This week, I am featuring one of my favorite hosiery items. As someone who loves wearing skirts and dresses, I spend a lot of time wearing tights, leggings and knee high socks, especially during the winter. My favorite, however, are my fishnet tights. As a young 20-year-old heading off into the professional business world after college, I have tried to use my remaining time at Middlebury as an opportunity to wear typically unorthodox clothing.While fishnets definitely do not keep me warm in the Vermont winters, I enjoy the sense of edge and empowerment I feel when I wear them. My time at Middlebury has been full of controversial events and personal growth. I have had journeys exploring my sense of self, my womanhood and my Blackness in the context of this institution. I am leaving this campus more empowered and strong. So wearing fishnet tights has felt like one small way to wear my rebellion. It’s been a subtle but bold means of self expression.
This past semester, there have been many events focused on body empowerment and celebration. I attended Behind the Vagina Monologues, Evolution and the BrASS Burlesque Show and each left me feeling reaffirmed within my body. Fishnets are typically associated with hypersexuality, promiscuity and deviance. I wanted to explore how nylons have managed to take on such a heavy connotation.
The origins of hosiery date back centuries. The earliest known pair were found in the tomb of a noble Egyptian women over two thousand years ago who more than likely used them for warmth. A stark contrast to when fishnets became a popular choice for women during the Victorian era as a display of nobility. They have been used for style but also warmth as they’ve been made from animal skin, hair, silk and nylon. And, as technology has evolved, so have hosiery. Knitting, looming and modern day manufacturing have lead to what we know and love today. Fishnets, in particular, have been a stylistic choice for many for the past several decades. Movie stars, celebrities and sex workers have all donned the nylon versions of the past. Fishnets are thought to have been popularized by Parisian performers in the early 1900s before coming to the U.S. and becoming a part of flapper and pin-up culture starting in the 1920s.
I think it is because of these more modern uses specifically that the hosiery has been sexualized and symbolic of rebellious femininity. So, throughout their journey, from flappers to punk rockers to urban streets to me in Middlebury, VT, the trend has persisted and stylistically evolved. When I put on my fishnet tights to go to class, I am reminded of their long history and every type of person who wore them in the past, for whatever occasion.