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What You Need To Know About Vintage Full Fashioned Stockings

By , 12 November, 2009, 16 Comments

After getting the following email from Crystal, I decided it was time to do another primer on buying and wearing vintage:

Hi Jaynie,

I have a question… After hearing that “vintage full fashioned stockings are the best!” I bought several pairs on eBay. They feel lovely, but after a few hours of sitting at work I find they are bagging around the knees and wrinkling at the ankles… Is that normal? Am I getting the wrong kind — too cheap of ones? Or am I buying the wrong size?

Thirteen Points To Know About Vintage Fully Fashioned Stockings

#1 ‘Full Fashioned’ or ‘Fully Fashioned’ stockings are easily recognized by the sexy seam that travels the length of the stocking and the famous ‘keyhole’ or ‘finishing loop’ at the back of the stocking welt (the top portion of the stocking, made with a heavier gauge of nylon which is doubled over and finished closed, were the garters are attached).

Vintage 'Star' Full Fashioned Seamed Stockings With Key Holes

Vintage 'Star' Full Fashioned Seamed Stockings With Key Holes

#2 Full Fashioned stockings are also called ‘flat knit’ stockings because they were knitted flat and shaped to fit the leg; flared at the thigh, and curved to fit the calf.

#3 This ‘knit to fit’ shaping was done by decreasing the number of stitches towards the ankle, dropping stitches much like hand knitting. This cast off stitching gives the stockings ‘fashioning marks’ — the little V’s on the back near the seams — and so explains their name.

#4 The stockings are then joined at the back on a looping machine by hand, creating the seam up the back. This is how black, contrasting, or other color nylon seams can be made.

Vintage Glamour Girl Fully Fashioned Stockings Ad

Vintage Glamour Girl Fully Fashioned Stockings Ad

#5 Generally speaking, the ‘knit to fit’ shape of a vintage Full Fashioned stocking favors a long slender leg; lengths are available.

#6 For those who have shall we say a curvier or more difficult leg proportion, look for ‘outsize’ vintage stockings which were made wider for larger legs. Fewer outsize stockings were made, which makes them more difficult to find (and pricier when you do find them); but the better proportion makes for a better fit and so they are worth the extra investment.

#7 Because vintage Full Fashioned stockings are 100% nylon and do not contain Lycra or stretch spandex, they will generally wrinkle (and even sag a bit at the knees) after a few hours of wear, requiring some adjustment in the ladies’ room. (The good news is that perhaps your face could use a bit more powder, your lips more color?)

Tiana Hunter Wearing Black Stockings

Tiana Hunter Wearing Black Stockings

(I think we can all agree there’s not a thing wrong with the lovely Tiana Hunter‘s legs, yet her stockings have that — to be expected — bit of wrinkle at her ankle. So don’t take it personally; nylon is not Lycra.)

#8 Once the stockings stretch, they’re stretched — until you wash them. Washing them frequently not only helps them regain their original shaping, but prevents damages. (Even the smallest grains of sweat & dirt can do a great deal of damage to such fine nylon yarn.)

#9 I recommend that you always wash hosiery by hand. Don’t even be tempted to trust those hosiery bags for vintage full fashioned stockings.

When it comes to fit, some ladies also consider the denier and/or gauge of the stocking:

#10 Denier an Italian unit of measure for the density of knitting yarn — it’s mathy, and really all you need to know is the basic principals here: The lighter the thread (the less number of deniers) the finer the weave; stockings knitted with a higher denier tend to be less sheer but more durable. So a 15 denier (15d) yarn is twice as fine and sheer as 30 denier (30d) yarn. And some women swear that a 30d fully fashioned stocking resists stretching (wrinkling) twice as well as a 15d stocking. Also note that the seams usually are less visible on low denier stockings.

#11 Gauge is an English unit of measure, equally mathy, which measures the number of needles in a 38-millimeter section of a knitting bed, so a 60 gauge (60g) knitting machine has 60 needles to a 38-mm section. What you need to remember here is that the more needles you have in a section (the larger the gauge number), the finer the needles are — and the tighter the weave will be. The two most common gauges of Fully Fashioned stockings were 51g and 60g; the 60g stocking will have a have smoother, denser look (and feel) — and the tighter weave will help the stocking keep its shape longer.

Vintage Taylor-Woods Ad Explaining Nylon Denier & Gauge

Vintage Taylor-Woods Ad Explaining Nylon Denier & Gauge

#12 If all else fails, check your size. Vintage stockings are sized differently than modern ones; Stocking Showcase has great sizing charts.

#13 When buying vintage stockings, check the stocking welt itself for the stocking size rather than trusting just the box. The box may be easier to read (much easier than the previously worn & washed stocking welt), but the box may no longer contain its original contents. Even when the stockings appear never to have been worn or are “new old store stock,” what lies inside may be quite different — sometimes the pairs don’t even match! So look them over carefully or ask the seller to check for you.

Come back soon for more on buying vintage stockings!

More Thursday Thirteen participants can be found here.

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16 Responses {+}
  • jillconyers

    Interesting. Hate the sagging part of wearing stockings.

  • Hootin' Anni

    I LOVE the seam on these…..I remember them from my youth!!! They even make ’em in pantyhose now. Yippee!!!

    My 13 is posted…I’m talking Turkey today. It’s posted below my Thursday Thunks, so if you can find time to visit, just scroll down a bit!!

    Click HERE

  • Adelle Laudan

    I’ve never worn these before, but a few people have suggested them because of my height. Interesting facts. Happy T13!

  • Amanda Lee

    You can find stockings marked long length—those with curvier legs will find these work better than average lengths (stockings were worn shorter on the leg then, and those with curvier legs may find they simply don’t come up high enough on the leg to wear comfortably.) I always try to find the largest size (10.5-11.5) as well, as these give more length (even though the size number corresponds to your foot size).

    Of course, reproduction fully fashioned stockings, which are made on a 1950s mill and are just like the originals, are a good option too. They do have a bit more stretch than vintage nylon stockings and come in a wider size range, so are more forgiving to wear.

  • Tracie

    I have never worn these before, but I am feeling inspired to try them now….especially with all this helpful information (because I wouldn’t have had any idea which math-y measurements would be best!)

    Happy TT!

  • Market Publique

    What an amazing post! I knew bits and pieces about vintage stockings (the lycra thing of course), but not all this amazing information – who knew washing is essential!
    I love washing my hosiery in Eucalan because it’s simple and stress free- soak in water with the soap, swish a couple of times and 20 mins later hang to dry – no rinsing!

  • Jaynie Van Roe

    Oh, I’m glad to see I inspired to many of you!

    I’m working on many stockings posts, including how to properly size stockings, a discussion of RHT and heel shapes/patterns, and one about modern stockings too — so please stop back or subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss those posts 🙂

    With all due respect, Amanda Lee, I do not recommend those with curvier legs or heavier thighs simply “go longer” as this definitely increases the chances of wrinkles and sags.

  • Gel

    Engaging post. I love costumes and often wear “different” attire on my legs. I’m new to T-13. This post is right up my legs, I mean alley. 🙂

  • Amanda Lee

    Well, I will say that going longer works for my curvier legs, and I can’t say I’ve noticed any more wrinkling and bagging by going this route! I find that fuller thighs take up a lot of the length of the vintage stocking, and so end up being much too short and tight to wear. Going with stockings marked ‘long’ solves that problem, at least for me 🙂

  • Amanda Lee

    I’ll add that I completely agree with you that if you are wearing stockings that are too long, they’ll definitely bag/sag much more. But when regular length vintage stockings barely come to your knees, there isn’t anything to bag lol

  • Jaynie Van Roe

    Ah, Amanda Lee, see, I knew there had to be a ‘wrinkle’ in what you said — it’s your extra height plus the curvier leg that makes longer stockings work for you 😉

    FYI, my guide to determining the size of vintage stockings by measuring them is here: http://www.twolia.com/blogs/heres-looking-like-you-kid/2009/11/13/how-to-determine-vintage-stocking-size/

  • Desiree

    i love stockings, especially ones with a backseam but i’d always bough more modern ones. thanks!

    a question about dresses, etc. when you buy vintage clothing do you also wear vintage or vintage inspired clothing? the waists are so small!

  • Kelli

    I have a really hard time finding back-seamed stockings that fit me online, malls, specialty shops. I have a 34 inch inseam. Yeah, I know. I found a few here and there, but not always in the right denier. The sheerer, the better. They really make me feel sexy when I do where them, and I get alot of compliments and looks. Usually with my shorter skirts. Just need to find more that wont bankrupt me.

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  • Mark

    I want to purchase retro garter belt nylons.

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