V149: Taking Stock of Stockings

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know I’ve been asking around about stockings.  What material, what color you like, etc.  Some more questions are to come, but first, let’s look at some gorgeous extant stockings from years gone by.

Bata Shoe Museum

When I say “stockings,” I don’t mean 20th century nylons, but instead the lovely leg-confections of the past.  I find it ironic that ladies wore such colorful and exciting legwear when most of the time their legs were never seen, and in some periods the glimpse of an ankle was taboo.  Yet the decorations are always on the ankles!  What teases those ladies of the past must have been!

Men wore fanciful stockings too, though, and some of these I will show you are for men, and some for ladies.  See if you can guess which are which. 🙂

MFA Boston, 1650-1750

Stockings were made of many things – silk and wool were most common – and worn by all levels of society. All of these stockings came up over the knee and were tied with garters.

Colonial Williamsburg, 1750
MFA 1750-1800
The Met – late 18th century

You will notice the decorations on the sides of each stocking.  These were known as “clocks,” and could be embroidered on, or woven in, to the stocking.  Also remember that all stockings had seams on the backs of the legs.  The construction is very different that we find on modern socks.

The Met – 19th century
The Met – early 19th century

These were just from 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries – I’ll save the cool Victorian stockings for a later post – but I hope you have found some inspiration in them.  I mean, how awesome are these stockings!  For the upper classes (of which these all are, of course), it shows that you can be quite creative with your stockings, in you next 18th century or Regency gown.  It was so much more varied than your expected white or ivory!


  • Alexa

    May 28, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    Those Regency stockings are crazy! Especially the pair from 1795-99. That's some serious frippery 🙂 (Or foppery!)

  • Lizzardtears

    May 29, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    wow those are cool. I really never thought about how different the stockings would have been. the shapes are so interesting. not anything like what we find today. it couldn’t have been that comfortable to have seams like that on your feet.

    • Lauren R

      May 29, 2012 at 9:07 PM

      I imagine people of the past to be more tolerant of foot pain than we are today. Just take straight-lasted shoes, for instance! Add to that weird seams on stockings!

  • Charlotte

    May 29, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Those are so awesome! And thanks for clearing something up for me – I'd always imagined that the line in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Love Unrequited" (from Iolanthe) "in your shirt and your socks – the black silk with gold clocks" referred to actual clocks, now I know better (though in fact I still quite like the idea of socks embroidered with gold clocks!).

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

    • Lauren R

      May 29, 2012 at 9:07 PM

      Ah yes! It was a pun in the 18th century too! There is a great cartoon depicting a stocking maker sheepishly asking if the clock tax applied to clocked stockings too. (it didn't, lol)


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