History of Fishnets


A prime example of the ways in which fashion trends change is evidenced through the fishnet stocking.

If you think about it, the “fishnet,” which first appeared in circulation in the 1880s, is a word to describe the seaman’s fish-catching tool: a literal net for squirmy invertebrates. It seems a bit peculiar, then, that the fishnet stocking has become a symbol of subculture.

In fashion, it first appeared as a feature of burlesque wear in the 20th century, where it earned the descriptions of “provocative,” “seductive,” and “not made for Godly Christian ladies,” according to AdvancedMinisteries.org. Scholars such as Roland Barthes and Valerie Steele have determined the fishnet stocking’s allure lies in its irony, in the way it simultaneously conceals and reveals. The fishnet then seeped into a new coterie approximately every decade. From the burlesque, 1950s pinup models like Bettie Page regularly donned fishnets as well as matte black stockings. Then 1960s female revolutionaries wore them with their miniskirts and “paper dresses,” as my own mom attests. As she told me, she particularly wearing the stockings that were sold in various colors. Then in the ‘70s, the fishnet went from “ungodly” to grungy as Punks reclaimed it as their own. It took a brief detour into 1980s pop (think Madonna and Material Girls), then back to grunge in the ‘90s.

I predict fishnet stockings will make an appearance in mainstream culture—they already have done so informally, most notably on Kendall Jenner. I myself was actually inspired by XYLO frontwoman Paige Duddy, whose consistently killer looks strike me as particularly on point: not just good, but really good. This Instagram post really inspired me into action.



I’m a big fan of a loose, graphic t-shirt over a bodycon skirt with fishnets and chunky boots, but I also recommend fishnets under ripped jeans for some extra (and perhaps more conservative) flair.

Illustrations by Alli Lorraine.

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