There's actually no claim to be the creator of the bodystocking, or even any claim of being the first manufacturer of bodystockings. There's some stories that they come from being worn underneath exotic and belly dancers' costumes, but in fact many of these are simple nude (or sometimes deliberately lacy) stocking material bodies (ie without the stocking legs), for reasons of modesty or confidence.
Perhaps one factor that weighs in favour of this being the origin of the lingerie is the fact that some people still use two separate words, body stocking, although the hosiery industry universally labels them as the single word, bodystocking. It could just be coincidence, or it could be that what started out as a body and stocking combined, became a bodystocking.
The first notable public appearance of a body stocking was worn by Adah Isaacs Menken, an actress who appeared on stage in a play called Mazeppa, in which she appeared as a nude man tied to a horse with his/her modesty protected by a nude style body stocking. This was in the 1860s and the body stocking did little to avert the shocking of "respectable" theatre critics.
However, while this dates the idea back over 150 years, it seems just as likely that the modern bodystocking was born out of a lingerie manufacturer looking at catsuits or bodysuits used by acrobats and adapting them to produce a piece of sexually appealing lingerie.
The Modern Bodystocking
One thing is definitely clear: the bodystocking has evolved. While many started out as full bodystockings, worn with skirts as outwear, the modern bodystocking is much more clearly an item of lingerie. There are still some designed for wearing as outerwear, but they are not that common.
Along with this change has come an alteration to the gusset. Older bodystockings were full crotch, like tights (pantyhose). This meant you had to take the clothing off completely for any bodily functions, which is not particularly practical if you're planning on wearing it under clothes or as part of an outfit for an extended period. It also rather negates the prime purpose of the lingerie for use in the bedroom, so instead of a full crotch almost all bodystockings these days come with an open crotch, also termed "convenience crotch". This makes bodystockings, depending on the design, practical for use as underwear when going out, as well as being something that can be worn throughout intercourse. (There, we said it.)
Less is more
As more and more hosiery manufacturers have caught onto the popularity of bodystockings, the design has been tweaked and played with. Now they are made not just from opaque material, but more or less any material used for standard stockings, so sheer, fishnet, fencenet, industrial net, lace, etc.
Not only is the material more diverse, rather than simply having full body and stockings, there are now long sleeved, no sleeved, cut away sides, open fronts and open backs. Combining these with the different materials has created lingerie that is very sensual and confidence inspiring for the woman, while still being very visually stimulating for the partner.
Thus, the bodystocking has become probably the only piece of lingerie that is often uniquely designed to be put on solely for the purposes of sex. Rather the reverse of what clothing and lingerie is normally for in that regard. For more on that see the What is the point of Bodystockings? section in our beginner's guide, here.