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Suspender belts snap right back into fashion as we tire of tights; DEBENHAMS SAYS THAT SALES ARE BOOMINGIN CARDIFF.


THEY still make something of a taboo trend, despite being increasingly shown off under the red carpet's split dresses and miniskirts. But the distinctive, alluring snap of stockings fastened to a suspender belt has made a daring comeback for the first time in half-a-century, as part of the "underwear as outerwear" trend favoured by celebrities such as Katherine Jenkins, Kylie Minogue, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and the burlesque model Dita Von Teese. And now, one of Britain's biggest retailers says stockings and suspenders - which have been more a feature of gaudy fancy dress costumes or romantic nights in since the days when Sophia Loren posed openly in them - are flying off the shelves in Wales, where sales are among the highest in the UK. Debenhams claims black suspender belts with embroidery, sequins and bows are the its biggest sellers in Cardiff, with sales soaring by 238 % in the last month alone. Hot pink satin suspenders are next in demand.

Ivory suspender belts made from silk with ribbons, pearls and bows are also firm favourites and a popular choice with brides. Black stockings with back seams from J by Jasper Conran and Jonathan Aston are the items most commonly bought with suspender belts, closely followed by natural sheen ivory lace top stockings. The high street chain said its store in the Welsh capital has among the highest sales of stockings in Britain. The sudden demand is reversing the universal popularity of tights which captured the market in the early 1960s. Suspender belts fell out of fashion with the introduction of self-supporting, easy-to-wear and wash tights in the post-war decades. Sleek tights also removed the suspender belt's tell-tale clasp outline, which frequently showed through tight outer clothing. Model and managing director of Fashion Showcase, Kate Handley from Cardiff, said: "I've always thought the stockings and suspenders look is just completely timeless. There just isn't anything more feminine or sexy.

It's very much a bit of a vintage thing with burlesque, which has passed down over generations. I am really glad to see it rocketing again. "I also really like those 1950s style bras people are wearing over vests. Topshop has got some awesome half band bras, as well as waspies - corsets that just go around your tummy. It's definitely one to experiment with." Debenhams spokeswoman, Ruth Attridge, said: "Our British summer has started in the traditional way with frequent spells of sun and rain in the same day, leaving British women up in air about what to wear. "Stockings and suspenders, just like leggings, have become the popular alternative to tights. They provide coverage for legs on an unexpectedly chilly day, but at the same time are cooler than tights and far more comfortable to wear in over heated offices.

"St Valentine's Day and Christmas are our traditional peak sales periods for stockings and suspenders, but the powerful combination of celebrity influence and the weather means that we've had to change our buying patterns to accommodate customer demand." Stockings are again being worn visibly, whether smart or casual. While Lily Allen has previously opted for a slinky look, matching black suspenders with a black belted dress, Rihanna went for a more outrageous statement at last year's Paris Fashion Week with rubber boots and suspenders, while Katy Perry teamed nude stockings with a blue dress for a more casual effect.

WHAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT STOCKINGS In Elizabethan men's fashion, colourful garters and stockings were for display. In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Malvolio's yellow stockings are an object of some derision when he is tricked into wearing them to impress Olivia. During the 1920s, the fashionable hemline for women rose enough to show the legs, and hosiery that covered the legs was only available as stockings. They were first made of silk or rayon and after 1940 with nylon. InWorldWar II, stockings weren't widely available due to clothing rationing and the diversion of silk and nylon production for making parachutes and barrage balloons. The arrival of GIs from America brought a few treasured pairs, which the soldiers would have their families send from America to give as presents to English women. At the time, women used to apply watered gravy, weak tea or commercially available liquid to their legs to dye their skin to look as though they were wearing stockings.

The seams were added using eyebrow pencils. In the 1940s and 1950s, film and theatre productions had stockings sewn to the briefs of actresses and dancers. Ann Miller, known for her roles in Kiss Me Kate and Easter Parade, popularised this as a solution to the problem of continual torn stockings during the filming of dance production numbers. If torn, the entire garment had to be removed and re-sewn with a new pair. In the 1967 film The Graduate, Mrs Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, famously seduces Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, by undressing down to her stockings (pictured above). A previously unseen photograph of Marilyn Monroe wearing suspenders and stockings while being dressed by William Travilla was exhibited at the Victoria Embankment in London in November 2008.


Glamorous actress Sophia Loren in 1964
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 16, 2010
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