The Trouble With Stay Ups: They Don’t

Stay Ups Don’t

Everybody knows pantyhose is one of the biggest sexist fashion conspiracies there is. Women and men alike hate it. It is pointless, frustrating and ugly. May it go the way of the paper dickey!

And it looked for a while as if it would, too, except that men in corporate environments are terrified when ladies ditch their hose (they interpret the bare legs as a mating call); women are terrified by the sight of their ashen winter legs; and the $7 billion North Carolina-based hosiery industry is not going to just slink away quietly.

So there are black tights, though they seem a little grim by March. Then there are fishnets–though now that Alex Witchel of The New York Times has indulged, a bit of the joy has gone out of those, too.

Enter Stay Ups.

Stay Ups are basically the thigh-high stockings of yore (yore being Grandma’s era), except modern technology has made it possible to wear them without a garter belt, a piece of equipment that is charming for about five minutes. The Stay Ups have a band of elastic that hits mid-quadriceps. Wearing them, in theory, one can maintain the illusion of pantyhose, assuming its filmy urban barrier, without its suffocating misery.

There is one problem, however, with the Stay Ups. They don’t. At least, rarely both at the same time.

When men see you ducking into an alleyway, a candy store, a church alcove for your frantic, intragarment tugging sessions–which, come to think of it, are way more embarrassing than pantyhose runs ever were–they leer. They don’t know what’s going on, but they can sense the sudden helplessness.

In an instant, you are transformed from a sophisticated femme fatale into a moron clutching your leg.

“Not everyone can wear them; it takes a certain kind of person to wear them,” said a saleswoman who picked up the phone at the Wolford store on Greene Street, where top-of-the-line Stay Ups run, so to speak, about 20 bucks per limb. (You can get a version for a tenth of the price at Century 21.) Such as? “It might be something about your skin,” she said. “The pH of the sweat on your legs–it might just interact in a way that they don’t stay up … Sitting and standing a lot might also affect it.”

Oh, great, then, we’ll just stay put right here. With our sweat and everything.

“It could be that one thigh is larger than the other,” suggested Wolford’s public relations manager, Cynthia Hornig, when questioned about the slippage. “It could be the way you walk . If your legs are closer together and there’s rubbing, there might be friction.”

She had a few words about sweat, as well: It appears that the bodily oils that today’s active modern woman naturally accumulates during the course of her busy day might interfere with the sophisticated silicone magic that is supposed to keep Stay Ups up. Ms. Hornig’s recommendation: a brisk cleansing of the premium stockings with soap and water after each and every wearing.

Bending over a sink full of suds, squeezing out one’s undergarments several times a week–now that’s progress. Maybe it’s time you considered some pants.

–Alexandra Jacobs

New York Artists Decorate American Psycho

American Psycho , Mary Harron’s movie version of the Bret Easton Ellis novel, which opens on April 14, is–whatever else the critics are poised to say–a meticulous period piece. In one regard, indeed, the movie is more so than the novel, because Mr. Ellis paid little attention to the art that his modish characters would be likely to see on their walls in the period in question, late 1986 to early 1987. Meaning, art from the notorious Art Star period.

“We were drawing a very fine line,” said Gideon Ponte, the film’s designer. “We were trying to do something that was accurate. I wasn’t saying, look at the 80′s! Look at this crap art!”

The film was not Mr. Ponte’s first such venture. He had worked on one of Ms. Harron’s previous movies, I Shot Andy Warhol . “I re-created all the Warhols,” he said. “I went back and found the original source material he used to make the screens. I got the original screen-printers to make them. I talked Dan Flavin into re-creating work that was at Max’s Kansas City that had been lost in a fire. It’s something I’m very interested in. It’s always done atrociously, because filmmakers and artists, they’re always battling.”

Mr. Ponte duly assembled a wish list. It included Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Richard Prince, Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman. “All the work was to be recreated,” Mr. Ponte said. No originals would be used. “Because with all the blood and stuff we didn’t want to damage anything.”

The approach to the artists required some delicacy. Most art, whether it is Fragonard or Synthetic Cubism, acquires the characteristics of a period piece sooner or later, but we have become thumpingly insistent on “relevance,” and 80′s artists can be thin-skinned. It had been hoped that Mr. Schnabel would agree because he had been through the mill himself when he made Basquiat : Jean-Michel Basquiat’s estate had been uncooperative and Mr. Schnabel had been obliged to paint the “Basquiats” himself. “But Schnabel turned us down. Even though we were putting it in a restaurant,” Mr. Ponte said. “So did David Salle.”

Those who O.K.’d the project included Peter Halley, Ms. Sherman, Mr. Prince and Mr. Longo.

Mr. Longo was asked if he had any misgivings about the whole thing.

“I thought Mary Harron’s previous work was pretty good,” he said. “And I thought it was great that a woman was taking it on.”

So you have no problem being seen as an emblematic 1987 artist?

“Well, I am. I was there.”

Mr. Prince, one of whose iconic Marlboro cowboy images crops up in the movie, was equally insouciant. “I was a fan of the book. And I decided that this could become a mainstream cult film,” he said.

You aren’t worried about being identified as an 80′s artist?

“I understand that David and Julian have always been identified that way. But I think I’ve managed to avoid that.”

Mr. Halley was equally accommodating.

“I knew who the producer and the director were, and I just thought it would be a fun experiment,” he said.

Did he exert any quality control?

“No. They wouldn’t give me any.”

Was he interested in how the work was going to be used?

“I looked it over briefly. It didn’t seem that anything terribly bloody was going to take place in the scene where my painting was.”

Were you alarmed at the thought of being treated as a period piece?

“You know, I sort of got into it,” Mr. Halley said. “In a way, I guess I don’t take film quite as seriously as some other people do. It was just a fun little project.”

Mr. Salle was startled when asked why he had turned the project down.

“I don’t remember being asked, frankly,” he said. “One gets those kinds of requests periodically. Sometimes they fall through the cracks.”

Not that he thinks that movies are the right place for art, anyway.

“My feeling is that paintings seldom look good in movies–unless the scene is somehow built around them. It’s very hard to photograph a painting. They don’t translate well into filmic images. For some reason. The only time I can remember art being used well was the opening credits of Last Tango in Paris . They very effectively used Francis Bacon.”

Without wishing to spoil the American Psycho experience for the moviegoer, it’s worth mentioning that the most memorable art in it may be the gruesome drawings in the loathsome hero’s diary. Who did those?

“The prop master,” Mr. Ponte said. “They’re really good.”

–Anthony Haden-Guest