This is the series of posts I've been wanting to write for years as I love hosiery so much. For warmth, comfort and making your legs attractive and fashionable, nothing beats a good pair of tights or stockings.
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I had been waiting for a chance to get to my deposit in London and get my hands on the 300 or so pairs I own before writing, but that will have to wait a bit longer. Yes, I do collect hosiery, often the same range but in different colours or formats, but there's nothing in my collection that hasn't been worn. Tights/pantyhose, stockings, hold-ups, overknees, pop sox; you name it, I've got it and love it. I had a small cupboard and a five-drawer chest for them all. And why not? They're attractive and practical.
I thought I'd share all my tips on buying, sizing, accessories and care, as well as some photos, stories and even some history.
Let's start with stockings, everyone's favourite. Then I'll write further posts on tights/pantyhose, on fancy styles and other types, on maintenance and other practicalities.
A brief history
It was always men who wore the fancy hosiery from the Middle Ages onwards, whereas women's stockings were largely hidden under long dresses so didn't need to be so smart. It's only in the last 150 years or so that men have stopped showing the shape of their legs, which are often finer than women's. This is a pity, in my view, and in the modern age it would be better if more men had their legs on view as well as women. Not everyone agrees but if you've got good legs, flaunt them!
Men's stockings became a particularly important thing in the Renaissance and the complex arrangement of stockings, belt, codpiece and breeches must have been a pest to put on!
Women's stockings tended to be more straightforward and were usually held with garters above the knee. Finally, in the 1920s, when women's fashions promoted skirts far shorter than at any other time in history, stockings came into view and had to become smarter... and here we are.
Stockings or tights?
In response to the old question: stockings or tights? I confess I much prefer tights/pantyhose, for reasons that should become clear. The market share of stockings is about 3% vs. tights at 97%, so I assume it's largely glamour models and MtF trans people who are supporting the stocking end of the trade. The draw is that stockings are indubitably sexy, more obviously feminine and in some ways more practical, such as when you need a bathroom break. My advice on stockings is as follows.
I'll talk about denier, sizing and style more fully in a later post, but just to say that sizing is not so critical as with tights. But do make sure the stocking will come well up your thigh. Check size guides carefully especially as MtF trans people are often taller than the majority of women. Bear in mind also that your calves may be larger but your thighs slimmer than the 'optimum' female leg shape used as a model for the stockings. This is especially important if you go for stockings that don't contain super-stretchy elastane, such as the retro fully-fashioned styles.
You have to hold stockings up so you need suspenders/garters. The days of rolling stocking tops down to create support are gone.
Just a point about English: I'm going to call the garment a suspender belt and the straps suspenders, rather than garter belt/garters.
Although suspender belts are readily available and often inexpensive, do yourself a favour and get a good one: one with a decent width, strong material, preferably with six or more straps, and with metal (not plastic) clasps. Unless you are just posing at home for your camera or your lover, a small, lacy, four-strap, plastic-clasp job isn't going to work well if you are going out, or wearing stockings all day.
Similar to the point about leg shape, if you have gone through puberty as male then you are unlikely to have the 'child-bearing' hips that suspender belts are designed to sit on. You may also have male-pattern fat stores that are mainly in the tummy, as opposed to female-pattern that are more in the thigh area. This means that your suspender belt, even if tied tight, has little to rest on to keep it from slipping down and loosening your stockings. That's why a good one is essential, such as these styles I invested in from Stockings Direct (https://www.stockingsdirect.co.uk/).
Lingerie retailers who specialise in retro fashions are especially good for quality items like this, and for giving advice (and caring for their transgender customers). I like Secrets in Lace (https://www.secretsinlace.com/) and What Katie Did (https://www.whatkatiedid.com/).
Another way of addressing hip/tum differences is to use lingerie designed for men (dysphoria allowing), such as Homme Mystère (https://shop.hommemystere.com/), though admittedly they and others do tend to go for soft and pretty rather than practical. Or get advice from specialist trans retailers such as Glamour Boutique (https://www.glamourboutique.com/) or Doreen's Fashions (with its delightfully '90s website! https://www.doreenfashions.com/).
Alternatively, go for a basque, teddy or corselette with suspenders that hangs from your shoulders that reduces the effects of gravity. A corselette is not so sexy (if that's your aim), but should hold your shape in and your stockings up all day.
A corset or waist cincher can also help create the more slender tum and wider hips that you need to park your suspender belt on.
Should you wear your panties under or over the suspender belt? Fashionistas say under; I'm a practical sort and I wear them over. It's so much easier if you have to take a comfort break.
Apart from the paraphernalia needed, my other complaint about stockings is that often, if you are walking a lot, your thighs rub together and get sore. There are three main solutions:
1) Wear light, skin-tone, matt tights under your stockings and suspenders. More on layering in a later post.
2) Wear specialist shorts (e.g. Snag) or similar. You can even cut the (long) panty off a pair of tights and use that. Though admittedly if you're going for sexy with your stockings, this is going to kill the effect!
3) Use a specialist skin product, which varies from creams and lotions to powders. Most large pharmacies have a selection. Moisturisers don't usually work so well on their own as they usually get absorbed, and plain talcum doesn't last all that long.
Of course, these days the whole business of suspenders has been done away with by effective hold-up welts. To work, you really have to have shaved legs as the welts can't adhere very well to hair. The welts are usually not harmful to skin but if you do find your skin getting raw where the stocking welt has been, then hold-ups (or that brand) are not for you and you should discontinue use.
There has been a revival in popularity of stockings using old nylon yarns knitted on the original machinery. These are stockings without elastane (Lycra), that are sized and properly leg-shaped rather than relying on stretch to cover everything. This results in a more uniform thickness of nylon all over the leg rather than its ending up thicker on the calf and thinner on the thigh as is usual with modern hosiery. There's also a preference for the type of sheen, the necessary seams, the broad welts, the whole retro glam look (see the two retro fashion outlets above). They are, of course, all sheer. Some modern stockings aim to reproduce the look but with the comfort and easier fitting of modern fibres. The other advantage of modern fibres is that you can get opaque ones that are ideal in winter.
Retro look but modern yarns: Pretty Polly Nylons range. One from my collection (and quite a few years old now!) The packaging is different now and they seem to be marketed more as another range of glossy stockings rather than intentionally retro)
I hope some of these tips are useful. Next time, I will talk about tights/pantyhose and why I am such an aficionada.
A dip in the archives
The brief mention of men's hosiery above brings me to another historic trans person: Henry of Valois, who reigned as King Henry I of Poland (1573-75) and as King Henry III of France (1574-89).
His sexuality was certainly ambiguous and he had a varied love life, despite his religious piety, not unlike his contemporary James VI of Scotland / James I of England. But his crossdressing, even according to the flamboyant costumes of the time, seems reasonably certain. As well as loving large earrings, and large soft ruffs round his neck, his clothing and corsetry were notably more feminine than that of his contemporaries. Whether he occasionally wore dresses is disputed.
The problem with Henry, as with so many historic figures, is that his enemies (in his era, religious extremists, both Catholic and Protestant) were determined to demonstrate his unfitness to rule as each side made its impossible demands. He was a pacifist, even opposed to hunting, and in a belligerent era of internecine hatreds that position was hardly going to be popular. He also had to contend with inflation, a phenomenon virtually unknown till Spanish American gold and silver flooded European markets and New World products like tobacco and maize changed agriculture, which was also affected by the beginnings of the Little Ice Age. A gentle person, it seems, in a dangerous and difficult age. His assassination by militant religious fanatics was inevitable. Of course, to fanatics, sexual and behavioural deviancy (and the definition at the time was broad) showed moral deviancy, and moral deviancy was considered to affect the fortunes of the whole kingdom. Crossdressing - if it was even that - hardly explains the climate change, the economic stresses and the religious tensions of his era but, in the same way that more recent fanatics have said that gay living causes tornadoes, it's Henry's personal peccadilloes and preferences that came under the spotlight and were blamed for the ills of his generation.
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