of colours. Punks of the 70’s began ripping more holes, and the 80’s dawned the age of the super model who strutted down runways for fashion houses the world over. Fishnets were now fashionable, still somewhat provocative, but none the less mainstream.

As fashion ebbs and flows, so to did the popularity of the fishnet. In the 2000’s the “one trick pony” has seen a multitude of variation in how they are worn and still to this day. Worn as tops, under pants, jeans, and socks, even as a peek-a-boo style through ripped jeans or high cut tops.

Personally, I’ve always loved a good fishnet! I love the sensuality, the design and how they always command attention. The versatility in a pantyhose, stay-up, or stocking. I love how with my legs, they are able to stretch to fully cover these gams, something I’ve always found frustrating with the opaque solids of conventional hosiery.

I do my research, and continue to do so, just have a look here. We know that not all fits as it should, but the fishnet has always stood the test of time for me, and for those I know in similar situations. They stretch up the leg, they stretch around the leg, as good fishnets always do!

They are sensual, they are strong, varied in pattern and design, size and shape. They are classic, and timeless.  Shop us now and get yourself some new fishnets!