Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stockings on the ration.

Sooooo I started this post about two weeks ago. 13 days ago if you want to get technical, but you know... I'm like that. My brain got sidetracked as it tends to do and I did things like paint and stuff.

Anywho today let us touch on my most favorite subject of subjects: Underpinnings. Specifically stockings. More specifically I want to talk about stockings on the ration; a subject that I've always found incredibly fascinating. No matter what was going on a fashionable lady in the 1940s still just had to have her legs covered.

I tried to think of something to equate this trend to in today's terms, but nothing came to me. The best I've got is today's requirement for toe nail polish with open toed shoes, but even that example doesn't really cut the mustard. Stockings had more to do with propriety. We were wearing shorter skirts and starting to lose the corsets and girdles, but stockings were still something that you just wore. According to my grandmother you found a way to get stockings during this time even if you didn't have much money for anything else. It was just something you did.

Woman wearing stockings in the 1940s
I still think all ladies should be wearing stockings, but that's just because nothing looks better to me than a lady's finely stocking-clad leg. (sidenote: Not being sexist, Dudes, but few men were wearing stockings back in the day. If you want to wear stockings today though I say go for it! It's 2011 baby!)

1933 Advertisement for Silk Chiffon Stockings. 
So rationing. Silk stockings were first rationed in the united states in 1941 due to deteriorating trade relations with Japan who had been our leading source of silk. Silk stocking production came to a halt. This meant that the stockings still available in the US quickly became very much unavailable. When the US did finally enter the war the military immediately began collecting used silk stockings to re-purpose into essential military supplies.  Parachute material comes to mind first, but it was also made into other war time items such as barrage balloons and powder balloons for navel guns. Apparently escape maps were sometimes printed on silk as well though I don't think that was taking up much of the supply.

Woman donated their damaged silk stockings in droves. A great show of patriotism says I! Those stockings that were undamaged were often reserved for very special occasions like Christmas or formal events and they were treated with great care.

The solution to the stocking shortage for most women was a switch to nylon, cotton or rayon stockings. (Though nylon became unavailable in 1942 when the War Production Board took DuPoint's complete nylon supply for the war effort.)

Ann Sheridan Shows off her cotton stockings during wartime.
Cotton and rayon stockings were not the complete solution however. The main problem with these types of stockings were that they didn't fit well and tended to sag around the knees and ankles. I've worn a pair of rayon stockings and I can attest to this. They also tended to be much thicker and therefore considerably less attractive.

Another popular solution was for ladies to literally paint the stockings onto their legs using oil based liquid makeup (typically MAC). They would then have a friend apply the back seam with eyeliner. Apparently the stockings could last for up to three days if the woman didn't bath or get caught in the rain. One also had to be careful when crossing one's legs as they could rub off.

Women painting stockings and back seams on legs. 
Interesting self seam application tool. Not totally sure why she needs to be standing on a stool for this, but you know. 
Another really interesting option particularly for women in the UK where makeup was far less available or for women who just couldn't afford the amount of makeup necessary was Gravy Stockings. Yes, you read that right. Gravy stockings. The technique was pretty simple. Boil down bones and left over bits of meat from dinner into a thick dark colored gravy and then paint away!

Here's a cute little video from a British show called horrible histories demonstrating this process (with a little less care than a lady would have used at the time.)

See you later, Alligators!




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Jenna said...

Nice stuff ! In earlier days, stockings were worn just to cover the legs in winters to keep them warm but now it has become a style statement. Worn with designer uppers, they will help you create beautiful and amazing looks. Nowadays, there is an excellent opportunity to buy stockings online.

Robyn said...

Maybe she is standing on a chair so she can see in a mirror.

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