The History of Fashion Hosiery The Rise of the Hosiery industry

The history of hosiery is long and varied with early references to hosiery dating back to Roman times where strips of leather and cloth were used to cover the lower extremities, and it has even been speculated that the Egyptians wore hosiery as archaeologists have discovered garments resembling socks in some tombs.

However, it was not until the 20th century when hemlines began to creep up in the 1920s that fashion hosiery first became a feminine style statement. Early stockings were made from silk or rayon and were very sheer, but after nylon was discovered by Du Pont in the late 1930s the manufacture of silk stockings slowly began to wane, although during the war years, nylon stockings became very difficult to procure since nylon production was mainly focussed on the war effort.

After the Second World War, nylon stockings became increasingly popular amongst fashionable ladies seeking to showcase their legs. Unlike early versions of hosiery in fashion, modern nylon stockings were shaped to fit the legs as manufacturers honed their designs and reduced the number of stitches in the ankle area of the stockings, although they continued to have seams until the late 1960s.

The hosiery industry created the first examples of tights in the late 1950s and by the early 1960s the traditional seamed stockings worn throughout the previous decades were gradually replaced by the modern hosiery we are more familiar with: stockings and tights with reinforced toes and heels and no seams.

By the late 1960s, hosiery in fashion had become big business and millions of women took to wearing hosiery as the length of skirts grew ever shorter. However, fashion soon dictated that it was no longer acceptable to show the top of a stocking and modern tights  soon had the lion’s share of the hosiery market.

In many ways, the history of hosier closely follows the role of women in the 20th century. In the early decades, hosiery was utilitarian and relatively plain, but as female independence flourished from 1960s onwards, the hosiery industry exploded as women demanded more fashionable hosiery so that they could draw attention to their legs.

In today's booming hosiery market, stockings have become very popular once again and the modern woman is literally spoilt for choice when it comes to fashion hosiery. From ultra sheer bare-leg appearance tights to vintage style seamed stockings and thick lycra tights for wintertime, the possibilities are endless.


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