The earliest tights used by seamen from 1495 were made from the fibro material of the boot. By the 16th century, they had changed to be made of leather.
How did tights get their name?
“Tights” began a phrase as a nickname for trousers. “Tights” is a form of the French word “tout”, which is the name the English developed for the cloth or material. At the same time, it is also the name for the cloth that is often used to wash and dry clothes. In fact, the word “tights” is a derivative or a mutation of the French word “tout”.
What made them popular and comfortable?
After all, the English were making trousers for royalty and the aristocracy. The British people were often very frugal and preferred to sew their own clothes. But a lot of people like the look of old-fashioned tights (and so did the women’s rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft). In fact, Mary Wollstonecraft was so influenced by the clothes she wore by Queen Victoria that she called her famous book The Vital Question.
What was their style?
Many people found that the look of skirts like tights and blouses was appealing. Some ladies even called them “tights dresses”.
They were very high for their hour, but they were not as thick as the skirt that the women wore at the time. They were much more like a long skirt. They were also very long-sleeved. There are still tights dresses of this era, for example, in the English Museum which belonged to a man who was known as the “Widower”.
Do they still exist?
Yes, of course. They still exist in the American Museum of Revolutionary War-era clothing, at the Costume Center in Richmond on the west bank of the Potomac river in Virginia. There is also the American Tights and Blouses, a new exhibit opening in 2014, at The Institute of Fine Arts, Boston. It is made up of items which will be on display next year.
Did they have any effect on fashion?
Women started wearing tights as a fashion accessory in the late 16th century but it was not until the 17th century that they began to be marketed as a way of fashioning themselves. The “Widower” has been wearing them by the 17th century, and he wore the tights
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