NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Getting A Leg Up On Feminine Fashion

Granted, I may be the exact opposite of fashion-forward. But wouldn’t you think even a fashion-backward type would have noticed (without her daughter’s coaching) that pantyhose had gone away a few decades ago?

Nope. When the moment came to don a dress for perhaps the second time in the past 25 years, I’d soon discover that 1) bare legs long ago replaced nylon beneath hemlines, and 2) I never got the memo.

When I escaped the once-dapper world of advertising at the end of the ’80s, I happily mothballed the work outfits I’d learned to so despise — especially the power suits that defined the day, with their shoulder pads the size of sofa pillows and carefully calibrated hemlines. The lady shoes went into that same dark hole deep in the closet. I hated — hated! — those nasty, pinch-prone, pointy-toed models with heels just high enough to ensure the comely ankle wobble that was a hallmark of dressing for success. Good riddance!

The pantyhose, I simply abandoned. They mouldered in my sock drawer for years and years and years, stuffed way back in the corner and forgotten. Somewhere along the line, I must have needed to clear space for more ankle socks with cats on them because I discarded the cartons of the white plastic eggs they’d come in. (I’d been saving them for some kind of crafty renaissance but had given up hope after a single episode of molding Jell-O eggs. Each L’Eggs egg required nearly a whole box of gelatin, yielding an Easter centerpiece big enough to carve like a turkey.)

Slowly my stock of lost-but-not-lamented legwear seemed to evaporate. Some pantyhose was used to tie drooping tomato plants to stakes. Some was stuffed with open rolls of gift wrap, a little trick to keep the edges from flapping and getting tattered. Others were dismembered and filled with sidewalk salt, then tossed onto the eave troughs to melt ice dams. One epic household tip even led me to sever one pair’s elastic waist and use it to hold up sagging garbage liners in the kitchen wastebasket.

Meanwhile, I spent the intervening more than a score of years happily decked out in slacks. Like most of the women I hang around with, pants reign as my uniform. Comfortable, just businessy enough to get by and blessed with two unarguable advantages — no high-heeled lady shoes! no shaving required! — they quickly achieved total closet domination. Fancy wool pantsuit pants. Gabardines and twills. Swishy crepe for dress-up. And jeans … glorious, glorious denims to dress up or down or sideways, forever the emblem of my generation.

While the fashionistas continued to scour the headlines in pursuit of the ever-changing hemline, I gained hours of carefree leisure to read mysteries and posts on Facebook. A century ago, the idea of women in pants may have been a genuinely horrific prospect … a radical political statement on female suffrage and all the rest. Today, though? Society has shrugged and declares, “No prob.”

I’ve worn pants 365 days a year for the most recent chapters of my life, from the campus and podium to the depths of our backyard, including all the Big Deal events that pass for formal today. I even found the perfect mother-of-the-bride ensemble to sport for our daughter’s wedding.

But when Ms. Evi, America’s most awesome grandchild, was to be baptized last month, it seemed only right to dude up with an almost inconceivable salute to pomp and female fashion. I would — for perhaps the second time since 1992 — break out a dress.

Oddly, I found one in the darkest far-left corner of my closet. The daughter tricked me into buying it at a half-forgotten sidewalk sale, teasing me with tales of breezy coolth facing future steamy forecasts. It still fit! And after I pressed out the wrinkles with an antique iron mostly decommissioned decades ago, it seemed perfect for the grand occasion.

But when I opened the sock drawer to fish out my antique pantyhose, I was shocked. Shocked! My entire stock had apparently been used up in the garden and the garbage and up on the roof.

So I hied myself to Target … and bumped head-first into modern reality. Where I recalled ancient aisles bursting with hosiery for every taste and occasion — from coarse everyday bargains in colors like Suntan and Nude to silky Sheer Elegance; from control top to French lace panties; from reinforced footsies to the bare-toed kind (to wear with sandals, pretending no one could see the seam peeping out the end) — the world had evolved while I wasn’t paying attention. As the daughter stood beside me, sharing pithy bits of fashion advice (“Mom, they’re for old ladies”), I picked out some that seemed likely to fit.

Back in the bedroom on Evi’s big morn, I tore open the pricey package, scrunched the dangling appendages to smoothly slip them over my feet … and promptly put my thumb through the right leg.

So that’s how I learned to love contemporary bare-legged fashion … sporting those naked Nordic legs in all their fish-belly-white splendor. Sure, my soles did stick uncomfortably to the lining of my shoes. Certainly, opportunistic flies did nip my unprotected ankles as we stood around afterward fielding congratulations.

But it didn’t matter one bit. All eyes were, as they should be, on America’s Most Awesome Granddaughter. No one much cared about what her drab but doting honor guard was decked out in.

And that was a very good thing indeed … for I never did find a slip.

3 thoughts on “NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Getting A Leg Up On Feminine Fashion”

  • Russell Myhre July 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    High heels? And no mention of that other staple of feminine power fashion of a bygone era, the Daisy Duck shoes? But welcome to this brave new world of 21st Century fashion., sans panty hose.

  • Marsha Gunderson July 21, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks, Nancy. This seems like my life story. The suits are still hanging, the pointy shoes are in a rubbermaid tub. I even had the mother-of-the-bride pants suit! Love it.

  • Barbara La Valleur July 22, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Good grief, not even a new grandchild would convince me to don 1. panty hose; 2. pointy, high heeled shoes; 3. a slip; 4. much less a girdle! As to shaving my legs, dear Nanc, after numerous bloody & scabby legs, I stopped that archaic practice in my late teens. I’m 71 now and don’t think I’ve suffered irreparable damage from the lack of silky smooth [for less than 24 hours at least] legs. A fun read.


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