Full-fashioned stockings - the definition of elegance?

Sonia Dane wearing full-fashioned stockings seamed nylon stockings In the 1940s and 1950s nylon stockings were full-fashioned stockings, as opposed to most modern stockings, which are 'one-size'. Full fashioned stockings were tailored to the shape of the leg, and were seamed up the back. The seam was an essential part of the stocking's construction, as it held it together. This is unlike modern so-called 'seamed' stockings, which are woven into a tube shape and which have a purely decorative 'seam'. Full-fashioned stockings were made from silky non-stretch, gossamer nylon fabric (so they couldn't be 'one-size'). In other words, take the seam out of full-fashioned stockings and it will be un-wearable but a modern stocking could still be worn.

Full fashioned stockings are knitted on mills. They are still manufactured today by a small number of companies, who tend to use either genuine, 1950s machinery, or replicas of it.  And they are still worn by women, such as the well-known amateur lingerie model Sonia Dane, who demand the luxury and elegance of genuine full-fashion stockings. Stocking mills are huge machines - some are up to 60 feet long and 12 tons in weight. With 16,000 needles per machine they need constant attention and take one hour to produce only 30 legs. After manufacture each stocking is seamed, one at a time. Once the stocking has been knitted, the seam is added, giving the stocking its classic shape and fit. The 'finishing loop' at the top back of the stocking is also a result of the finishing process, and is created because the seaming machinist has to finish the seam by turning the stocking top (called 'the welt') in a circle. The finishing loop identifies a true full-fashioned stocking.

Stockings are usually manufactured white, then dyed different colors. After this, they're 'boarded' where each stocking is pulled over a flat wooden or metal leg and steamed. This tightens the knit, defines the leg shape and removes creases. Then each stocking is checked for size to ensure pairs match. Quality control for faults can mean 40% of production can be lost. Often, the old machinery can only churn out 15 pairs of stockings per hour, so it's obviously not a cost effective way of manufacturing. This means that full-fashioned stockings are now a rarity, although thankfully you can still buy them.

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