The first stockings that I was really aware of in my life were the long cotton ones that were worn over long underwear. It is probably the long underwear that I recall most vividly, as it was so hard to get the stockings pulled up smoothly over them. First of all, you had to fold the bottom of the underwear leg over at the ankle and try to hold it in place while you laboriously pulled up the stocking. Nine times out of ten the underwear ended up somewhere between the ankle and the knee. After a couple of restarts, you just gave up and let it end where it would.
As freshmen in high school, the girls began to wear silk stockings. When I asked my mom if I could start wearing them, she said that I had to learn how to darn them, as that would be my responsibility. I willingly learned that task, and we went to the 5-and-10 cent store to buy my first pair. The stockings were actually made of rayon, and there was no choice of color in the price range of 25 cents. It was gunmetal gray, and they were so heavy that they had an iridescent cast in certain light.
Later, at least for dress occasions, a wonderful style came on the fashion scene. These were flesh-colored sheer silk with black or navy blue heels, toes, and seams. Nowadays, we would say they were “sexy,” but that word was not used in the 1930s. You could think it, but not say it! The seams of your stockings had to be straight, and if they weren’t, someone would soon tell you.
These finer more fragile stockings would run more easily. If I got a run and couldn’t change, my strategy when someone said, “You have a run,” was to always act surprised and look on the other leg first. Runs were always mended, and the stockings worn, for it was unheard of to throw anything away that could be fixed. This was a universal rule coming out of the Great Depression.
What a revolutionary thing was the introduction of stockings made from DuPont nylon in 1940! These were so sheer, and the feet never got holes. However, if a run did start, it went all the way and fast! If you got it in time, a little clear nail polish would buy you time. The department stores would mend them for a fee, or you could buy a special tool to pick up the threads. This was a really slow process.
Almost as soon as nylons appeared, they were off the market because of World War II. Nylon went to making parachutes. However, a few were made or left over, and the soldiers got them and bartered them in the war areas. They were a popular item on the Black Market.
During the war, with no nylons, we resorted to “liquid stockings” in the summer. It was like foundation make-up is today. You bought a bottle in the shade you liked and “painted” your legs. One problem was that you really had to wash them off before getting into bed, or your sheets would be a mess. Also if it got hot and you perspired, they would run in rivulets down your legs.
Right after the war, and for many years after, I sent away to a mail-order house for real silk stockings. They were much less expensive than in stores and very fine quality. They had sizes then, not “one size fits all” like they have now; they also came in different lengths. I wore size 9, short.
The final revolutionary invention was that of the pantyhose. I held off on this one for quite a while, but finally bought a pair when No Nonsense Hose came on the market. I guess I was not onto the sizing, for the evening that I first wore them, they kept slipping down. We had been invited to a going-away party, and our neighborhood friends all came. When we were all sitting around, I mentioned to my neighbor the trouble I was having, and she said she was experiencing the same thing. It was consoling to know I was not alone.
Everything seemed under control until our hostess stirred us up, and we started playing active games in the kitchen ---games like passing the orange and other innovative relays! Fortunately, there was a room off the kitchen, and whenever we could, we slipped out there, gave a hearty pull and rejoined the group. I wonder what they thought we were doing?
And now my question is: In this year of 2197, when you are opening this Time Capsule, what are you wearing for stockings? I am venturing to offer, with a real stretch of the imagination, a prediction: You, too, are “painting” on your stockings with a super spray that you have developed which comes in all colors, insulates you from cold or heat, and screens out all the harmful ultra violet rays of the sun.
I have briefly described the evolution of stockings in my life so far (1922-1997). Only you can fill in the next 200 years!