History of pantyhose

Fifty years ago, textile mogul Allen Gant Sr. introduced the world to the first pair of pantyhose. To mark this momentous anniversary, Smithsonian tells the story of their invention and place in fashion history. The heyday of panthose were the 1970s and 1980s but apparently sales have declined since the 1990s "casualization" of the workplace. From Smithsonian:
 Images Gentlemen-Prefer-Hanes-Pantyhose The year was 1953 and if you were a woman, a night on the town meant either squeezing into a girdle or slipping on a garter belt. Formal dress dictated that females wear such intimate, and often uncomfortable, articles of clothing. How else could you hold up your nylons?

Allen Gant Sr., then running textile company Glen Raven Mills, was inspired by his wife’s lament. “How would it be if we made a pair of panties and fastened the stockings to it?” he asked Ethel. She stitched some crude garments together, tried them on, and handed the products to her husband. “You got to figure out how to do this,” she said. Allen brought his wife’s experiment into the office, and with the help of his colleagues Arthur Rogers, J. O. Austin, and Irvin Combs, developed what they later called “Panti-Legs.” Their product–the world’s first commercial pantyhose–began lining department store shelves in 1959.

“It was wonderful,” a 74-year-old Ethel Gant told the Associated Press 30 years later. “Most people my age loved them from the very beginning and couldn’t wait to get a hold of them. I don’t think we’ve ever changed our minds,” she said.

Allen Gant Sr. had at least one satisfied customer, but the panty-stocking combo did not grab most women’s attentions at first. Though the convenience of not having to wear a girdle or garter belt was a plus, what helped pantyhose take hold was the rise of the miniskirt in the mid-1960s.

For the fashion-conscious woman looking to wear a skirt shorter than stockings are long, pantyhose were the perfect fit. When iconic models such as Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy donned their mini skirts, demand for pantyhose exploded and women flocked to the stores for pairs of their own.
"50 years of pantyhose"

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  1. In the sixties my mother and sister happily burned their girdles after pantyhose became popular.

  2. Time for a dumb joke!

    How can you tell when a woman farts?

    Her ankles swell!!

    (cue Waldorf and Stadler laughter)
    (though they’d never be so crass) :)

  3. I was there. In 1968 the mini skirt came in, and there was no way to keep stockings up without a lot of underwear showing. Pantyhose was the answer, and the sales took off.

  4. If pantyhose didn’t go on sale until 1959, then what was Playboy’s centrefold for May 1955 wearing? I’d throw in a link, but I don’t want to risk getting spanked by the mods; you can find the picture through google easily enough.

  5. Teapunk: They did develop non-running pantyhose. You used to be able to buy them via mail order. Sufficient stress would put a hole in them, but they wouldn’t develop spontaneous runs.

    Why weren’t they adequately marketed? I have no idea.

  6. I thought Ann Miller invented pantyhose:

    “Miller invented pantyhose in the 1940s as a solution to the problem of continual torn stockings during the filming of dance production numbers. The common practice had been to sew hosiery to briefs worn by Miller. If torn, the entire garment had to be removed and resewn with a new pair. At Miller’s request, hosiery was manufactured for her as a single pantyhose. [4]” – Wikipedia

  7. I remember how very “adult” I felt when I got my 1st pair of crochet hose & gerter belt. Then I remember getting Leggs! Hooray! And now I will only wear pantyhose to funerals.

  8. Pantyhose, or some form of pantyhose, definitely existed before 1959–they were used during Shakespeare’s time–but the reason that year matters is because they were first able to be mass marketed.

  9. In 1968 the mini skirt came in, and there was no way to keep stockings up without a lot of underwear showing

    You say that like it’s a bad thing?

    In 1968 I was 8. I was at just a nice height where my sitting down eyeline was at or below the new hemline level. Ah, happy days…

  10. My only memory of the pantyhose is that of my countless aunts at family reunions, most getting older and fatter, hiking theirs up as they crawled down they bellies with regularity. It seemed to be a communicative behavior, done half-consciously, like yawning is, and was quite often done in sequence.

    Adults appear so strange seen from down-up. :)

  11. Adamvillani, close-fitting knitted trousers with attacked stocking feet have been around for a long time. Americans call them tights.

    You wouldn’t refer to old-fashioned nylon stockings as socks; they’re a different kind of garment. The same goes for pantyhose vs. tights.

  12. Tights are opaque; pantyhose and stockings are to make the skin on your legs look smooth and beautiful, and usually well tanned. Near as I can tell…

  13. As far as I can tell, the pantyhose is a special case of the tights including proper underpants. Tights can be as varied as being a leotard without feet (dancers) or a complex embroidered or knitted network.

  14. The opening of the article puzzle me: The year was 1953 and if you were a woman, a night on the town meant either squeezing into a girdle or slipping on a garter belt. Formal dress dictated that females wear such intimate, and often uncomfortable, articles of clothing.

    In 1953, women rarely wore pants. If they were at the office, or bridge club, or going to the grocery store, they were probably wearing a girdle and nylons. And heels.

    Now — just think about un-air-conditioned summer days. And if you think that’s tough, you’re probably just visualizing light summer clothes. Ha! My mom once told me about taking the train back to college the first week in September with temperatures in the 90s, wearing a tweed suit. Hey, it was after Labor Day.

  15. For the British readers, that sentence “rarely wore pants” should translate as “rarely wore trousers”.

  16. Is this a real quote by Lyndon B Johnson?
    “…the worst thing that’s happened to this country since pantyhose ruined finger-fucking.”
    ‘cos it’s my favorite pantyhose related quote.

  17. #26- No that is not a quote from Lyndon Johnson. That is an old joke- but old from the 80’s.
    (written by someone that was too weak & stupid to make a lil’ hole in the super thin material.)
    :)

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