Nylon Stockings

Written by Rachel Arieff
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Nylon stockings revolutionized fashion, and subsequently culture, in the mid-twentieth century. The only other alternative to nylon stockings was that which came before, the lovely but hard-to-fit silk stockings. The main problem with silk was that it didn't stretch very well, requiring complex garter systems to pull the silk from all angles in order to get a snug fit. In fact, to get the proper multidirectional pull for a perfectly snug fit, the silk stockings worn by the Hollywood actress/dancer Cyd Charisse required a girdle with hundreds of eyes sewn into it.

Nylon, on the other hand, revolutionized the stocking industry because, for one, it easily stretched in many different ways for a perfectly snug fit. Also, nylon, being a man-made, petroleum-based material, was cheap and quick to produce, resulting in very affordable prices for nylon stockings. Finally, with its variable sheerness and soft, silky feel, nylon was simply the most attractive and sensual stocking material ever invented.

Challenges to Nylon Stockings

Then, at the end of the century, spandex was invented, and steadily began to creep into nylon stocking material, usually as a nylon-Lycra blend. Like nylon, spandex (also known by its DuPont trade name, Lycra) is a highly elastic synthetic material. However, it has never been able to perfectly mimic the strength, the sheerness, nor the gossamer qualities of nylon.

Indeed, pure nylon stockings retain their devoted followers. While some prefer the athleticism and opacity of spandex, others prefer the more lustrous look, silky feel, and quiet transparency of pure nylon stockings. For still others, nylon-spandex stocking blends are a good synthesis of sheer sensuality and sheen with snug fit.


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