I really like wearing vintage stockings. I find them much more comfortable than modern pantyhose, and you can’t beat the look.
There are drawbacks, though: they are pricey, around 10 bucks a pair (but good pantyhose are around that price). Also, they are harder to find in larger or “outsize” sizes, and try though I might, they will always wrinkle a bit around the ankle. I love them anyway!!
I thought I ‘d share a few things I’ve learned about wearing them.
Firstly, the garter belt is a utilitarian item. That is not to say they can’t be pretty, even sexy, but don’t get one of those skinny stretchy things with scratchy lace. For daily wear, it is most convenient to wear one’s knickers OVER the garter belt for ease of access for personal functions, so it better be smooth and soft and have any strain or pressure spread out over several inches. The one I wear is boring white eyelet embroidered cotton fabric with powernet stretch panels on the sides. It is nine inches from top to bottom and fits closely but is not compressive like a girdle. It only has 4 garters which is sufficient, but I think 6 would be better. It is comfortable enough that I don’t groan with relief when I take it off at the end of the day, which is more than I can say for modern pantyhose.
Next, properly sized stockings are essential. The size of the stocking is not your shoe size, and if you are above a dress size of 16 , you will probably need to buy “outsize” stockings. Most sellers of vintage stockings will have a size chart for you to refer to.
For reference, I am 5’4″, weigh 220 pounds, wear a dress size 20 to a 22 and my thigh measures 28 inches around (geeze, was that once really my waist size???), my shoe size is 9.5 average width. With that in mind, my stocking size is 10.5, outsize, 32.5 length when worn with my white garter belt. I also have a black garter belt that sits higher on my waist and is an inch shorter over all and I wear 34.5 inch stockings with it. The outsize stockings fit my thighs with a little bit to spare, but if your thighs are larger than 29, you may have issues. I know that larger stockings were made, but have not yet seen any for sale.
I share those very personal and slightly horrifying statistics for your edification and reference. I aim to help womankind!!
Next, I wear gloves whenever I handle my stockings. My hands are often rough, but even if your hands and nails seem smooth, it doesn’t take much to snag stockings, so use gloves. I use old knit dress gloves. I use them when washing them too.
Which brings us to: Wash them before you wear them. If they are used vintage this goes without saying. But even if they are new old stock still in their packaging, they must be washed first. They are stiff and unyielding right out of the package. It’s amazing how stretchy they get after you wash them for the first time. I just soak them in tepid water and a little shampoo. Swish them a few times. If this is a ‘post wear’ wash, I will squish the suds back and forth through the heel and toe areas to make sure I get the sweat and grime out. Squish in rinse water thoroughly, then squeeze out excess water. No wringing or twisting! I roll them in a towel and press out any water, then lay them flat on my bed to dry. If I turn on the ceiling fan they dry in a snap.
I have some pretty stocking envelopes to keep my washed and ready to wear stockings stored in.
The pairs that haven’t been removed from their tissues and washed yet are just stored in plastic zip bags. I think I need to move them to old pillow cases soon. Goodness only knows what the plastic could do to them over time.
Some of them still rest in their original boxes, so there they stay.
Dirty stockings also reside in an old pillowcase, but I tend to get them washed up pretty quickly.
Putting vintage stockings on is a very different experience than putting on pantyhose. I roll or “accordion” the stocking down to the toe, gently work the foot up over the heel, then up the leg. Attach your garters while sitting down, stand up and adjust them to keep the stocking up smoothly and expect to have to adjust them at least once in the next hour or so since they will stretch out a little bit and sag at the ankles. They will never stay completely smooth at the ankle for me for longer than the next time I sit down, but that’s the nature of the beast.
One of the nifty-est things I have picked up is as stocking repair tool. I know that right up through the 1940’s you could get your stockings repaired by a professional service. They had machines and skilled women who would do them for a fee. How practical! When I found this little tool and instruction set still in it’s original little box on E-bay for $5 I snapped it up. I can’t say I want to have a run in my stocking, but I sort of can’t wait to use it!
I don’t get to wear my lovely stockings everyday, but they are a real treat on a regular basis. I hope you get the chance to wear some soon.