Feminism

black lace and thigh highs

thigh highs

I don’t remember which year it was in college, but I think it might have been my senior year, since I was sitting in the balcony for chapel, and I think that was the only year I was ever assigned a seat up there. But, it was before One of the Most Awesome Rule Changes Ever, because I was still wearing hosiery.

Before I go any further, I should probably explain that my undergrad college had a strict dress code– to “encourage professionalism,” as they explained it. Of the few dozen or so rules women had to follow, one of them was that we had to wear panty hose in the morning until chapel at 10a, then again at dinner, to church on Wednesday, and all day on Sunday or during Bible Conference. Most of the time, my skirts were long enough that I could get away with knee-highs, but, sometimes, I wanted to wear a knee-length skirt. I loathed high-waisted panty hose, so my compromise was thigh highs. It never occurred to me, however, to invest in a garter belt. Because, after all, garter belts are “lingerie” and therefore inappropriate for an unwed young woman.

On this particular morning, when I got up along with 4,500 other students to exit chapel, I realized that my thigh highs had given up the Holy Ghost and were slipping down. I did everything I could to keep them from slipping even further– I pinched my legs, wobbling up the stairs with my knees locked together. I tried to take incrementally tiny baby steps to the bathroom, horribly and powerfully and shamefully conscious of the two thousand men swarming around me– and I was on the balcony level, where the seminary classes were immediately following chapel. Men in dark suits started flocking toward me, and the closest bathroom was so far away I knew I wouldn’t make it before my stockings were visible.

When I was just a dozen steps away from a bathroom, a seminary student stopped me.

“Did you know we can all see your . . . your, uhm, underthings?”

In that moment, my embarrassment and humiliation flashed into rage. I wanted to scream, or hit him. Anything. “Yes.” I managed to grit out. I didn’t know if he was a floor-leader or not, and yelling at a floor leader could net me fifty demerits for “disrespect.”

“You need to take care of this right away. You know that by . . . well, by wearing things like those you’re encouraging men to lust after you, right?” His voice was so soft, and gentle– he was speaking the truth in love. Admonishing his sister in Christ, edifying her.

I almost sawed my tongue in half. I was so angry words just kept piling up in my throat and choking me. I merely pointed at the bathroom and kept the rage-fueled tears out of my eyes.

“Oh, oh . . . well, ok.” And he walked briskly away, confident and secure.

When I finally got to the bathroom, I didn’t even make it into a stall before I ripped the stockings off and shoved them into the trashcan. I spent the next hour, my lunch hour, sitting in that empty bathroom and crying.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During some point in graduate school, one of my friends got engaged– and the engagement pictures appeared on facebook. They’re an extraordinarily beautiful couple– seriously, his fiancé is one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever met. The pictures were all lovely, especially since he’d hired a photographer to take pictures of the proposal, and you could see the surprise and delight on her face when he got down on one knee.

One of the shots the photographer managed to get was her throwing herself into his arms after she’d said yes– and her arms lifted the bottom hem of her adorable dress up high enough that you could see the top of her lace-edged thigh highs.

My immediate, instantaneous, gut reaction was to frown in disapproval. Her dress was too short– if you can’t make simple gestures like hugging someone without showing off your sexy under garments to the world, you need to rethink that clothing choice.

But, there was a voice inside of me, a tiny, hushed voice I did my best to crush into silence. But it’s a beautiful picture. Intimate. And sexy. A sliver of myself I’d been taught to squash my entire life envied her and her ability to wear black-lace thigh highs. I wanted to wear something–anything–made out of black lace. And yes, I wanted to wear something with the Parisian flair she’d cultivated, and have pictures of me biting my rogue-painted lip and peeking out from under a fedora.

I clicked through to the next picture and did my best to forget all about it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Me and my husband honeymooned in Chicago. It was only a five-hour train ride from Ann Arbor, where we were married, and it was a destination that fit our pace. We like museums, and pizza, and symphonies, and Chicago has plenty. Oh, and pancakes. If you’re ever in Chicago, you must visit Wildberry Café. I swear, best pancakes I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying something, since my mother and grandmothers make incredible pancakes.

For one of our evenings out, we went to the original Cheesecake Factory and then went to see Les Misérables. I wore a stunningly beautiful ruched black-and-white damask print dress, knee-high slouchy suede boots, and, yes, black lace-edged thigh highs. On our walk to the restaurant, the dress rode up a little bit, and you could see the top of my thigh-highs. I looked down at one point and noticed the lace peeking out–just barely, and I stopped in the middle of a crowded sidewalk.

Burning-hot pain knifed through me, and I had to fight not to gasp out loud.

I tugged my dress back down and kept walking, trying to keep the boiling red flush out of my face. But, my dress kept riding up, and I had to keep stopping to tug it back down. After the fifth time, Handsome stopped me. “What are you doing?”

“You can see my thigh-highs!” I whisper-yelled back at him.

“So?”

I stared at him, shocked, and the crazed and panicked busyness of my thoughts blanked out. “What?” I was baffled. What does he mean, “so”?

“What does it matter? No one cares. I don’t care. You’re gorgeous, and beautiful.” And he kissed me, right in the middle of the sidewalk. I was too stunned to really kiss him back.

And suddenly, just like that, I was laughing. Because he was right– none of it mattered the least bit.

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  • Caleigh

    Oh my gosh, this made me smile; a big wide smile. So glad you’re discovering the art of being beautiful and sexy!!

  • What a great piece. Brava.

  • This piece is beautiful. I cheered. And I’m going to the store a lunch to buy some thigh highs with lace.

    • Excellent notion! They’re just so gorgeous. And I don’t care if anyone can see them or not. 😉

  • When I was in college (late 60’s before the summer of love), the rule was that women had to wear hose to Sunday dinner at the dorms. There were cafeteria monitors, who were all men, stationed at the door to make sure our clothing conformed to the dress code, and if they weren’t sure about the hose, they’d make you take your shoes off to check. It always made me furious that first of all, the university felt they needed monitors, and second of all, they didn’t have women monitors monitoring women’s footwear. The next year, dress codes were changed to allow wearing pants and all that silliness ended.

    In a way, it’s a shame no one considered (this being a state university) that those poor young men needed to be shielded from viewing women’s underthings and being caused to lust. 😉

    • Actually, the college I attended had a rule on the books that said men weren’t allowed to approach women about dress code violations… they did it anyway, because they’re men, and they had the right to say whatever they wanted to about my body, after all. /Eyeroll/

  • I have a black lace shirt, and it is very low cut. It was low cut when I bought it, and now that I’ve had a kid and my boobs grew a couple sizes, it’s even more low cut. I love this shirt, and I love that it makes my boobs look fantastic. It’s my all time favorite thing to wear out on date night with my husband… especially when I pair it with my red high heels.

    But it took me sooooo long to get to the point where I was comfortable wearing that kind of a shirt at all, let alone out in public. And I still have moments where I’m wearing it and all of the sudden I freak out that I’m dressed entirely inappropriately, and feel ashamed of myself. Those moments come less and less, but they still happen. And I’m still unable to wear a short skirt. I want to, but I just can’t resist the urge to tug it down every step I take.

  • I went to a “similar” school for my first year of seminary, Bob Jones. I got a good idea of my fellow seminarians’ horrible treatment of the fairer sex within 24 hrs of arriving. Being a single and very very eligible bachelor, I took a completely different tack than them from the get go. I complimented, from the heart, any girl that either caught my eye, or was attempting to. 🙂 I adored it that so many young ladies were attempting to make themselves attractive for us guys, and I wanted to genuinely return the favor by complimenting them, and I also wanted to attract them to myself. Several of my mates were upset at me, but I got to date 10 of the most attractive woment I have ever met in the world, and enjoyed it to the max! Thank you ladies for being women, because I dont want to marry a wall flower, I want to marry my lover to have a passionate, and romantic marriage with her for the rest of my life. Let all the unbiblical, evil orders of men be damned.

    Blessings!

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  • I have never worn black lace or thigh highs, but I get your point–and the principle. Good for you!

  • I don’t even know how I got here, but I must say, very well written. Brava!

  • Um, I want thigh-highs now. This is such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  • Jason

    Thank you. That was awesome. I needed a smile and a chuckle as I’ve waded through hours and hours of modesty-shame blog posts (researching for a book I’m writing). See, men who are mature think just what your husband did, “So?” Amen. And thanks to him for being a real man and you for allowing yourself to be loved. I hope that “floor leader” grows up one day and finds out how to love a woman for who she is, not how much he can control her through what she wears.

  • One of the ways my wife (a transwoman) dealt with the beginning stages of her transition was to wear black lace top thigh highs under her jeans at work. She shivered in delight the first time she wore them (as much for me as for herself) and wears them now (almost 2 years into her transition) as often as she can manage. It has been so much fun exploring her femininity with her, and in some respects rediscovering my own. Long live black hosiery.

  • KSP

    I really love this post, in part because I HATE panty hose and haven’t worn them in at least 20 years (including thigh highs). Even the word “nylon” makes my skin crawl. More power to you, my friend. 😉

  • Pebbs

    I think I’m going to cry.

    This was my life, too. Being shamed and scolded for inconsequential clothing choices, and being shamed and scolded for not being pretty enough for the right people, and then being shamed and scolded for being “vain” and back and forth and back and forth.

    I’m surprised I don’t have a psychological breakdown every time I hear the word “modesty”.