Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A stocking is a close-fitting, variously elastic garment covering the foot and lower part of the leg, but usually not intended to conceal the leg. It was formerly made of woven cloth but now of knitted wool, silk, cotton or nylon (see Hosiery). The word stock used to refer to the bottom "stump" part of the body, and by analogy the word was used to refer to the one-piece covering of the lower trunk and limbs of the 1400s—essentially tights consisting of the upper-stocks (later to be worn separately as knee breeches) and nether-stocks (later to worn separately as stockings).
Half-stockings, covering the foot and part of the calf only, are commonly called socks. This word is an adaptation of Latin soccus, a slipper or light shoe. It was the shoe worn by the actors in Roman comedy—and so was used symbolically of comedy, as buskin, the high boot, was of tragedy. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911)
Stockings were originally an exclusively male piece of apparel. In the 17th century women who took up the masculine fashion of wearing stockings were associated with aspiring to learnedness and other protofeminist causes, which led to the derogatory term blue-stocking.
In modern usage, stocking specifically refers to the form of women's hosiery configured as two pieces. The terms thigh highs and stockings are interchangeable, and are quite distinct from pantyhose. Thigh highs are often perceived as a preferable style to pantyhose for various reasons such as:
- Health and cleanliness -- less sweat, more ventilation; reduction of fungal and bacterial challenge
- Personal convenience -- it is considerably easier and quicker to use the bathroom in stockings
- Aesthetics -- garters, lace, top fashion, applique, exposure of the thigh, complexity
- Message -- as more detail is involved, a perception of erotic intent is raised
- Easier and quicker access to the genital area -- enhances sexual spontaneity
Stockings are typically supported in one of three ways. Most often by a garter belt that goes around the waist and drops extensions that are clipped to the tops of the stockings. The second most common means of support is via 'stay-up' technology, where the inside of the top of the stockings has added to it a band (typically silicone) of elastic but highly tractive material that resists slipping down the thigh. This is considerably less reliable in the sense of assuring that the stockings don't fall down, and depends a great deal on the geometry of the actual leg. The least common means of support is the circular elastic garter that is slipped up over the top of the stocking and which is intended to hold the stocking by essentially clamping it to the leg. These are the garters you typically see at weddings.
The most convenient (and presently fashionable) way to wear stockings is to wear panties over the stockings and garters. This pins the garters to the body, which makes it less obvious exactly what is being worn (this may be desirable to imbue a sense of mystery.) It also enhances convenience, as going to the bathroom or getting involved in erotic play simply involves pulling down the panties rather than going through all the steps required to detach the garters and re-attach them after the moment has passed.
Modern stockings come in a broad variety of colors and styles.
In 1959, pantyhose were invented by Allen Grant, Sr. These consist of both leg coverings woven together with a panty or girdle configured upper section that serves to obviate the entire issue of garters and garter belts. The primary benefit of pantyhose is the convenience of not having to adjust them as much, but there are significant health issues that serve to mitigate the convenience due to the closing off of the groin to ventilation.
- Cuban-Heel - A stocking with a heel made with folded over and sewn reinforcement.
- Demi-Toe - Stockings which have a nude, sheer heel and a reinforced toe.
- Denier - The lower the denier number the sheerer the garment. Stockings knitted with a higher denier tend to be less sheer but more durable.
- Fishnet - Knitted stockings with a very wide open knit resembling a fish net.
- Full-Fashioned - Full-fashioned stockings are knitted flat, the material is then cut and the two sides are then united by a seam up the back. Full-fashioned stockings first became popular during the 1950s.
- Matte - Stockings which have a dull or non-lustre finish.
- Mock Seams - A false seam sewn into the back of a seamless stocking.
- Nude Heel - Stockings without reinforcement in the heel area.
- Opaque - Stockings made of yarn which give them a heavier appearance (usually 40 denier or greater).
- RHT - Abbreviation of reinforced heel and toe.
- Sandalfoot - Stockings with a nude toe, meaning no heavier yarn in the toe than is in the leg.
- Seamed - Stockings manufactured in the old Full-Fashioned manner with a seam running up the back of the leg. In the past they were manufactured by cutting the fabric and then sewing it together. Today stockings are generally fully knitted and a fake or mock seam is added up the back for a particular fashion look.
- Seamless - Stockings knit in one operation on circular machines (one continuous operation) so that no seaming is required up the back.
- Sheers - Stockings generally of a 10 to 20 denier.
- Knee-Highs - Stockings that terminate at or just barely above the knee.
- Thigh-Highs - Stockings that terminate somewhere in the mid-thigh.
- Stay-ups - Stockings that are held up by sewn-in elasticated bands.
- Ultra Sheer - A fine denier fiber which gives the ultimate in sheerness. Usually 20 denier or less.
- Welt - A fabric knitted separately and machine-sewn to the top of a stocking. Knit in a heavier denier yarn and folded double to give strength for supporter fastening.
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