FLAIR (15)

By: Jennifer Howze
June 14, 2018

The fifth PROJECT:OBJECT volume is a 25-part series of true stories about significant accoutrements, appurtenances, and regalia.

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It was just after my husband told me he’d gambled away more than $100,000 that I became preoccupied with hold-up stockings. I was choosing an outfit for a work cocktail reception when I pulled out an old pair to wear. They were snagged and scruffy, with a musty smell. I was seized by an urgency to buy a new pair that would pull my outfit together, that would look and feel beautiful and expensive. I took two subways to get to a shop that carried the brand I liked.

The new pair was a rich black, semi-opaque, without that cheap shiny finish that made my thighs look like hot dogs. I put them on in the tiny elegant changing room and wore them out of the shop, like a child wearing her new sneakers out of the shoe store. The next week there was another dinner, this one requiring a sheerer pair. I travelled back to the shop, this time buying two, the bill edging close to $100. They made me feel sexy and independent, like I had been before marriage. Still, I tore up the receipt and hid the packaging in the recycling bin. I put my stockings on in the bathroom, where I couldn’t be observed.

Over the following weeks, as my husband and I fought, negotiated with the bank, cancelled the magazine and gym subscriptions, I went back again and again. I emptied my pretty paisley hatbox of coarse pantyhose and cheap hold-ups whose elastic squeezed the soft flesh of my upper thigh, making it spill out like pastry blobbing over the top of a pie pan. I created a home for my new collection, each pair preserved in its individual cellophane bag. On their labels I wrote which shoes they should be worn with — the suede knee-highs, the mid-calf black boots, the patent red high-heeled Mary Janes. A shop clerk persuaded me, without much effort, to buy a special bag in which I could gently hand wash them. I bought a bottle of lavender-scented lingerie detergent, which I measured out in capfuls.

By the time the divorce papers were being drafted and I was packing the bedroom, the contents of the box represented an investment close to $1,000. Some of the packs, bought just in case I needed a slight shimmer or a sexy back seam, were still unopened. I had quit frequenting the shop by then. I still had the delicate washing bag and the special detergent. I had plenty to wear for every outfit. I wouldn’t have to put them on discreetly in the new flat I would be sharing with my daughter. I am still a little bit in love with them — but starting to wonder if bare legs might work better this season.

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FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | Kanishka Raja on HANDMADE JACKET | Lynn Peril on BASEBALL RING | Rob Horning on NOTE PAD | Alexandra Lange on BEAD NECKLACE | Stephanie Burt on D&D EARRINGS | Michael Bierut on FEDORA | Debbie Millman on CHARM | Abram Himelstein on LUCKY 7 RING | Deb Chachra on HANDWRAPS | Jennifer Howze on HOLD-UP STOCKINGS | Mark Frauenfelder on CLARK KENT GLASSES | Adam McGovern on PLASTIC ALLIGATOR SHOES | Nicola Twilley on GOLD BRACES | Anne Quito on MUSEUM EARRINGS | Kristin Parker on STEEL BRACELET | Hillary Chute on POCKET KNIFE | James Gaddy on RESTAURANT PEN | Davy Rothbart on SHOELACE BELT | David Hajdu on PINCE-NEZ | Bishakh Som on KNEE-HIGH BOOTS.

LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Alison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.

ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.

TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.

POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.

SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

Categories

Codebreaking, Spectacles

What do you think?

  1. Great story it sounds like they represented a new start. One of independence, empowerment and strength!

  2. I have a fabulous faux fur Armani coat in the wardrobe, probably the same worth as your stockings. I bought a Burberry handbag, a pair of heeled Salvatore Ferragamo leather boots and a Breil watch all from the period of discovering it was the end and moving out.
    I still wear the watch and the bag and coat are still in the wardrobe. The boots were beautiful and are no longer here but I wore them to death.
    Those items to me were more than designer or feel-good purchases. They kept me sane as my world fell apart.
    I won’t ever part with them as they represent too much.

  3. Forever traumatized by hold up stockings. Test running my wedding stockings in central London and they started coming down. Walking to work at 8am near Charing x. Stockings around my ankles, me diving into shop doorways to try to pull them up. Sweating bullets, beyond embarrassed. Eventually had to dive into Embankment Gardens, pretend to be looking for something in brief case, took them off and had to continue with sickly white bare legs. Turns out I’d washed them and used fabric conditioner, which stops them sticking to your skin!

  4. Thanks for all these comments. Sarah, Shelley & Mari — it’s about the power of an object to say something and mean something beyond itself. Mari, I can just imagine that collection of gorgeous items.

    Toni, that sounds like a nightmare story! Good tip: don’t wash them using fabric conditioner! x

  5. Wow! This really illustrates the emotional power and meaning that objects can have – especially when we are going through tough times. Thank you for the story.

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