Hook, Line, and Sink-Her: A History of Fishnets


Berry wrote to US last month with the following an inquiry. And I'm quoting him. He says my wife and I have very different. Connotations we see fishnets I primarily. Associate them with burlesque and showgirls. But she remembers wearing them as a young girl in the nineteen sixties and primarily associates them with much younger girls and more innocent fashion. What's the history of Fishnets as a fashion accessory and that Berry is a great question and an inquiry that I immediately jumped on and it took me way back into unexpected and quite frankly unchartered territory for myself. This might not come as a surprise to our listeners but fishnets are of course athlete named after Fishing Nets School. The obvious yes April. It's been awhile since. We've put our dress. Detective hats on. Oh I see where we're going with this if you wouldn't mind grabbing yours a we are heading back in history actually quite far back maybe the farthest we've ever gone we're going back. Twenty eight thousand. I think we might need more than a half for that up. But I'm ready whenever you. I'm so sorry to disappoint you. Dress listeners but women were not in fact wearing fishnets. Twenty eight thousand years ago that we have evidence however in two thousand eighteen archaeologist and South Korea found fourteen limestone sinkers so basically these weights that have these grooves and them that indicated that they would have been tied to fishing at these extent. Sinkers are believed to be anywhere from twenty eight thousand five hundred and fifty. I love how precise date is to twenty nine thousand four hundred sixty years old and this discovery actually added nineteen thousand years to the earliest known use of fishing nets. My mind is officially blown. A little pink. Yeah and Fishing. Nets are essentially fibers nodded into an open structure resembling a grid. They've been used by cultures all over the world for thousands and thousands of years obviously and while the net attached to those thinkers that cash. Just mentioned doesn't survive. There are some really really old net. Set still do. The entry net found an entry of Finland is one of the oldest extant fishing nets in the world dating to around eighty four fifty BC E. And what is especially fascinating? Is that the same technology used to make these early fishing nets more or less is still in use today which is amazing and while our fish nets might be made of different fibers. They basically exists in the same form as they would have thousands or even tens of thousands of years ago but when did fishing nets you know this simple impractical device used for catching fish cast become fish nets that we all know and some of US wear today. Well this was not as easy and answered track down as I was hoping although I am grateful to pass dress guests Karen Been Horan. Who pointed me to our earliest visual source not eighty four hundred BC early but fifteen hundred to fifteen twenty ad early so you know five hundred years ago carrying authored a book with Jane Merrill called. She's got legs a history of hemlines and fashion and in the book they feature an image of an Italian jar from the walters. Art Museum in Baltimore which depicts a woman wearing these calf-high stockings which basically we can describe as fishnet stockings. And will yeah. It's pretty cool and it you are. Maybe we'll post it. And this is a painted image so not an extent example of fish nets but we have little else to go on except that the artists took their inspiration from somewhere. So maybe somewhere someone wearing These actual calf-high fishnet stockings. But the question is were women wearing fishnets in sixteenth century Italy. We might not have hard and fast evidence that they were but this is around the time. That scholars generally agree that lace a handmade openwork fabric was first being developed and really implemented into dress in Europe. And I know you're thinking lace fishnets lace fishnets. Well stay with us here. You know there are essentially two different types of lace and there can be many variations of those two types but the main two types are needle lace which includes a single needle and thread or uses a single needle and thread and there's also bobbin lace which involves multiple threads on Bobbins and they get braided together crossed over into many number of patterns so while we often associate lace with its intricate. Floral patterning of the foundation or the ground of this patterning is frequently a net. So if you look at the ground of. Let's say Valentine's lace. You will see that it's a square or diamond mesh or like an openwork very similar albeit smaller size to what we associate with fish net. So there's there's there's usually a net background on lace or a lot of lace. Yeah in the same can be said for filet lace April where patterning is achieved by embroidery on a knotted net ground so emphasis on the nodded. Because we just referenced this in relation to the construction of fishing nets and in fact fillet work is thought to have developed directly out of the fishing net which would have been owned by any number of European communities to which it would have been an indispensable tool. It's not far fetched to imagine that an enterprising woman might have recognized its potential value as a textile and began experimenting with decorative effects that being said cast all of these places. We just mentioned. Were being produced at this time entirely by hand which was incredibly time intensive and highly meticulous in this process and this meant that laces were prohibitively. Expensive all better few and because of this they really became status symbols and it is because of this reason that we have so many amazing portrait's from the sixteenth seventeenth eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that have these incredibly detailed depictions of lace. These men and women wanted to show off their lace right. They're literally wearing their wealth On their clothing and and it was an important that that the the porteous relayed that to the viewer but while we see the origins of an open net patterning lace of this period. I still had a really hard time finding any evidence of handmade lace net stockings. An I surmise. That these pieces were just too valuable to us as a garment that in addition to not being seen what have been subjected to the wear and tear a practical use. Because they're on your feet. You Walk on your feet for women to even begin to consider wearing net as a footwear fashion accessory to things appear to have had to have happened. I saw one lace net. How become affordable and thus more disposable and to as an impractical garment because you know fish nets fishnet tights are nothing if not a novelty? They really have to be seen to be appreciated. It's not like they're keeping you warm or anything like

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