The first references to hosiery, also known as stockings go back to the ancient Greeks. Both workmen and slaves wore hosiery in ancient times and Roman women wore a short sock called a soccus in their homes. Silk or cotton socks were also worn in Japan and China for centuries.
In 12th Century Europe, socks evolved into stockings. Breeches worn by men became close fitting, reaching from the waist to the foot like modern tights. Women wore stockings held up at the knee by garters.
From 1545 knitted stockings came into style, their seams were often ornamented by elaborate silk patterns, or clocks. This term is still in use today as "fancy feet" the decorative seam treatments that were popular during the late 40s and early 50s.
In 1589, William Lee, an English clergyman, made the first knitting machine. Silk and cotton were the popular fibers of the era. Silk of course was the choice of royalty as the discovery of the New World opened up trade in this rare and luxurious material.
There were lots of different ways to wear stockings. Silk stockings were sometimes worn several pairs at a time in cold weather. In the 17th century when large boots were in fashion, linen "boot hose" were worn to protect the silk stockings underneath. They had wide lace tops, which were turned over the boots. Men continued to wear silk stockings with garters until the end of the 18th century, but long trousers begin to appear and socks have been worn underneath ever since.
Machine-made cotton stockings became available for women in the 19th century. After World War I (1914-1918) short skirts were fashionable and long silk stockings were worn again, once again, proving that fashion and skirt length determine hosiery fashion!
With the discovery and eventual use of Dupont Nylon in the late 30's and early 40's, the primacy of silk in women's hosiery waned. Silk was ultimately replaced by nylon after the war. But it was not without challenges from other man-made fibers such as Rayon, Bamberg, and Vilene.
Nylon stockings which became popular after World War II (1939-1945) and completely replaced the silk stocking usually had seams until the late 1960's. They were knitted flat and fully fashioned which means that they were shaped to fit the leg like modern sweaters. By decreasing the number of stitches as the stocking was knit towards the ankle, a garment was created that was knit to fit.
Seamless stockings are made on a circular knitting machine and are shaped by tightening the stitches. Hosiery is often described as being of a particular "denier", which means the thickness of the yarn. The gauge describes the number of stitches in a row.
In the 1960's when skirts were worn very short, many women began to wear tights instead of stockings. To show off your stockings was no longer acceptable and while stockings fought for market share by becoming extremely long, they became nearly extinct as tights gained in popularity.
But, we are glad to say that stockings did not become extinct and have made a comeback and are very in style today as witnessed by the variety of stockings available on Sexy Plus. We also stock some pretty tights too.