Stockings can be yours for a thong
By Teresa Riordan
New York Times News Service

PALMDALE -- Hundreds of inventors have tried to improve upon nylon stockings since they were first advertised in The New York Herald Tribune nearly 65 years ago. Now Karyn Cortani of Palmdale has come up with what she thinks may be the biggest idea to hit nylon since pantyhose.

"I wanted to wear a pair of fancy thong sandals to a friend's wedding but didn't want to go without stockings," she said. "I thought, well, maybe I could take a pair in to my seamstress and see if she could tailor them to my feet."

Thus was born her idea: hosiery woven into a mitten shape at the foot so that it can be worn with thong-type sandals. Cortani received U.S. patent No. 6,381,755 for the idea last year and recently started offering her Tohos (get it? "toe hose") for sale at $12 a pair in June on her Web site, www.tohos.com.

The stockings somewhat resemble tabi socks -- the foot coverings worn in traditional Japanese dress with geta sandals, which are thonged wooden clogs.

Cortani, a former race-car driver, said she tested the prototypes while racing around the track. "Banging on the clutch and banging on the gas and banging on the brake was a real good durability test," she said.

Cortani contends that her stockings are much less likely to run than regular pantyhose because the toe section, normally the stress point where most runs begin, is reinforced with extra weaving.

Like many entrepreneurs, Cortani is versatile. She worked her way through college by buying cars at police auctions and selling them for a commission. She has also worked as a hair model and a credit manager and has driven a truck for a circus (the wardrobe truck). Financial backing for the toe-hose project came from a former employer, Eric Tate, a business representative for Los Angeles Teamsters Local No. 848. Meanwhile, she has not given up her day job, as a hospice worker.

One might expect most women to look forward to summer as a season when they can cast off heat-trapping stockings. But hose makers apparently think otherwise. Other solutions to the sandal problem include Berkshire's Ultra Sheer Control Top Toeless PantyHose, a thong-style pantyhose that is toeless and anchors to the foot with a string between the big toe and the second toe.

Cortani views her product as superior to such approaches. "One of the main disadvantages is that you have to match your foot color exactly to the pantyhose," she said.

The patent office trod on similar ground even before the invention of nylon. In 1919, Ernst Nordblad of South Bend, Ind., patented a type of hosiery with a separate, glovelike enclosure for each toe. "Such a sock or stocking is particularly useful for persons having tender feet, susceptible to chafing between the toes, or to sweating between the toes," he wrote in patent No. 1,314,356.

Although Cortani says she did not have the podiatric market in mind when she decided to make Tohos, she has since realized that it could be a promising niche.

"Old ladies just love them," she said. "Apparently they are great for bunions."

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