Tag Archives: stockings

Garters, Flappers, Rolled Stockings, and Other Stocking Stories

 Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

It wasn’t till Lynn at americanagefashion.com asked how 1920s roll-on garters worked that I realized many women have never worn stockings, much less rolled garters or garter belts. So I’ll repeat some of my reply, this time with lots of illustrations.

My grandmother still wore 1920s style garters (click link for image)  in the 1950s, when she was in her 70s. The rubber of the garter was tube-shaped, covered in pinkish-tan (knit?) fabric, and sealed into a ring shape with a tubular metal crimp. What this kind of garter  — utterly un-sexy, nothing like a flat, lacy wedding garter — did to the circulation in women’s legs, I don’t want to think about.

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator,  July 1925

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator, July 1925

Grandma rolled the ring-type garter up to the top of the stocking, and then rolled stocking and garter, as one, down to a point above or below her knee. The stocking rolled itself around the garter and created a ridge or bump, but this technique saved women from the runs you can get when you kneel while wearing stocking suspenders attached to the corset and clasped onto the stocking. (Rolled stockings also allowed women the comfort of not wearing a girdle….)

Suspender Style Garters

A Girdle form the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

A Girdle from the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

If those traditional garters (correctly called “suspenders” by the British) weren’t long enough, or you were tall, nylon (and rayon) stockings often “popped” at the knee when you knelt down. I remember coming out of church with my entire knee bulging out of my nylon stocking in the early 60s.

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

This 1924 ad for Onyx Silk Stockings claims that other silk stockings, although naturally more elastic than rayon, popped at the knee, too. “Bending the knee like this puts a heavy strain on any silk stocking.”

Lady’s Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

“Costly runs:”  as discussed in my “Living on $18 a Week” post, women with white collar jobs were expected to wear stockings to work, but stockings were fragile and a constant drain on their budget. (The Great Depression made this problem quite serious. In 2014 it’s widely reported that your chance of getting a job interview is better if you already have a job; in the 1930s, a person who was unemployed long enough to start looking shabby was much less likely to get the same kind of job as the one she had lost.)

Knee-Highs to the RescueLHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high stockings 500 dpi ad

I was surprised to find this advertisement for Holeproof  Knee-Highs in The Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936. “Most good hosiery counters now feature the original Knee-High by Holeproof. In Chiffon, Service, or Dancing Sheer. See it during National Holeproof Knee-High Week, June 13-20.”

[As the writers of Third Rock from the Sun realized, women like me always regarded our knee high stockings as rather embarrassing. There’s plenty of evidence that a woman slowly removing her stockings can be quite erotic, but slowly removing my knee length sox  – or support pantyhose, for that matter – is the opposite of seductive.]

Nevertheless, with the long dresses of the 1930s, knee length stockings made sense.  When you were standing, the tops wouldn’t show. (Although I don’t think many women flaunted them as they do in the top photo below!) Stockings that never had to bear the strain of being stretched between a metal stocking clasp and a girdle were likely to last much longer. And garters of any kind were not necessary with the new Knee-High.

The development of Lastex – thin threads of rubber encased in fabric –  revolutionized undergarments after 1931, and made a self-supporting knee high stocking possible.

LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high top 2 pix stockings ad

“. . . Gives the knee-freedom of rolled hosiery in a smartly styled way. . . The self-supporting Holeproof Knee-High. . . . No more garter runs. . . this revolutionary new-type stocking eliminates knee-strain and garter pull. You can bend, twist or kneel without straining your sheerest chiffons. No garter bumps to show ‘neath sheer frocks.” LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high next 2 pixstockings ad“Air-conditioned knees. If you pursue an active life you’ll find cool comfort in Holeproof Knee-High . . . and amazing economy! With garter runs eliminated, 3 pairs outwear 4 or 5 of long hose. Knit-in ‘Lastex’ garter top keeps stocking trimly in place.”LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high bottom of ad stockings ad“Full-fashioned silk hosiery (knee-length) with knit-in ‘Lastex’ garters.”

Also Introduced in the 1930s: Peds

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

The fine print says “elastic edge” and “non-slip heel.” “Wear PEDS for the beach, sportswear, street wear, around the home.” Peds, which could be worn with shoes while you were cleaning house, etc., were also suggested not just as a replacement for stockings, but as stocking savers: “If wearing stockings, use Peds under or over them! Stops wear and mending.” If your problem was that your toenails wore through your stockings, this might actually work.

Update, 6/29/16: There’s a great post with lots of photos of 1920s rolled stockings with bathing suits at  the Frontline Flapper Vintage blog. Click here.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1940s-1950s, Corsets, Girdles, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs

Living on $18 per Week, 1930s

“Marrying on so small an income is a courageous undertaking….’I can’t allow a cent more than $8 a week for food,’ says Mrs. Green.”

Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1935, p. 35. Royal Baking Powder

Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1935, p. 35. Royal Baking Powder

"No Need for Self-Pity." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937, p. 112

“No Need for Self-Pity.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937, p. 112

By chance, I came across two advertisements from the late 1930s that referred to living on eighteen dollars a week (above), and I also found a clothes’ budget article for a young college woman which confirms that her wages after graduation would be about $20 per week. (I will go into detail about each of these later.)

"What Can A Girl Live On?"  Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1936

“What Can A Girl Live On?” Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1936

Sharing the History of Everyday Fashions and What They Cost

It’s difficult to get a sense of what things really cost in the past, but theatrical costumers need to be able to place fashions not only in time, but in social class.

We ask, “What kind of woman could afford $6.50 shoes in 1936? Are they cheap or expensive?”

Red Cross Shoe Ad, Delineator, April 1936

Red Cross Shoe Ad, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936

“Would these dresses have been worn by the wife of a clerk, or the wife of the company president?”

Companion-Butterick Patterns from WHC, March 1937

Companion-Butterick Patterns from WHC, March 1937

Even information from the same magazine can be contradictory; a September 1937 advertisement seeking women to sell subscriptions to Woman’s Home Companion magazine (“No Need for Self-Pity”) implies that a working girl will struggle to get by on $18 a week; an editorial in the same magazine, October, 1936, said she would be able to afford vacation travel, and still put money into savings, while earning just $20 a week.

What Can A Girl Live On? A College Girl’s Clothing Budget, 1936

I have broken this brief editorial (one column from Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936) into sections so that it will be large enough for you to read it yourself: 1936 oct college girl's budge theadline1936 oct college girl's budget number only1936 oct working college grad woman budget paragraph top1936 oct working college grad woman budget end

I’m posting it in the hope that some enterprising economist or women’s studies researcher will find it of interest.  I’ll try to limit my comments, but…

1. Note that items with an asterisk are expected to last two or three years: coats, pull-on rubber shoe covers, an umbrella, bedroom slippers.

2. She is expected to get by on four dresses ($5 each), and four pairs of shoes ($3 each), per year. (Walk-in closets were not needed in the 1930s.)  This explains the many 1930s patterns for dresses that were easy to transform with a change of collar, or sash.

Wardrobe Dress, Companion-Butterick Pattern 7579, Oct. 1937

Wardrobe Dress, Companion-Butterick Pattern 7579, Oct. 1937

Companion-Butterick offered a series of patterns with “button-in” features, like this one, # 7579, which can be worn with three separate button-in vestees. “If you are an executive’s secretary you may want two vestees for the office — one in the dress material perhaps, with a tiny piqué collar, the other in plaid taffeta – and a third, for after-hours parties, in sparkling gold lamé.”

3. A pair of stockings is expected to last a month (15 pairs per year.)

Ad for Lux Soap, Oct. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Oct. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1937

“Runs cost money.” A run in her stocking could be enough to drive a working woman to tears – she might have to choose between eating and buying a new pair of stockings, and she was expected to wear stockings to work.

4. A “smock” is a puzzling item, but could be required in certain college classes, such as chemistry, art, or home economics. When you only have four dresses, protecting them would be important, and an apron or housedress would only be worn while doing work at home.

Women wearing smocks in Sealtest laboratory kitchen, 1930s

Women wearing smocks in Sealtest laboratory kitchen, 1930s

Living on Twenty Dollars – or Less – a Week

The 1936 article confirms that “The average University of Washington co-ed who steps into the working world earns an average of eighty dollars a month.”

"No Need for Self-PIty." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937. p.112

“No Need for Self-PIty.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937. p.112

This advertisement – purportedly quoting a letter from a subscriber – says “If you have ever known the need for extra money you can understand how I felt when I found, on starting my business career, that for several years I could not expect to earn more than $18 a week…. Therefore my small salary would just about pay my room and board and keep me in lunches and carfare with nothing left…. I needed new clothes and I often felt like crawling into the darkest corner of the office because my dress was so shabby…. My heart fairly ached.” Her problem was solved when – like “ten thousand” others, “girls and women in offices and homes, …even sweet-faced grandmothers” — she began selling subscriptions to the Woman’s Home Companion [or so says the ad.]

On the other hand, Royal Baking Powder ran a series of Great Depression advertisements, like the one at the top of this post, featuring true-life stories about people who were coping with low or lost income:

"Income cut in half... food prices rising... and six hungry mouths to feed." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, 1934

“Income cut in half… food prices rising… and six hungry mouths to feed.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, 1934

"Getting married on $20 a month takes courage these days." Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1934

“Getting married on $20 a week takes courage nowadays.” Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1934

The house this couple lives in (pictured at top of ad) looks rather impressive to me.

Home of the couple who married on $20 a week. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1934, p. 43

Home of the couple who married on $20 a week. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1934, p. 43

Maybe a single woman earning $20 a week could afford a vacation.

A Summer Wardrobe for $34.33

Make Your Wardrobe for Summer for $34.33. Delineator, May 1934

Make Your Wardrobe for Summer for $34.33. Delineator, May 1934

This home-made summer wardrobe (Delineator, May 1934, p.71) was analyzed as costing $34.33 – including patterns, not including thread. 1934 may p 71 prices summer wardrobe 5623 5686 34 33At first glance, it seemed much more than the $20 for four dresses per year allotted to the University of Washington co-eds. However, the $34.33 total included a coat ($8.13) and a shorts and shirt outfit ($3.06.) The four dresses (one a jacket dress) could be made for $23.14 (or less, if you made the striped dress from cotton instead of silk. ) If you didn’t sew, you could buy a dress, or a suit, or a skirt and two blouses from the Sears catalog for about $5 in 1937. [Everyday Fashions of the Thirties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs, by Stella Blum.] But a secretary probably could not afford to buy those $6.50 shoes.

POST SCRIPT (July 2018): Related posts are “The Great Depression Reflected in Ads from the Back of Womens’ Magazines”,   “A Woman’s Clothing Budget for 1924 versus 1936”, and Clothing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925.”

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns