The History of Hosiery

The History of Hosiery

Phyllis Lifestyle 39 Comments

When Neal and I were packing up our old house to move, one of the most daunting rooms to pack was—no surprise—my closet. One clothing category I had in extreme excess was pantyhose and socks. As I was putting the hosiery into my little bags, I flashed back to the first time I wore stockings.

I was going to my first Jr. High School dance and mom decided it was time. So she purchased the miserable panty girdle with the fasteners for the stocking sewn into the legs. Oh my goodness, what a mess. I finally got the stockings on straight, hooked up, and out I went. As the night got longer, so did my hose. I can still see one of my guy friends looking down at the nylon puddle around my ankles and then looking up at my face with complete dismay. All my female friends had already mastered the art and their hose were up and tight, making me feel sillier for my stocking puddle. How horrible.

The fashions of today seem, for the most part, to be leaving hosiery behind, but tights and stockings were always a part of my attire when I was younger. But the invention of panty hose saved the day and kept me from any more stocking slips. Now as to the “runs,” I always had a clear bottle of nail polish nearby to paint a dot at the base of the run to stop it. Of course when it dried, it adhered to my leg making the “ripping-off” fun. My how times have changed! And who can forget the fishnet hose?

Nylon hosiery came on the market in the early 1940s and immediately became a success. However, garters held up this hosiery until the invention of pantyhose in 1959. Pantyhose were invented by Alan Grant, a textile manufacturer, at the request of his pregnant wife who was having difficulties fitting into a girdle to hold up her stockings. She sewed her stockings directly to her underwear and suggested her husband make improvements on her design; thus, pantyhose were born.

Pantyhose took off in the 1960s with the rise of the miniskirt trend, but experienced peak popularity in the ’70s and ’80s. I had countless pairs of hosiery in a rainbow of colors and patterns. Although hosiery seems to be fading out of favor these days, I still enjoy wearing a favorite pair with a skirt and heels. Classic fashion never goes out of style.

Do you have a memorable experience with hosiery?

Comments 39

  1. Donna D I love the description of your memories! Thank you. I want you go back to those days of Southern manners and charm. And…Omg! Where is your church?!? I want to come there! It’s what I’ve been searching for. Real church, real worship, real hymns!

  2. Oh, junior high was about the time for me, as well. I remember the thin box, and lifting the hose our of the tissue. I started with a garter belt, and my mother insisted I wear gloves when putting them on to avoid snags. You are right, though, the fit never compared to panty hose. What a great trip down memory lane!

  3. My Goodness, Phyllis, you certainly helped us to remember many wonderful – and perhaps not quite so wonderful – stocking experiences.
    Even at 89, Mother would not have considered leaving the house without makeup and stockings.
    I, too, remember panty girdles, garter belts and stockings. We were not allowed to wear slacks to school and we would never have thought about not wearing skirts or dresses without stockings!
    I can even remember a desperate time or two in college when I wore two “pairs” of pantyhose – actually each pair had only one leg!
    Thank you dear Ribbon Friends for giving me a much needed chuckle today!!

  4. oh my my…….this blog was clearly one of the BEST !!!
    I cannot begin to tell ALL the ladies how much I enjoyed reading ALL our experiences !! This one clearly is a fav of MANY of us !!!
    Thank you Phylliss

  5. My friends and I are thankful for and marvel that people still dress up at our church, even the young ones and they seem to be enjoying it. But I must admit to going bare legged in the summer heat here in the south. The church we are members of is a fairly large congregation though not one of the oft referred to mega churches. We’ve noticed that some are visiting our church because it is a traditional church and there is comfort in knowing what to expect, reciting the ancient creeds and singing hymns from hymnals. There is still a printed bulletin with names of the children serving as acolytes and Bible bearers, flowers dedicated in memory of, names of the sick and of the recently wed, new babies, etc. I think people do what is expected of them. If no one teaches them or impresses upon them the reason to simply “want” to dress up, not because they have to, but because the church is the bride of Christ our savior and the people are the church. Every bride wants to look her very best doesn’t she?


  7. Seeing everyone’s memories of stockings and their trappings reminded me of the beautiful stockings my husband gave me for Christmas one year. They were a beautiful shade of dark brow with a hint of wine coloring with a finely stitched seem of black and a faint clock at the back above the heel. To this day I have never seen as pretty a pair.

    My first stocking, when I was in the eighth grade, were leg make-up. Does anyone else remember painting them on: all the care not to paint too thickly and get streaks and to let them dry thoroughly so as not to stain you skirt tail.

    Later I dressed up with garter belt and hanging clips and stocking, gloves, hat and always a linen handkerchief in my purse according to my grandmother’s rule that a lady always had her fresh linen handkerchief handy. In summer I often had a silk or beautifully painted folding fan. I’m sorry that women today never have them. To me fans are still the absolutely perfect touch in summer to make me feel dressed up and

    I’m sorry that I am too old to wear flowers, shiny camellia leaves or baby ribbon bows pinned in my hair.

    I hate panty hose and think tights often look boring and tacky.

    Thank you, Phyllis for sending us all hunting down memory lane again for lovely things.

  8. I still wear mine for business calls in skirts and keep a new package in my file drawer just in case I get a run! Some of us will never grow out of doing it right!!

  9. You have evoked wonderful memories of times past, Phyllis. I never feel “dressed” properly unless I’m wearing pantyhose. I, too, started out with a girdle and stockings. Mom bought them at Shop-Rite for me in a 6 pack so when I got a run & ruined one, I could pull another one out, get dressed and go, when pantyhose came, the whole thing was ruined!
    When I was expecting my first child (in 1978) I wore L’eggs Energy pantyhose for support and my Doctor was impressed that I kept saying my legs felt better.
    I’m so sad that the finished look of stockings has become passé’ these days along with good manners and dressing as well as you can.
    Thank you for the memories.

  10. My goodness, what memories!!! My mom, bless her soul, wore the Playtex girdle with the cris-cross in front! She also wore a long line bra with it…everyday! She said she didn’t feel dressed without them. I guess that was the forerunner of Spanx.
    Thanks for the memories of hosiery and panty hose..and yes, I still wear the panty hose during the colder months but never with my sun dresses in the summer.

  11. My grandmother had a hosiery shop in the west end part of Birmingham in the 1920’s. It was a small little shop. She got out of the hosiery business when hosiery began being manufactured in a variety of colors. She had a “Hemstitching Shop” in that same location. I remember Grandmother wearing her “corset” every day with her hosiery.
    When I was going to college we all wore girdles and stockings when we dressed up to go to football games, as well as hats (if the games were before 5 pm) and gloves. And we always wore slips with our garments. I still do as do my daughters.

  12. Phyllis, you always make us smile! Who would have thought we’d all have so much fun remembering girdles, garters and pantyhose! In junior high, we had to wear these hideous, one piece, white and wrinkled gym outfits that were bloomers on the bottom! We’d have to roll up the girdles, pull down the bloomers and put our gym socks and sneakers over our stockings. It was the only way to play gym and not be late for the next class. What a sight!!!

  13. I am still hoping for hosiery to come back in style! I always felt a white or off white was so much more classic than a tan or nude color. I don’t like wearing hose but I have spent quite a bit at the vein doctor after having kids and feel a pretty dress with bare legs just is hideous when legs aren’t flawless. I am amazed though by the women of all ages that can pull it off. Sadly I am not one of them.

  14. Oh the memories of girdles, garter belts, sagging stockings, oh my!. I remember the stockings being placed in a box with tissue paper. The specialty shop for hose was a treat! One popular color of stockings was called red fox. I remember the playtex girdle and then the panty-girdle. Now there is spanx ( speaking of not being able to breathe ). Oh the memories . . .

  15. I was in Jr. High around 1970, and Mom decided it was time for a garter belt and stockings. I have to admit, I wasn’t very impressed with this intro into the world of women, but it soon grew on me! The big town, about 30 minutes from my home had a shopping mall. Mom would drop me off and I would go shopping with my meager baby-sitting money, but how sweet it was! It was a charming day, going to my favorite Hallmark store (when they sold real stationary!) a bookstore, J.C. Pennies fabric department for dress goods, and a lovely little store that sold nothing but Stockings! A lady waited on you at a counter; you told her what you wanted, the size and color; she folded your pair of stockings just right, wrapped in tissue paper and placed it in a flat box for you to take home. One time, I bought a pair of really purple panty hose (which I still have!) and wore them to school with delight!
    Maybe it’s just the Romantic in me, but there is a feminine attractiveness in a woman when she “fixes up”. It doesn’t matter how much natural beauty she has, she will feel more attractive, therefore she will look more attractive.

  16. I remember always trying to keep the nylons from slipping and causing wrinkles on my legs and knees. I prefer tights. Thanks for the interesting post.

  17. Phyllis, I always enjoy your blog and those down memory lane….we are kindred spirits, you and I……..gardening, lovely embroidered linens, china, tea, furniture and on and on……….and so now ….Stockings….what memories that subject evoked. I grew up in the 50 ‘ s on a farm in North Central Wisconsin and attended parochial school. We always wore stockings to school with the garter belt holding them up. The stockings were rayon and felt great going on, but…since we were a family of one boy and 5 girls from a farm, we had to wear brown stockings during the week to school ( my city schoolmates wore white rayon stockings EVERY day). We could only wear the nice white stockings for Sunday church, church/ school events, recitals, weddings or other special events. Those brown rayon stockings were really tan but they were BROWN to me….. I hated them but I loved wearing the white ones. Any one remember the brown and white rayon stockings? As I grew older I graduated to nylons with the garter belt, the girdle with the fasteners, panty hose and now sometimes bare legs. I usually wear nylons even in the summer as I am older now and wear my Asics tennis shoes most days for good support but creates a tan line around my ankles! Ahhhh….the memories of youth and growing up.

  18. Another memory- my aunt was a hosiery buyer for a large department store, and would go to NYC on the train, for a buying trip. She always brought back lots of pretty hosiery in a beautiful box, for her 4 sisters.

    1. I miss those elegant hosiery departments inside glamorous department stores. One of my favorites was Marshall Fields in Chicago. I loved visiting there years ago and making it one of my stops.

  19. Phyllis you brought a smile to my face as I remembered those times. I still wear tights in the winter because they make my legs feel so good- a gentle pressure.
    I cringe whenI see young women today not wearing pantyhose, especially for a wedding or special event!

  20. My strangest memory of pantyhose was when a neighbor gave me a pair for Christmas. She lived next door to us, she had three children and not very much money at all. This was in the 70’s she was a divorced mom and didn’t work. I was about 10 I think. She bought my sisters and I each a Christmas gift. Mine was a pair of pantyhose. Not in packaging, just in a box with tissue paper. I don’t think they were used pantyhose. Of course back then I thought it was very odd but now I think it was a lovely gesture by a lady who was just barely getting by who wanted to get into the giving spirit of Christmas.

    1. I always feel that if you are going to dress up to go to a party then you should dress in your very best for our Lord.

  21. Tights, yes. Pantyhose, never! Can’t stand them and especially Spanx. Both should be classified as torture devices.

      1. Despite the name, tights don’t seem to fit as tightly as most pantyhose do. They are more like wearing leggings to me. Pantyhose always seem three sizes too small for some odd reason.

  22. I do remember the girdles and the hosiery that we wore as a teenager. In my era, by the time I was in high school, we were wearing those hideous rubber Playtex girdles. They kept the buldges that we didn’t have in place. I remember attaching my hosiey to the girdle. What a hassle to get the back fasteners hooked up. I remember in the summer sweating in that rubber girdle. I was so happy when they came out with garter belts to hold up your hosiery, so much more simple, and they always had pretty matching brassieres to go with them. Much more feminine than those girdles. I also loved when pantyhose came into vogue. I still wear them today, but they are a little more tricky to maneuver into nowadays as I have aged, and went from a size ten to a size fourteen. I sometimes laugh at myself, trying to wiggle into a pair. I feel like it was my big accomplishment of the day, when I finally get into them.

  23. Phyllis thank you for the”growing up” memories from the 70s. Do you remember the “No Nonsense” pantyhose from the supermarket in the plastic orange envelope? Or better yet, I believe it was the L’eggs brand that came in a plastic egg?? I recall being embarrassed for wearing re inforced toe pantyhose with open toe shoes to church and watching all the other girls wearing the correct pair with their sandals. I learned quickly how to purchase and wear the correct color and style of hose. Oh the fun of growing up.

    Girls today can’t be bothered with all these things, and they sadly just put on their stretchy pants and flats. I think we all looked so pretty and feminine, and even though the pantyhose were at times a nuisance, I’m happy for the memories and the photos we have.

  24. Phyllis, what a memory you have stirred in me! We “girls” of a certain era certainly do relate to your introduction to hosiery. Oh, the dreaded girdle, almost gone from my memory, but fondly you stirred that memory. I can’t remember the last time I wore pantyhose, not even to my daughter’s wedding.
    Thanks for the memories you share.

    1. Girdles are still an amazement to me. I remember every lady I knew wore one. My mom had that Playtex girdle with the crisscross panel in the front. I don’t know how she breathed but she really looked nice in her clothes.

  25. I remember my first pair of pantyhose; like you, it was for a 7th grade dance. Since I was to wear hose, I got to shave my legs for the first time! I felt very grown up.
    Phyllis, your wonderful blog is always a lovely trip down memory lane. I enjoy your publications, as well, having saved many years worth of Southern Lady magazines.

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