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Archive for ‘1940s’

How To Determine Vintage Stocking Size

By , 13 November, 2009, No Comment

Vintage stockings, original non-stretching nylon stockings, are sold by two measurements: foot size and leg length. But what if the stocking’s size markings, usually printed on the stocking welt (the top, where you attach the garters), aren’t legible or missing entirely? Well then you are going to have to measure the stockings themselves to determine their size.

Before we begin, please note the following:

In this case, “vintage stockings” refers to non-stretch nylon stockings which were made mainly from the 1940s through the 1960s, when Lycra and other stretch hosiery entered the market. Though 100% nylon stockings continued to be made, and its form of sizing continued to be used by some brands, the stretch hose limited the range of sizing to today’s more familiar ‘Small’, ‘Medium’, ‘Tall’ and ‘Queen’ — and the related A, B, C or D. (The extra give in these stretchier stockings and pantyhose literally allowed manufacturers to ‘lump’ women into fewer sizes, reducing cost and, we vintage fans feel, decreasing a more specific fit.)

Then, as today, there are variations in sizing by stocking brand — and sometimes within the same brand. The top brand names tend to be more consistent in their sizing (Hanes & Berkshire, for example, tend to be incredibly consistent), but even specific brand consistency may vary greatly from the sizing of other brands (stockings by Alberts, including the sub-brand of Araline, for example, measure an extra half inch in the foot and an extra inch longer in length too).

Since worn stockings will be a little larger (even freshly laundered ones), than unworn stockings, these sizing measurements work for unworn vintage stockings.

However generalized these sizing measurement tips are, you can get a pretty good idea of fit — especially if you compare the measurements to the measurements of your favorite fitting pair of worn vintage stockings!

How To Find The Size Of Vintage Stockings

In order to best measure the stocking, I recommend beginning by securing a tape measure to a table top, taping it down just like at the counters in fabric departments, so that you have both hands free to handle the stocking.

If you don’t have a measuring tape, get one; they’re cheap and you’ll use them over and over again. (I suggest you carry a tape measure with you when you visit estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, etc. too — you can always ask for a literal hand with measuring!) Or, you can tape paper the length of the table, mark off your dimensions, and measure them later.

Once you have the measuring tape securely in place, you’re ready to get your measures. Since true stocking size is always determined by the foot measurement, we’ll begin there.

The industry standard for measuring the foot of a stocking is to measure from the tip of the toe to mid heel, however, most people are more comfortable defining the end of the heel rather than making a guesstimate of the middle of the heel, so I’ll be discussing measurements from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel. That said, that’s what you do.

Place the tip of the stocking toe at the top of your measuring tape and, holding it firmly in place, extend the stocking foot taut along the length of the tape measure. As you extend the stocking’s foot, keep it pulled taut — not stretched; apply just enough tension to remove the folds and wrinkles in the nylon. Measure the distance between the tip of the stocking’s toe to the end of the heel (the darker, reinforced area).

Just as with shoe sizes, a measurement of 10 inches does not equal a size 10 stocking — well, not quite, anyway. If your measurement was taken from the tip of the toe to mid-heel, then the number of inches does indeed give you the stocking’s foot size. (So if you’re comfortable with assessing the middle of a stocking’s heel, go for it!) But if you’ve measured the stocking from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel it’s still easy to get the size: subtract either ½ or ¾ an inch to obtain the true stocking size.

Which one? If your stocking is smaller, measures 9 ½ inches or less, subtract half an inch; if your stocking is larger, measures 10 inches or more, subtract ¾ inches. (Larger stockings have a larger heel reinforcement.)

To get stocking length, measure from the bottom of the heel to the top of the welt, using the tips above. The measurement you get is the size; no math necessary.



8 1/2 28 1/2 29 31 33
9 29 30 1/2 32 33
9 1/2 29 1/2 31 33 35 37
10 30 32 34 36 38
10 1/2 31 32 1/2 34 1/2 36 1/2 39
11 33 35 37 39
11 1/2 33 1/2 35 1/2 37 1/2 40
12 40
13 40

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.

Anne Francis: Sweater Girl

By , 18 October, 2009, No Comment

Even without the cigarette in her hand, Anne Francis is smoking hot in this sweater & skirt set.

Anne Francis Smoking Hot Sweater Girl

Anne Francis Smoking Hot Sweater Girl

For a bit more glamorous holiday look, how about this vintage black rayon sweater with cap sleeves, embellished with velvet applique and rhinestones?

Vintage Black Sweater with Velvet & Rhinestones

Vintage Black Sweater with Velvet & Rhinestones

(The velvet and rhinestones, the usual holiday fashion suspects, might distract family from noticing that you’re on the make!) The sweater’s single button closure in back, at the nape of the neck, leaves that sexy keyhole opening… Maybe that will inspire you to pose like Ms. Francis, hmm? *wink*

Vintage Mexican Circle Skirt Set

By , 9 October, 2009, 2 Comments

My circle skirt addiction might wane if I stopped spotting such beauties as this 1940’s Mexican circle skirt (and blouse).

1940's Hand Painted Mexican Circle Skirt & Blouse Set

1940's Hand Painted Mexican Circle Skirt & Blouse Set

This vintage hand painted dress set was made in Mexico by Mocambo in the 40’s. Along with a fabulous hand painted geometric design, the circle skirt has sashes that wrap in back, then the front to tie in a knot — and has hook and eyes to keep the sash in place.

John Galliano Claims Film Noir As Inspiration For Dior, Spring 2010

By , 6 October, 2009, No Comment

John Galliano continued his “tailoring-with-underwear” theme with Christian Dior’ Spring 2010 couture collection. According to Sarah Mower, this collection is based on a forties film noir theme:

Galliano said he found the cinematic cue while thinking about Lauren Bacall. “She was a great Dior client; there are amazing photos of her in the salon with Bogart. It was that and Arletty in Hôtel du Nord,” he said. That central character—a provocative, smoldering femme fatale with a side-parted, over-one-eye hairdo and red lips—gave him free reign to script a wardrobe narrative. It started with abbreviated wartime trenchcoats, flipped through silver lamé dresses, arrived at a sequence in which the heroine is seen in her scanties, and then followed her out to make a drop-dead entrance in some nightclub or other.

Christian Dior, Photo by Monica Feudi

Christian Dior, Photo by Monica Feudi

Dior Runway, Spring 2010, Photo by Monica Feudi

Dior Runway, Spring 2010, Photo by Monica Feudi

But when I look at the photographs of what walked down the runway, what I saw was fashion stories depicting wealthy women deemed homeless, each doomed to wear whatever she had on her back that night her house burst into flames. That may sound like “film noir” to some, but to me, it was far more 1980’s Madonna than 1940’s Bacall; right down to the ZZ Top Legs video girl ankle socks.

Pink Pumps and White Ankle Socks in ZZ Top's Legs Video

Pink Pumps and White Ankle Socks in ZZ Top's Legs Video

Of the 47 looks shown, only two seemed to have the elegance of Bacall and real film noir style in mind. The first, a bustier bodice with skirt, seems to have forsaken the less-is-more mantra with a bulky necklace.

Glamorous Bustier Skirt Dior Combo SS2010

Glamorous Bustier Skirt Dior Combo SS2010

This red ensemble is fabulous though — had Bacall dared to bare her bra, this one seems most likely to be chosen.

Elegant Vintage Style in Red, Dior 2010

Elegant Vintage Style in Red, Dior 2010

All Christian Dior photos by Monica Feudi.

Winter Is Coming — And I’m Seeing Red!

By , 29 September, 2009, No Comment

If the cooler weather is making you hot under the collar — but you know what won’t be enough to keep you warm — why not console yourself with a fabulous coat?

Swing into fall with this 1940s red wool swing jacket! (I’m soooo tempted… If only hubby weren’t aways around monitoring my monitor lol)

Soft Red Wool Swing Jacket, 1940s

Soft Red Wool Swing Jacket, 1940s

And for those really cold days ahead, how about this fabulous 1950’s red wool coat with faux fur trim?

Clear Red Wool Coat With Faux Fur Trim, 1950s

Clear Red Wool Coat With Faux Fur Trim, 1950s

Circle Skirts Are Conversation Skirts

By , 25 September, 2009, 4 Comments

Another vintage fashion photo by Nina Leen, this one, titled Conversation Skirts, features circle skirts. (I think every mom could use a “play skirt” with trains or cars for occupying little ones!)

Conversation Skirts

Conversation Skirts

Even more fabulous in color!  (Wouldn’t you just love to see more of that weight-lifting one?! )

Fabulous Nina Leen Circle Skirt Color Photo

Fabulous Nina Leen Circle Skirt Color Photo

Take That, Ed Hardy!

By , 22 September, 2009, No Comment

I wish I could find an actual vintage sweater to show you that today’s tattoo inspired fashions aren’t really anything new, but once I saw this 1947 Life magazine photograph by Nina Leen, I sorta stopped looking — and started praying I could find this sweater for myself!

Model Wearing Sweater with Heart Pierced by Jeweled Dagger
Model Wearing Sweater with Heart Pierced by Jeweled Dagger

The Death of “New Look” Fashions & Other Fashion Predictions (1950)

By , 10 September, 2009, No Comment

This juicy fashion tidbit comes from the March 27, 1950 issue of Quick Magazine:

Hollywood designer Adrian, disregarding Pairs and N.Y., pronounced that there will be no drastic change in the daytime silhouette for the next 50 years, added that the death of the “New Look” proved that attempting to insinuate violent fashion changes in modern times is futile.

Adrian's Fashion Prediction, 1950

Adrian's Fashion Prediction, 1950

Adrian, costumer for Irving Berlin and Cecil B. DeMille productions as well as Valentino films, is said to have been “responsible for creating and refining the images of actresses such as Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow and his favorite, Greta Garbo” — but clearly he was off the mark with such sentiments & statements about the death of New Look fashions and “violent fashion changes” being futile in modern times.

From our lovely vantage point of having seen not only Adrian’s future but the very 50 years he spoke of become history, one cannot avoid questioning the story that is told of this designer… No matter how lovely his work was — and it was lovely, just look at the gowns in 1939’s The Women — you have to more critically look at the story here.

Adrian Gowns, The Women (1939)

Adrian Gowns, The Women (1939)

The story goes that Adrian, frustrated by WWII’s smaller film budgets and shifting values, took up his own fashion design label & shop where he could more freely & grandly express himself & his glamour ideals. Adrian, Ltd. was born:

When Adrian decided to leave the world of costume design in 1941 and open Adrian Ltd, he could have had no knowledge of how perfect his timing would prove to be. With the Nazi invasion of Paris in 1940, all contact with the French fashion industry halted. As nearly all American designers based their designs on those originating from Paris, the absence of information from France created a fashion vacuum. American designers stepped up to the plate, and soon began to create fashions based on an idealized American lifestyle. These new fashions were often casual, practical and made of durable fabrics. Both New York and Los Angeles fought for the title of “America’s Fashion Capitol.” The February 19, 1941 title of a Los Angeles Times article declared, “East and West Struggle for Fashion Dictatorship,” and suggested that Los Angeles would win the battle, ultimately becoming “more powerful in its sway over the civilized world than Paris ever thought of being.”

Adrian debuted his first collection for buyers in January of 1942 at the May Company department store in Los Angeles. Buyers were not particularly excited about this initial collection, so Adrian held another show in February of the same year. This show was a great success and Adrian was soon selling his designs in department stores throughout the country.

But as we, with all due respect (because I do love Adrian’s work!), look at the context here: one clearly sees an aging fashion designer struggling with changing times and fashions.

On one hand, we must admire Adrian for taking a stand for glamour by saying, “It was because of Garbo that I left M-G-M. In her last picture they wanted to make her a sweater girl, a real American type. I said, ‘When the glamour ends for Garbo, it also ends for me. She has created a type. If you destroy that illusion, you destroy her.’ When Garbo walked out of the studio, glamour went with her, and so did I.”

On the other, we have to recognize that Harlow & Garbo, these were not the forms and fashions — nor even the female ideal — of the 1940s & beyond.

Refusing to change his views, his fashion statements, Adrian was able to exploit his status as a famous Hollywood costumer to a (wealthy) public hungry for fashion — and if they wouldn’t readily accept it, he could afford to hold on & push it with such little competition. But New Look fashions continued until, approximately, the mid 1960’s, years after Adrian’s death in 1959 — and there sure were violent fashion changes after that. Perhaps those statements by Adrian from the 1950 magazine clipping sound more desperate than simply catty now; they do to me.

If all this sounds cynical or unkind, I don’t mean it to be; I’m simply pointing out that fashion is both a commerce & an ideal, both of which sit within the context of culture at a specific time — and must change as the culture/times change. You can manipulate, you can create, you can even exploit conditions such as limited competition; but you cannot stubbornly refuse to change and still go on forever.

Film Options Are Like Predictions: Made, But Not Always Fruitful

By , 2 September, 2009, No Comment

Also in those 1949 Quick predictions, a prediction that puzzles me…

Front-Page Movie: One of the 1950’s most exciting films will be made from Bob Sylvester’s yet-to-be-published novel, Second Oldest Profession. Four studios are bidding for it — a shocker about a reporter who rises to editor.

The novel was published, as titled, by Robert Sylvester in 1950 — and, according to what I could see in journalism chatter, the book included the ethical dilemma of “an advice columnist who gets actively involved with reader.” The paperback, at least, sensationalized the newsman’s novel with a bawdy cover and tag line: “Hard Men and Soft Women in the World’s Roughest Business.”

Just the sort of romantic film fodder you could envision from vintage Hollywood, right? But what happened to the film…

There’s evidence that 20th Century-Fox bought the rights to Sylvester’s book in the April 4th, 1950 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

And in the April 1, 1950 issue of Boxoffice (under Four Literary Purchases Recorded for the Week, page 30), there’s this brief but detailed report:

To 20th Century-Fox went “The Second Oldest Profession,” a novel by Robert Sylvester and concerned with the newspaper business. With Otto Preminger assigned to produce – and – direct, the vehicle is being shaped as a starring subject for Gregory Peck when he returns to the U.S. from his current British assignment, Warners’ “Captain Horatio Hornblower”

Boxoffice, April 1, 1950

Boxoffice, April 1, 1950

But I’ve never heard of a film titled The Second Oldest Profession — and even if 20th Century-Fox would have opted to skip the promotional favor of a recognizable title, I can’t find any film by either Preminger or Peck which fits the bill… Even Robert Sylvester’s IMDB record is bereft of any mention of The Second Oldest Profession.

So, for all the fanfare & the bidding war, I guess the film was never made? If you know otherwise, I’d love to hear from you — otherwise it’s just one more prediction Quick seems to have gotten wrong.