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April 17, 2015

16 Vintage Photos That Capture the Nylon Stockings' Allure in the 1940s and 1950s

Before the 1920s, stockings, if worn, were worn for warmth. In the 1920s, as hemlines of dresses rose, people began to wear stockings to cover the exposed legs. These stockings were sheer, first made of silk or rayon (then known as “artificial silk”), and after 1940 of nylon.


The introduction of nylon in 1939 by chemical company DuPont began a high demand for stockings in the United States with up to 4 million pairs being purchased in one day. Nylon stockings were cheap, durable, and sheer compared to their cotton and silk counterparts.

When America entered World War II on December 11, 1941, DuPont ceased production of nylon stockings and retooled their factories to produce parachutes, airplane cords, and rope. This led to a mass shortage and creation of a black market for stockings. At the end of the war DuPont announced that the company would return to producing stockings but could not meet demand. This led to a series of disturbances in American stores labeled the nylon riots until DuPont was able to ramp up production.

Woman inspecting her nylon stockings, 1942. (Thomas D. McAvoy—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

A model wearing "hotsies," wool-lined silk faille girdle and bra, 1942. (Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

"Curtain" stockings, 1943. (Walter Sanders—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

"Curtain" stockings, 1943. (Walter Sanders—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Nylon stockings, 1945. (Peter Stackpole—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Model wearing black stockings, fitted dress coat, fur trimmed hat and fur muff, adjusting garter, 1946. (Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Model with stockings, 1948. (Peter Stackpole—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Lace stockings with panels that run to mid-calf and enhance slim ankles, 1948. (Nina Leen—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Chorus girl Linda Lombard, resting her legs after a tough night on stage, 1949. (George Silk—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Model wearing black nylon hose permanently attached to high heeled satin mules by Herbert Levine, 1950. (Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Dancer Mary Ellen Terry talking with her legs up in telephone booth, 1952. (Gordon Parks—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Cancan dancers flinging up their legs while they dance in Paris, 1952. (Nat Farbman—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Model wearing new stay-up stocking with elastic cord spiraling around thigh, 1954. (Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Teenage girls resting feet at a formal dance, 1954. (Cornell Capa—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Stockings and garters, 1954. (Gordon Parks—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Scene at a beatnik night club, 1960. (A. Y.—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)






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