In 1928, as many women wore trousers, we find that only about 30 percent of women went from trousers to tights (in this decade, that would have been impossible) while a majority were wearing trousers while working in the home. By 1940, 70 percent of women had switched to tights.
When were tights a fashion statement, and no longer as fashionable?
Tights were one style among many in the twenties, which lasted through a time when women wore pants to work and tights made them look “too chunky” to be “ladylike.” In the 1940s, women didn’t wear tights unless they were going from a skirt (the opposite of a chunky skirt) to a full-length skirt (an even bigger mistake).
What did they look like in 1932?
Tights didn’t make much of a fashion statement until the 1930s, when more and more women were wearing them for their style and comfort and less for the look of being sexy. Women had been wearing tights long before they were ever referred to as “the fashions of the Twenties.” In fact, it hadn’t been the style of choice until the 1930s, when a woman wearing two tights and a button-down shirt would look like a little girl at Christmas. The 1930s were especially good for tights – if you weren’t seeing too many people in them, you might have seen that you had more clothes to wear, and maybe even a little more money. In the late 1930s, ladies wore them just as often as pants – but even then, they were still not the most popular trend.
How did tights first hit the scene? Did women always wear them, or did they suddenly become cool?
Tights first hit the American fashion scene in the 1920s, a few years before the introduction of high heels. According to the Encyclopedia of American Fashion and Style, a woman in 1926 used more than 3,000 pairs of women’s tights, compared to 875 pants.
The American Fashion Institute, where I teach and work, suggests that ladies’ tights are “a fashion item that can be worn in many varieties.” That seems right for the 1920s!
I hope that this discussion helps to give you a perspective about the history of women’s tights. I’m interested to hear about any other interesting references you might have about the history of this garment, and to get your comments below!
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