Christian Dior Haute Couture, Spring 2015. (Photo: thestyledraft.blogspot.ca)
The thigh-or-higher stocking boot is one of those borrowed-from-the-boys accessories that took on a sexual charge when adapted for women. A sort of hybrid between the medieval courtier’s second-skin tights, the fisherman’s sturdy gaiters, and the soft armor of the dashing musketeer, it was most dramatically reintroduced to the fashion conversation recently by Raf Simons at Christian Dior.
Step back in time 50 years ago or so, and you might recall Yves Saint Laurent’s cuissardes, the thigh-high boots that Roger Vivier created, in crocodile, for the Fall 1963 collection. Tall and swashbuckling, these channeled courtiers of old. And, as the decade progressed, Vivier and others would bring the boot closer to the leg so that they looked like stockings and created a long streamlined look.
The 1960s were a boom time for hosiery; you could argue that the dawn of tights, and the development of stockings that didn’t require garters, helped to make those abbreviated hemlines that much more wearable and popular. While punks and pinups delighted in showing their suspenders, it was not comme il faut. Even the godmother of the miniskirt, British fashion icon Mary Quant, encouraged pairing tights with her thigh-grazing looks “so you can sit gracefully.” This is the same woman who, in 2003, told Vogue: “The ’60s for me were all about legs. It took a certain amount of courage to show them, but it was so liberating.”
Stocking boots borrow from musketeers and fishermen. From left: Mareen O’Hara in At Sword’s Point, 1952; and Mylène Demongeot, ca. 1960. (Photo: Everett Collection)
(L) “Musketeer boots—shiny, thigh-high, shapely as legs,” Vogue wrote of Roger Vivier’s crocodile thigh-highs for Yves Saint Laurent. Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, September 1963. (R) The well-heeled Pauline de Rothschild in Saint Laurent Cuissardes. Photographed by Henry Clark, Vogue, December 1963.
(L) The streamlined stocking boot look. Photographed by Gene Laurents, Vogue, November 1963. (R) The leather legging look, 1965. Photo: Keystone / Getty Images.
(L) Some stocking boots were held up with garters, like Barbarella’s, 1967. Photo: Marisa Rastellini / Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images. (R) Penny Dennis, 1967. Photo: Keystone / Getty Images.