Fishnet stockings or hosiery have long held a somewhat controversial place in fashion history and trends. Stereotyped as a ‘sexy’, fishnet hosiery has the potential to be seen as provocative. However, the negative connotations of fishnet hosiery betrays its iconic place in fashion history as well as it’s real potential to be part of a chic or even elegant look. First of all, let’s define fishnet stockings. The term ‘fishnet’ pertains to the diamond shaped open knit of this type of hosiery or textile. Traditionally black, fishnets are available in a variety of colors and are available in a variety of weave sizes. The origins of fishnet hosiery is one of fashion’s mysteries. No one can really pinpoint the exact point in history when fishnet stockings started being worn or a specific inventor of fishnet stockings either. Although the beginnings of fishnet hosiery in fashion history can be disputed, one cannot dispute that fishnet stockings have stood the test of time and still remains an important piece of fashion today.
Historically the word ‘fishnet’ appeared around the 1880s, the word meant loosely woven material or fabric. In the 1900s, a stocking with a diamond knit appeared in a French advertisement. Pop culture imagery would have us believe that fishnet stockings were worn by cancan dancers of the Belle Epoque/Jazz Age Twenties era, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that fishnet stockings became widely used and worn. This can be attributed to Gypsy Rose Lee, the queen of burlesque at that time. The 1950s saw the popularity of Bettie Page and other pinup models, which further put fishnets into the limelight. The democratization of fashion and the feminist movement in the 1960s led to shorter hemlines and more variety in fishnet styles. In the 60s, fishnets came in more colorful styles and smaller sized diamond knits. From the 90s onwards, fishnet stockings became co-opted by different fashion movements. Goth, punk, avant-garde, Harajuku, and grunge: fishnets came to signify fashion rebels and edgy trend trailblazers.
More recently, Alexa Chung was photographed on the cover of Glamour wearing large whale net tights underneath printed trousers. This style of tight has been a massive recent success with Charlize Theron, singer Pia Mia and many other fashionista and street style divas being photographed in them.
So, wearing fishnets today can lead to several different image outcomes:
- sexy and playful
- retro glamour
To gain the later is probably what most of us would prefer.
How, When and Don’ts
Let’s start by looking at some general features of wearing fishnet hosiery:
- The larger the fishnet weave, the more provocative and suggestive the style may be perceived.
- Fine gauge fishnets are more elegant and sophisticated.
- The soles of your feet and the tips of your toes become sore after a relatively short amount of time when wearing large open weaves.
To avoid any “hooker style” connotations when wearing fishnet hosiery (especially large open weaves) I suggest not coordinating them with more than one of the following:
- Open toe shoes
- A seam at the back of the hose
- Wild animal prints
- High heeled platforms
- Ankle straps
- Exposed tops of stockings
- Ripped clothing
- Micro minis
- Thigh high splits
- Low cut necklines
This un-named celebrity has WAY too many of them!
For an subtle and elegantly alluring look:
- Stick with black micro weaves.
- Choose fishnets with subtle embellishments e.g. spots
- Wear with classic closed-toe shoe styles such as a sleek pair of pumps.
- Style fishnet hosiery with more polished pieces such as blazers, knee-length pencil skirts, a-line midi skirts, preppy sweater sets, or pea coats.
- If you’re going to experiment with short hemlines, wear your fishnets with knee-high boots or an over-sized coat and show just a peek of your hosiery.
- Keep your makeup nude and natural or classic. A red lip and a smoky eye might be a tad too racy when paired with fishnets.
- While it may be tempting to skip shaving your legs cause you’re wearing tights, hairs that are peeking out in between the weaves of your fishnet stockings is a major fashion disaster. Forgetting to shave signals a lack of self-care and confidence.
- Formal and evening occasions are the very best times to wear fishnet stockings, although daytime wear is also fine.
- Proceed with caution when wearing fishnet hosiery to the office, your work environment may frown upon this choice of leg wear. If you do, make them micro fishnets and ensure everything else you wear is classic, in good repair and polished.
Don’t let the controversy around wearing this type of hosiery faze you, like these women, you can still pull fishnets off with maximum style.
- Gwen Stefani is one of the most stylish celebrities that has a clear love affair with fishnet stockings—she’s been spotted numerous times looking chic in them. This look in particular pops since it uses fishnet as an additional layer of texture to her ensemble. Notice how she kept her makeup and hair simple and straightforward to balance the sexy feel of her stockings. The long sleeves and statement print of her dress offsets the fishnet stockings perfectly.
- Alexa Chung’s take on fishnets involves menswear style inspiration with a touch of vintage. The booties and the oversized ‘borrowed from the boys’ feel of her overcoat combined with the retro bandana prevent the fishnets from crossing over to trashy.
- Salma Hayek knows that a surefire way to elevate her fishnet tights is to keep it monochromatic. Wearing one color from top to toe is a sure thing when it comes to looking chic, adding fishnets to the all black sartorial equations keeps things visually interesting.
- Heidi Klum’s take on fishnet is more modern and gives it a more trendy feel. The floral dress plus the leather motorcycle jacket balances this daytime look from looking too sexy. Feminine elements like the floral print and fishnets married with masculine elements like leather and flat boots make for a pleasant sartorial surprise.
Here are more great looks: