Dhe tales and legends collected at the beginning of the 19e century by the Brothers Grimm, there is one whose fortune is singularly less dazzling than Snow White, Cinderella Or The Sleeping Beauty. The Intelligent Peasant’s Daughter depicts a young girl and a king who challenges her in the form of a riddle: “I will marry you if you can come to me neither dressed, nor naked, nor on horseback, nor in a car, nor by road, nor by road. » Neither one nor two, the intelligent girl goes home, undresses and wraps herself in a fishing net (then gets dragged by a donkey, taking care that it walks through the rut). Upon his arrival at the castle, the king appreciates the performance and, noting the cunning of the damsel, makes her the queen.
Neither dressed nor naked: this is the whole paradox of the fishnet, which is said fishnet in English, fishing net. This work with more or less tight mesh flourishes in the world of cabaret. At the beginning of the XXe century, silk stockings proved to be too fragile for dancing and Nylon did not yet exist. Fishnet, on the other hand, lends itself well to movement and becomes an essential component of stage costumes for French cancan dancers or burlesque dancers. Among the latter, the great American artist Gypsy Rose Lee, who wore the fishnet from the feet… to the chest. Self-proclaimed “intellectual stripper”, Gypsy revolutionized his discipline with humor and spirit. Was she the daughter of peasants?
In the “Strip-tease” chapter of his famous Mythologies, writer Roland Barthes writes that fishnet stockings, like other classic music hall accessories, “remove the unveiled body at every moment, push it back into the enveloping comfort of a known rite (…) and stripping oneself of such ritual objects no longer contributes to a new destitution”. The nude that follows is unreal, smooth, writes Barthes, in a “careful conjuration of sex” which aims to abolish eroticism or to domesticate it.
It prevents. The fishnet stockings made more than one fantasize. For those who wear it, it has remained on the performance side, from a certain femininity to assumed sexuality. The exact opposite of the coquettish veil behind which the discreet or the bereaved hid for a long time. From pin-up to cult Rocky Horror Picture Show (always projected at Studio Galande, in Paris, since 1978), the fishnet passes from the first to the second degree, while the punk movement abuses it, willingly preferring it with holes, under torn jeans, leather skirts, or outright diverting it mittens or crop top, for girls as for boys.
Since then, fishnet has become somewhat gentrified. By changing material and moving away (a little) from the body, it becomes a dress, a jumpsuit, shoes and even a hoodie. A sign of its calming down, it now goes well with lace or sequins, and even sportswear. In 2019, Serena Williams played at the Australian Open with fishnet stockings reminiscent of the strings of her racquet like the net of the court. Another kind of performance that helped write its legend. Today, smart girls don’t necessarily need a king to become queens.