Some Stockings from the Twenties

Stockings from Sears, Spring 1925 catalog.

Silk Stockings from Sears, Spring 1925 catalog. “Medium gray, Blush, French tan, Airedale, Black, Champagne, Dark brown, and White.” [Airedale?]

I had been thinking about stocking styles and stocking colors when I found this photo in an antique store:

Three women, dated January 3, 1928. Vintage photo.

Three women, dated January 3, 1928. Vintage photo.

The writing on the back of the photo is European, but I can't tell if it says 3 Janvier 1928 (French) or Januar 1928 (German.)

The writing on the back of the photo is European; I think it says 3 Janvier 1928. [Lynn suggests it says “Januar” in German. Thanks! Ed. 6/7/15.]

The two girls in matching sweaters have elegant legs, but the one on the left is wearing matte finish stockings with rather shiny (metallic?) shoes, while the stockings of the girl on the right have the sheen of silk — but not sheer silk.

Silk stockings were sold in sheer (“Chiffon weight,”) “service weight,” “Mid-weight,” and in many blends of silk, rayon, cotton,  and wool. Often the part of the stocking hidden by shoes was a sturdier material, like cotton, which could be mended.

Silk and rayon stockings with cotton garter tops, heels, and toes. Sears catalog, Spring 1927.

Silk and rayon stockings (“Practical for hard wear”) with cotton garter tops, heels, and toes. Sears catalog, Spring 1927.

Sometimes the top of the stocking would be a different (or cheaper) fabric, since runs caused by the pull of suspenders (clasp garters) on the stocking top were common.

I was happy to be a young woman in the 1960s, because I loved the body-skimming dress styles. But I was never happy about having to expose my far-from-Twiggy-like legs. Opaque tights in many colors were a boon to women like me.

Photo by Pat Faure from Elegance, fall/winter 1965 -66.

Photo by Pat Faure from Elegance, fall/winter 1965 -66.

Textured hose were also popular in the sixties, and reappeared in the 1980s. But vividly colored hosiery — and textured hose — were also worn in the 1920’s.

Colored Stockings, 1920’s

I’ve written about nineteen twenties’ stocking colors before, (click here) but here are a few of the more vivid examples from advertisements:

Arch Preserver Shoe ad. Delineator, June 1929.

Arch Preserver Shoe ad. Delineator, June 1929.

Holeproof silk stocking ad illustrated by J. Clelland Barclay, October, 1925. Delineator.

Holeproof silk stocking ad illustrated by J. Clelland Barclay, October, 1925. Delineator.

Realsilk Hosiery ad, Delineator, October, 1929.

Realsilk Hosiery ad, Delineator, October, 1929.

The opacity of some real silk stockings is shown in this ad for Holeproof Hosiery:

Holeproof hosiery ad illustrated by J. Clelland Barclay, May, 1925. Delineator.

Holeproof hosiery ad illustrated by J. Clelland Barclay, May, 1925. Delineator.

These don’t look very different from the pale stockings in my 1928 found photo . . .

3 women stockings jan 3 1928 photo

. . . or in this stocking ad from 1928.

Movie actress Claire Windsor appeared in this ad for Allen A Hosiery, Delineator, Dec. 1928.

Movie actress Claire Windsor appeared in this ad for Allen-A Hosiery; Delineator, Dec. 1928. Hosiery the same color as your shoes makes your legs look longer — but the ad does not explain why Allen-A hose are superior to other brands.

Butterick pattern illustrations also show women wearing colored stockings.

Butterick pattern illustrations, Delineator, Sept. 1926. The young woman in the blue dress wears stockings to match the lining of her party dress.

Butterick pattern illustrations, Delineator, Sept. 1926. The young woman in the blue dress wears stockings to match the lining of her party dress.

Illustrator Marie L. Britton showed these day dresses worn with stockings toned to match. Delineator, 1926.

Illustrator Marie L. Britton showed these day dresses worn with stockings toned to match. Delineator, 1926.

Textured Stockings, 1920’s

Textured hose were worn with sportier outfits, and textured wool blend stockings were good for winter.

Textured hose from an article about rainwear; Delineator, April, 1929.

Textured hose from an article about rainwear; Delineator, April, 1929.

Ribbed half-wool stockings, Sears catalog for Fall 1928.

Ribbed half-wool stockings; Sears catalog for Fall 1928.

Embroidered stockings had been around for centuries, but the look of embroidery — actually, a pattern woven into the stocking —  was also available in the 1920’s. This advertisement shows a stocking with a “clock” and suggests it, in white, for a wedding:

Kayser Hosiery ad, top. Delineator, Nov. 1924.

Kayser Hosiery ad, top. Delineator, Nov. 1924.

Kayser hosiery ad, bottom. Clocked stockings for the bride; Delineator, Nov. 1924.stod

Kayser hosiery ad, bottom. Clocked stockings for the bride; Delineator, Nov. 1924.

Sears called them “lace effect” stockings.

Clocked stockings, right, from Sears catalog Spring, 1925.

Clocked stockings, right, from Sears catalog Spring, 1925.

“Slenderizing” Heels on Stockings, 1920’s

The Kayser ad said its “Slipper heel — slenderizes ankles.” With rising hemlines,  legs and ankles became more exposed.

Ankle Reducer Ad, Delineator, November, 1924.

Lenor Ankle Reducer Ad, Delineator, November, 1924.

“Slip on when you go to bed and note amazing results next morning. Reduces and shapes ankle and lower calf. Slips on like a glove. . . . Enables you to wear low shoes becomingly. Worn under stockings without detection. Used by prominent actresses.”

Other manufacturers stressed that the shape of the heel — at least, the part that was visible above the shoe — could draw attention to your shapely ankles and/or create the illusion of a “dainty ankle.”

The Gordon Hosiery Company offered two heel styles in a series of ads:

Gordon's hosiery ads from Delineator, Nov. 1928 through May 1929.

Gordon Hosiery ads from Delineator, Nov. 1928 through May 1929.

These are all the same two styles, which came in a wide range of colors intended to match the wearer’s skin tones — a more natural look, in sheerer stockings, than were worn in the early 1920’s.

Text from Gordon's hosiery ad, May 1929.

Text from Gordon Hosiery ad, May 1929.

“. . . The modern Gordon color series is based on a new theory . . . that every woman must match her hosiery to her individual skin tones — considering always, of course, her ensemble.”

Gordon Narrow heel stocking (right) and Gordon V- line heel (left.) Nov. 1928.

Gordon Narrow heel stocking (right) and Gordon V- line heel (left.) Nov. 1928.

The “Gordon narrow heel” — a tall rectangle — really was more flattering than the shorter, wider heels usually available from Sears:

Stockings from Sears catalog, Spring 1928.

Stockings from Sears catalog, Spring 1928.

The Onyx Hosiery company had its own, different heel design, a single triangle called the “Pointex.”

Onyx brand's

Onyx brand’s “Pointex” heel, “which makes trim ankles look their best.” April 1924 ad, bottom. Delineator.

Onyx hosiery ad, top, April 1924.

Onyx Hosiery ad, top, April 1924.

This pointed heel design was also available from Sears, Roebuck by 1928:

Stockings

Stockings “with the new pointed heel” from Sears catalog, Spring 1928.

As women began to associate suntans with wealth, wildly colored stockings began to give way to more natural shades, as described in the Gordon Hosiery ad above. In May of 1929, the Gordon Hosiery ad read:

“There is . . . in this fashion of complementing one’s complexion with one’s stocking . . . a subtle artistry . . . a complete harmony . . . that we have never consistently achieved before. For, as legs take on the same tone as face, arms, and neck (which is the object of the skin-tone stockings) . . . our frocks become dramatized. And the line, silhouette, and every charming detail are accented. The Gordon Skin-Tones are designed for every woman under the sun . . . and also for the ones who avoid the sun.”

Realsilk hosiery colors for April, 1929. Color is not precise.

Realsilk hosiery colors for April, 1929. [Color is not precise.]

The sheer stockings, in natural skin tones, which were popular later in the 1920’s were also available from Sears, although working women probably saved these fragile stockings — almost impossible to mend — for evening wear.

Stocking colors from Sears catalog, Fall 1928.

Stocking colors from Sears catalog, Fall 1928.

NOTE: “Full-fashioned” stockings were shaped in the knitting process; other stockings were shaped by cutting and seaming. Some 1920’s stockings had seamless feet, but the seam up the back was considered “slenderizing” and flattering to most women.

To read previous posts about stockings, garters, girdles, corsets and the 1920’s, browse through the “Hosiery & Stockings” category, or the “Underthings” category.

9 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Corsets, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, vintage photographs

9 responses to “Some Stockings from the Twenties

  1. That looks like German handwriting to me, and I’m betting it says “Januar.” This is an amazing post, as always. It brought home just how expensive real silk stockings were! They cost more than a lot of dresses. When I worked in the Romaine collection of vintage catalogs at UC Santa Barbara, there were some sample books with stocking swatches. Maybe I should go back and take another look. We could meet there and look together!

    • Thank you! I thought it looked German, too, and looked up “Januar” — then went with the floating dot meaning “i”. Glad I didn’t have to decipher a whole letter! I guessed wrong.

      • About those stocking swatches…. In my mother’s sewing kit there were little cards of sewing thread in many shades of tan, etc. They were for mending stockings, and she’d had them since the twenties. That’s why I always assumed 1920’s stockings were fairly thick — who could darn a nylon? She also had a darning egg, which we used when mending socks. I’ve done that!

  2. It’s interesting that today I see 1920s stocking in mainly white and black, and the occasional beige tone. I wonder what happened to all those wonderfully colored ones?

    • It’s possible that people didn’t buy what was advertised. How many people buy extreme fashions today, compared to a tamer version? The colorful ad catches our eye, but we settle for something more conservative. I have one pair of red workout pants — and a week’s supply in gray or black! Of course, finding 90 year old stockings intact implies that those colors were not often worn. . . . which doesn’t seem to be true of black stockings. Oops — I’m thinking in circles today.

    • Christina

      Apart from going out of fashion the aniline dyed stockings became unstable over time and stockings were packaged and folded so finding stockings in near perfect condition is quite rare. Patterned and coloured stockings were also popular in the 19th century. They weren’t considered extreme and reflected the new industrial knitting machines and the development of new dyes.

  3. Pingback: A Woman’s Clothing Budget for 1924 versus 1936 | witness2fashion

  4. Pingback: Ski Clothes for Women, January 1927 | witness2fashion

  5. Pingback: A Look Back at Stockings, Mostly 1920’s | witness2fashion

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