Sophia Loren wouldn't have been caught dead in a pair of footless tights Rowan Pelling I always replied that while the arousing powers of oysters, asparagus, chocolate and the like were disputed, there was, in my opinion, only one thing guaranteed to raise the libido every time: Is it any wonder that statisticians also recently reported a dramatic fall in the number of couples getting married?
I am not suggesting that by slipping on a garter belt a woman instantly ensures herself a proposal of marriage - but, dear Lord, does it help! The lingerie dissidents would say this is the problem with stockings: Even if this were true, wherein lies the problem? Women routinely make huge demands of men. When I ask single female friends what they are seeking in a partner they tend to list the following attributes: As Fay Weldon wrote in these pages this week, there's an alarming tendency for modern alpha females to view men as designer accessories - superfluous to one's needs, but a pleasing luxury item if they come in fashionable trim.
But woe betide the man who makes similar demands, particularly if the plaintive request is for his beloved to occasionally don stockings; there's every chance he will be viewed as a misogynistic reprobate. The truth is that wearing a suspender belt once in a while does not make you a surrendered wife.
Indeed, like all the big guns in a woman's arsenal of seduction high heels and red lipstick come to mind , stockings can be very empowering. It is hard to think of a woman more firmly in the driving seat than Anne Bancroft's Mrs Robinson in The Graduate peeling off a stocking before a mesmerised Dustin Hoffman.
And how about those iconic images of Sophia Loren in wasp-waisted black corsetry and suspenders? There is no weakness there: When she slowly eased up her silk stockings the cheers from the hundreds-strong throng of men and women nearly blew the tent away. Would the same response be elicited by a pair of denier tights? I have worn stockings and suspenders throughout my adult life and have never once thought I was pandering to male whims. A garter belt is an eminently sensible thing to wear under a skirt or dress as it allows you to wear hosiery without the horrid, sweaty double-gusset effect of wearing tights over knickers.
And although I also own several pairs of hold-up stockings, I have yet to find the pair that won't, at some embarrassing point, descend to my ankles in a deflated tangle of nylon and rubber.
The sense of structure that suspender belts lend to your underpinnings makes one move in a more authoritative way. I have always worn a garter belt and stockings to important meetings because, although they're hidden beneath a prim skirt and jacket, there's a sense my loins are girded for business.
Conversely, or so it seems to me, the more slouchy your underwear, the more casual your attitude. Apparently the current crisis in the world of stockings has been caused by the return of leggings and footless tights. Call me old-fashioned, but women don't look very emancipated to me when they're dressed like failed aerobics teachers.
But there's no doubt that the best place for stockings is in the bedroom. Although the world of lads' mags is entirely breast-fixated, in my experience most men are more entranced by a shapely pair of pins and a comely derriere - and nothing shows those assets off to better advantage than a properly employed suspender belt. I know some women would argue that the whole rigmarole is effortful and uncomfortable, but then men don't generally like shaving, washing and flossing as much as we order them to.
It seems to me that if a man pays you the compliment of courting you assiduously, you should return the compliment by wearing gorgeous lingerie. How can you blame a generation of modern men for not popping the question when they're doomed to a lifetime of leggings?