Ladies of the 1890s bought stockings of cotton, wool, silk, ballbriggin, Merino and cashmere. Some were fleece lined.
In the early 1900s, they wore fancier stockings. Stockings were lace, had stripes, polka dots, embroidery, ribbed lisle thread (used until the 1940’s) and were made of wool and cotton. They came in “Opera Length” which were extra long.
The 1920s brought stockings with patterns. Embroidery snaked around the ankles and up to the knees. Flesh and soft pastel colors were popular and they were made in either silk or artificial silk known as art silk, later called rayon.
These stockings were so shiny that girls would powder them on their legs. Lastex, a rubber based thread was used in knee highs in bright colors.
Nylons were made of necessity. Ladies needed something inexpensive for their legs when silk was too expensive to use. Dupont invented nylon and displayed it at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. The “NY” in nylon was taken from the words “New York”. In 1940, the first nylon stockings were sold. Four million in the first four days. This was the new miracle fiber. During WWII, nylon production came to a halt and ladies resorted to penciling in seams on the backs of their legs with eyebrow pencil. When the war ended, nylons were brought back into the stores. In New York, Macy’s sold out of it’s entire stock of 50,000 pairs of nylons in six hours. In Pittsburgh, a mob of 40,000 women stood all night in a heavy rainstorm to buy nylons from a tiny hosiery shop.
In the 1950’s, Seamless Stockings were what the well dressed woman wore, although seamed stockings were still being sold. In 1959 Spandex was developed which conforms to the body, stretching and then snapping back in place, making saggy, baggy hose a thing of the past.
In the 1960’s, when Twiggy started modeling mini skirts, thigh high stockings had to go. The first pair of pantyhose went off the production line in 1965. Pantyhose had been in limited use since the 1950’s for theatrical and dance companies. The older pantyhose have a nice elastic band, the same as that used in panties.
Fishnet Stockings, first introduced around the turn of the 20th century, were popular in flesh tones in the 1930s and remained popular in flesh and less demure black, with dancers and entertainers throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Jane Russell is remembered for wearing seamed fishnet stockings in the early 1950s. In the late 1960s fishnets came into vogue once again, worn with micro-mini skirts. Revived again in the 1980s, thanks to Madonna, today they are still favorites for fetish lovers.
The most desirable vintage stockings today are Hanes and Alberts, flat knit, thigh highs, seamed, and Cuban heeled larger sizes, and silk stockings.
Cuban Heel nylons: A Cuban heel is finished with a squared top. These will vary in length and width There is also a Havana heel which is much like a Cuban heel. Manhattan Heels have a triangle top and a thin outline around the heel and foot. French Heels finish with a point.
Denier weight: This is the weight per-unit-length of the yarn. The lower the denier the lighter and finer the yarn and the sheerer the garment. The higher the denier the more durable.
Flat knit: Produces a smooth, sleek finish. This is the more desired knit for buyers of nylons.
Gauge: The measurement of the distance between needles in a knitting machine. Two-thirds of the gauge equals the number of needles per inch. For example, on a 60 gauge machine there are 60 needles to 1.5 inches.
Gore: The center of the heel or toe pocket, created in the knitting process, sometimes giving the appearance of a seam.
Matte: Hosiery with a dull finish; minus a shine or luster.
Mesh: An open knit used primarily to achieve a hand-knit, textured look.
Mesh Knit: A hosiery fabric produced in a variety of tiny patterns. Upon close inspection it looks like lots of fine zigzag lines. The knit is a variety of tiny patterns with loops interlocked. This kind of construction helps prevent runs, but a snag in a mesh stocking will generally leave a hole.
Micro-Mesh: A seamless mesh stocking where the loops are knotted in one direction only. Because of this, the stocking can run in one direction – from the foot up towards the welt.
Nude Heel: Stocking without reinforcement in the heel area. Enjoys a popular appeal thanks to the open-heeled or sling-back shoe.
Opaque: Stockings made of yarn which give them heavier appearance, usually 40 denier or greater in weight.
Reinforced: The stress areas such as the toe or heel have been strengthened with yarns of heavier denier.
Ultra Sheer: A fine denier fiber which gives the ultimate in sheerness. It is usually 20 denier or less and a low filament count.
Welt: The area at the top of the thigh where the garter hooks.
Written by Pauline Cameron/alonesolo/fashiontales