What are Fishnets? (lingerie history)

Sophia Loren Fishnet tights

What a way to show off your legs! FISHNETS!  The graphic pattern of this lingerie piece highlights the curves and muscles of the legs and blurs the imperfections – but where did the idea come from?

The origin of fishnet stockings or fishnet pantyhose is hard to pinpoint. 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 of being covered and not covered has been a major reason in the appeal of fishnet.

E.J. Bellocq photograph circa 1915

Roland Barthes, philospher, writes in his 1973 essay, The Pleasure of the Text, about the eroticism of the interplay of seen and unseen that fishnet embody. Including the grid pattern visual properties of netted clothing.
These eye-catching characteristics follow along the same path which striped pantyhose were great attention-grabbers on Prostitutes.

People say that fishnet stockings began in the early 1900s with the showgirls of the famous Moulin Rouge, but most images of women from the time were adorned in black stockings, not fishnets. The New Orleans Red-light District wore vertically striped pantyhose to catch the eye.

Fishnet stockings became popular with flappers and showgirls in the 1920’s as hemlines rose to just barely below the knee. They were popular for a couple of reasons:  from a distance the fishnet encased legs look as though they were adorned in black tights, but under the bright lights of a stage, pieces of flesh would show through. And fishnet tights were more functional  than standard silk and rayon because they allowed the flappers to dance more freely. Silk and rayon stockings were not ideal for a large range of motion.

Bettie Page

Fishnet continued to be associated with a ‘loose’ type of woman especially as they gained popularity with print-porn and the pin-up girls of the 1950’s.

In the 1960’s, with the rise of the miniskirt, some women took to playing with the amount of leg they showed by wearing  tight weave fishnet tights in various colors.

Subverting mainstream fashion, punks and goths of the 1970’s took control of the fishnet tights and made them more extreme by ripping holes in them. Along with safety-pin earrings, patched denim jackets, and more, female punks found this a great way to give the mainstream idea of proper women’s clothing the finger.

Fishnet tights graduated to any fishnet piece of clothing with Madonna in the 1980’s. This pop singer and fashion icon was often dressed in fishnets, but she didn’t limit herself to just stockings.

By the 1990’s, a number of fashion and knitwear designers were creating fishnet stockings and loose-knit, nearly nude dresses.  Thereafter, fishnet tights and clothing became normalized “fashion”.

Present day fishnet clothing is offered by Alexander Wang, Helmut Lang, Marchesa, Cushnie et Ochs, and more
And as fashion designers often do…they took this provocative piece of clothing material and turned fishnet mainstream.   Offering pieces that range from conservative layering pieces to risqué ripped garments.

What is made out of fishnet in your closet?

In dievca’s? gloves, lingerie, stockings, tights, bodysuits

Sources: dievca, Vice, CR Fashion Book, Foot Traffic, Amy Boone

And if you would like to source a pair of traditional Fishnet stockings or tights – click here!


9 Comments on “What are Fishnets? (lingerie history)”

  1. esther says:

    love my fishnets! 💋

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ToryBri says:

    Years ago while exploring female fashion I treated myself to a pair of fishnets. This post is inspiring, hummm, I should go find them!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] knows that we touched on Fishnet Tights in the lingerie category, here. But, if you are willing to step up your sassy, sexiness for the Holidays. Embellished Fishnet […]

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