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The Truth About Nylon Stockings

I found this article from a 1950 issue of Good housekeeping and thought it had some really great information about the maintenance of nylons. Every vintage woman knows the importance of never baring her legs. (Knows, but doesn't necessarily uphold. :x) A large problem with wearing nylons so often is that they tend to get snagged, or stretch out in an unflattering manor after some time. I often grumble that I am cursed because I seem destined to ruin every pair of nylons I get after one or two wears due to my nails that simply adore snagging on things regardless of how smooth they are.
I thought you guys might like this article.

The Truth About Nylon Stockings

By W.E. Coughlin, PH.D, Director at Good Housekeeping Textile Laboratory
& Michael Drury
Good Housekeeping, September 1950

People say “They’re not so good since the war,” and “Of course they’re being manufactured cheaper to make us buy more,” and “They used to wear like iron and now they fall apart in six wearings.” So Good Housekeeping decided to investigate.

If it seems to you that nylon stockings aren’t wearing as well as they used to, you’re not alone. Nearly half the women in the country would agree with you. Yet these are the facts: Nylon is as good as ever, and stockings are even better. Prices have come down, production has gone up, and women everywhere are wearing the gossamer stockings of their dreams. Then what’s all the fuss about?
The biggest trouble is that we ask two opposite things of the same stocking: filmy sheerness and day–to–day service. Thirty–five years ago hosiery was strictly utilitarian—underwear, in fact, since no nice lady permitted it to show. But when skirts came off the ground and shoes went down to pumps and sandals, it was discovered that women had legs, and we promptly demanded sheerer and sheerer stockings in which to display them. We got them, too—first in rare one–thread silk and then for everybody in 15–denier nylon. We treat the silk like the fragile stuff it was. Hardly daring to breathe on it; but we somehow expect nylon to stand up to any old kind of handling.
But look here, you’ll say, nylon is known to be super–strong. You can tow airplanes with it. That’s true, but not with 15–denier wisps. And right here we’d better settle this business of denier. Most of the women we know don’t understand it, and half of them won’t even pronounce it. You can say, “den–yer” without sounding funny, and the salesgirl will know what you’re talking about. Very simply, it’s
the thickness of the nylon yarn, and the larger the number, the larger (or thicker) the yarn. For instance, if it were the thickness of an average straight pin which you use in sewing, it would be roughly 3,000 denier. So you can readily see that 15 denier is indeed cobwebby. Obviously, you can’t tow airplanes with that kind of thing. Or do housework or drive a car or walk to the office in it every day, either.

Yet that’s just what we’re trying to do. Look at the figures: Three years ago only 17 out of every 100 pairs of nylons were the very sheer 15–denier variety. Such delicate stockings were saved for “best”—parties and special occasions. Today, though, the number has jumped to 70 out of every hundred, and we’re wearing them for every occasion—and complaining because they don’t last like prewar nylons. Let’s face it: prewar nylons were almost entirely 30 or 40–denier. That means they were twice or more as thick and strong, and of course they wore longer.
It doesn’t make sense to wear the sheerest hose day in and day out, and it doesn’t even look very good, any more than silver sandals look good in an office or your best dancing dress is the right thing to wear to the supermarket. There’s nothing smarter than the right stockings with the right costume, but this doesn’t mean the filmiest ones you can buy with every outfit you own. Have a stocking “wardrobe.” It’s smart, it pays, and it’s a subtle mark of good taste. Hosiery that complements the clothes and shoes you’re wearing—in weight, in color, in detail such as heel design—shows you to be a woman with fashion know–how.
Get some 30–denier stockings for everyday use. They’re still very sheer—the equivalent of two–thread silk, don’t forget—and, other things being equal, they’ll give up twice the wear of 15s. If you’re looking for heavy–duty service or want to hide skin blemishes, you’ll find 40 denier even better. Nylon is “slick” by nature, so even the extra–weight 60– and 70–denier stockings don’t have a clumsy look.
A great favorite in the glamour division is 20 denier; they’re illusionary enough to satisfy feminine carvings and aren’t so perishable as 15s; but by all means have some of the latter for the flossy events in your life. If you’re in the habit of owning just three pairs at a time, this may sound like a big investment, but actually the average woman spends enough on hosier every year to maintain a stocking wardrobe like this one—only she doesn’t get it if she buys nothing by 15 denier.
The other term you hear most in regard to nylons is gauge. What it measures is the number of stitches in an inch and a half of stocking; in other words, the denseness of the fabric. It can vary from 39 to 66, and in general high gauge numbers are good, as a closely knit stocking is more snag–resistant and has greater stretch in the places where you need it. The most widely used gauges are 51 and 45, in that order, and the trend is toward even finer stitches. Remember, though, it’s denier that governs sheerness. In seamless hose, the denseness of the fabric is measured by the number of needles used, from 260 to 432.
Seamless stockings, by the way, are knit round, like a tube, and the leg shape is obtained by drawing in the knit near the ankle. About 94 percent of all stockings made now are full–fashioned, however; that is, knit flat and tapered to a leg shape by dropping stitches. They become tubular only when the seams are sewed up the back.
All nylon, the fundamental yarn, is basically the same, is made by only one company, and will continue to be for several years to come. Why, then, can you pay anywhere from 65 cents to over two dollars for a pair of stockings? Because, for one thing, workmanship varies. Individual hosiery makers have different ways of handling their product, and, as in other clothing, better–known, more desirably brands sometimes cost more. Sometimes a store or mill finds itself overstocked, and has a special sale. There are seasonal slumps, too, that may bring prices down in order to induce sales. Have you ever thought about what the stockings you don’t wear in summer do to the hosiery business? And, as every woman knows, there are such things as “irregulars” and “seconds.”
Stocking–making machines, with their thousands of moving parts, are as temperamental as tigers and occasionally do unaccountable things, such as varying the color, size, dimensions, or weave. The Federal Trade Commission labels imperfections like these “irregulars,” while more serious damage—breaks, mends, runs, and the like—constitute “seconds,” or sometimes even “thirds.” The FTC ruling is somewhat loose, and some mills are more rigid than others in setting aside goods that may be barely distinguishable from first–quality products. You can often get good buys in “irregulars” and “seconds” if you know how they differ, and with proper care they’ll give almost as good service as perfect ones.
Speaking of care, those prewar nylons we keep rhapsodizing about were handled by us like crown jewels, which is another reason they lasted so long. They were washed after every wearing, put away in some kind of stocking container, and pulled on with great care. These are still the best procedures to follow. And here’s good news; nylon won’t deteriorate from being stored, so don’t fret if your super–sheers spend most of their time in the drawer. Keep them in a stockings case—a padded box or silk folder, or even plain paper envelopes will do very well—and they’ll be ready and whole when you need them. When you put on a pair of stockings, gather together the leg potion in both hands, slip your foot into the toe, then gently draw the stocking over your leg. In taking them off, do the same thing in reverse. It cuts down the snagging hazard to a considerable extent.

Nobody has yet figured out the number of man–hours (or, more accurately, woman–hours) of labor saved in mending since nylon came along, but it must be tremendous. Actual daring has almost disappeared, but splits or tears can be mended with nylon thread, available at dime stores. And professional menders repair runs with those magical little gadgets they used on other hose. There aren’t nearly so many professionals as there used to be, but they still are in existence.

In a survey Good Housekeeping made among 582 women, it was found that the average wear from a pair of nylons, washed out after every use, was 21 days. Compared with the silk–hose average of 5 to 7 days, that isn’t bad; but it’s surprising enough to make us think about ways of increasing it.

You probably know by heart the rules for safe washing, but a quick once–through won’t do any harm. First, use milk, warm suds, as you would for any delicate fabric. And nylon is delicate in its sheer forms; even steel would be delicate if it was spun out think enough. Second, squeeze, don’t rub or twist. Third, rinse in clear water, again squeezing. Nylon is famous for rapid drying, despite the water that clings to it, but if you must hurry it, roll the stockings momentarily in a soft towel. And fourth, hang the stockings over a smooth rod or line—never on a wooden clothes hanger—and dry them away from direct heat. Experts call nylon a “thermoplastic,” which means that heat will make it soft and pliable, and they warn that too much heat will cause it to disintegrate. They aren’t fooling, either. If you try to force dry nylons over a high heat, they melt.

One simple but excellent form of stocking insurance is well–manicured nails. If you were to visit one of the large hosiery mills, you’d find that the hands of the women employed there are as exquisitely cared for as a movie star’s. They’d be out of a job if they didn’t keep their hand in good condition, and you can save wear and tear on your hose, not to mention your budget and your temper, by following their example. The care of the feet is equally important—a careful pedicure and the use of a softening lotion on dry feet will prevent many a snag or run.

It always seems funny to hear hosiery people talk about “girdling habits.” It sounds so anatomical, somehow. But there’s nothing funny about runs in one brand–new pair of stockings after another; if this happens to you, you might check your system of anchorage. Both your hose and whatever you hook them to should be long enough to meet comfortably. If they have to reach for each other, like a suspension bridge, something will pop—and it won’t be the girdle. On the other hand, if they overlap too much, you’ll either go around like a droopy Dora, all wrinkled at the ankles, or with the stockings tops bunched up and the garter biting into the main portion of the leg—guaranteed to produce runs in no time at all. Manufacturers recommend hooking the garter half to three quarters of an inch into the welt—the double business on top. If yours aren’t comfortable in that position, the changes are either your hose or your girdle is the wrong length.

Incidentally, one mark of a well–made stocking is a welt, or hem, at least 3 inches deep. It should be 5 inches in all, including the afterwelt, the semi heavy strip between the welt and the leg. Reinforcements in the foot vary with your personal preference, fashion, feminine whims, and the shoes you wear. If you wear closed pumps or oxfords, don’t put “sandal–foot” hose into them and expect them not to take a beating. Above all, be sure your stockings fit. You should be able to pull the toe out an inch beyond your own toe when you have them on. If you can’t do this without straining the material, they’re too short. If the stretch is easily more than that, they’re too big. Ask your shoe salesman to measure you feet with that ruler he has with a movable block, preferably while you stand on it. Whatever it reads in inches is your stocking size.
Here, then, in a nutshell, is the nylon story:

1. Nylon is almost magically frothy and strong, every bit as good as it used to be, but it can’t be entirely both at the same time.
2. Denier means thickness of yarn and governs sheerness. Gauge means closeness of stitches and governs denseness of fabric.
3. Good fit and proper care are essential for the best wear.

Keep these points in mind. Your hosiery problems, if not wiped out, will at least be reduced to a leg–happy minimum.

Some of the main points that I think this article covered in caring for your nylons was that:

1. You must be careful when washing your nylons, they are delicate. Don't use harsh chemicals, and most definitely do not heat dry them.

2. When hanging your nylons it is best to do it from a rod or bar that is non-wood, as the wood can cause snags.

3. Having well manicured hands(and toenails) will help the life of your nylons drastically in preventing snags.
Tags: care for clothing, nylons, stockings
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