Recalling the good old days of garter belts

Every morning before high school, a collective expletive could be heard in the air above my small hometown in the 1950s and early 60s as girls twisted and shouted themselves into their nylons.Legs old enough to shave were old enough to be covered in nettings of woven nylon that stopped at the thigh. A thick, ugly band signaled the end of that sheerness; this was where things got serious. The nylons didn’t stay up there themselves — they needed a garter belt. The garter belt was designed for one purpose — to give the tops of your nylons something to connect to.

After carefully fitting the toe line evenly across your toes and making sure the heels of the nylons were in the back and not bagged out over your ankle, the pulling process began.
Grabbing a big hunk of material with both hands, we yanked them up. When our calves began to ache and our toes started to curl under, we stopped.
The floppy top of the hose (another word for them) hung around our thigh like a fireman’s boot at a street corner charity drive. It was important to hold onto that top, so we didn’t have to start all over.
With our garter belt already wrapped around our waist and secured, we were ready to make our connections. The belt had metal hooks — two in the front and two in the back — that hung like little gun holsters for teeny outlaws.
White, rubbery buttons wiggled like turkey wattles behind the hooks, waiting to trap the nylons between the holsters.
There isn’t a woman who grew up when I did who doesn’t remember the feel of those nickel-sized buttons against her flesh. They tattooed both sides of our legs with deep circles; the back ones were agony after sitting most of the day.
We only endured them because our vanity exceeded our pain thresholds.
It was also necessary, throughout the day, to tighten your nylons. They bagged and twisted as the day wore on, making your legs look like Grandma’s elbows. It was off to the bathroom to unhook, pull, and re-hook your nylons to your garter belt.
By the time the last bell rang, the elastic of your garter belt had been stretched and pulled and tightened to its absolute limit. You twanged when you walked like Paul McCartney’s guitar, and David’s slingshot paled in comparison to the weapon potential you had strapped around your waist.
The speed and power of a loose garter hook, if it were to be used for evil instead of good, could easily blind or maim passersby with one flex of a thigh.

After sitting all day in those slide-in wooden desk/chair combos in each classroom; after pep rallies on unyielding bleachers; by the time the bus rattled its way to our stops on its square wheels—our thighs were dented deeply enough to stack coins into the holes the garter belt fasteners had carved.
We didn’t complain much about the discomfort of garter belts and nylons. We considered it part of our gender’s lot in life.
If Jackie Kennedy and our favorite movie stars could stand it, we could, too.
Pantyhose finally became the fashion norm in the mid/late 60s. We wriggled into our miniskirts confidently, knowing no hooks or bare thighs would peek from under our tiny hems. Boys sighed a sad little sigh of regret, but the sound was only faintly heard beneath the swish of covered thighs packed into pantyhose that fit like flesh-colored Chinese Handcuffs.
The Good Old Days. Boy, am I glad they’re gone.
Contact Robin Garrison Leach at

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