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.
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.
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:
The opacity of some real silk stockings is shown in this ad for Holeproof Hosiery:
These don’t look very different from the pale stockings in my 1928 found photo . . .
. . . or in this stocking ad from 1928.
Butterick pattern illustrations also show women wearing colored stockings.
Textured Stockings, 1920’s
Textured hose were worn with sportier outfits, and textured wool blend stockings were good for winter.
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:
Sears called them “lace effect” stockings.
“Slenderizing” Heels on Stockings, 1920’s
The Kayser ad said its “Slipper heel — slenderizes ankles.” With rising hemlines, legs and ankles became more exposed.
“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:
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.
“. . . 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.”
The “Gordon narrow heel” — a tall rectangle — really was more flattering than the shorter, wider heels usually available from Sears:
The Onyx Hosiery company had its own, different heel design, a single triangle called the “Pointex.”
This pointed heel design was also available from Sears, Roebuck by 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:
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.
“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.”
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.