Women’s Hosiery through the Ages

Hosiery, commonly known as stockings, was first worn by noblemen in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was a symbol of their riches and made it easier for hunting, riding and other sports. The first woman to wear stockings was Queen Elizabeth I. She received a pair of silk stockings in 1560 and was so pleased by them that she decided to wear stockings for the rest of her life.

Modesty and Protection

Stockings or hosiery, have been worn by women since the 18th century. Even though their dresses were long, stockings provided warmth and protection. It was also considered immodest to lay bare the legs and the social norm for women was to wear them as part of their underwear.

A New Fashion Statement

As time progressed, women started reducing the length of their skirts. This exposed their stockings, which required that they be beautified and matching. A whole new market was created due to this demand. The modern woman was not afraid to wear a short skirt and flaunt her stylish stockings.

Nylon Revolution

At first, stockings were made of silk or knitted; therefore they had to be held up by garters or belts. In 1939, DuPont invented the nylon stocking. This elastic material now made it easier for the stocking to be held and increased its popularity. A setback occurred during the Second World War, when women were asked to give up their nylon stockings. The material was used to make parachutes and other related items. It was completely taken out of the market till the war was over. During this time, women actually resorted to painting their legs with what was called ‘liquid stockings’ in imitation of the stockings they used to wear.

Pantyhose and Hold-Ups

Finally, in 1945, the end of the war saw the return of the much loved nylon stockings. There was so much demand that stocks were sold out within a few hours of sales. It was at this time that ‘pantyhose’ was introduced: stockings joined to the briefs. This was easier to wear as there was no garter or belt involved.

A revolutionary step in the industry was the introduction of ‘hold ups’. These thigh high stockings did not require a suspension belt or garter. There was an elastic band already stitched on. This meant so much more ease and comfort for women that it quickly replaced all existing products.


The next step forward was the production of Lycra, a new material. Not only was it flexible but made sure that the stocking was now figured hugging.

Today, the market has grown in leaps and volumes. With the popularity of miniskirts and other short dresses, the demand and supply for stockings is limitless. Whether its plus size stockings or baby leggings, the selection is endless. There are many colours and styles, for all shapes and seasons and every occasion.

So what originated as a covering for the legs in the olden days has now become a means of enhancing attractiveness. It has definitely taken its rightful place in the stylish woman’s wardrobe.


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