- A close-fitting, usually knitted covering for the foot and leg made from nylon, silk, cotton, wool, and similar yarns.
- An item resembling this covering.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
4th edition (2000) (http://www.dictionary.com)
There's a very big common misconception that I must clear up before we go on to our little tutorial. "Pantyhose" and "stockings" are not quite the same thing; "pantyhose" is technically defined to be "A woman's one-piece undergarment consisting of underpants and stretchable stockings." Stockings, on the other hand, don't go all the way up and stop somewhere mid-thigh. You technically see stockings worn when you browse the Victoria's Secret catalog (or Agent Provocateur, or Fredericks, etc.) and gaze lovingly at women wearing merry widows and Victorian corsets and interestingly laced garters...
The history of hosiery has been covered quite nicely, so I'll move on to the more important things. Suffice to say that we've been prancing maniacally in these things for a lot longer than we thought. This writeup will be more about modern uses of stockings rather than a historical one, since the history of this item just from the 1920s-1960s alone could go on and fill an entire thesis.
Shopping, or How to Spend All That Excess Money
The first thing you need to know is how to determine what all the rubbish on the label means. By far the most important thing to note is the denier:
A unit of fineness for rayon, nylon and silk fibers, based on a standard mass per length of 1 gram per 9,000 meters of yarn.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English language
Fourth Edition (2000) (http://www.dictionary.com)
Of course I know that sounds like more rubbish to you. But wait! Wait wait wait! I will attempt to explain.
Denier basically boils down to how fine and thin the stocking is, and I've seen it range from as low as 7 to as high as 70. The lower the number, the finer and thinner it will be. If you ever see a 7 denier, there's a good chance that you might not even notice that she is wearing anything at all, unless the stocking has a glossy sheen that no amount of lotion can give. It is that fine. And if you see 70 denier, it will appear as if the woman was wearing tights. Most fall from 10-20 for the spring/summer, and 20-50 for fall/winter.
Please remember: fineness + thinness = I hope you don't have a ragged nail
7 denier is so fine that I doubt they'd last for more than one wearing.
"Why, in God's name, would you buy something like that!?" sez you.
For the same reason people buy very expensive bags or cars or hell, a "Jump to Conclusions" mat. Or why there probably is a small minority of people who use pico instead of, oh, I don't know, vi or emacs. Because they like it.
The magazine Vogue had an article in February 2004 of an author's reminiscences of the 70s running wild like a call-girl hooker in Italy. Among other expensive items, she bought low denier stockings that ripped every single time she put a pair on until the shopgirl advised her to buy stocking gloves. Seven denier stockings will fall right into this kind of stocking; simply having rough fingers will mar a 15 and 10 denier stocking very easily.
Historically, nylon dominated the market soon after its introduction, easily decimating the former silk (and to a lesser extent, rayon and cotton) market. Nowadays, you can get modern stockings in all sorts of newfangled combinations of lycra and nylon. Just in general, nylon is popular, both in traditional and in modern stockings, and probably accounts for 99.9% of the market.
You have a thing for silk, eh? Want to be like those prancing around like a 16th century tool, eh? (Yes! You, too, in the back!) There are, count 'em, TWO factories in the world that still produce them today! Yes! You, too, can now own your very own pair!
... that is, if you've got the kind of money. These things are approximately US $35-50 (UK £16+)/pair.
Here are some types:
Fully Fashioned: These are stockings knitted the old fashioned way. The fully fashioned part comes from the fact that they're "knit to fit" - i.e., that as the stocking is being knit, stitches are decreased and increased to contour to the leg precisely. This will mean that unless you know a particular brand's sizing quirks, you will have to be 100% honest with yourself to get a stocking that fits, as these aren't very stretchy.
Also keep in mind that these tend to be seamed - as in, a flat piece of knitting that is then sewn up along the seams to make it sock-like. These are the signature stockings with the seam that runs up the back of the legs - at the very top of the leg is a hole, as it's an unavoidable part of the knitting/seaming process.
Warning: Unless you are a bit of an exhibitionist or you really love attention, seamed stockings nowadays attract a lot of attention from both other men and women. But, hey, this might be your thing.
Seamless: Modern stockings that aren't attempting to be swanky and retro are seamless. These are not knitted flat, but with circular needles - as anyone who is familiar with knitting might understand. These tend to be some sort of blend of nylon and lycra so they are not "knit to fit" - they will contour to your leg.
Because of its natural stretchiness, you don't have to be 100% honest with yourself. Your stockings will forgive you and love you anyway if you lied to them about how much flesh you have. However, stretch in these stockings is applied outward, rather than upward, which is why if your legs are thicker than matchsticks, then the overall length of the stocking will decrease to accomodate (i.e., a stocking meant to sit high on the thigh will be much lower if you have a fuller leg).
Reinforced Heel and Toe: abbreviated RHT, these can be either seamed or unseamed, but are darker at the heels and toes, since that is where most of the wear from stockings come from. Probably the most well known among this set is the Cuban heel, which is a seamed stocking that ends with a darker pointed area at the heel. With pumps, this particular style is very, very popular.
How to Keep These Bastards Up All Day
The short answer:
You can't. Without the aid of garters, they will pool right at your ankles. Ignore holdups that claim "Stays up all day without garters!" They lie, they lie so much it is not even funny. Incidentally, this mantra applies to socks, too, especially over the knee socks/thigh high socks. Holdups that do stay up are usually fastened to your leg in a Vulcan grip of death and it is not pleasant nor sexy unless you have legs without a single ounce of fat.
There are ways to delay the inevitable, but face it, you're in a boat that's leaking and you can either do it by hand, or accept the bucket someone (don't try to be sassy by asking who is offering the bucket in the middle of an ocean, this is a good analogy) offers you, the bucket being the long answer below.
The long answer:
The Traditional Way
The standard way is with a garter belt (in the UK it is called a "suspender belt"; it may also be called a garter; hell, sometimes it's even mistakenly called a girdle, though girdles are actually different as they do this magical thing called shaping but also makes you look like you're wearing tragically huge granny panties). Now, here's a brief tutorial about the garter belt that is necessary for you to know. Garter belts are sort of like underwear that you put over underwear, and it's got straps with clips that hang down to attach to the top of the stocking so that it stays up. You've probably seen it in lingerie catalogs, where scantily clad women pose in these lace-bedecked, satiny confections with dynamite legs other less fortunate women only dream of.
Now, if the only place you've seen it is those said catalogs (Victoria's Secret catalogs are the poor man's porn), take a long, last, longing glance at these, and then chuck the damn catalog out the window. Those garters you saw in the catalog? They are not garter belts. They are temporary reprieves for the woman before she gets naked in a bed. They are not meant to last for an entire day walking, running, fetching coffee for your boss or kicking ass in a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon way. If you are not built like those Victoria Secret models, then those lacy bits and ties will get lost in the folds of your skin and you'll be adjusting your belt just as frequently as you'd be adjusting your stockings without garter belts.
Do note that in lingerie catalogs, the garter belt is put on over the knickers, and that is how society accepts it. This, however, can be done the other way - knickers over garter belt - as the benefits are twofold: 1) the garter belt will stay up, aided by your knickers and 2) if you are trying to seduce someone to your bed, it is much quicker to take off your knickers this way.
Real garter belts are no-nonsense sorts of things. They tend to sit high on the waist (less adjusting; I've seen lower ones, to accomodate the whole "hanging on hip" clothing that the Brazilian jeans trend brought, but I've never seen a good one), and the ones that will serve its purpose well will have six or more clips hanging down on your legs; three for each leg, though I've seen as many as six for each leg, which is kind of overkill. Two for each leg is adequate (four clip belts), however, for unpatterned items; four clips for each leg (eight clip belts) are especially good if you have patterned stockings that have to stay in a certain place to look right (e.g., seamed).
Remember, folks, make sure you buy garters with metal clips. Plastic clips, which are common in cheap, low quality garter belts from cheap, low quality lingerie stores (Fredericks), tend to slide right off stockings. They are as annoying and hazardous as detachable bra straps that don't stay attached. Unless, of course, your whole plan is to wear these garter belts long enough to seduce the object of your choice into bed.
However, no matter how hard you will try to avoid it, adjustment is necessary. Run to the bathroom as often as necessary (once or twice a day), surreptiously adjust, rinse and repeat. This is especially true for anything with patterns.
Corsets can also be used to hold up your stockings (as many of them are built with hooks for garter straps), but this tends to be very strictly for bedroom and or fetish show, unless you wear a corset underneath your clothes (which is really kind of a faux pas nowadays).
The last item that will also work in a satisfactory faction are bustiers, which are corset styles without boning and are really for shaping purposes (creating a smooth line). Paired with stockings, they reduce the amount of visible bumps underneath a dress or shirt and are a good alternative to simply wearing a garter belt. They are better known as basques in the UK.
- The Not So Traditional Way
Them Japanese girls are clever, I grant you that. During the height of fashion of loose socks, especially as they got baggier and baggier and longer and longer (100cm and longer!), there was the problem of keeping them up that was solved with something that only Japanese people could think of: sock glue!
Yes, it does exactly what it say. You glue your stocking (or sock) to your skin, and it stays up all day. No, I cannot say what it's like from voice of experience, but I've seen them for sale.
Can't find this mysterious sock glue that you so greatly wish to use? Try the next handiest thing, which you can find in art stores: liquid latex. You will have stockings that stay put all day with this. But peeling it off your skin is rather like peeling a band-aid - your mileage of pain may vary. And this works. Keep that in mind if you can think of, uh, any other uses for it.
Both items work better for socks of any sort, but liquid latex works in a jiffy for stockings. Just not sure how it washes off.
Milking Its Value For All Its Worth, or Taking Care of Them Properly or better yet How to Wash Them
Okay, so you spent anywhere from $5-$50 for a pair of stockings and they successfully navigated one day without running or ripping. Now what?
NO! DON'T CHUCK THEM IN THE WASHER!
Washing with all the detergeants and swishy bits of a washing machine will destroy nylon faster than you can push a Self-Destruct button. And silk? You're really going to put a $50 silk stocking to the mercies of your washing machine?
Hand washing is the best way to go. I know, I know, they have these lingerie mesh bags that keep your underwear apart from the rest of your clothes, but that doesn't really help all that much. Use a mild detergeant, swish them around in some warm water, and hang them up to dry. No squeezing. No wringing. Or else your stockings will get it.
For stockings that are vintage (that is, they were really produced in the 50s and 60s), you need to be even more careful. The best thing to use is something called "Hosiery Mate Washing Solution". Use this, as it apparently "cleans, conditions and deodorizes hose in just 15 seconds"! Whoa! Simply pour a capful of the stuff in warm water and swish your stockings around in it, a pair at a time, press excess water out (very gently), and then hang somewhere (or lay flat on a towel) to let dry. This works with modern hosiery as well; some people prefer to wash their stockings before trying them at all becase the washing solution decreases the chances of the stockings tearing.
Tricks of the Trade
Remember folks, nail polish does the trick when something runs. A co-worker assured me that you can wash them too and it'll still be fine, and I'm going to trust her voice of experience as I've never actually tried it.
Make sure you attach the front and the back straps securely to the stocking. Particularly the back straps, which tend to get more strain than the front from standing and sitting. Snapping suspenders is not fun.
If you have serious problems with the way the garter belt is hanging on you, part of the reason may be how tightly they are fastened to the stockings. There should be some stretch and leeway between the straps and the stockings to accomodate sitting and standing. Part of the reason may also be how lousy the garter belt was made, but a lot of it is the way you fasten your stockings as well. The back straps usually cause the most problems.
If you are deathly afraid of showing a garter clasp or even a hint of lace or that, hell, you're wearing stockings and not pantyhose but you hate pantyhose with a passion, then by all means look for stockings labeled "opera length". These were apparently once meant for dancers on stage, and are super super long - right up to your crotch (apparently even longer in them old days, so you could wear them underneath panties to keep them up). Garters are adjustable, so this might be your cup of tea.
How to Seduce Other People
They do the job for you, silly. You don't need to do any extra work. K.I.S.S.
- Thank yew, http://www.dictionary.com!
- http://www.stockingshq.com/ : Gosh, these people are so enthusiastic. I'm sure they must be very nice people but they're kind of scary. Lots of good info but you have to wade through pages of pages of people enthusing about their stocking fetish.
- http://www.ho-hose.co.uk/FullyFashionedNylon.htm : (boring basic history)
- The rest of the info I already knew about.