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Tuesday, 15 May 2018


A stocking is a piece of women's clothing, which are made of stretchy materials. They are often worn instead of tights or socks.

A pair of dark grey nylon stockings.By Antique Rose

The Romans wrapped their feet, legs, and ankles in long strips of leather or woven cloth, which they called udones. They were made from woven fabric, skins, or felt and pulled on over the feet, but they lacked elasticity.These forerunners of modern stockings were first mentioned in the 2nd century AD.

Early stockings have to be found in Egyptian graves in Antinoe, from circa 500 AD.

In medieval times stockings were knitted using woven cloth.

In the cold winters of 16th century England it was essential for women to wear stockings to keep warm, but it was a time-consuming process to knit them. The Reverend William Lee, a curate at Calverton in Nottinghamshire, invented in 1589 a machine that would do their work. 

Proud of his achievement, The Reverend Lee presented a pair of his novel machine-made stockings to Queen Elizabeth I. However, the queen refused a patent to the clergyman, because his stockings were coarser than those of fine silk imported from Spain.

Lee set out to improve on his invention and succeeded in producing a machine with many more needles. It was capable of making hosiery of a much finer texture and at a faster rate. For the second time, he presented it to the queen but again, but he was again refused a patent because of the fear that it would harm hand knitters. Stocking manufacturers, seeing their livelihood threatened, also made sure that Lee could not utilize his mechanical device.

Lee moved to France with his brother James, taking nine workmen and nine frames. He found better support from the Huguenot Henry IV of France, who granted him a patent. The English clergyman began stocking manufacture in Rouen, France, and prospered until, Henry's assassination in 1610. However the climate changed abruptly on the king's death and Lee's spirit was broken. He died in poverty in 1614.

The clergyman's brother James Lee returned to England and moved to Thoroton, near Nottingham where Lee's apprentice, Aston, had continued to work on the frame and produced a number of improvements. This led to the establishment of the framework-knitting industry with two centers, in London and Nottingham, making the clergyman the pioneer in the mechanization of hosiery manufacture.

By John Beniston Stocking frame at Ruddington Framework Knitters' Museum

Following the introduction of the first knitting machines for making stockings, women got to choose between ones made from wool, which were hot in summer and silk, which ran easily.

Catherine the Great of Russia wore fishnet stockings borrowed from the St Petersburg trawler fleet.

Sir Christopher Wren is said to have designed a machine to enable weavers to make seven or nine pairs of stockings at once. He smashed it when they refused to pay for it.

In Queen Victoria's time, it was thought silk stockings were best washed in rainwater mixed with a glass of wine.

Women's 1890's Victorian Patterned Silk Lisle Stockings. Ruby Lane Vintage

After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, ladies wore violet stockings to express mourning.

The term full-fashioned is used to describe women's stockings that fit tightly to the leg. Originally these were knit on a type of straight-bar machine invented by William Cotton in 1864 in England. After knitting, they were seamed, because it was impossible to make well-fitting hose without a seam at the back.

Commercial production of the first nylon stockings commenced in 1940 after being exhibited at the New York World Fair the previous year. They appeared on sale for the first time in the U.S in May 1940, retailing at $1.35. Competing brands went on sale simultaneously under an agreement between manufacturers.

Examining the quality of nylon stockings. 1954. By Erik Liljeroth, Nordiska museet, 

Sources Encyclopaedia Britannica, Europress Family Encyclopedia, Compton's Encyclopedia.

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