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In 1954, women purchased an average of 12 stockings a year to the total cost of $9. Nylon was being used so much to make stockings instead of silk that ‘nylons’ became synonymous with stockings, and remains so to this day. 1950s stockings were still held up with garters, which were attached to the bottom of girdles. Reinforced holes at the back and front of the stocking made clipping garters into place more secure than past decades. Knee high stockings with elasticized tops were a garter-less option, although they did tend to fall down if the fit was not perfect.
1950s nylons came in various types of sheerness and weight. They were identified by the “gauge” of the knit, meaning how tight the threads were knit together and “denier,” the weight of the nylon. The higher the gauge and lower the denier, the more sheer, more see through, and more prone to snagging they were. A 60 gauge nylon with 12 denier was quite sheer while a 50 gauge nylon with 15 denier was durable and somewhat more like tights are today. Nearly all nylons had reinforced toes, foot and heel to provide strength and durability.1955 Seamless Sheer Stockings
Although seamless circular knit stockings were manufactured, too, most women continued to wear stockings with a seam up the back. Seamless 1950s stockings looked too much like bare legs, and the seam-free version took a long time to take off. They were most often worn for special occasions in an ultra sheer gauge.
Most 1950s stockings were fully fashioned, meaning they were knit into the shape of a leg rather than as a stretchy tube like they are today. Held up by garter belts or girdles, nylons were sized to fit by the size of the foot. They didn’t always fit the shape of the leg, and girls had to constantly run to the ladies room and fix sagging nylons and straighten back seams. Lane Bryant developed plus size stockings with wide calves to accommodate not just stout women but those with naturally stout legs (like me!).
By the end of the decade, circular knit seamless stockings were gaining popularity as well as “stretch” nylons. Both needed an aggressive marketing campaign to educate retailers and consumers on the better fit quality of circular knit stockings.
Unlike 1940s stockings, 1950s seams were often black regardless of body tone. The forties wanted a subtle seam while the 1950s embraced the visible seam. Both skin tone and black seams were equally popular in the 1950s. Stockings that were worn during the day were usually the color of skin or a couple shades darker for a tanned look (or to hide unsightly leg hair). Nude, beige, taupe, bronze were all common names of nylon colors.
For evening fashion women often choose stockings to match the dress. Pastel shades for pastel gowns, black for black gowns, ect Having matching shoes, stockings and dress looked expensive said Woman’s Own magazine in 1954.
An exciting part of wearing 1950s stockings were the heels. Often reinforced to help prevent runs and tears, the heels of your nylons were something to pay attention to. Sometimes called “personality heels” they were detailed and sexy and added a little personality to the outfit.
A plain heel stocking was a simple Cuban heel where the design was a squared off block just above the shoe line. Fancier heel types extended the design up the back of the leg, but usually no higher than low calf. Designs could be stitched in with black thread or “flocked” with a velvet like dust pressed into the nylon. Most designs were geometric squares, points, arrows, checks, dots, lace, and double stripes that were often called Harlequin heels. A few fun designs for the youth embraced musical motifs, animals, butterflies, flowers, bows, and people. Often these were the same symbols popular on poodle skirts. The design was not limited to the back of the heel. A small design on the outside leg at or above the ankle was just as popular. It was also possible to order nylons with a monogram of initials.
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