Upon the request of a TiH-minded friend and reader of my ramblings here, I’m writing again on feminine dress. More specifically, about the role that hosiery plays in feminine dress. He actually made this request some time ago and I, constantly suffering from laziness, am just getting around to it ;)
A short glossary before I start, as this is an area where American and British dialects differ quite a bit ;) Since I am on British soil and since the Brits did invent the language, I’m going to speak of this topic using British terms, not American terms. Please use the following glossary, which is in the form British = American :)
Tights = Pantyhose
Hold-Ups = “stockings” that have elastic tops and do not require a belt to hold them up
Stockings = “stockings” that must be held in place with suspenders, connected to a belt
Suspender belt = garter belt
Whew. It does make one wonder why this particular topic is one so fraught with dialect differences ;)
Now that we have that cleared up, moving right along...until starting on the path down Taken in Hand, I had never even remotely considered that hold-ups might be a part of anyone’s everyday wardrobe. I did see them as slightly old-fashioned, but more so, I saw them as rather slutty, provocative, uncomfortable and at the very least, a hassle to find. My only personal experiences with them up to that point had been in my earlier BDSM days, as part of less-than-elegant costumes. I’m ashamed to admit that I saw the lacy tops of these garments as something that added to the slutty overall look when coupled with a short skirt. In other words, when seated, it seemed to me that you were supposed to let the hold-up tops show. Since they were difficult to find and were expensive, it seemed that the only logical purpose they served was as a novelty.
In addition to feeling that hold-ups were slutty, I also just found them quite impractical and uncomfortable! In some ways, I find the term “hold-up” to be ironic, as they usually feel as though they’re slipping down…I’ve only ever had it actually happen once or twice, but it’s an icky feeling to sit through all day. Also, if the tops aren’t meant to show (which, of course, they’re not!), then it quite limits the shortness a lady can get away with in skirts. It is also makes the concept of bending at the knees, not the hips, when trying to touch the floor, very important.
So overall, back in those days, I just didn’t bother with them as an everyday garment, nor did it ever occur to me that I should. Even when I did finally start down the path of traditionalism and developed a strong leaning toward anything old-fashioned and uber-feminine, I still didn’t consider that hosiery mattered. I think I might have easily agreed – if asked – that the underwear-style tops of tights weren’t all that elegant or flattering, but since I viewed hold-ups as problematic in their own rite, I still would have said that tights were the lesser of two evils.
I suppose, back then, I saw hosiery as a usually necessary, but unfeminine, aspect of an outfit...regardless of whether the hosiery in question was tights or hold-ups.
Coincidentally, my first two serious Taken in Hand communications were with men who lived in Britain. One, of course, was the British man I eventually pursued a relationship with. From our very first conversation, I knew that he was extremely traditional in every aspect and so I recall being a bit aghast and thrown for a loop at his comment that, were we to pursue a relationship, I would be expected to wear hold-ups, exclusively. In an instant, this man – in my mind – went from being the quintessential English gentleman to just another guy who wanted me to wear some costume, a man focused on what I saw as the theatrics of the BDSM world. I was lucky that he had lived in America for several years before we met, and so knew how to interpret and re-explain most cultural differences. He even called them “stockings” back then, translating into American for ignorant and innocent little me :) But even with the translation, I was still unnerved by what seemed like a peculiar fixation on his part.
The other gentleman I’d been communicating with was an American who was studying in London at the time we spoke (and met once). I have long since lost touch with him and it never occurred to me to ask him at the time, but I’m curious as to whether his thoughts were developed entirely from his own wishes or if he had been influenced by the British culture he was surrounded by. But regardless, he also felt that tights were frumpy and utilitarian and that hold-ups were the only acceptable form of hosiery.
So, I saw a pattern forming; it seemed that the men who shared the same extremely traditional values that I did also saw things like hold-ups as vital to a properly feminine wardrobe. As much as I wanted to hold onto my previous attitudes toward hold-ups, I had to admit that I was losing ground.
So, eventually, these two men convinced me (somewhat) that hold-ups merely signified a feminine elegance that modern society had made unnecessary, that they were not a novelty and that tights just seemed horribly utilitarian and unfeminine to both of them. Interestingly though, the cultural differences around acceptance of them never came up. I reluctantly wore hold-ups to meet the American gentleman, when he visited me, not because he would see them, but because I wanted to know – for myself – that I was portraying the feminine ideal that he had. I wanted to feel feminine in his presence and tights would have detracted from that feeling, given his attitude toward them. I recall the embarrassment I felt in purchasing the hold-ups, still undecided as to how I myself felt about what they signified.
But, even after that, I recall packing for my first trip across the pond – my first time meeting face to face with the British gentleman – and, as I folded the many pairs of hold-ups I was taking with me into my suitcase - feeling like I was packing for a theatre tour and not a romantic weekend. But at the same time, these garments had been specifically discussed and required by him, so into the suitcase they went...because I wanted to feel that I fit his feminine ideal. Lol, and with each fold, I thought to myself "I am going to be fidgeting to keep these up all weekend! And god help me if the tops show!"
Moot point though, with the progression of our relationship, I soon had several pairs of hold-ups in my wardrobe and my pairs of tights eventually disappeared completely. Though I still often felt awkward wearing them, I wanted to please him (and, of course, wanted to avoid discipline for failing to obey!), so I wore hold-ups...and as that awkwardness faded, I began to wear them even when we were apart.
Without my even really realising it, I began to see them as a vital part of creating femininity in my wardrobe. No one could see them, of course, but I knew they were there and they made me feel more feminine – even if they did feel annoying!
I even special ordered several pairs of (delicate looking) wool stockings, complete with the suspender belts they would require, for my last trip to visit the British gentleman. It was too cold for nylon material, really, but by then, I knew I had to wear hold-ups in his presence, so I searched the web for the solution I finally found…but I have to say, I’m not sure I’m quite dedicated enough yet for the hassle that are suspender belts! :) Those stockings are quite warm and they look lovely, but I’ve hardly worn them since that trip.
Fast forward to a year later and our relationship had come and gone...and I realised that even though I suddenly could wear them if I wanted to, the idea of wearing tights was reprehensible to me. My mentality had changed such that tights were, in my mind, what old ladies wore, whereas hold-ups were what elegant women (such as I ever-so-modestly viewed myself!) wore. I’d learned through his discipline that the tops were absolutely not supposed to show…and though it required a special trip to an upscale department store I would otherwise not need to visit, I began to keep enough of a stock of them that I never needed to resort to tights, just because they were easier to find. And with each trip to that department store, I became more confident in my purchases and began to be proud, rather than embarrassed, to walk up to the till with them.
Throughout that relationship, I’d learned – and had come to love – that hold-ups did indeed feel more feminine, that the lacy tops were meant to be seen only by my man and that they made me elegant and sexy in his mind. I learned the hard way that these lacy tops were absolutely not meant to be seen by the general public! But most of all, I learned that though I still preferred bare legs overall, hold-ups had become the lesser of two evils to me, not tights.
Having been exposed to British culture for more than two years at this point, I now know that my own mentality back then was partly cultural – hold-ups are far more common here than they are in America. They are readily available at every drug store I have come across and more often than not, there are more choices of hold-ups on the shelf than there are of tights. Additionally, hold-ups are no more expensive than tights...in essence, here in Britain, they really are just another choice for mainstream women.
I mentioned, in my first entry on feminine dress, that I now view a man who does not expect me to wear dresses as unappealing. Well, in addition, until recently, I viewed a man who did not insist on hold-ups over tights as unappealing. My mentality had completely shifted, 180 degrees.
But then I began to communicate with a fine Scotsman – the aforementioned motivator for this entry – who suddenly threw me for a loop. We’d chatted enough that I was amazed at how similar our views were, at how traditional he was. And then he killed the feeling – he said tights were acceptable!!! Ugh. Lol. This was after I’d been living in Britain for about two months and had discovered – with glee – how much more prevalent and acceptable hold-ups are here. So I was additionally shocked that he viewed tights as so acceptable. We went back and forth over the topic for weeks, with my argument being that tights were horribly unfeminine. I was saddened that he didn’t see things quite as traditionally as I’d previously thought.
But eventually, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt...and hanging my head in unfeminine shame at the till, I purchased my first pair of tights in nearly two years. He and I are just friends, but I trusted his opinion nonetheless.
But suddenly, I remembered how much more comfortable tights were...and I nearly immediately sank into heavenly laziness and wore tights exclusively. I’d forgotten the added benefit of control tops and with my undisciplined food intake of late, I needed a little bit of it! And with what I felt was this Scotsman’s approval, someone I had come to trust and respect, I felt "allowed" to wear tights all the time. "Who cares about hold-ups?" I thought. At first, he commented on how he enjoyed that he’d been able to sway my thinking, how he appreciated that I could now see the femininity of tights. I’d come full circle, I thought. I began with the mentality that hosiery – by definition – is not feminine, to viewing all types as feminine.
Well, those hold-ups were still sitting in a pile in my closet, becoming increasingly buried in their neglect...and one day, my Scot friend enquired as to why I had stopped wearing them completely...that though tights were acceptable, he did see hold-ups as more feminine and plus, he goaded me, I was using tights as an excuse to let my figure go. He clarified that in our earlier discussions, he wasn’t disagreeing with me that hold-ups signify the ultimate in femininity and tradition, just that tights are not the anti-christ :) That he missed how I used to wear hold-ups. He couldn’t see what I was wearing either way, of course, it was just the knowledge of it that was endearing to him. Much in the same way, I suppose, that hold-ups made me feel better, even if I was the only one who knew they were there.
But suddenly, I found myself loathed to pull out those dusty hold-ups. They’d be uncomfortable, etc. But the other day, I did in fact pull them out, after much prodding from the Scotsman and a bit of introspection about the feeling they used to give me, which I missed. In part it was due to all of my tights being dirty and also, that I’ve flattened my tummy again, no longer requiring the control tops :)
But more so, it was because I found that I did miss that extra femininity...I missed the feeling, hidden under my clothes, that I was being as traditional and old-fashioned as I could. I wore them again yesterday...and when I set off for my day, I find myself a bit more confident that under my dress, heading off to the masculine corporate world I’m stuck in for now, I am as feminine as it gets. And in the bigger picture, I’ve realised – given how my attitudes swayed back and forth on this issue – that though I do have strong opinions, though I do have my own ideas on what defines tradition, I can and will change my attitudes to follow a man’s lead, if I deem him trustworthy.
For now, two plus years into a traditional mindset…I will wear hold-ups whenever feasible and possible, but if it’s cold or if I’ll be doing something so active that hold-ups would be impractical, I’ll wear tights. Either way, I like to think that my very awareness of hosiery’s role in feminine dress adds at least a little to my mindset :)