The Stocking Store

30 May

Long before thigh highs and panty hose women wore stockings.  Before nylon stockings they wore silk and  thick cotton stockings.  The cotton stockings were so thick you could darn them when they got a hole.  They were so thick that they didn’t run.  It is only in recent history, or more accurately the last fifteen or twenty years, that having bare legs, when donning formal or business clothing,  was considered acceptable.  Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I really think that stockings complete a look.    Stockings and heels go together like ham and eggs, or Hall and Oates.

Stockings do a job.  They hide nicks from shaving, keep you warmer in winter, even out skin tone, complement your dress or gown, and most important they minimize  chubby calf and thigh jiggle.  They can be serviceable, sexy, and down right erotic.

The more modern counterparts  have their purpose as well.  Panty hose smooth out the body line under a form-fitting dress.  Thigh highs with lace tops are user-friendly and allow easy access to your panties for all sorts of reasons.  The dark stockings invoke visions of Mrs. Robinson in the Graduate.  Who can forget Anne Bancroft stretched out on the bed seducing Dustin Hoffman with the help of  her black silk stockings?

On 116th Street  between third and lex was the “Stocking Store”.  You walked up about three steps into a store no wider than eight  feet, housing a long counter which divided the establishment seventy/thirty.  The seventy percent was allotted to the store owner, his glass counter, and back wall.  The back wall held literally hundreds of half-inch boxes each containing three pairs of stockings.

Silk stockings were a closer fit then today.  You bought them by the size of the foot in half-inch increments,  and the length of one’s legs, short, medium and tall.  The more expensive, the more sheer the stocking.  Styles went from reinforced toe and heel (most serviceable) to cuban heel (the reinforcement although sheer was a bit darker  design that covered the heel and then thinned out to ease up the back of the foot for about three or four inches.)   They also offered nude toe and heel to wear with sandals.  Seamed stockings (most common), or seamless, which was just coming in style when I was starting to buy stockings, made up all of the stock.

My mother told me that during World War II when the country needed silk for parachutes, it was very difficult for women to buy stockings.  If a young lady went out for the evening she might  draw a seam up the back of her legs with a dark kohl pencil.  Everything was fine unless you smeared it.  Shortly after the second world war nylon stockings came into vogue.

When you went into the stocking store to make a purchase you had to make several decisions.  Size, gauge and shade.  You can imagine all the shades, nude, tan, beige, white, light gray, dark gray, off black, midnight black, red, blue, were among them.  Gauge went from opaque to so sheer you could read through them.  At one time red shoes and red stockings, or blue on blue was a look and a luxury because they could only be worn with their mates.  I’m glad that fashion went the way of the Dodo bird.

Once you made your choices the store owner would open the box to remove one of the stockings.  He then gently slid his hand into the hose and spread his fingers so you could determine if the stocking was alluring enough.   They were usually about sixty nine cents a pair.

All these leg coverings were held up with garters which were attached to a garter belt or girdle, panty or open bottom.  The girdles were always  instruments of torture and you rarely bought them in a true stocking store.  I haven’t worn a girdle since the appearance of panty hose.

The only other items you could buy in this house of silk and nylon were gloves.  Short, lace, white  gloves to black opera length, every color and style  in between were shown in his glass counter.  Some gloves so long that you didn’t take them off all evening but rather unbuttoned them at the wrist, slipped your hand out and tucked the fingers of the glove inside the wrist of the glove.  So elegant.  The buttons were made of pearls or material covered.

Today the ‘Stocking Store’ and the shopping experience it afforded the women of the time is long gone.  We buy panty hose, thigh highs, and yes stockings in a department store ,or lingerie store, or even Rite Aid.  But I don’t think it’s quite the same.


Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


7 responses to “The Stocking Store

  1. Clarice

    May 30, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    When my Mom was still living here, I went in search of stockings for her. (She was 92 at the time, and had been wearing a girdle for 70 years! She swore it was “holding her together” and she wouldn’t be able to function without it.) I searched high and low, and there were no stockings to be found in any department store on LI. Thankfully I finally found some in a small lingerie store. I was somewhat sadd

  2. Clarice

    May 30, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    (oops – somehow it posted before I was ready.)

    I was somewhat saddened on my last trip to see her that her dresses and the stockings are now a thing of the past for the most part; she is no longer able to manage the girdle and stockings by herself ,and for ease it’s now slacks and socks! But I will always remember her stockings hanging to dry in the bathroom!

  3. MsSopia

    May 30, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    I believe in our life times we will see many changes in our way of life. Sometimes for the better, but sometimes its great just the way it is.

  4. Rachel

    June 3, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    God, did I love Cuban heels – and still do. I was recently given some old seamed stockings with Cuban heels – seems my friends know my tastes! It sometimes amuses me to remember the agony we went through with garters and panty girdles and how exciting pantyhose were. I can still remember the garters digging into my (soft, nubile) thighs in high school classes. None of it seemed nearly as hot as it does now.

  5. apebbleinthewater

    June 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I totally take for granted, that stockings and garters (which i dread wearing) was a necessity and social norm. The way you describe going to the stocking store and how it is stocked sounds similar to what I would describe going to the local mini mart now a days. It was convenient, it was a necessity, it was something always there.
    This post gives an incredible insight to shopping during that time. I like the way you described how the shopkeeper would put his hand through the stockings as if seeing that piece of material is not complete unless it is stretched out.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful glimpse into the world of stockings.

  6. Henry

    September 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Well my wife would never dream of leaving the house bare leg she wears all types of stockings to the office even seamed stockings,she tells me she likes the attn she gets from other men when they find out she is wearing real stockings.i never knew she had a stocking fetish I like it also

    one thing though she likes to do is sit cross her legs and let her skirt ride up to show that she is wearing a garterbelt,she tells me it drives men crazy to see her do that in public

  7. slavekatrina

    May 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Fashions have evolved and tastes have changed over time, yet i agree with you that it has not always been for the better. Comfort has taken the place of achieving that hour glass figure. Girdles have been replaced by Lycra control briefs like Spanx and gartered stockings by pantyhose & tights. Fortunately bustles just vanished with time and weren’t replaced; at least for now. Yet there was something so special about the historical styles and undergarments of prior generations who appeared to embrace dressing up more than those of the baby boomers, and Generations X & Y. One only need look at old film footage from a sporting event to see everyone in the stands dressed in their Sunday best. Sadly, today’s Sunday best is typically stretch jeans and tees.


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