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A pair of dark grey nylon stockings.
A woman wearing stockings.

A stocking, sometimes referred to as hose, is a close-fitting, variously elastic garment covering the foot and lower part of the leg. Stockings vary in color and transparency. By analogy, the term is also used to describe a type of horse marking in which the white coloring extends from the horse's hoof to just above the knee.



Fashion often dictates the popularity of stockings along with the styles that are available. 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 be worn separately as stockings). (See Hose.)

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.


In modern usage, stocking specifically refers to the form of women's hosiery configured as two pieces, one for each leg (except for American and Australian English, where the term can also be a synonym pantyhose). The term hold-ups and thigh highs refers to stockings that stay up on their own, while the word stockings is the general term or refers to the kind of stockings that need a suspender belt (garter belt, in American English), and are quite distinct from tights or pantyhose (American English). Thigh highs are often perceived as preferable to pantyhose for various reasons, such as:

  • Aestheticsgarters, lace, top fashion, applique, exposure of the thigh, complexity (though it is possible to make tights with fake stocking tops near the top of the legs)
  • Easier and quicker access to the genital area—enhances sexual spontaneity
  • Message—as more detail is involved, a perception of erotic intent is raised
  • Health and cleanliness—less sweat, more ventilation; reduction of fungal and bacterial challenge
  • Personal convenience—it is considerably easier and quicker to go to the toilet while wearing stockings

Stockings and hosiery are worn primarily by women, although they are also sometimes worn by men (see Cross-dressing and Pantyhose for men). In the 1930s stockings were drawn on for the material needed for stockings were in short supply


Silk stockings

Stockings are typically supported in one of three ways. The most common way is to wear a garter belt, which is a piece of lingerie that goes around the waist like a belt and has "suspenders" (British English) or "stays" that clip to the tops of the stockings to hold them in place. 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 do not fall down, and depends a great deal on the geometry of the actual leg. Further, the elastic can be uncomfortably tight, leaving red marks and possibly aggravating varicose veins. 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 typically seen at weddings. They have much the same disadvantages as "stay-ups".

Many people prefer the look of garter belt. Others feel that stay-ups are easier to find, as they are sold in most retail locations, whereas garter belts and garters are not—or feel that stay-up stockings have less distortion of the top band, an important aesthetic consideration if this band is lace.

Traditionally, panties are worn underneath garters, and lingerie is still advertised and photographed in this way as featured in catalogues and on sites for lingerie by specialty companies such as Victoria's Secret, Frederick's of Hollywood, Secrets in Lace and others. However, there is a new fashion trend that has developed where some people wear panties over the stockings and garters. If the panties are reasonably full, this pins the garters to the body, making going to the bathroom or erotic play more accessible.


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, and the fact that they leave a smoother line under close-fitting clothing. In the United Kingdom, the same garment goes by the name of tights or occasionally pantihose (with a slightly different spelling).

In 1970 pantyhose outsold stockings for the first time in the US, and would soon go on to dominate the women's hosiery market worldwide.

Stocking terminology

A woman wearing fence net stockings.
  • Cuban heel: A stocking with a heel made with folded over and sewn reinforcement.
  • Demi-toe: Stockings which have a reinforced toe with half the coverage on top as on the bottom. This results in a reinforcement that covers only the tip of the toes as opposed to the whole toe. These can be with or without a reinforced heel.
  • 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 (material): Knitted stockings with a very wide open knit resembling a fish net.
  • Fencenet: Similar to fishnet, but with a much wider pattern. These are sometimes worn over another pair of stockings or pantyhose, such as matte or opaque, with a contrasting colour. Sometimes referred to as whalenets.
  • Full Fashioned: Fully-fashioned stockings are knitted flat, the material is then cut and the two sides are then united by a seam up the back. Fully-fashioned stockings were the most popular style until the 1960s.
  • Hold-ups or Stay-ups: Stockings that are held up by sewn-in elasticated bands (quite often a wide lace top band).
  • Knee-Highs: Stockings that terminate at or just barely below the knee.
  • Matte: Stockings which have a dull or non-lustre finish.
  • Mock seam: 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.
  • Open-toed: Stockings that stop at the base of the toe with a piece that goes between the first and second toes to hold them down. They can be worn with some open-toed shoes, especially to show off pedicured toes.
  • 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 15 to 20 denier.
  • Thigh-Highs: Stockings that terminate somewhere in the mid-thigh.
  • Ultra Sheer: A fine denier fiber which gives the ultimate in sheerness. Usually 10 denier.
  • 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.

See also


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

STOCKING (a diminutive of "stock," post, stump, properly that which is stuck or fixed), a close-fitting covering for the foot and lower part of the leg, formerly made of cloth but now of wool, silk or cotton thread knitted by hand or woven on a frame (see Hosiery). "Stock" being the stump, i.e. the part left when the body is cut off, the word was applied to the whole covering of the lower limbs, which was formerly in one piece, the "upperstocks" and "nether-stocks" forming the two pieces into which it was subsequently divided, when the upper part became the trunk hose and later knee-breeches, the lower the "stockings." A parallel is found in French; the hose are chausses, the upper part haut de chausses, the stockings bas de chausses, or simply bas. The German Strumpf, stocking, means also a stump, pointing to the original use of the word. Half-stockings, reaching to the lower part of the calf of the leg, and worn by men since the use of the long trousers has superseded knee-breeches, and also by children, are usually styled "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 or cothurnus, was of tragedy.

<< Stockholm

Christian Friedrich, Baron Stockmar >>

Simple English

A stocking is a piece of women's clothing, worn like socks. They are made of stretchy materials. They are often worn instead of tights or socks.

Stockings that are similar to woman's stockings are also made as parts of sport uniforms.

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