Sunday, March 16, 2008


I think I have mentioned that, during World War II, the Department of Defense sent people to farmland to collect the milkweed pods that grew in the fields. A van filled with these people used to arrive at the Farm and they would spread out over the orchard and the meadows to collect the pods. The milkweed "silk" was then used to make parachutes. Since we were at war with Japan, silk was not available, not for parachutes or evening gowns or even silk stockings.

Shortly after this and I believe before the war was over, someone invented nylon...or discovered it...whichever verb applies. But before nylon appeared, this liquid, fake silk stocking was put out by manufacturers for women to use on their legs in lieu of silk. It came in a colorful bottle and claimed to look similar to silk stockings after a light application. I don't know why it was so orange, because certainly that wasn't a color one found in silk stockings, but orange it was, and the longer it was left on the flesh, the more orange it became until it glowed like a Halloween Jack 'O Lantern with a red candle lit inside it.

Sis and I used it on our faces, arms and legs, because we were hoping we looked like two sexy sirens, fresh from the Bahamas, tanned by the tropical sun. That we looked like two aliens with bright orange visages never occurred to us. We sported our orange "tans" on all special occasions, like walking in to town to attend the movies or going to a school football game. The football games were our favorites, because the players were composed of the upperclassmen, Juniors and Seniors, in our high school, several of whom we considered to be worldly and handsome. So we decked ourselves out in our artificial tans, our bobby sox, our saddle Oxfords, and off we would go to the games.

When nylon was invented, we lost interest in our artificial tans, because each of our fads only lasted a few weeks before another enthusiasm came along to take its place. Now we could actually wear "silk stockings" or a reasonable facsimile of the same.

Any woman who wore the early nylon hose can testify to what I am saying. The first nylon hose was a closely knit clone of a real silk stocking. The trouble is, it was so stiff it was difficult to get the pair on your legs. If you pulled too hard, your fingers would burst through the nylon webbing and the stocking was ruined. Since panty hose hadn't been created yet, one had to wear a garter belt. These fit around the waist and had dangling straps with clips attached to the end. One had to hook the nylon stocking onto the clips that dangled from the garter belt, and if any of these contraptions gave way, your garter belt would slip down to your ankles and your nylon hose would slump to your knees.

It wasn't long after this that some genius invented panty hose. Panty hose has been a boon to women, because the old garter belt could be laid to rest. However, the first panty hose was not cooperative in fitting around the hips and legs. If you were lucky, you could pull the panties up to where the crotch fit just above the knees. Then you would hobble around as though you were a Chinese Geisha taking trim, dainty little steps.

I am telling about all this so people will understand the torment that women have gone through with their clothing. There are brassieres, now called "bras", girdles, panty hose, garter belts, and torture chambers known as "corsets." Then, too, there was the Playtex Living Girdle, that instrument of relentless pain that may have held the fat cells in an inch or two, but melted the flesh from my body with every wearing. One had to powder one's tum and bottom with talcum powder before donning the girdle, then pull with every ounce of strength in the body to bring it up over the hips into the vicinity of the waistline. When this was accomplished, one could don clothes and continue living comfortably for about ten minutes, until the powder turned to granules of sand and grated against the flesh, and the girdle became a chamber of horrors for the rest of the day. Getting it off required more than two hands, so my sister, Helen, would come to my rescue. As I moaned and squealed in agony, the rubber, made abrasive by the sand-like pellets of sweat-soaked talcum power would slowly slither down my hips, with Helen tugging with all of her might. The remaining flesh was bleeding and bruised and would stay that way for days.

May the fleas from a thousand camels infest the creator of the Playtex Living Girdle! Women today are much smarter and live in a world of comfortable clothes....or fewer clothes, depending upon your age and your dimensions. However, when I visited Hawaii, many women wore the American version of the Burkha, a Muu-Muu, a floorlength expanse of yardage that made one look like a walking billboard. I figure that the women wearing Muu-Muus are former owners of the Playtex Living Girdle who have decided that comfort trumps looking slimmer. Then, too, many women in Hawaii wear Bikinis, which cover all the necessary places without unnecessary folderol attached. Some of them are called "String Bikinis" and save money on things like hems and seams. All it takes is a ball of twine and you're set for the season.

It has always seemed to me that men have it easy. You would never catch a man in a Playtex Living Girdle. Men simply allow the tummy to bulge in whatever direction it pleases. If they bend over and buttocks are exposed, men always act as though they haven't even noticed. You don't see them with garter belts holding up their jeans. You don't see them in Muu-Muus hiding it all from the world.

Despite all the discomfort, women continue their love affair with clothes. Despite the fact that we are both in our mid-seventies, Sis and I still shop for cute outfits. Although the panty hose is more pliable in today's modern world and the garter belt is a historical relic, we still try to be stylishly dressed and search for the bargains in the department stores. Most of our clothes are made in China these days. The tiny little Chinese seamstresses work long hours in hideous conditions to make American women look fashionable. Since many of us are three times their size, it must be like sewing clothes for elephants. I can just hear them..."Look at this! 3X! We could fit the whole family in this one!"

Well, let them laugh! They used to squeeze their feet in tiny little shoes until their toes became deformed and they hobbled in pain all of their lives. So they really can't blame American women for wanting clothes big enough to fit, after living through all of those years with atrocities like the Playtex Living Girdle and garter belts. After all of this, we deserve to be comfortable!