Thursday, October 16, 2014

Silk Stockings, Skinny Jeans, and Other Quick Takes

October 17th is the anniversary of the day that nylon stockings made their appearance in the world. Nylon stockings may no longer reside in the top dresser drawer of ever self-respecting woman in America, but I think you will agree that their historic importance is significant.


So, imagine that you live in the Twentieth Century, and fashion has changed:

You will notice that these new fashions demand a bit more of, er, your legs.

Yet this is not yet a resident of convenience store shelves:

You really do not want to display thick, saggy socks of cotton or wool. You are forced to expend all of your pin money on keeping yourself adequately clad in silk stockings. Like the character Tib in the Betsy-Tacy series, when you go swimming, you thriftily hang your precious stockings over the edge of the boat to protect them, while modestly putting them back on when you come out of the water.

Then, one day at the 1939 World Fair, a new invention is displayed.

So transparent!
So strong!
So... nylon!

Nylon stockings! An amazing gift to womankind. Little wonder that the stockings sold out at incredible rates when first offered to the public. The war effort interrupted stocking availability, of course, as the materials were needed for parachutes and other military items.

You've probably seen this in WWII movies:
girls painting their stockings on with makeup.

When stocking-production was able to resume after World War II, women formed mobs to obtain the desirable garments.


Read more about the history of nylon stockings here.


It occurs to me that nylon stockings were the skinny jeans of their day.

They let you show your legs without,you know, totally showing your legs. Both are tight-fitting and ubiquitous to their era. Just as the seam of an old-fashioned stocking is a widely-recognized mark of vintage fashion, my guess is that the skinny-jean silhouette will be recognizable as "the style" of the twenty-teens.


The line between wearing skinny jeans and not wearing clothes at all is sometimes called a thin one. That is perhaps why an American Eagle April Fools' Day spoof ad made such a splash last year. Did you hear about it? In the ad, the models are actually naked... but they have skinny jeans painted on, and it takes viewers a while to realize this. Yikes. I would link to it, but I can't link to naked people, can I?


Speaking of skinny jeans. Would they be as popular with a less slender name? Has the person who managed to "sell" this title to the American public been adequately compensated?


The fashion of the masses is never quite as extreme as that of celebrities and models. We might say that if the masses are to be persuaded to wear X thing, they must see a more extreme version of it on the bodies of skinnier people. Which makes me wonder if leggings and tights-as-pants have helped to make skinny jeans seem perfectly respectable and normal for moms everywhere.


Did you know that old-fashioned, vintage nylon stockings came with optional patterns? I did not.

Those come-hither nylons are rather edgy, aren't they?

Linking-up to Conversion Diary.


  1. Those come-hither nylons are a gem. I gotta get me some.

    1. They make me think of those wash-off tattoos. :-)

  2. I made spelling mistakes so I deleted my comment and here's the redo:
    That American Eagle ad is really telling. Tight clothing seems immodest to me. The bible says in Matthew 5:28 that "everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I wonder how married men feel when they see girls wearing this.

    1. I think that the popularity of the ad does suggest a little ambiguity in mainstream feeling about some of the clothes that are currently popular, since the ad can be taken as satire on those clothes. I agree with you that modesty matters. Exactly how modesty should manifest itself in clothing and in attitude is trickier, though, isn't it?

  3. This is great! have never thought so much about nylons before, and am now thinking that I will start wearing them with my skirts, just for nostalgic's sake.

    1. Someday I hope to have a pair of nylons with seams down the back.


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