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We Dreamers wear a lot of hats (and socks, of course), but one of our favorite jobs around here is helping customers find the perfect socks for cosplays and costumes. While finding a good color match for a cartoon character’s socks can be challenging, things get even harder when it comes to historical costuming. This probably has to do with the fact that these “costumes” are supposed to look and feel like real clothes that people actually wore, which means that things like fiber content and construction become a lot more important than they typically are for fictional characters. While our socks are generally a bit too modern to be truly historically accurate, we’ve got some helpful hints on styles that evoke the right qualities for historical reenactment!
O Basics in natural, worn under a full length skirt.
For much of European history, women wore full-length dresses, which meant that counter to contemporary trends, there was quite a bit more variety and decoration involved in men’s stockings than women’s. In fact, our recommendations for women’s stockings don’t change much between the Middle Ages and the 18th century; it’s how the stockings were worn that changed the most! During this time most women would have worn over-the-knee stockings, in wool, linen, or silk, depending on their class. Our O Woolies and O Basics (which are a cotton blend that serves as a decent stand-in for linen) make good choices for women who weren’t part of the upper classes at the time, and while we don’t have silk stockings for the aristocracy, the Zena Knee Socks from B. Ella are made from a fine, slinky viscose blend which mimics the look and feel of silk to good effect.
Of course elasticized fabrics weren’t invented until 1820, so earlier socks needed some help defying gravity! While all of the garters we sell are made from elastic for stretch, most early garters were just ribbons that tied under the cuff of the stockings, to hold them above the knees.
O Basics tied up with ribbon garters
Now, while women were busy wearing floor-length gowns, men wore relatively short tunics or doublets, with hose (similar to tights). This was the norm from the middle ages until the mid-16th century, when breeches became a more common addition, eventually leading to pants. During the medieval and renaissance eras, hose actually consisted of two separate legs, which tied or laced together at the waist, and were worn with a codpiece. Often the legs were two different colors, and the hose were typically made of wool.
Two half-pairs of Signature Cotton Tights, in rust and brown, all ready to be laced together.
As far as recreating this look goes, we suggest forgoing the authenticity of wool fibers, as our more finely-knitted cotton tights can be altered without unraveling. The Signature Cotton Tights or Solid Cotton Tights handle alterations well, and come in a nice variety colors, for fun with mismatched legs! We took two pairs of the Signature Cotton Tights and cut them up the seams, from gusset to waist, then trimmed the waistband off. After that you can either snip small eyelets along the top edge where the waistband was (but not too close!) for lacing together, or to a belt, or just cheat and use some Double Grip Clips to hold them together!
All laced up with a shoelace and ready for a codpiece (worn over leggings for modesty).
When breeches came into style, men traded in their hose for stockings. Early breeches came down to the knee to overlap the tops of the stockings, which were held up by buckled garters. The stockings themselves were not unlike the ones which women had been wearing for centuries at that point – they went over the knees and were typically made of wool, linen or silk. Most of the same options previously suggested for women will work here. The O Rayons are another good choice, and the mushroom and wheat colors are not only typical of historical stockings, they’re also made with rayon blended from flax, which is what linen is made of!
O Rayons in flax and mushroom
As the 17th century went on, men began wearing tall boots which were fitted in the leg, but loose on top. The stockings they wore with these boots had embroidered or lace-trimmed tops, which were made to fall over the top of the boot for added ornamentation. Lace was a popular decoration for men and women alike! This is one of the harder looks to recreate from our catalog, but we have a couple of ways of making it happen. The easiest thing is to choose one of our taller lace-topped styles (many of which are sheer thigh highs, but as long as they don’t have grips on the inside, those should work fine) and arrange them in the boot so that only the lace part is visible, cuffed down over the exterior of the boot. A more difficult, but also more authentic version of this would be to take a sock that is fitted in the leg but loose in the tops, like our M45s, and add your own lace trim or embroidery to the tops so they can flop over the boots to reveal the flourish.
The world of hosiery didn’t change an awful lot during the 18th century, but it did mark the first time in European fashion that feminine clothes became more elaborate than their masculine counterparts. This trend of women’s attire being more decorative than their masculine equivalents’ carried on into the regency era and beyond… and that is when the world of hosiery started to get really exciting!
Join us in part 2, where we will make our way through the advances of the 18th and 19th centuries! Huge strides in technology will be made, and hosiery options galore will become available as we make our journey towards the present!
By “topless” socks and stockings, we just mean socks with no cuffs. Sometimes the description “raw-topped” is also used (raw meaning unfinished). We currently carry four styles of this kind of sock. They’ve got to have garters to hold them up, since they have no elastic band or cuff at the top, but that’s kind of the point.
They’re also great way to deal with tights that are too short or worn at the tops (as in this old Sock Journal DIY), just chop off the part that doesn’t cover your legs! Making raw-topped stockings is probably the best entry-level DIY.
But what kinds of knit can you cut without creating a disaster? The worst thing is to see your creation unravelling before your eyes. You can always drop us a line to double check the snip-worthiness of a style, but we’ve got a couple tips for what to look for after the jump!
This has been a month of nylons, hasn’t it? There’s something really fantastic about them and how they visually smooth out your skin, making your legs look even more fabulous. Of course, that illusion works best if your stockings are a similar tone as your skin. People come in a lot of different shades, so it is rather frustrating that most companies that make the nylons we sell only offer lighter shades of beige. And some even call the colour “nude”! Which makes no sense and is why we use the word “beige” for those colours. We are constantly telling our suppliers that we want more shades and though we’re seeing a teeny bit of forward progress, we just don’t know when more than beige will be a regular option.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem dyes their dancers’ tights and shoes to match their skin, which creates that classic ballet visual of uninterrupted line. You can see some samples of their work in the picture for this LA Times article. To create the classic visual of nylon stockings that perfectly match and melt into your skin, we can do the same thing. I’ve gone over some basic dyeing techniques here before, so I know you know how to do it. But which colours? What dye?
For these examples and as a general suggestion, I recommend RIT dye. If you live near a craft store, they’ve got it, in all the colours. Supermarkets and Wal-Marts also often carry RIT dye and, more often than not, offer all the colours. It’s easy to use and not that expensive, plus their site is a great resource, with a Colour Formula Guide to reference once you feel comfortable enough to mix up some magic (and it is magic, there’s a warm brown there that is made of their Sunshine Orange and Navy, somehow, so cool!).
Like I said earlier, people come in a lot of different shades and, if you’re going to dye-to-match then you’ll want to get it just how you want it. I suggest picking up some of the pantyhose that come in an egg and experimenting with those, so mistakes can be made cheaply before you customise stockings you love. For the experiments below I used the Sheer Backseams with Lace Top, though, because hey, we’re fancy.
Those gorgeous shades are all straight-from-the-box, no mixing! I’ll give you the vitals and some tips after the jump.
As many of you have learned through unfortunate accident, nylon stockings, especially 100% nylon styles, are very delicate. Careful care in wearing, washing and storage can help extend your stockings’ life.
If you’re particularly prone to snags, check your nails (fingers and toes!) for sharp spots and fix them with a file, then add a little lotion to any dry or rough areas of skin. You want to try and reduce the snaggable variables. It is a special kind of infuriating to realise you’ve made a run in your stocking just by putting it on! We used to carry awesome, super smooth gloves for putting on stockings, but they are no longer made so we can no longer offer them. But if you (like me) know you need all the help you can get in preventing snags, even simple satin gloves can help.
Yanking isn’t the nicest way to shove your legs in any sock and for nylon stockings that is especially true. Carefully gathering the stocking up onto your thumbs (the thin nature of nylons makes this pretty easy), gently slip your toes in and ease it up around your heel. From there on out it’s pretty simple, letting the nylon slip from your fingers as it encases your leg. Once your stockings are up, use a careful touch and the pads of your fingers to ease the seam into lining up.
A great tip for encouraging those back seams to line up is putting a dot of sock glue at the back of your heel, sort of anchoring it in place. Since sock glue is water-soluable, if you fear damage to your stockings while removing them, just lightly dampen the area you’ve glued before removing your nylons.
Since it can be hard to check how lined up you are (because twisting to look at the back of your leg twists your leg too, throwing everything off) sit yourself down and use a small mirror on the ground, or in your hand, to check the straightness of that seam.
It’s best to respect the stocking’s fibers and listen to how much they want to stretch. Sometimes a stocking wants to be an OTK, or just hang out in the middle of your thigh, not go all the way up to the top your leg. Pulling hard at the cuff and shortening garter belt suspenders too much will put undue stress on your stockings. Not, like, emotional stress—they are just bits of nylon—but when every fiber is pulled to its max from your toes up your leg, something’s gotta give and it’s going to be the integrity of your stockings.
What about washing and storing? And what if you do get a run? Some more tips and tricks after the jump! Read more »
When we talk about “stockings” as opposed to “socks”, we mean the high-nylon content styles that more often than not have to be held up with a garter belt. Though most are sheer some, like the Lycra Cuban Heeled Two Tone Stockings (shown on the far right), are semi-opaque.
On top: Ultra Sheer Retro Backseam Stockings. Beneath, from left to right: Lycra Cuban Heel Stockings, Cuban Heel Thigh Highs, Lycra Sheer Cubans with Lace Up Tops, Lycra Cuban Heeled Two Tone Stockings.
Flattering, fancy and just the thing to finish off a dressy outfit, nylons have a fascinating history. Though our focus here at Sock Dreams is on socks, we do carry and love stockings. And we’re also big nerds who love to share history and facts. Today I’ll share a quick overview of the history of nylons, with some helpful facts for folks interested in rocking these classic and classy stockings. If you want more info, there are great, in-depth, histories of stockings all over the place. I’m super partial to the Smithsonian’s Stocking Series.
Nylon stockings were introduced at the 1939 world’s fair by Dupont, who have a great little timeline with some awesome pictures from 1939. They decided against registering “nylon” as a trademark, so that the word would become synonymous with stockings. Early stockings had back seams and when folks had to give up their nylon stockings for the war effort, they reproduced that backseam with leg makeup (great article at GlamourDaze about it!), creating the illusion that nylons were still covering their legs. I love this picture we have on our Pinterest from the Library of Congress image archives, showing a barrel of nylons on their way to becoming parachutes and cords.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection. “Here’s where your parachute came from.“
It’s because of this temporary lack of nylon that we have the wide range of cotton stockings and tights we see today. But that’s a story for another day! We’re still talking about nylons. Join us after the jump for comparisons of new nylon stockings to actual mid-century pairs and some helpful tips about these fantastic, feminine stockings.
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