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Stocking sizes are crucially important. It is far too easy to buy pin up 50s fashion nylons only to find you have bought the wrong size. Making all the right choices before you purchase will ensure you are not disappointed afterwards. The first thing you really need to know is that stocking nylon is not the same as the nylon you would find on other garments, like panties or a slip. Stocking nylon is 100% pure nylon in true vintage stockings and has no stretch properties whatsoever and, as such, can be quite uncomfortable if you get the size wrong.
If you are intending to buy authentic vintage nylon stockings it is important to know more about the term 'Fully Fashioned' (FF) and what that actually means. Here are some fully fashioned facts:
"And, finally, a reminder to all leg men of what a playful breeze used to do. Why was it so exciting to see a stocking top in every day wear? Simply because it wasn't meant to be seen". David Bigwood 'A Brief History of Stockings', 2019.
Everything you will ever need to know about buying luxury vintage hosiery online - our Nylon Stocking Information Page...
Your stockings should feel taught but not tight. It's a fine balance, but if you pay attention to getting the leg length right then you can wear your stockings comfortably. If they feel loose on you then your legs are too short for the stockings you have bought, or maybe you just need to tighten your suspender belt straps a bit more.
When you first take a pure nylon fully fashioned stocking out from its packaging it will seem to be very very long, but the natural shape and volume of your legs will fit nicely into the contoured shape of the nylons. This is why you should always match up your stocking length to your own leg length. See the nylon stockings size chart below for more guidance.
As a good indicator of correct sizing, make sure that the underwelt is situated somewhere around the middle of your thigh. The underwelt is that small section just under the darker and thicker welt of the stocking. If you have indeed got your stocking sizes right then the welt should be over your upper thigh.
Now give some thought to the denier rating of your nylon stockings. Denier is an indication of the weight of the yarn used in knitting nylon stockings. The lighter the denier (or the lower the number) the sheerer your stockings will be. Stocking denier is measured by weighing in grams a single strand of nylon yarn of exactly 9000m in length.
7 denier nylon stockings are ultra-sheer and a pure delight to wear. 10-15 denier are lovely and sheer too, and slightly tougher. 20+ denier is about an 'everyday' weight of stocking, like a general purpose pair. A higher denier than that becomes more opaque the higher the number.
Here's a good tip. Once you are certain you have your stocking size right, always buy two pairs of them. Never buy just one pair. Why? Because that way you'll effectively have three pairs for the price of two because eventually you are bound to snag one of the stockings.
Everything you will ever need to know about correctly putting on your suspenders and stockings. In this article I reveal everything you should know about wearing stockings working from my own experience and advice from other vintage hosiery aficionados too.
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.
The foot size of a vintage stocking is measured in inches; hence a foot nine inches long needs size nine hose. Manufacturers were required to size their stockings to within half an inch of this specification so purchasers were assured of the correct foot size at all times.
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 - a very important factor when calculating nylon stocking sizes. 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).
Article written by Emma Benitez. BA (Hons) in Fashion and Dress History, incurable vintage aficionado and owner of Nylon Nostalgia. Emma is a fabric specialist for a lingerie manufacturer with operations in both Europe and Asia. She has also supplied fine vintage lingerie to media production companies, fashion designers and private collectors worldwide since 2009.
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Not sure about the different types of nylon stocking available? Visit our useful stocking information page.
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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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