Friday, January 15, 2010

HOSE ME DOWN : SO, WHERE ARE MY GARTERS? - (Stocking History Part 4 )


While society continued to highlight this new fashion accessory, the color of stockings was also often influenced by social mores of the times.

Until about 1730, the color usually complemented what dress or suit one was wearing, but after 1730, the styles shifted from colored stockings to wearing only white stockings with formal dress. (Below, men's c.1670's linen hose embroidered with silk)

By the  1790’s, fancy striped stockings become fashionable and at the very end of the 18th century, ribbed stockings became the rage.

Beginning in the early 1800’s, court shoes were low in order to display the stockings’  openwork lace fronts and colors.

In the scandalous Regency times of c. 1812-1830(which officially began when the Prince of Wales became Regent of England after his father, George III, was declared insane), fashion was classically influenced, modeled on the ideals of the Greek and Roman worlds.  Not only did women dampen their Grecian-looking thin gowns to show off their bodies, but  pink and flesh-colored stockings became fashionable, worn to give an impression of nudity. By the  mid-1820s, fashionable people again wore shoes and stockings to match their dress.

In France, these scant styles were aped and  precipitated by the French Revolution and its "democratic" tenets. All classes dressed alike and silks gave way to light muslins, clinging lines, high waistlines, and arm-baring sleeves. In 1829, a dress code decreed by Carl VII of France notes: 

"It has been presented to the king that no other nation in the world is so degenerated, so changeable, so excessive and fickle in regard to clothing as France is. The standing and rank of individuals can no longer be distinguished by the clothing - whether they are princes or noblemen, bourgeois or craftsmen - because it is accepted that everyone dresses according to their wishes, man and woman alike, in gold of silver fabrics, in silk or wool, with no regard to their class."

With the stability of the new aniline dyes of the late 1850’s and 60’s, brightly colored stockings became popular, but by the mid-1880s, the trend of both shoes and stockings matching the dress began yet again. 

Due to the wearing of leather footwear, larger, dirtier towns and more reliable dyes, black became the most common color in the early 1900’s, when 19 out of every 20 pairs sold were black.

(At left, black silk stockings hand-embroidered with a skull and crossed bones - from the Uffner Vintage Archive Collection)


Because knit hose of the 16th century never had the elasticity of modern sock ans stockings, they fell - unless supported either by garters or other means of attachment to the upperstocks.  Most commonly, garters (strips of fabric or ribbon) tied just below the knee to support the hose.

Yet another style of support was “cross-gartering”, in which ribbons wrapped above and below the knee and crossed behind the knees. (see above example)

Interestingly, cross-gartering is mentioned 9 times in Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night” in relation to the character Malvolio, such as the following in Act II Scene 5:

“…my lady loves me.  She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg being cross-garter'd…”

Both garters and cross-garters were often made of costly materials and were highly decorated w. embroidery and fringe.

Though men continued to wear knee-length breeches, stockings and boots, the doublet began to disappear late in the 17th century in favor of the new fashion of wearing a waistcoat (what we now call a vest) worn with a looser form of doublet, a “jacket”  that was left unbuttoned so that the long vest could be seen.

As the 18th century began, the doublet permanently fell out of fashion to evolve into a long frock coat with a shorter waistcoat and tight breeches, setting the stage for what later evolved into menswear staple of the future, the “3-piece suit”.  (At right, painting of frock coat and vest from The National Gallery)

At the time, a three-piece matching suit (especially for formal dress) was called a “suit in ditto”, though it was equally fashionable to have a contrasting waistcoat.

Stockings were usually pulled over the hem of the breeches, worn with shoes with square toes, high heels, high front flaps and small, functional buckles.   By the late 1870’s the men's heels were finally at more contemporary height.

Until about 1800, stockings were not particularly decorative.  Common hose colors were black, white, brown, grey and surprisingly, blue among the working classes.  Stockings were patched, had the feet replaced or, re-dyed to extend their lives.

When men and women started wearing shoes rather than boots and the clocked seams on the ankle area became more visible, decorating them became even more fashionable. (to the left, the
fashionably embroidered ankles of the Earl Of Dorset)

Eventually, embellished embroidery and contrasting colors transformed the stocking from a utilitarian purpose to a fashion statement, and decoration of hose took several forms for both men and women.

Though not always on commoners’ stockings, clocks were decorated on both sides of the ankle rather than just one.

Knit hose sometimes had their decor knitted in, with embellishment clustered around the tops of hose and their clocks (the area around the outside of the ankle).

Embroidery, on the other hand, was done with wool, silk, or metal thread.  Decorative open lacework and embroidered embellishment became the mark of the highest luxury.  The most elaborate embroidery, in gold, silver, and colored threads of the finest quality, was still done by hand. (Above, hand-embroidered black silk stockings appliqued with tiny silver sequins - from the Uffner Vintage Archive Collection)

Queen Elizabeth's accounts include payment for:

“fyve peire of silke knitt Hose carnacion in graine & other colours wrought at the clockes with venice golde & silver” and “ two peire of garnesey knitt Hose wrought at the clockes with silke”



Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing has a FABULOUS 4-page color pictorial and interview this month in SPOT ON, an English-language German magazine for 20-somethings!!!  

**A few movie stills in this online version were eliminated for copyright purposes, but the feature is STILL terrific and you get to see behind-the-scenes at HUVC and meet and learn about our individual staff members! Just follow the link below, and then click on "making old cool". ENJOY!


Next week, look for the FINAL INSTALLMENT of  "HOSE ME DOWN"