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Whalebone Corsets to Black Nylon Stockings

Jan Smith

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As a child I remember my Grandmother's visits as being a time to leave the house before she was out of bed. If I stayed around, I would be called upon to “lace her up" into her whalebone corset.

I hated this process because it always seemed horribly cruel and I loved my Nana very much. Wrapping her into a tight package on a hot day seemed so unnecessarily cruel. I could never understand why she would ask me to do this to her because we lived way out in the Australian bush and we rarely saw anyone.

There was only the 5 of us and 6 if she counted herself. Still, she held onto the door frame and said “tighter, tighter. . . " and then when I often thought she would die of suffocation she would say “that's tight enough. . . now just tie a nice bow in the back so I can get it undone again tonight please dear. . . "

And sure enough, there was always enough ‘shoe-lace’ rope left dangling no matter how beautifully I tied the bow, for her to unleash herself each night in the privacy of her own room. I asked her time and again, why she wore that horrible corset and she always answered “because Ladies always look after themselves sweetie and always want to look nice".

Perhaps that was when I made a very unconscious decision that I would never, ever do that to myself no matter what. And I haven't. But someone wiser than me invented the garter belt for my era.

Now garter (also known as suspender belts) had a mind of their own too and were never comfortable to wear.

They either twisted around so that your back clip was halfway round your leg trying to get to the front or it stuck into you whenever you sat down. This used to make me wriggle uncomfortably in my classroom seat enough to make a teacher tell me to “stop squirming" and to “sit still, for goodness sake Jan. . . you're like a cat on a hot tin roof!"

How right she was. That back clip was situated right where I sat down and it stuck into my rear end. If I had been a horse I often thought I would have been made more comfortable but instead I was practicing to become a young lady.

Now the garter belt was bad enough on it's own but when it combined with those wretched thick brown stockings designed for young school girls, the agony intensified.

Those brown stockings so constantly loved by Girl's School headmistresses, were designed by men as an instrument of torture. They twisted around young girls legs like manacles. And they were held firmly twisted by the garter jailer.

But time moves on and I eventually left school and went into the workforce where we wore proper nylon stockings everyday. These stockings used to ladder as soon as you brushed against anything that they could grab onto. These ladders seemed to always develop in one of the more conspicuous places too so that you absolutely, positively had to buy a new pair. If you ever got to wash a pair twice you were doing remarkably well and I would have to ask “How the heck did you manage to do that?"

But time moved on again and some male engineers became more interested in the actual physical challenge of the stocking as well as actually helping women overcome their stocking discomfort.

The next advance from the garter belt was the self-adhesive kind of nylon stocking.

These stockings had a row of five elasticized glue rings around the top that were designed to stick to a woman's thigh to hold the stockings up. They worked to a degree but many women were unable to wear them because the glue/tightness/thigh strangling/blood flow inhibiter qualities in the design nearly caused many women to have leg amputations.

I vividly remember the welts these stockings caused me. It still makes me cringe remembering the itch and especially one that I wasn't able to scratch in public.

These elasticized torture tools quickly gave way to the arrival of the Pantyhose. Arh, the blessed relief at last! The first time I wore a pair of pantyhose I knew that they were here to stay. And so they have, are and will be for some time to come. Now they are available in all colours, sizes, thicknesses and prices.

I sometimes wonder though what my Nana would think of my “ladylike qualities" by wearing a pair of black nylon pantyhose stockings. I just wish she could have lived to see the day.

Ladies Stockings are more than a sensual garment. Some women are allergic to nylon. Do you know someone who is?


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