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A History of Hosiery

Written by - Bluebella
The popularity of hosiery has never diminished, however our love of hosiery has been gaining powerful momentum in recent months, something we have witnessed first-hand here at Bluebella, with a 92% lift in sales in 2020 from our Bluebella.com site. Our legs have never looked so stylishly chic!

So just how did stockings, suspenders and their hosiery counterparts become intertwined with fashion and luxury and when did their surge in popularity begin?

The origins of hosiery stretch far back in time with a compelling and diverse history. From undergarments built to confine and restrict the female form to the current designs harnessing body confidence, style and comfort, lingerie has been on quite a journey to its modern-day structure. To find the true ancestry of hosiery, we have to throw it far back to a somewhat less lavish era, when hosiery came strictly in the form of practicality-sans style. Hosiery has been around in some form or another, for what seems like forever. Prehistoric men were thought to wrap animal skins around their calves in a bid to keep warm and knit-socks have even been discovered in Egyptian tombs dating from between the 3rd and 6th centuries. Hosiery items were once a fashion staple for men; a shift that didn’t make its way towards women until the 1800s.

But while our ancient ancestors may have pranced around in legwear of questionable taste, hosiery throughout the ages has certainly maintained its relevance. From its essence of practicality to its modern-day attachments to style and sensuality, hosiery also represents cultural and political shifts in society. Here at Bluebella, we have a feeling that hosiery, is here to stay.

The growth of hosiery into the female realm, seems to have walked hand in hand with the advancement of women’s power as consumers. The movement for women’s liberation stimulated manufactures to experiment with new styles, materials and fits suitable for various occasions. Women were demanding hosiery that not only reflected their new power, but that quite literally liberated their movement.

Hosiery styles of the twentieth century reflect remnants of the modern styles we see today. The twenties brought with them the garter belt, relieving women of the corseted styles that had previously been used to hold up suspenders. Garters of the time complimented the looser styles coming into play in this era.

Of course, no account of hosiery would be complete without a mention of the gamechanger that was Nylon. Durable and cost effective, nylon became not only a supremely popular ingredient in the making of hosiery items, but was dubbed “the fibre that won the war”. Nylon had rendered itself so useful in fact, that it was used in the manufacturing of wartime parachutes, hammocks and ropes.

Sarah Sundin

Image credit: Sarah Sundin

The wartime market for nylon tights was stretched thinly, with women even taking to the black market to source their hosiery goods during wartime shortages. Fashionistas of the era even took to painting seems on the backs of their legs to give a stocking like appearance. The beloved back seemed stocking very much holds its own in today’s market- a quick flick through our books shows our Bluebella “Backseem Leg/Lace Top” stockings reigning in our top two hosiery sellers for the past two years. Alas, they can’t quite match up to the reigning stocking champion, our Plain Leg/ Plain Top Black, who consistently hold the top sales spot in our hosiery collection.

Smith Sonian Magazine

Image credit: Smith Sonian Magazine

No sixties scene would be fitting without reference to the iconic miniskirt and stocking combo. Revolutionary women of this decade flaunted this “girlish” look in a rebellion against societal norms. In present day, tights are still a wardrobe fundamental. None other than the queen that is Beyoncé, has admitted to wearing not one but four pairs of tights during performances. She is certainly no stranger to donning a pair of stockings for a striking effect.


Image credit: Nerd news today

It seems that elements of hosiery have slipped in and out of fashion consciousness throughout time. While garters were neglected for many decades after the invention of tights, they made a comeback with a new deliberate attitude in the 80 and 90s, where they were seen as a statement piece or a look that constituted effort.

It is to be expected that hosiery sales peak in February in time for valentines’ season. But it seems the face of hosiery is adapting once again. In recent years, celebrity endorsements have helped introduce stockings and suspenders to a new, younger audience. Influencers have flooded their feeds with seductive snaps in flawless hosiery pieces. In 2020, hosiery has proved itself as a key lingerie piece, with sales not only soaring for Valentines, but also spiking in April and May during the height of lockdown.

Modern day hosiery flaunts the freedom and choice reflected in our society. But whether in or out of season, the world’s love of the stocking and suspender combo is still a force to be reckoned with. Its close and delicate acquaintance to our bare skin, is perhaps what harnesses this mysterious obsession with intimacy.
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