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.
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
). 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. 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 Am English), and are quite distinct from tights
(Am English). Thigh highs are often perceived as preferable to pantyhose for various reasons, such as:
- Aesthetics — garters, 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).
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 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).
Most women find pantyhose or tights far more convenient than stockings. This has led to a sharp decline in stocking wearing, especially since the 1960s, when women started wearing miniskirts; indeed, nowadays stockings are more often worn for their erotic virtues. The invention of hold-ups has led lots of women to wear stockings again. Thus the number of women who wear stockings instead of tights is slightly increasing every year.
- 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 - 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Knee-Highs - Stockings that terminate at or just barely below the knee.
- 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.
- Cox, Caroline (2000). Lingerie: a lexicon of style. Scriptum Editions. ISBN 1-902686-08-X