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During WWII, Rosie the Riveter became the female iconic legend who represented the millions of women that flooded the factory gates to replace the men leaving their jobs to enlist in the war effort. WWII redefined the concept of women in the workplace and women’s fashion forever. Who knew that while women were donning pants and factory clothes, DuPont was busy trying to find a substitute to the silk stocking problem created by the war? Everyone was shouting “WE CAN DO IT!” for one reason or another.
Let’s start with the silk stocking, the silk dilemma and how WWII changed fashion legwear history.
As hemlines rose in the 1920’s, the desire for smooth beautiful legs created a demand for sheer stockings and silk was the desired material. They were extremely delicate, very little stretch , were sized to fit your leg and held up by the garter. Ninety percent of the raw silk used for stocking production was supplied by Japan. By the late 30’s, the consumption of silk stockings in the United States was 43,000,000 pairs annually as they were a fashion staple for ladies and young women. In 1939, as tension between the US and Japan heightened, trade between the nations came to a halt and manufacturers were desperately trying to find a substitute material. As women read about the silk crisis, they grabbed their pocketbooks and dove headfirst to the nearest stocking counter to stock up.
“Do they run?”
As early as 1935, anticipating rising global conflict, DuPont was trying to find a better man-made material to replace silk. A significant discovery ensued –the material nylon. The name “nylon” originates from the name “No-Run”, which was changed to “Nuron” when the vowels were switched because the advertising department didn’t like the name. It evolved to “Nulon”, and finally the agreed to name, “Nylon”. After a successful test, a nationwide launch of nylon stockings began on May 15, 1940 and 4 million pairs were sold in the first four days (and they didn’t have the internet!). Now, with the introduction of nylon, there was a reduced need for silk, and they were less likely to run. Problem solved. Unfortunately, the successful launch of nylon stockings was short lived.
Nylon stocking production came to a screeching halt when the United States entered the Second World War. Nylon production was directed to military purposes (i.e. parachutes) and stockings became a scarce and coveted currency on the black market. When the war ended in 1945, to the relief of millions of women, the production of nylon stockings started up once again. Hollywood stars such as Rita Hayworth and Jane Russell popularized this sexy accessory. Still held up by garters, nylon stockings with the unforgettable seam up the back of the leg became a symbol of that era until circular knitting machines eliminated the need for seams.
No more garters!
In 1960, the newly invented material, Lycra, and nylon are brought together to create pantyhose. Women were dancing in the streets (I imagine) as garters were tossed aside and pantyhose became an overnight success. During the 70’s, mini-skirts took over the fashion runways, and pantyhose were the obvious legwear solution and have been a staple ever since (as well as tights and leggings).
From stocking to thigh highs
Thigh highs are an evolution of the historical silk and nylon stockings. They resemble stockings although they are able to stay up without the garter because the inside of the top of the thigh high has a band (typically silicone) or elastic that resists slipping down the thigh. At Foot Traffic, we have a soft 2” band at the top with added additional spandex to allow for maximum stretch and fit for all sizes of legs. We have also added silicone around the inside of the lace top thigh highs (available late summer). No need for sock glue with Foot Traffic thigh highs!
So, as you are accessorizing your wardrobe, count your lucky stars (such as Madonna and Beyonce) who love thigh highs, that you don’t need a garter, and can show off those sexy fun legs with Foot Traffic thigh highs.
Look how far we have come! Thanks Rosie!