The Interesting History of Stockings

Among the many different fashion accessories that women wear, one of the most interesting to learn about is stockings. They are close-fitting and variously elastic garments that cover the leg from the foot up to the knee and sometimes part or all of the thigh. In the present time, there are many different colors, designs, and transparency of stockings to choose from. They are primarily worn for fashion and aesthetics and are usually associated with mid-length skirts and miniskirts. 

If you love to wear stockings, have you ever thought about how it started and why it was created? To learn more about it, read on as we’re giving you information about the interesting history of stockings. 

History of Stockings


woman in black dress wearing stockings

The term “stock” is used to refer to the bottom “stump” part of the body. By similarity, the word was used to mention the one-piece covering of the lower trunk and limbs of the 15th century, essentially tights that have the upper-stocks and nether-stocks. 

Stockings were made of woven cloth before the 1950s, and the first-ever knitting machines were made for making stockings. The stockings were made of silk, wool, linen, or cotton. A polished cotton called lisle was popular, and they were made in the town of Balbriggan in Ireland. 

Stockings, before the 1920s, if worn, were worn for warmth. As the hemlines of dresses rose during these times, and central heating was not yet very popular, women started to wear flesh-colored stockings to cover their exposed legs. These stockings were sheer and were made of silk or rayon. After 1940, they were made using nylon. 

When nylon was introduced in 1939 by chemical company DuPont, high demand for stockings started in the United States. There were up to four million pairs of nylon stockings being purchased in one day. During those times, they were cheap, durable, and sheer compared to their cotton and silk versions. When World War II began, the production of nylon stockings was ceased, and DuPont retooled their factories to make airplane cords, parachutes, and rope. With this, there was a shortage in stockings, which led to the creation of a black market for stockings. 

When the war ended, DuPont announced that it would return to the production of stockings. However, they were not able to meet the demand. With this, a series of disturbances in American stores, known as the nylon riots, aroused. It continued until DuPont was able to increase its production. 

In the 1940s and 1950s, a precursor of pantyhose made an appearance when film and theater productions had stockings stitched to the briefs of actresses and dancers. In the present time, stockings are usually made using cotton, nylon, or knitted wool. In 1959, the commercial pantyhose was introduced, and it gave an alternative to stockings. With this, the use of stockings dramatically declined. One of the main reasons for this is the trend towards higher hemlines on dresses. 

The sales of pantyhose in the United States exceeded stockings for the first time in 1970, and it had remained that way ever since. From 1987, the sales of pantyhose began a slight decline as hold-ups were invented. But they are still the most sold kind of hosiery. 

Different Ways to Hold Up Stockings

One of the struggles of women when wearing stockings is that they tend to roll down the legs. But there are three ways to hold them up. Here they are:

  • Garter Belt: Using a garter belt or suspender belt is the most common way to hold up stockings. It is a kind of underwear worn around the waist, similar to a belt, but under the clothes. It has suspenders or stays that clip to the top parts of the stockings. 
  • Stay-Ups: These are the second most common means of support for stockings. The inside of the top part of the stockings features a band of elastic. However, there is no consistent sizing for different thigh circumferences. With this, there are some stockings that either fall down or being too tight, which leave red marks. 
  • Garter: The least common means of support for stockings is a garter. It is slipped on the top of the stocking to hold it by clamping it to the leg. These are like the garters worn by a bride at her wedding. However, they have similar disadvantages to stay-ups. 


Though stockings are still quite popular today, especially for business attire and other jobs, it is quite surprising to learn that there has been a shortage of them many years ago. In the present time, it is very easy to buy stockings, and they come in various styles and designs. We hope this article helped you learn more about the history of stockings. If you’d like to discover more about the popular fashion items in the 1920s, you can check out our article about the Interesting Facts About the Iconic 1920s Fashion Scene