pantashoes: the origins of demna gvasalia's franken-fashion statement
What appears to be an outlandish invention on the Balenciaga runway has deep roots in fashion history.
Balenciaga spring/summer 17
Last fall Demna Gvasalia presented his second collection for Balenciaga, where along with a range of mini-skirts and latex capes, the designer introduced the "pantashoe." The shiny shoe-legging hybrid is a skin-tight 80s-inspired spandex pant with a pointed toe pump seamlessly attached to the bottom. Gvasalia returned to Paris Fashion Week on Sunday with more pantashoes for Balenciaga fall/winter 17, but this time around he traded the bold bubblegum pink and groovy floral prints for a selection of browns, blues, and neon greens.
Since launching Vetements in 2014, Gvasalia has garnered a reputation for putting a new spin on classic pieces, from trench coats to your grandma's crystal brooch, and the pantashoe is no different.
The pantashoe's predecessor, the thigh-high boot, dates back to the 15th century when men wore cuissardes, long leather boots made for riding horses. It wasn't until about 50 years ago that women adopted the thigh-high footwear into their own wardrobes, thanks to designers like Roger Vivier, who introduced a pair of Yves Saint Laurent cuissardes in 1963. The thigh-grazing crocodile boots stretched so high and were cut so close to the leg that when worn under skirts and dresses they appeared streamlined like stockings, hence the nickname "stocking boots".
The eventual transition from the thigh-high to the combined shoe-pant was helped along by the "first lady of shoe design" Beth Levine, and her husband Herbert. Throughout the 60s, the duo brought together different combinations of thin synthetic stockings and plastic and leather shoes to create all-in-one garments. They also helped popularize spandex and vinyl go-go boots, which were sported by leading ladies like Bridget Bardot and Jane Fonda.
By the late 1960s, different designers were experimenting with boots that went beyond the thigh. In 1967, Vogue highlighted a pair of black leather Oscar de la Renta boots designed by David Evins. The magazine dubbed the footwear "The Ultimate Boot," writing, "We've had long boots before—but this long?" The new boot, which featured a buckle across the foot and a short square heel, could be rolled on like pantyhose and held up by a garter. The style was similar to the bejeweled denim belted thigh-high boots Rihanna released last spring in collaboration with Manolo Blahnik.
In 1971, Suzanne Garfield, the daughter of a California millionaire drugstore owner, and her brother Gil invented the "Pan-T-Boot." Garfield disliked the way her fabric boots scrunched at the ankle when she danced, so she designed an all-in-one garment made out of a lightweight knit that was similar to a swimsuit. As Time described, the "Pan-T-Boot" was "a girdle, stretch pants, hosiery, and shoes all rolled into one." The Pan-T-Boot was offered in a series of bold monochromatic colors and floral prints—much like those designed by Gvasalia. They reportedly sold out as soon as they hit the shelves in New York City.
Recently, we've seen a resurgence in the stocking boot trend, with many designers like Raf Simons taking the footwear back to its mod roots. Simons paid homage to the original 60s style stocking boot with his fall 2015 Christian Dior collection. The Belgian designer paired his shift dresses and tunics with a series of vinyl boots in bold hues like raspberry and colorful psychedelic patterns that went over the knee and disappeared under the hem. But, once off the runway it became clear that these were just very long thigh-high boots.
Gvasalia also experimented with extremely high boots during Vetements' spring 2017 show last summer during couture week in Paris. The designer teamed up with Manolo Blahnik to create bright satin stiletto boots that reached all the way up to the waist.
"I thought, 'This is fun, mixing a chic thing with a trashy thing,'" Blahnik said about the collaboration, which was originally inspired by an iconic pair of his jewel-toned pumps. Rihanna rocked the bright orange version of the boots over a pair of denim shorts when she performed alongside Drake during OVO Fest last August. The boot went on to win Collaboration of the Year at Footwear News' 2016 Achievement Awards.
Few designers have been bold enough to go the way of the Pan-T-Boot to create an all-in-one. In 2010 Willow Smith was spotted on the Kid's Choice Awards red carpet sporting a pair of bubblegum pink Converse high-top sneakers that extended into pants, but the head-turning footwear was a one-of-a-kind creation by Dutch designer Daryl Van Wouw.
It wasn't until 2013, when former Jimmy Choo designer Tamara Mellon released a legging-boot combo under her namesake line in 2013 that the "bant," as some have called it, became a go-to off-duty look for models like Karlie Kloss. The leather style is a modern take on the 60s boot with a slightly pointed toe and square heel. Like the pantashoe, the stretch leather and suede boot hybrids were designed to be worn as pants and not as an undergarment like stockings.
"Actually I'm really happy that they did that, because everyone thought I was crazy," said Mellon of the Balenciaga pantashoe. "It validates the idea. And I think more people will be willing to try it now that they've seen it."
While Gvasalia may have been influenced by the resurgence of the "bant," the Balenciaga creative director attributes the design behind the pantashoe to his spring collections' exploration of fetish and couture. Fetish clothing made of leather and spandex has been influencing high fashion since it was re-appropriated by the punk movement in the 1970s.
Bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees brought taboo pieces like harnesses and thigh-high boots out of the bedroom and onto the streets. Throughout the 80s fashion continued to reference bondage style and by the end of the decade models wearing satin corsets and leather micro-skirts appeared in fashion editorials. Still today, styles like the ever-popular thigh-high boot and the "bant" emit a sexy bad girl vibe.
It's hard to say if the skintight pantashoe will become a staple in wardrobes like the Pan-T-Boot once did, but judging from the pre-orders on the Balenciaga website (some sizes have already sold out), women are eager to squeeze into the spandex all-in-ones.
Text Erica Euse
Runway photography Mitchell Sams
Campaign photography courtesy Balenciaga