The History of Sheer

Historically, even though the word sock is at least as ancient in origin, what men normally wore were often referred to as stockings, probably especially when referring to longer hose.  The word stock used to refer to the bottom “stump” part of the body, and by analogy the word was used to refer to the one-piece covering of the lower trunk and limbs of the 15th century—essentially tights consisting of the upper-stocks (later to be worn separately as knee breeches) and nether-stocks (later to be worn separately as stockings).  Pretty interesting, I know, haha.

Before the 1590s, stockings were made of woven cloth. The first knitting machines were for making stockings.  The stockings themselves were made of cotton, linen, wool or silk. A polished cotton called lisle was common, as were those made in the town of Balbriggan.  Before the 1920s, stockings, if worn, were worn for warmth. In the 1920s, as hemlines of dresses rose and central heating was not widespread, women began to wear flesh-colored stockings to cover their exposed legs. Those stockings were sheer, first made of silk or rayon, then known as “artificial silk” and after 1940 of nylon fabric.

The introduction of nylon in 1939 by DuPont, began a high demand for stockings in the United States with up to 4 million pairs being purchased in one day. Nylon stockings were cheap, durable, and sheer compared to their cotton and silk counterparts. When America entered World War II, DuPont ceased production of nylon stockings and retooled their factories to produce parachutes, airplane cords, and rope. This led to a shortage and the creation of a black market for stockings. At the end of the war DuPont announced that the company would return to producing stockings, but could not meet demand. This led to a series of disturbances in American stores known as the nylon riots until DuPont was able to increase production, which is kinda crazy to me.

A precursor of pantyhose made an appearance in the 1940s and 1950s, when film and theater productions had stockings sewn to the briefs of actresses and dancers, according to actress-singer-dancer Ann Miller and seen in popular films such as Daddy Long Legs. Today, stockings are commonly made using knitted wool, silk, cotton or nylon. The introduction of commercial pantyhose in 1959 gave an alternative to stockings, and the use of stockings declined dramatically. A main reason for this was the trend towards higher hemlines on dresses (see minidress). In 1970, U.S. sales of pantyhose exceeded stockings for the first time, and has remained this way ever since. Beginning in 1987, sales of pantyhose started a slight decline due to the newly invented hold-ups, but still remain the most sold kind of hosiery.  I got most of this from wikipedia, btw.

As far as pantyhose goes, Hosiery, also referred to as leg wear, describes garments worn directly on the feet and legs. The term originated as the collective term for products of which a maker or seller is termed a hosier; and those products are also known generically as hose. The term is also used for all types of knitted fabric, and its thickness and weight is defined by denier or opacity. Lower denier measurements of 5 to 15 describe a hose which may be sheer in appearance, whereas styles of 40 and above are dense, with little to no light able to come through on 100 denier items.  Another word for this would be called opaque.  Also to be further researched on wikipedia.

(…to be continued)

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