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Hosiery companies adhered to strict sizing standards in the manufacture of stockings. Elaborate testing and measuring procedures took into account a number of criteria to ensure that sizes were accurate.
Stocking sizes ranged from 8½ to 13 with a total of 10 sizes to choose from. These sizes corresponded to the foot section of the stocking. Where a letter followed the stocking ‘size – 9 M for example, it signified a size 9 stocking in medium length. The length designators were traditionally Short (S), Medium (M), Long (L) and Extra Long (XL). Where no letter was apparent, the size was assumed to be medium.
To measure the foot, take a single unworn stocking on a flat surface and pull the foot section between the toe and heel until taut. Measure the length from the tip of the toe to the edge of the heel.
The table above demonstrates how the toe to heel measurement relates to the actual stocking size and the corresponding UK shoe sizes. The leg measurement will determine if you have a stocking that is a Short, Medium, Long or Extra Long. Measure the length from the very top of the welt to the bottom of the heel by pulling the stocking taut. To ensure that you are measuring accurately with the right amount of tautness, it is advisable to take a well made stocking from a reputed manufacturer with a stated length and note how much stretch to apply to achieve the correct measurement.
As a general rule, the better known well-made vintage stockings are almost always ‘true to size’ and frequently have the size stamped on the welt and/or packaging. If you come across vintage stockings that are marked as ‘irregular’ or ‘seconds’, this may relate to either the colour or the size not matching up exactly to the manufacturer’s standards. If you come across a collection of irregulars, use the above measuring technique rather than trusting the size stamped on the product as a precaution in case size is the issue.
Vintage stockings ('Bas') made in France are absolutely lovely and are a big favourite here at Nylon Nostalgia – however, their sizing method can seem rather puzzling and hard to relate to shoe sizes. The little comparison chart above should help solve any problems. (Tableau de conversion des tailles de bas en nylon français).
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I like vintage nylon stockings so much I bought the whole stock of a closed New York hosiery shop.
Here is some useful information on how to wear a suspender belt and stockings, what to do to get the best from the experience and what to look out for when buying them.
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