I may have missed the birth of punk by 10 years and 10,000 miles, but trends creep slowly into suburbia, and when I hit high school in the mid-'80s punk was still hanging around. My best friend was a blue-haired lesbian who made her own culottes from camouflage material she picked up at a thrift store. We'd pull on military jackets from Army-Navy surplus stores and slather on cheap black lipstick that left a gummy paste on our teeth before going to dance to, yep, Bauhaus.
It was the purposefully torn fishnets that were my most secret thrill -- the peep-show tights that, when I laced them up my legs, transformed me from 15-year-old straight-A student to slutty sexpot. I only had the guts to wear my fishnets a handful of times during high school, they were that powerful. And then, as I outgrew the slatternly ways of the alternative youth lifestyle, I retired them for the safety of opacity and demure little Hues patterns coordinated with my skirt color.
But fishnets are back, thanks, perhaps in part, to the fashion industry's recent flirtation with punk, and I recently ran out and bought four pairs in beige and black. Although I may not be totally embracing the return of some of my youthful fashion indiscretions (leather pants I can appreciate, but I draw the line at safety pins and the intentionally ugly), I'm thrilled to have a winter-warmth alternative to collegiate cotton stockings or secretary hose.
Fishnets turn the most mundane office-friendly outfit into a sexy come-on -- that diamond-patterned glimpse of skin -- without the tawdry implications of miniskirts or leopard skin or Lycra. Think the Folies Bergère, the fancy French whore in her satins smoking a cigarillo; it's a whiff of glamour in a white paper package.
This time, though, I wear them without the rips. I hope Vivienne Westwood would still approve.
-- Janelle Brown