One glimpse of celebrities' stockings and it's shockingly clear: The thigh's the limit. Earlier this month, Nashville vixen Tanya Tucker twanged away in her sexy stockings at the Country Music Association awards show. Manne-quin-of-the-moment Bridget Hall wore her hosiery below the hemline at a New York City benefit for God's Love We Deliver (which provides hot meals for homebound AIDS patients) last month. Models Inc.'s Garcelle Beavais went for double exposure at a Hollywood benefit for the T.J. Martell Foundation in August, while Jennifer Tilly got thigh-minded the same month on the streets of L.A. "It's a really fun look," says designer Nicole Miller. "This is one way of showing a little more flesh."
That sneak peek of skin stirred scandal in the 1890s, when French artist Toulouse-Lautrec dared to paint Moulin Rouge cancan dancers revealing lace-topped thigh-highs as they lifted their skirts. In this century the naughty nylons—usually worn with garter belts—gave way to easier-to-manage pantyhose. But when microminis swung into style this year, designers including Ralph Lauren, Byron Lars and Calvin Klein revived the Lolita-like stockings—now held in place by thick, hidden, elastic bands. "You can create a whole look," says Macy's fashion director Benny Lin, "without spending more than $13." Still, it's a fashion that's unforgiving, warns Miller: "You can't have any kind of thigh problems if you're going to wear them. They're best if you have very thin legs." That won't stop Nathalie Winkler, 27, a New York City real estate broker who, despite her lack of model-perfect gams, shopped for thigh-highs on a recent outing at Bloomingdale's. She plans to wear her thigh-highs through fall and winter—with a pair of traditional tights underneath. "I love the look," she sighs, "but you're either born with skinny, skinny legs—or you're not."