A Flash of Glamor
Denise Mostacci Sklar
The elevator of the Empire department store stops at the second floor and a heavy cage door slides open. Two eleven-year-old girls step out. The sales women are standing behind a counter made of dark mahogany and glass. Displayed, nylon stockings, rippling and elegantly arranged.
My friend recites the shades and sizes that her mother wrote down on a piece of paper, adding the details, sheer toe, French heel, seamed or seamless mesh. A clerk swiftly turns and pulls down several boxes from the shelves, then peels away the white tissue paper to reveal the stockings inside. She places the flat top of her fist underneath the tinted layer of nylon to present the color, her skin changing with each shade.
Wearing nylon stockings was the first step into womanhood and when I became of age, I delighted in the ritual of choosing a color, beige, suntan, taupe or nude. There was one stocking, thigh high for each leg that needed to be held up with a young girl's garter. The garter belt was a narrow strip that stretched around the waist and hips with long straps attached hanging down the front and back of each thigh. At the end of each strap there was a small round rubber knob attached to a thin piece of circular metal, the place where you'd put the piece of nylon in between, then snap it shut to secure it. It always left a tiny red circular mark on your leg, but girls were used to these feminine discomforts. As young girls, we lived with ankle socks sliding into our shoes, knee socks falling down to our ankles or tights sliding off of our young hips as the school day wore on. So when nylons would tear and begin to run, we were quick to put a dab of nail polish on the spot to stop the running, allowing the sticky splotch of polish to harden onto the skin of our legs.
We moved from tee shirts to training bras and some more quickly to experience the stiff and bulky grown up bras– something was always strapped or wrapped around our bodies with layers covering. Uncomfortable feminine slips would hang below our skirts, tampons weren't invented yet so everything was right out there with clothes clinging.
But the worst was the belt you had to wear to hold your sanitary napkin in place with apparatus that made it hang hammock-like between your thighs, inside of your underwear and always rocking side to side, so no matter how diligent you were about changing that thick white pad, it seemed to always leave a deep red stain of blood on your underwear. A small discomfort compared to my mother's experience as a child where she would wear pieces of cut up sheets pinned into place.
Making friends with the apparatus seemed to be the way of growing gracefully into a young lady. And with a spray of flowery cologne, we tried to hide all awkwardness and package it into a kind of glamor. Luckily, as young teens we were years away from wearing the heavier girdles that our grandmothers and mothers squeezed themselves into. They were tight and rubbery with some satin or lace and with a line of hooks down the back that I would often help to close.
Luckily, time removed this burden; it was the mid-sixties and women grew into an age where they could step out of the constriction of bulky undergarments and relax with their bodies more. We wore what we saw, what our mothers would approve and disapproved of, what older sisters, friends and teen idols began to wear. From the runways to magazines and catalogues, into department stores and on television, images flashed. History hasn't changed much in that way.
Today, everything is removed or inserted, sprayed, tattooed, injected or pasted on, simpler one might say, perhaps easier. More natural? I'm not sure if women are more comfortable with themselves though...and the glamor part, how does that work?
I google silk stockings on the web and immediately images of woman with pointed bosoms, huge hips and tiny waists are tastefully presented. The undergarments which once were a way of life, are now a trivial luxury. But what makes me want to buy a pair of those stockings, the kind with seams and a garter to hold them up? What makes me want to open the package, wide-eyed, then carefully slide my fist under the thin silky layer and watch how the front of my hand changes to a creamy brown.
About the author:
Denise Mostacci Sklar has had a career as a dancer and now has had the good fortune to discover writing as another way to move through life. Recent publications can be found or are forthcoming in Wilderness House Literary Review, On the Rusk, Ibbetson Street Press and The Stray Branch.